January 29th

Do you feel like garbage right now? Well then I have a treat for you. Games critics this week have gone searching through the detritus of the city for hidden treasure, and created archives of material for others to enjoy. Along the way, they’ve brought up lessons about why spaces feel the way they do, who makes them that way, and how this all works.

Prospects

First, a couple of pieces to refer to if you’re working on using visual expression more in your work. By the way, there’s a jam for that happening soon!

astroneer-open-space

Power fantasies

Next, a pair of pieces that both raise similar points about the arrogant conceits of gameplay and how they map onto the character traits of America’s President, during what has been described as one of the most alarming weeks in US history.

“America elected Donald Trump. England voted to exit the European Union. Yet many of the people who voted for these things say they were simply trying to make a point. Perhaps they just wanted to win; they wanted to excel beyond those with college educations and those they perceive as being elite. In a world saturated with contest, Huizinga would say, there is no meaning and there is no consideration of the consequences. All of life is a game, and we play to win.”

Into our surroundings

Now we find ourselves in the gutter, as great critics engage with useless creatures and human waste.

Pokémon Go, just like most videogames, is about isolation; about madly acquiring intangible goods because we’re told having more stuff than other people is good for us. Geocaching asks us to dig deeper into our surroundings by allowing us to see previously hidden narratives and experiences.”

Disabling

For some thoughts on how inclusion and exclusion function, these writers reflect on how artists meet, who they represent, and who gets to participate.

“The social model argues that society unconsciously adopts conventions that are disabling.  When stairs block a wheelchair getting into a doctor’s surgery,  […] It is the stairs that are disabling, and they were put there as part of a wider socioeconomic context.  Nothing in life happens in a vacuum.  It is my view that you cannot meaningfully take a comprehensive view of accessibility without addressing the sociological and economic factors within which people operate.”

Who’s topping?

Examining how relationships are experienced within games, two writers thinking about how care dynamics are nurtured in quite different ways.

“Instead of breaking down the mechanical factors at the core of the relationship, I think we would be much better served understanding how much of it is based upon the space between the two characters. As scenarios change, the space between parties shrinks and grows in order to stress which character is on top in the power dynamics of the relationship.”

Engaging tension

This diverse little collection examines how we experience ourselves in games through the senses and the psyche.

“I believe that the tendency to view gameplay as a purely mechanical result, as opposed to understanding it as a primarily psychological process for the construction of personal narratives, causes us to design in a highly circuitous way. We design and then look to see if it is engaging. But if we can conceive a game’s systems as collections of non-overlapping and competing self-concepts, the path to generating engaging tension becomes clearer. “

Plugs

Before I let you go, here are a couple of messages from the Critical Distance team.

  • Memory Insufficient in 2017
    I made an announcement this week about the little niche publication I’ve been running for the past three years.

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