February 19th

This week, critics find different ways to talk about paranoia, fear, and comfort in relation to videogames.

Imagine with me now

I want to start with a little link to the roundup of Emilie Reed’s special event that wrapped up this week here at Critical Distance, and then continue with a piece that discusses at the use of visual symbols with historical resonance.

“There are many film dramas and documentaries about real-world atrocities, but imagine with me now: what if someone made a horror movie about a real-world atrocity? What if a movie about the real deaths of thousands of people was filled with jump scares and shock gore? The idea feels offensive. But Detention does manage, with unambiguous success, to be a real horror game about real-world horror. How does this game get away with it?”

Experiment

Creators discuss their process in these pieces, using words and illustrative images.

Divine and absolute

Two different stories about power and agency are explored here, one finding much more success than the other.

“We think of sovereign power not as power earned, but power bestowed, at least when we’re thinking of sovereign power both as absolute and unquestionable, and in a medieval/feudal sense – the divine and absolute power of monarchs.”

Era of uncertainty

Considerations on how people in the future will make sense of gaming as it is carried on today are measured in these pieces against concerns about how our preservation practices might affect people in the here and now.

“In an era of uncertainty, the presence of an archive can comfort us, make us feel like we’ve made a contribution to a group we care about. It can also lead to damaging, dangerous practices that ruin people’s lives.”

Performatively self-aware

Relationships through gaming that connect people to broader society are examined in these pieces, which uncover no shortage of conflict and contention.

“It makes sense that YouTube would become home to such a performatively self-aware economy. It is, after all, one of the most mature of the major social platforms. […] And in the people who depend on the platform to pay their bills, it inspires a peculiar mixture of paranoia, desire, gratefulness and disdain that shows up clearly in their work.”

Compelled to compete

Finally, some thoughts on how games affect and reflect mental states.

“[O]ne of you is the leader, and the other must accept a subservient role. It’s something I’ve always despised, that a game mode named for split responsibility often fails to do even that. Portal 2‘s co-op is funny in that way. Starting out, you and your partner are compelled to compete for answers. The gameplay reflects that, and GlaDOS satirizes it.”

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