We’re approaching the end of 2012 and, alas, our intro gimmicks are running thin. Thanks to all our readers for another great year. We’ll be back next week with our year-end roundup, but for now, please join me in ringing in the final This Week in Videogame Blogging of 2012.
DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR
This week sees Culture Ramp wrapping up their excellent four-part series on writing about games for non-gamers.
I SAW THREE SHIPS COME SAILING IN
On Gamasutra, developer Lars Doucet caps us off with a great post-mortem on the design process of Tourette Quest, a game in which the player can “explore what it’s like to have Tourette’s Syndrome through the lens of game mechanics.”
Meanwhile at Polygon, Patrick Stafford takes a peek inside the world of faith-based gaming.
And at VG Revolution, Clayton launches into an essay on the importance of characterization in game narratives, with particular attention paid to characters in the .hack franchise.
S/HE WORE GREENSLEEVES
On Medium Difficulty, Kaitlin Tremblay poses the interesting argument that the first-person perspective can have a way of sidestepping the male gaze.
On the flip side, as part of Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Gaming Made Me series, Cara Ellison discusses Tomb Raider and being embodied as Lara Croft:
When I played I was Lara, experiencing everything through her character. My male friends sat there identifying with the camera – with the looking, the controlling, with the interfaces. They were outside her body. I was her body.
Writing in reference to Persona 4‘s Naoto for Nightmare Mode, Mattie Brice hones in on how we enforce our gender perceptions on others:
What is Naoto’s identity? It’s possible he doesn’t know yet. And with the absence of genderqueer characters in media, we don’t have a cultural reference point for what to make of him.
There is a concept in postmodernism of a fact versus an event. We see facts as undeniable, objective information that we all can perceive and agree is reality. Events explode the idea of facts into an intersection truths from different perspectives, even if they are, and often so, contradictory. Take the film, Rashomon. Several witnesses to a murder all say different things, and they aren’t lying, just relaying what happened from their own perspective. What has happened to us in life, the philosophies we relate to, change the angle we see information at. When it comes to identity, facts are pretty much useless.
Naoto is an event. To me, he is a product of my experience as a transgender woman exposed to how society treats queer people. I see the anxiety of choosing a label, of having to change my body in order for people to treat me the way I wanted to be treated. Naoto doesn’t actually have a factual identity; he is an apparition of numbers. What we all decide he is, ultimately, isn’t important. Rather, the why’s and how’s reveal our cultural perspective of people who don’t fit into cisgender norms.
In a similar vein, Zoya Street of The Border House responds to recent calls to ‘out’ League of Legends champion Taric as gay, challenging the assumptions taken in assigning Taric’s gender and sexual identity:
[M]aybe Taric is not gay. Maybe he loves women almost as much as he loves gems. Maybe he doesn’t identify as a guy. Maybe he just doesn’t know yet. Maybe he doesn’t need to explain his gender expression in terms that fit your worldview.
Or maybe he is gay, and he doesn’t feel the need to navigate the complex network of social connections between the League and the LGBT community through the rather culturally-specific rite of passage of coming out. Maybe Taric belongs to a culture where coming out isn’t the best option for him or for his family. Perhaps his privacy is very important to maintaining his connection with the community he grew up in. It doesn’t necessarily mean he isn’t doing his bit to break down homophobia in that community, but the challenges might not be navigable by the same means that they are in your culture.
UPDATE: Also recommended is Todd Harper’s response post.
WALKING IN A WHITE MAN’S WONDERLAND
Back at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, John Walker sits down for a rather strange interview with Far Cry 3 writer Jeffrey Yohalem, who calls the game’s narrative a “satire” and claims critics have misunderstood. Writing in response at Gameranx, Holly Green offers up this succinct response: “Sorry Jeffrey Yohalem, We Understand Far Cry 3 Perfectly.”
Ultimately if your intent is to “expose” a trope, then you have to challenge it. Presenting a string of accepted video game status quos with a couple of Alice in Wonderland references isn’t enough. While good satire can–and should–fool at least some of the public (that is in fact the point), it shouldn’t fool everybody. When your audience has no reason to take your material at anything less than face value, a little more effort must be made. If Jason is supposed to be an “unreliable narrator”, then his narration has to actually be challenged.
WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS
(NOTE: Most of this section deals in some way with the events at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14th, as well as with cultures of violence in general.)
Writing in his regular Critical Intel column for The Escapist, Robert Rath performs a close look at three games’ treatment of unmanned military drones.
On Buzzfeed, John Herrman posits that we need to be talking more about violence and games, not less:
[W]hile uninformed anti-game sensationalism may be unproductive, gamers’ reflexive defensiveness is worse. It’s prevented us from having a meaningful conversation about an industry that is emotionally and morally stunted, where per-title revenue can dwarf even the most successful films of all time but which seems immune from discussions of taste and artistic merit. […] young men’s most influential entertainment products, the cultural touchstones they do and will reminisce about in adulthood, are built around the premise of empathizing with a man with a gun in his hand, who kills not in the crudely symmetrical and grim manner of war but gleefully commits mass slaughter.
Writing in his personal blog, developer Shane Liesegang shares his own reflections and addresses his fellow developers in regards to defending the prevalence of violence in games:
As developers, we like to point out the violence in films, TV, books, Shakespeare, the Bible, etc, hoping that deflection will absolve games. But even the most hopeful among us has to acknowledge the stark disparity in Percentage of Time Devoted to Violent Acts among the different kinds of media. Even in a summer action flick, the amount of time spent punching and shooting things is substantially lower than it is in the video game tie-in for that same summer action flick.
Also writing in her own blog, Gamasutra editor-at-large Leigh Alexander also calls for a little self-reflection:
Any games writing that questions that right to bear virtual arms with joyful impunity is often accused of having some irrelevant political agenda, of ruining the fun, of refusing to accept the all-important fact it’s just a game. Like disassociating ourselves from any intellectual consideration of the content we consume or any emotional response to it is a basic requirement for participation in this community.
I can’t accept that.
The top-grossing games of all time are about marching in a straight line and shooting people. I’ve felt confused and sad about that for a few years now and I feel moreso this week. Our recent Hollywood gold-encrusted televised awards ceremony cheered the boyish joy in “shooting people in the face.” Nobody would say that if the VGAs aired tonight. Because they’d have the good sense to have a fucking think about what that means.
Lastly, writing for The Phoenix, Maddy Myers touches upon Hotline Miami and asks us to question the hyper-masculinization of violence.
As a shooter fan who happens to also be a woman, I often find myself feeling alienated by the masculine-centric narrative on display in all of these games. But that alienation allows me to see this particular form of social brainwashing from an outsider’s angle.
The brainwashing goes deep, here. It happens in real life, not just in these fictions. To what extent have we internalized the narrative? We need not look far to see this view of masculinity in American society – as an unstoppable, uncontrollable force of power and violence. Why do we agree with this supposition in so many of our stories? Why do we accept violence as the “natural” way that men behave?
AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE…
This is kind of a down note to end on, but the same could be said for recent events in general. However, the world didn’t end, so there is that, yes?
We hope you enjoy the seasonal tidings of your preference in the week(s) ahead. Keep your ears open for a brand new Critical Distance Confab podcast later in the week, as well as next Sunday when we release 2012′s This Year in Videogame Blogging. As a reminder, it’s not too late to send in your submissions for the Year-End roundup!
And for that matter, time is running out to submit entries to the Games Journalism Prize as well! Winners will be decided in early 2013, and there is a cash prize involved, last we checked. Enticing, no?