Five: Chris Dahlen
Five: Chris Dahlen
by Marc N. Kleinhenz
Comic Related's Five interview series takes the brightest minds from the journalistic and game development worlds and asks them to expound on their personal benchmarks of the videogame industry, exploring the crucial components of narrative, music, gameplay, graphics, and character.
Chris Dahlen is editorial director for Kill Screen, a gaming journal which just went to print this past month, and a columnist for Edge. His other writing credits -- which cover music, comics, and technology as well as videogames -- include The Onion and Variety.
You can find more about him and his writing here.
Plot point/character beat/story twist
I still have a crush on Annah from Planescape: Torment, and the time she surprised me by flirting in an alleyway ranks as one of the tensest, most thrilling moments I've ever experienced. In a game, I mean.
Song and/or soundtrack
Maybe this is cheating, but when I played Burnout 3: Takedown on the Xbox, I took the time to replace the game's soundtrack with songs I ripped to the hard drive. I made an '80s playlist with post-punk, college rock, and synth-pop bands like XTC and Scritti Politti. Cruising Tokyo to Chameleon UK's "Swamp Thing" was epic, and if The The's "Uncertain Smile" came on during a race, I was guaranteed to win.
More recently, I loved the classic jazz and pop soundtrack of Fallout 3. I never turn it off and I never got sick of it. The horns in Tex Beneke's arrangement of "A Wonderful Guy" are splendorous and bittersweet; they always make me pause.
I love turn-based gameplay. If I were faster and more sophisticated, I would want real-time gameplay in RPGs, and I'd be more willing to get the hang of real-time strategy games. But making decisions under pressure stresses me out, plus, I get lazy. I love taking the time to plan my moves in Valkyrie Chronicles and Jeanne D'Arc, and I enjoy using the time to second-guess and psych myself out.
I have a hunch that texture pop-in is the lens flare of gaming: it's an error and a glitch that highlights the shortcomings of our equipment, but it's so much a part of the experience that I think we'll come to love it.
Grim Fandango's Manny remains one of my favorite player characters. When the game starts, he strikes you as a loser -- kind of a shabby hustler-type in a cheap suit, who gets stuck with the lowest-rent clients. But you come to realize that he's actually a capable and ambitious entrepreneur who's been stuck in a stifling bureaucracy. After each chapter of the game, a year elapses, and every year Manny makes good: he goes from an automat janitor to the owner of a swank nightclub, and from a lowly deckhand to the captain. It's a terrific way to remind us of his potential.
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