March 19th

This week’s critical writing changed my understanding of how games connect to the physical world and to urban life. Let’s go on a little wander through the winding paths of online discourse.

Visuals and sound

Slightly stepping away from our overwhelming reliance on text for critical communication, in these pieces critics use sound and visuals to explore games.

“the player, and even entire areas—are dwarfed by the vastness of its deserts and plains, the suffocating thickness of its forests, and the titanic mountains that encircle you. My photos were almost all landscapes with a few shots of decrepit buildings rising out of jungles and frozen tundras. The game is at its most transcendent and awe-inspiring when you feel as Aloy likely would: utterly lost in a world so much bigger and older than she could ever imagine.”

Interpenetrating the world

The wilds and the cities have critics fascinated this week, as in-depth examinations of game spaces encompass all genres.

“Niantec created an invisible force field interpenetrating the world which drove changes in that world which might otherwise seem inexplicable. But don’t take my word for it: the reason I bring up occultism is because Ingress’ marketing leaned heavily into such ideas.”

Kneel by the body

Eurogamer have done some compelling work this week on the social relationships that exist around games, with a particularly remarkable interest in how people relate to each other in the physical world.

“Rather than linger on the violence, however, Lightweight takes a respectful, thoughtful approach. No screaming guitars or yowling choir to back the drama. There is almost no soundtrack to fights, and instead there’s a silence, one that is made all the louder by these pastoral settings. After each fight, your character will typically kneel by the body of the person whose life they’ve taken, before issuing a mournful soliloquy.”

Real human behavior

These two pieces uncover new ways of understanding the involvement of politics and governance in gaming.

“That’s real human behavior,” CIA Chief Strategy Officer Rachel Grunspan says. “If you design a game right, you’ll see a lot of complexity organically emerge. That’s what you want.”

The pain of everyday life

Finally, this last little bunch of pieces examines the different character roles we can play and interpret in games.

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