July 29, 2010

The [Sign]al

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 2:13 pm

Alan Wake The Signal
As far as DLC doses go, The Signal strengthens my belief that Alan Wake is skirting the edge of something blissfully chaotic and overdue, exciting for the danger it represents to the active player versus the passive consumer of media as a simple plastic by-product of corporate sustainability.

Admittedly I’m six times sucker sweet for words. From Calvino to Canetti, from poetics to the loving lure of the way words connect and flow, of simply crafting sentences that linger and expose pleasure in the cellar door that tingles on the edge of the tongue.

If you’re into that sort of thing, well then read on my fellow fluoroscopic opal rubes.

Alan Wake The Signal
Language is a tool that both binds us together and divides us, that equally enslaves us, and that allows some of us to excel while holding others back.

From this angle, Alan Wake becomes a fresh poster of the human condition on screen, using language as a means to create a living, but becoming trapped by it as well. The semiotics lesson exploring the link between the physical objects of our world and the labels we agree to acknowledge them by was only touched upon briefly in the game proper, but The Signal takes the ball and immediately starts running through the theoretical mists.

There’s a separate preoccupation, exploring the surface concerns of the Artist gone mad – of the dark place some attempt to travel to and what it costs to bring intelligence reports back, which in turn hold the potential to drive the creator over the edge for the inability of others to decode any sense in the ramblings this process often births. This serves a role as the lighter of two maddening trains of thought to ride.

Whether Alan Wake is the greatest game of its time is no concern of mine, so the peanut gallery can continue moaning about the game they would have preferred without depriving the title of the potential importance it brings to the table – not with new ideas, but with a methodical sorting that allows for the creation of architecture for some future project to hit the mark and undue us all.

Perhaps it’s best to think about the dog as it enters the kitchen, and while perhaps not familiar with the descriptor word, recognizing that this is the room where food preparations occur. At this point I’ll suggest that the dog doesn’t know that it knows this.

In much the same way, The Signal makes its mark by offering the player back their trusty flashlight while adding that this is a symbol, just as the gun is not a weapon, but a tool in a logic puzzle. And that can seem like a pretty simple observation, even as the act of expressing that truth makes every other videogame that dog in the kitchen to Alan Wake’s enlightenment.

It is easy to perceive many of the situations within The Signal as simplistic, from the boiler room where the word “burn” waits for the logical connection to a physical act, to fields of bad words that Wake must attempt to tiptoe through.

Again, this is only the verge, exciting as it is to see if Remedy can pull us off the edge with the next installment.

Let’s try this approach –

If I say the word village, and you imagine a cluttered collection of worn houses – think deeper to all the other unsaid words tied to that scenery. The things left best unsaid build our internal state while the spoken ones furnish our physical reality in ways that we ignore in order to remain sane, in control of our faculties.

So picture that village, and think of accompanying words such as shelter, of community, of family, of society at the microcosmic level. Now imagine a row of planes flying overhead, carpet bombing it, not simply with explosives, but with all the rhetoric and speech that made the act inevitable, that in fact made the physical fires now burning exist.

From here we start to scratch deeper at the itch this game continues irritating, the real darkness Alan Wake is flirting with.


  1. Should I feel bad that I haven’t even started playing this game yet? Also, how does the DLC work? Can I input my code and download it before I play the regular game? i.e. It shouldn’t mess with the original storyline right? It’s a separate menu or something?

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — July 29, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  2. Yea it creates two separate save states and everything, but I dunno that you’d wanna play the DLC before the game proper – it really picks up right where the game ends and includes Barry, who you wouldn’t know anything about having not played the game.

    I’m not near my 360 atm, but I accessed the dlc from the episode selector in the main menu.

    Comment by Jamie Love — July 29, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

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