February 12th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Is ignorance bliss? What kind of things can we learn when we admit to truly knowing nothing at all? Games critics this week have been considering the problems of celebrating ignorance as well as the benefits of eschewing expertise.

Getting lost

First, these pieces consider how play affects what we expect to know about who we are in relation to one another and to society.

“‘getting lost’ is a methodological alternative that challenges and deprivileges mastery discourses because it focuses on ‘places where we are not so sure of ourselves and where this not knowing could be seen as our best chance for a different sort of doing and knowing.'”

Differently sobering

The abandonment or denial of knowledge are implicated in these pieces on games that deal with violence.

“The game may resemble conventional third-person shooters, but its ugly power fantasy has close parallels with Spec Ops: The Line in particular, albeit with a meta-commentary not deliberately authored but emergent […] while Spec Ops directly skewers and subverts these conventions to comment on the morality of violent videogames, Blood on the Sand wholly embraces its violence, resulting in a differently sobering perspective on videogame culture.”

The darkest chapters

Our understanding of the world is only ever provisional and partial, but when it comes to some of the most shameful aspects of our own history, how do we ensure there’s some sort of consensus about reality?

“Kansteiner complains that “the websites, displays, and animations dedicated to the dark side of history do not offer its users a chance to shape content according to their own aesthetic preferences.” But what if someone prefers the aesthetics of the torturer, or of erasure? […] What he advocates is, essentially, the gamification of atrocity, which would allow newcomers to the darkest chapters of history to customize their encounter with the past. The past would be up for grabs. “

Perceptual abilities

What kinds of ways of knowing become possible through game design? These two pieces consider spatiality and the use of the body as one particular example.

“embodiment is not only about seeing, but also about seeing within a context that extends beyond visual perception; humans possess perceptual abilities that allow them to sense movement behind and beside their bodies (29). It makes sense then that the richer view made possible by a third-person POV provides a better translation of these perceptual abilities (30).”

Crusty old man

Another way that games communicate knowledge is through the subtleties of visual art, from character-building through costume to overall technique and style.

“The clash between the decay and death that surrounds Ethan and his ever-resilient sleeves delineates what a modern hero can look like. From a design perspective, it’s a snazzy and practical, yet constant, reminder to players that no matter what happens, Ethan’s in the driver’s seat. After all, he’s the clean-cut Average Guy who’s just trying to track down his missing wife. The crusty old man, with soiled clothes and an imposing axe is crazy and evil, we’re told, just by observing the difference in how he and Ethan dress. It’s a subtle touch in a game that’s preoccupied with detail, and Resident Evil 7 is better for it.”

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