April 3rd

It’s the first blog roundup of April! Here in England, the bulbs and trees are starting to blossom and the birds with rude-sounding names have started to flutter about. The world is becoming colourful and bright once more.

Due to a number of concurrent distressing events, this week saw an uptick in discussions of serious harassment and abuse, and I’ve tried to keep those discussions to a section at the bottom of the page to facilitate safer reading for anybody who will find those topics triggering. Content warnings have been used throughout in the usual manner.

As always, if you like what we do here you can subscribe to our Patreon and send in recommendations for pieces to include. I’m so grateful for your support.

Heritage

This week an archaeologist takes us all the way back to the beginning of human history, and games critics look at the early years of game design history and the golden age of conceptual art.

“It makes sense that Cardboard Computer would be interested in the work of the artist because both Kentucky Route Zero and Nam June Paik integrate television screens as important motifs. His famed installation Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii involves television screens framed by neon tubes in the shape of the United States map. Paik envisions an interconnected network of digital routes and passages that traverse the country; Kentucky Route Zero envisions a network not of digital media but of myth and memory.”

Prestige

People are fighting for recognition in sports both electronic and figurative, including Starcraft II, advertising, and politics.

“In addition to offering bling that demonstrates a player’s overall prowess and patience, prestiging now allows players to bring along certain late-game abilities into the early stages of the experience, giving the game a different feel and flavor. With their career moves, Schmidt and Poole gain prestige (not to mention financial benefit) in new domains, while also transferring their entirely distinctive traits to bear on new organizations in ways that few others could.”

Mandate

Several pieces this week address labour within games as an industry as well games as an activity.

Stardew Valley isn’t only about what you do, because ultimately you’ll do a lot. It emphasizes what you do with what you’re given: How you choose to build your community and relationships, and the power of a simple hello, said every day. Building a farm isn’t just a physical task, but an emotional one, too. No simulation or game is an exact copy of what it’s trying to emulate, but Stardew Valley, above all, expertly explores the connection that someone can have with their environment, their work and the people around them.”

Resilience

Are games therapy or vice? Are they human or machine? Divergent perspectives approach the role of games in helping us to manage our own minds and conceptualise the minds of others.

“While I won’t deny the onset of help­less bore­dom that comes with slay­ing fif­teen crea­tures in a row for a five-part quest or run­ning around gath­er­ing herbs over and over and over, I soon learned keep­ing my atten­tion span barely above water had a way of slow­ing down my heart rate like a mug of warm tea.”

Privilege

The semiotics of bodies clash with the diverse experiences of embodiment in these articles about diversity.

“Once we mix logic with humanity, with society, the rubrics become messy–instead of clean lines, they are knots. And we do not, cannot exist without those entanglements, without experience, education, identifiers. Logic on the page is not always logic in a situation. We are fluid. So too goes our language and our perceptions.”

Virtue

The pull toward violence and the question of its justification resurfaces this week, with references not just to shooters but to live-action theatre and religion.

  • A theater ensemble turns mutually assured destruction into a live-action game
    The A.V. Club interviews Nathan Allen, director of a live interactive theatre ensemble, about conflict and group dynamics in his latest work on the Cold War and gun violence.
  • Manhunt (Audio, no transcript)
    Bullet Points Podcast hosts a discussion about Manhunt, following on from essays on the topic such as the one we featured last week, with some complex and robust disagreements on the narrative goals and achievements of the title (content warning: spoilers, descriptions of graphic in-game violence).
  • ‘Dying Light: The Following’ Makes Doomsday Cults Seem Surprisingly Reasonable
    Reid McCarter praises the worldbuilding in Dying Light for using zombie horror tropes to create a more sympathetic portrayal of religious cults (content warning: spoilers).
  • Turning in the Badge
    Heather Alexandra critiques the compulsion towards violence and the creation of worlds trapped in never-ending cycles of conflict.

“This focus on “legitimized” violence leads to a tragic (and likely unintended) implication, too. Exceptionalism puts the player outside of the bounds of responsibility, and in doing so, it divides them from the rest of the world’s inhabitants. If The Division ever “secures” New York for the everyday civilians left standing, it would mean game over. Like so many other games, The Division isn’t interested in accomplishing the mission. It would rather have the conflict last forever.…”

Abuse, harassment, war

This was a week in which virtual wars, harassment campaigns and misogyny seemed to blend continuously into one another. 

  • EVE Online: What Is The Northern War (aka World War Bee)? (Video, auto captions only)
    To open with a relatively benign example, a synopsis of the events leading to the current dramatic war in Eve Online explains how events in the game have been affected by alleged economic bleed from the outside world.

(Content warning for everything below this line: graphic descriptions of abuse, harassment, some quotations of oppressive slurs, and references to child sexual abuse.)


Nintendo’s firing of Alison Rapp