Every month, Variation is a chance for our writers to submit lengthy reads on topics outside of the issue’s main theme. This month, we look at erotic horror, bad videogame movies, major league gaming and more.
Fervescence – Stu Horvath
Continuing his series of profiles of contemporary horror authors, Stu Horvath chats with erotic horror writer Livia Llewellyn. How the erotic and the horrific combine for disturbing effect is one of their main talking points:
Presenting sex, particularly in the context of erotic horror, is a constant challenge. It is, at its core, a basic and repetitive act that, paradoxically, most people find infinitely compelling, like sunsets and watching waves roll in at the sea shore. “It’s typically the familiarity of the sexual act that excites readers more than the events and details surrounding it,” says Llewellyn. “It’s not a challenge to write those acts because people who love to read erotica don’t get tired of reading about fucking, and will happily read stories about the same types of fucking over and over again.”
“I’m happier putting my protagonists in very strange and unsexy situations, and then seeing if I can write my way to the same couple of positions I always write about, even if the position is with something utterly inhuman in nature,” explains Llewellyn. “Where I lose readers is in the uncertainty of what’s going to happen – most people read erotica for a certain degree of sexual and emotional comfort, not because they’re looking forward to renegotiating that comfort zone when some level of pain, supernatural violence or psychological distress becomes (for better or worse) a part of the sexual act. Some readers may be into that, but most just want a very straightforward story (powerful billionaire and naïve young protégé!) with a very ordinary sexual act and a very ordinary ending – no surprises at all.”
Byte Club: Hitman: Agent 47 – Brock Wilbur & Kris Ligman
In what promises to be a regular feature, Byte Club sees comedian Brock Wilbur and guests subject themselves to the horrors of videogame film adaptations. In this inaugural installment, Brock is joined by Kris Ligman (Zam, formerly Critical Distance) to suffer through Hitman: Agent 47.
Honestly, I think movies based on games suffer from a cake-having problem. They want to depict what’s appealing about their source material, but what’s appealing about the source material in a lot of ways defies Hollywood conventions of cinematic storytelling. Maybe if we adapted more games into movies which weren’t predicated on heavy violence, it would be more successful? I don’t find the solution here is that Hitman needed more blood, or an exploration of multiple lives to find the best solution to a spatial puzzle. That’s literally what Run Lola Run already is. Also Groundhog Day. Also All You Need is Kill (aka Live Die Repeat aka Edge of Tomorrow aka whatever else its confused distributor tried to sell it under).
I don’t know, I actually hate the medium specificity argument, that there is some things that one medium excels at but another shouldn’t even attempt. Books, theater and film all excel at telling stories, for example. Music and poetry both excel at capturing rhythm and moments of emotion. But I think the means by which media excel at doing a thing differs depending on the form, so trying to make a game’s story suit a movie is like stuffing a non-Euclidean peg through a two-dimensional hole. You are losing so much multisensory information in that adaptation, I just don’t think it can ever truly work.
Give – Hazel Monforton
Hazel Monforton revisits Mad Max: Fury Road and digs down to its heart: the act of giving.
By the end of the film Nux, Furiosa, Max and the Wives do not find their humanity through withdrawal, imperviousness or power; they do so by freely giving the very things that had been forcefully stolen from them. Capable’s ability to comfort, stolen from her by the Immortan, is given to Nux without question in their shared moment. In return, while the deaths of Immortan Joe’s men are unacknowledged, Nux’s death is made meaningful by his freely-given sacrifice, acknowledged by Capable in the style of the Vuvalini. So too is Max’s blood freely given; while initially stolen from him due to his status as the Universal Donor – a status which, like the Wives’ ability to produce healthy babies, rendered him vulnerable – Max’s giving his blood to help Furiosa live is an act of extreme compassion. His blood, a point of exploitation, is now his point of strength.
Furiosa’s moments of humanity come when she divests herself of her prosthetic, kneeling to mourn her lost home or sacrificing it to prove, finally, the Immortan’s vulnerability to death. Returning to the Citadel victorious should be a triumphant moment for the women, yet for Furiosa it is one of extreme vulnerability. Wounded, stripped of her prosthetic and nearly unable to stand, Furiosa is cheered by the underclass of the Citadel. Her vulnerability becomes her source of strength. The body of Immortan Joe, a man who dehumanized himself in the name of power, is left without the regard due a fellow human and torn apart.
Joining the Majors – Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones charts the reasons behind the meteoric rise of Rocket League and its ascendancy into the major leagues of eSports.
Rocket League’s appeal as an eSport has always been apparent to veteran players of Battle-Cars. Ryan “Doomsee” Graham, one of the best players in the world, thinks the game’s depth and ease of play are what will help it ultimately succeed as a spectator sport. “The biggest difference between Rocket League and other eSports is how easy it is to understand. It’s two goals, six cars, and a ball. The moment you see it, you know what the objective is: put the ball in the net.” He explains, “Any eSports fan who has never heard of the game can watch it with a decent level of understanding of what is going on. Which is certainly not the case with MOBAs, where the vast amount of abilities and skills being used in a single battle can be confusing to anyone who isn’t familiar with the game.”
Though, as he explains, anybody who has ever tried Rocket League knows how deceptive that simplicity can be, which makes watching a high-level match so compelling. “The hidden gem within Rocket League is that it isn’t as simple as it looks. Sure, you have to just put the ball in the net, but it’s simply not that easy. As it’s often said: Rocket League is easy to pick up, but difficult to master. With top competitive Rocket League matches, different teams will have different formations and play styles, and when you’re facing top goalkeepers, you have to pull off some seriously amazing shots if you want to score. And as evidenced by the community, people go crazy over a well performed goal. Throw in some aerial plays and freestyle wall hits and you have yourself a seriously entertaining match.”
Revving the Enging: Hypercharge – Stu Horvath
In the latest installment of Revving the Engine – a look at the winner of Unreal Dev Grants, sponsored by Epic – Stu Horvath talks to the folks behind Hypercharge, a game inspired by toys and childhood play.
Stacks of encyclopaedias formed up into fortresses and ramparts. A bucket overturned was a fortified tower.
In what we called the TV Room, we had this brown plaid couch from the late 70s. Instead of a printed pattern on the upholstery, all these thick threads looping in and out of the material created the plaid design. Looking back, I am sure it was a sharp looking couch for its day, but as a kid, those loops were meant for one thing, and one thing only: hand holds for G.I. Joes. Their plastic hands, moulded in the shape of the letter C, slipped perfectly around the thread. Depending on the guys and the guns, I could put together a pretty dramatic battle on a sheer cliff face, or dangling off the side while clinging for life, or dozens of other scenarios.
The Rancor’s claws hooked onto those threads too, which resulted in a pose that was a convincing approximation of climbing. You know, if G.I. Joe vs. Cobra alone just wasn’t cutting it.