October 18th

Is there really anything you look forward to more on a Sunday than our roundup? I think not. Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Why Do You Keep Coming Back?

Over at Video Game Heart, Grayson Davis doesn’t find bad design in videogames to be all that bad:

Bad design isn’t always always without value. On the contrary, Mario Maker is an amazing tool. Much like listening to someone describe their dreams, the Mario Maker experience is a fragmented mess, […] So video game producers and art directors put them in their creations to draw on that shorthand.

Meanwhile, Tim Conkling makes a salient point of the perception of design:

The notion that design is intellectually relevant is uncontroversial. Nobody would ever seriously write off, for example, an Eames chair or a Gehry building; whether these objects fit some random definition of “art” is inconsequential to their perceived cultural value. But outside the industry, I don’t think that games are really understood as designed objects.

Kill Screen’s Jake Muncy reviews Undertale and confronts a moral dissonance between playing the game in a way that feels true to his own interpretation, finding his morality at the whims of the game’s mechanics itself. “Every boss fight was not a question of, ‘Do I want to kill this individual?'” he said. “It was a question of, ‘Can I solve this puzzle? Do I have the resources to survive long enough to deliver mercy before Game Over?'”

Quintin Smith believes videogames ought to borrow more from board games, while Filip Wiltgren ponders the differences between tabletop games and videogames.

Meanwhile, the latest edition of Unwinnable Weekly features Taylor Hidalgo yearning for the days of couch co-op gameplay:

If nothing else, simply having another set of eyes in the room changes the way I interpret myself. In a vacuum, we don’t question any aspect of ourselves. They’re just reflexive. With an audience, everything we take for granted comes screaming to the forefront, carrying with it aspects of our consciousness we were previously entirely unaware of.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain 

(Content Warning: spoilers.)

In “The Wolf in Snake’s Clothing: Metal Gear’s Twisted Hero,” Jeffrey Matulef discusses the unreliable narrator in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which allows Snake to do “horrible and badass” things without being held accountable; and Matulef also questions whether the Metal Gear series can go on without Hideo Kojima.

Who Do You Think You Are?

At FemHype, Ashley Lynn’s interpretation of Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio leads to an exploration of how women are presented within Ezio’s world, and Nico W. reveals in The Mary Sue how she discovered her sexuality through Borderlands 2:

It was without a doubt one of the most enlightening experiences of my life, and as I read through story after story that could have all been written by me, I felt a weight lifting off my shoulders. I had been wrong—I wasn’t broken—I was just asexual. It quite honestly changed my life.

And I had a freakin’ FPS to thank for it…

But not everybody can see themselves revealed through games, as Kotaku’s Evan Narcisse explains how black hairstyles have become “visual shorthand” for a number of outlandish tropes:

‘See, our black character is spiritual. Or edgy. Or threatening. Threateningly edgy in a spiritual way. What’s that?! An Afro?! Boy, this black guy must really funny! Get ready to laugh at him, players!’ Look at a natural and what do you think? ‘Boy, that sure is… middle of the road.’

Not Your Mama’s Gamer continues putting out excellent content, as Alex Layne comments on a culture of entitlement and “participation medals” as facilitators of aggression, specifically against women in the gaming world:

Women don’t need participation medals. We fight every fucking day to gain an inch more at the table, to gain one more penny toward equal pay, to gain some semblance of control over our own bodies. We have never been entitled to the world, so we work for our medals.

Heads up: NYMG also introduced a new feature about race and representation — The Invisibility Blues — launched with this video.

Culture Shock

At The Guardian, Naomi Alderman talks about the importance of cultural education in videogames, and why it’s not cool to claim “intellectual superiority” for knowing nothing about video games:

But more aggravating even than this are the forums, summits, breakout sessions and seminars on ‘digital literature’ run by exceedingly well-meaning arts people who can talk for hours about what the future might be for storytelling in this new technological age – whether we might produce hyperlinked or interactive or multi-stranded novels and poems — without apparently noticing that video games exist. And they don’t just exist! They’re the most lucrative, fastest-growing medium of our age.

When it comes to games literacy, Ed Smith takes a stab at The Beginner’s Guide, where he states:

Compartmentalizing games into items with meanings, or aggrandizing them as pristine, not-for-touching rarities, smacks of fear, a kind of potted, exaggerated mock appreciation typical of somebody who has never felt anything genuine for artwork at all.

As for cultural appreciation, Jess Joho notes how videogames are keeping the symphony orchestra from obsolescence, with The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses attracting twice the amount of concert-goers than the average classical symphony event.

(Content Warning: Descriptions of racial discrimination and sexual abuse)

At Vice Motherboard, Andrew Paul finally discovers Minecraft, but while in the game’s 2b2t server, Paul enters an “… unforgiving cyber-wasteland, a hellish, pixelated world where one wrong step will lead not only to my death, but to public shaming of my virtual ignorance, as well.” And Go Make Me a Sandwich posted about “cringe-inducingly racist” games that actually find funding on Kickstarter. It’s not pretty.

Elsewhere, former developer turned pub owner Jon Blyth compares the games industry to the alcohol business:

Then there are the people who say Her Story, Gone Home and so on aren’t “games”. We’ve got that with Craft Beer – eye-rolling at the fizzy upstart, tutting at the genre-stretching novelty of a Chocolate Aniseed IPA, and wincing as the high price of craft beer collides hard with the preconception of craft brewers as privileged hipsters. Conservatism is ugly, whatever the size of the C. Let’s just all get drunk on whatever we enjoy and make out in the toilets.

Sadly, Jessica Curry, Director and Composer of The Chinese Room, explains why she is leaving the studio behind, due to a combination of a degenerative disease and toxicity in the games industry:

On a personal level I look back at my huge contribution to the games that we’ve made and I have had to watch Dan get the credit time and time again. I’ve had journalists assuming I’m Dan’s PA, I have been referenced as “Dan Pinchbeck’s wife” in articles, publishers on first meeting have automatically assumed that my producer is my boss just because he’s a man, one magazine would only feature Dan as Studio Head and wouldn’t include me. When Dan has said “Jess is the brains of the operation” people have knowingly chuckled and cooed that it’s nice of a husband to be so kind about his wife. I don’t have enough paper to write down all of the indignities that I’ve faced.

(End content warning section.)

From the Expert Blogs of Gamasutra, Shaun Leach discusses trust, accountability and the concept of creating a ”strong ownership model,” while over at Unwinnable Jeremiah Cheney contemplates the impact of voice acting on the games industry.

Creators need platforms to get their games into the hands of players, but as David Gallant is experiencing with his creation I Get This Call Every Day, that is difficult to do when the marketplace your game is on is in the midst of a collapse:

Unlike almost every other storefront I have used thus far, Desura decided to completely anonymize customer data … If I had access to those addresses, I could very easily migrate those customers over to Humble or itch.io and ensure that they retain access to their purchases and future updates. But I don’t.

Until We Meet Again

That’s it for this weekend’s roundup, but if you’re interested in unearthing a time capsule of games writing, check out this archive of GameZero, a zine which ran from 1992-96, edited by Bryan under the pseudonym R.I.P.

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