June 18th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

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.

Genre norms

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.

“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.”

Gender norms

Extending this discussion of storytelling in games, two critics examine how some recent Japanese games critique normative gender and sexuality.

“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.”

Gender options

Further discussions on gender and sexuality in games this week concerned social progress in the industry and enthusiast communities.

Campaign setting

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.

“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.”

Quest

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.

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.”


Plugs

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.

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