July 30th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Developers and critics alike have been discussing important games from the past this week, covering the gamut from Flash games to Far Cry 2. Meanwhile, newer cultural hits such as Dream Daddy and 17776 are having a big impact.

Tend and befriend

Lots of people are talking about Dream Daddy, but it isn’t the only thing getting games writers talking about queer optimism; in other pieces, games critics use feminist futurisms to find new ways of reading games.

The next two posts contain spoilers for Dream Daddy.

Let me see!

Dark confines

This week’s writing on spaces in games has tended to hint at different ways that spaces reflect and influence the people who use them.

“Befitting the mood of a final frantic push towards victory, the last segment of map takes place within the dark confines of Eichenwalde Castle. It tosses the battle into an extended sequence of close quarters combat in a dark, gloomy space. Ceilings are lower, side paths more winding, and the defending team’s spawn point deposits them almost directly onto the final capture point. Eichenwalde becomes more hostile in visual tone and construction.”

Collaborators

In two pieces, developers discuss their experiences working on important games in the past.

Teaming

Waypoint’s special week-long focus on games and incarceration has been quite an achievement, and their investigative work at Guantanamo Bay has been particularly impressive.

Absurdity

In three different pieces of writing this week, critics highlighted the use of absurdism or mockery in games about social systems.

“I can see Behold the Kickmen spawning a tangential sub-genre of titles that tackle things the authors don’t understand but want to. Done the right way we might see a lot more games that put the fun back into the dull, or ridiculous. And when I say “dull” I just mean things I don’t quite understand yet. Like most people feel about football. “

Thematically-rich tedium

Looking more broadly at narrative technique, these four pieces are retrospectives that consider major games from the past ten years or so in light of genre conventions and what we now understand about their developers’ goals as creatives.

“There is an impulse when evaluating anti-shooters to celebrate […] deliberate, thematically-rich tedium. This is an erroneous stance, in part because most anti-shooters aren’t actually tedious. Spec Ops: The Line is a good shooter. Kane and Lynch 2 is a good shooter[…] I don’t mean to be prescriptive here and say that tedium is never meaningful or valuable; I ask only that we dispel the notion that tedium is somehow intrinsic to the anti-shooter.”

Inhabit the skin of the monstrous

Four writers this week look at how games portray and respond to mental states; including a piece from Waypoint’s special week on incarceration, that considers the metaphorical prisons of the mind.

critical fantasies of escape are essential to resistance against this carceral rhetoric. If the dungeon equates the imprisoned to the monstrous, then pieces like howling dogs, Begscape and With Those We Love Alive ask us to inhabit the skin of the monstrous, the grotesque, the pitiable. The empathy is with the kobolds hiding and scurrying, the gelatinous cubes crawling the corridors.”

Intentionality

Finally, I was startled to find these two pieces that both consider intentionality as a part of game design thinking, but in completely different ways.

“if the player refuses to cooperate without sufficient emotional investment in the choice, something is lost in Reza’s character development. The designers had to create a narrative design that would make the player chose non-cooperation intentionally.”


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