Ahh, Sunday. I have crossed oceans of work shifts to reach you. It’s time for This Week in Videogame Blogging!
The big newsworthy moment of the week deserves some equally worthy coverage. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has raised some legitimate hackles across the web, including gaming communities. Kirk Hamilton has arranged your one-stop primer, including reference to our own Ian Miles Cheong’s call to action on Gameranx. But why should you care?
Arguably, the law would be fine if rightsholders didn’t abuse it, but as we’ve seen, rightsholders are more than capable of abuse even with existing laws. [...]
As a gamer, here’s what you stand to lose if SOPA passes:
- “Let’s Play” videos
- Video replays
- Video reviews and commentary
- Unofficial game guides
- The taking, hosting, and sharing of screenshots, artistic or otherwise
- Image forums (Reddit, 4chan)
If even the articles above are too dense for you, don’t worry. John Bain has a video version.
I would encourage readers to take these articles to heart as they read the rest of this roundup, particularly how so much of the articles featured here depend on the legal gray areas SOPA would snuff out.
Moving forward, let’s set the tone for this week’s blog offerings. Taking a long view, Voorface argues that gamers need to study up on their art history, saying that Capital-A Art is a relatively recent construction:
Videogames do offer a challenge to traditional ideas of the value of Art and of the Work of Art, but this is only because the foundations of those concepts are so flimsy that they are challenged by their own shadow. For a while now it’s been understood that trying to make videogames conform to our understanding of other media – film especially – is foolhardy. Instead of trying to paste past aesthetic models onto videogames we should try to understand videogames as a separate medium.
The past week also provided fertile ground once again on considerations of gender both in gamic representation and among gamer communities. We begin with Mark Sorrell, who (perhaps enigmatically) declares “I am bellowing”:
I will not be accused of being a shrill moaning harpy. I won’t be asked to make anyone a sandwich, nor will I be accused of being a lesbian, asked to suck anyone’s cock or be threatened with rape. Partially, this is because those who have met me understand that I view other humans as lunch with a temporary stay of execution. Let the Wookie win, as they say. Mostly, it’s because I’m a man and so people will read what I have to say rather than switching off their brain and spewing out some astonishingly unimaginative sexist bullshit.
This prompted a response by Margaret Robertson, who meditates on her own past tendency toward self-censorship, lest she face misogynistic ostracization:
These things pervade everything about how I comport myself online, and indeed in the industry. I posted a picture of my skirt on Twitter the other day, because the pattern reminded me of a Pokemon. I was anxious about posting it, in case it seemed like something that would lay me open to accusations of being a camwhore or an attention-seeking flirt. In the end, I decided I would, but was careful to take a picture where you could only see the pattern, and not – god forbid – some of my leg or something like that.
In a word where Jade Raymond gets accused of being a sex-token for standing in front of her team and smiling, these are sensible precautions to take.
With these two links we form a chain, the next link in which is Alex Wiltshire’s more problematic opinion article which subsequently showed up on Edge: “Many male gamers act like animals online, but should women also change their attitudes?”
It fell to another Alex, of the Raymond variety, to rebut Wiltshire’s points on The Border House:
No one can deny that women speaking out inspires others to do so as well. It’s a powerful thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to tell women to risk their own safety and well-being–which, remember, is why Robertson and other women hide their identity online in the first place–in order to change male behavior. Cheerleading and encouraging people to speak out is necessary and invigorating, but this is not it. This is condescension and an abdication of responsibility. Men need to do their part in fighting sexism (and, no, their part is not telling women what to do!).
Fifth and finally is an unconnected article from Harris O’Malley which nevertheless responds to the spirit of Raymond’s piece in that it advocates for men’s responsibility for challenging sexism: “Bringing the spotlight onto the concept of male privilege as it exists in nerd culture is the first step in making it more welcoming of diversity, especially women.”
Speaking of male nerd culture and its ramifications on accessibility, Johnny Cullen takes a moment this week to mourn the VGAs, saying gaming deserves better.
But just in case you thought we could go one roundup without a Skyrim discussion, let’s venture into the past week’s dragon’s nest and see what’s hatched:
- Rowan Kaiser: Skyrim’s quest arrows (the ones which don’t apparently have a knee fixation) “force you to be an asshole.”
- Mattie Brice: Skyrim’s central storyline feels more arbitrary than in franchises like Final Fantasy, because the latter don’t afford the same “tools to exercise freedom”
- Remember the cute little “people don’t like to be sword” Skyrim girl? Aaron Matteson takes on the video’s detractors and advocates for the virtue of parental supervision.
- Don’t know what a “hydra railroading situation” is? Luke Maciak explains it in the context of Skyrim‘s mandatory quests.
- Lastly, a word of truth via Joel Haddock: on the tendency of companion AI to suck.
There. Is that the last of them? Thank Notch.
From the dragons of some elderly scrolls to the dragons of the heart, we venture to this heartfelt piece by Patricia Hernandez, editor in chief of Nightmaremode and a gamer who was surprised to discover some unexpected emotional authenticity in the Atlus game Catherine:
In the critiques following the game’s release, I saw people claim how unrealistic and stereotypical the whole thing was. Yet, as I played the game, the parallels seemed eerie. Vincent, becoming frightened at the prospect of a serious relationship with his long-time partner, makes an irresponsible, and frankly repulsive, choice.
Heh. Easy– and perhaps hypocritical– to condemn when it isn’t me, eh? ‘It doesn’t matter what the context was, Vincent!,’ I thought to myself. You are responsible for your actions, just like any other adult!
And yet I think back on my own situation, and it wasn’t as easy or simple as it sounds.
Kirk Hamilton has a different dragon in his closet (to completely abuse my metaphors): namely, the horrors of high school, and an open musing on why more games are not set in it.
Bah, feelings! Who needs them? Not Brad Gallaway. At least, not when they apply to game reviews.
On the subject of reviews, Adam Smith takes a glance back at 2011 in roguelikes. And on the more technical end of things, Gamasutra expert blogger speculates that we may be approaching a bottleneck in cloudgaming: “The Cloud isn’t as elastic as you think.”
I see no better way to cap off this week’s offerings than to refer you, dear reader, to Eric Lockaby’s latest. Lockaby, who knows damn well he’s on probation with me, melted my Snow Miser heart with his musings on “the Vanity Glitch.” What is “the Vanity Glitch”? Well…
“No…” Snake exclaims, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”
“Well why the hell not, Snake?!” That’s our usual reply. “I–the frickin’ player–have been using a rocket launcher for half the game now…don’t you tell me what you can and cannot do! I point at things, push a button, and those pointed-at things explode!["]
[I]t should be immediately evident what has happened here: that the player’s desires have been pitted against the character’s; that a gap has been created between the two, or rather a gap has been re-introduced, one that players had collapsed intuitively: the Vanity Glitch. And though our little pattern-sucking brains are angry at the ruse, we grasp its purpose: to convey Snake’s own feelings–despite the fact that the players themselves couldn’t care less about some wack-ass ninja.
…Hey, speak for yourself! Foooooox! *sobs*
With that, we end our little link collection for the week. Remember, time is running short to send in your This Year in Videogame Blogging submissions! And your weekly submissions by email and Twitter are, as always, completely welcome and encouraged!