What is a role playing game? You might have a fixed idea of what the genre is and how it works, but this week some writers are challenging those assumptions and asking you to see them differently. That plus discussions of gender and sexuality, cultural difference, and writing opportunities follow in this week’s roundup of games blogging.
First, two writers consider how particular games relate to the legacy of digital RPGs, and long for more games to challenge the received wisdoms of the genre.
- Due Diligence: Horizon Zero Yawn – Haywire Magazine
Leigh Harrison considers whether the storytelling in Horizon Zero Dawn demonstrates the limitations of gaming as a medium, or just RPG design orthodoxy.
- We Need Another Boundary-Breaker Like ‘Planescape: Torment’ – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman wants to see more critical reflexivity in mainstream gaming.
“In the age of hype and Jason Derulo, I wonder about the next Planescape: Torment. I don’t mean spiritual successors or Kickstarter-funded jaunts down the memory lane of isomorphic RPGs. I’m talking about the next game that wants to have an ambivalent stance toward the genre it’s a part of. Spec Ops: The Line, no matter what you thought about it in the end, at least presented some self-criticism aimed at the the shooting games of the early twenty teens. Other examples, though, are rare to find in the well-funded, blockbuster game space.”
Extending this discussion of storytelling in games, two critics examine how some recent Japanese games critique normative gender and sexuality.
- Perversion Subversion – Examining Hentai Sensibility – Extra Credits – YouTube (Video with subtitles)
James Portnow argues that it’s possible to use sexual humour in a humanizing way, but that failures are all to easy to come by.
- Yokoo Tarou’s Eternal Recurrence: Transhumanism in NieR: Automata
Kastel examines the roles of Shakespeare, Sartre and de Beauvoir in this story about life after gender.
“the Shakespeare play in Automata, while ridiculous, must have meant something to the machines who watched it. A machine spectator says it is beautiful. Surely, our aesthetics don’t match with that machine — but it must be something.”
Further discussions on gender and sexuality in games this week concerned social progress in the industry and enthusiast communities.
- E3 games feature more multi-gender options than ever before | GamesIndustry.biz
James Brightman crunches some numbers and talks with the Feminist Frequency folks about the content and context of AAA games.
- Radiator Blog: Against simpler times
Robert Yang gives a good chronology of the “queer games scene” from 2013 to today.
Games don’t just tell stories through characters, but through places, and this week saw more critical discussion of narrative architecture in major titles of recent years.
- We asked a landscape designer to analyse The Witcher 3, Mass Effect and Dishonored • Eurogamer.net
Rob Dwlar is mainly concerned with accuracy, but also comments on the narrative symbolism in landscape design in various AAA games.
- A Circle and a Line | The Witness | Heterotopias
Devin Raposo explains how The Witness uses architecture to teach us how to examine the environment.
“From one angle, a statue of a woman reaches out to the sky, but when looked at from another, it seems as if she’s attempting to grab the hand of another statue perched elsewhere. Depending on how you view a certain tree, you may see faces in the space between its wayward limbs. A bundle of loose kindling may appear as a pair of eyes peering at you when viewed from below. Time and time again, by intentionally scattering these illusions throughout its island, The Witness asks us to stop and reconsider the object for its bounty of potential contexts, reframing physical objects as vessels of perspective and suggestion.”
While interactivity has long been asserted as a unique quality of the medium, this week saw three examinations of interactivity that push us to look for new forms of interaction and to think about them in more precise ways.
- Gamasutra: Taekwan Kim’s Blog – Rethinking ‘Interactivity’
Taekwan Kim argues that common truisms about game design are founded on a logical fallacy.
- Star Trek: Bridge Crew and Ubisoft’s ongoing mission to make a game about talking • Eurogamer.net
Christian Donlan recalls a precedent for dialogue-driven strategy gameplay.
- Prey turns ‘open-ended’ game design inside-out | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Steven Strom argues that lego-like malleability makes Prey’s environments a meaningfully open world.
“Prey‘s environments are large, that’s for sure. But instead of being flat, they’re a 3D tangle of possibilities. Instead of telling me where to go and giving me the means to travel there, the game asks me to cut or sculpt my own shortcuts through that same space. The tools for doing so, like those listed in my example puzzle, are wildly different. Yet they all train my brain to see the environment as something malleable — something to bend to my will — rather than immutable boundaries to skate over.”
There are plenty of calls for writing open at the moment, and they all offer opportunities to respond to a challenge and get your work noticed by a different set of people.
- Gamers With Hope: Call For Submissions | Gamers With Jobs
Gamers with Jobs are asking for submissions on games with positive impact.
- CFP: Critical Works | Technoculture
Technoculture are also asking for proposals for critical writing.
- June 2017: ‘Time’ – Critical Distance
Don’t forget to take a look at the latest Blogs of the Round Table call for submissions, to get your piece of writing included in the next monthly themed roundup!
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!