With October again upon us, the time has come for the seasonal tradition of Spooktober to begin once more. This year, however, I’m going to be doing something rather different. Rather than delve into a bunch of horror-themed things, I am going to limit myself to an intensive look at just one subject. There are a number of reasons for this; I haven’t been looking for new horror movies, books, and games with the fervor of previous years, I’ve had a number of personal issues crop up that have cut into my productivity, and I’ve come to find I’m not that comfortable doing a lot of write-ups in a short space of time. I may do another review if fancy strikes me, but for now this will be the main event.
Fortunately for you guys, I’ve found a real treat: the book House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films, by the Canadian film writer Kier-La Janisse.
Back in 2012, I was on a forum looking at a thread discussing the lackluster sales of Prototype 2, the somewhat disappointing sequel to one of my absolute favorite sandbox games. In the course of the discussion, one poster opined that the ultimate problem with the game was that it was a member of a dying breed: the “AA game.” These were games that fit in an intermediate stage between giant franchises like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed and tiny games pushed out by small studios; too big and mechanically complex to safely self-fund, but too esoteric or dense to turn into a money-printing machine. While these sorts of games had been the bread-and-butter of a lot of publishers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they began to disappear as more publishers moved to a blockbuster-based business model and the indie scene exploded. For myself, I have no idea if “AA game” is anything more than a journalist’s buzzword, but I have found it useful in describing the sorts of games I like: a bit flashy, but with something interesting going on under the hood.
Recently, the legend of the “AA game” has been revived in the gaming press with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, developed and self-published by British developer Ninja Theory and released earlier this August. I’m not that familiar with Ninja Theory, mostly because their previous games have tended to be in genres I don’t have much interest in. However, enough buzz blew up around the game in my usual haunts that I decided to plunk down $30 and have a look. What I found was…surprising, to say the least.