What kind of futures can we imagine for game design and storytelling? This week, critics take on the contemporary context of games from a number of perspectives, thinking about how games make us feel, and how it feels to make games.
Three writers this week think about development practices and the language used for making sense of design.
Jesper Juul examines four different ways that we use the word “playing”.
- Breath of the Wild’s Biggest Design Secret: Lots Of Triangles
Chris Kohler reports on Nintendo panels at CEDEC 2017 in Japan that revealed some landscaping techniques that make use of primary forms.
- Radiator Blog: Open world level design: spatial composition and flow in Breath of the Wild
Robert Yang comments further on Kohler’s post, emphasizing the role of tools in the design process described by Nintendo.
“We should probably stop using colossal wikis for coordinating and sharing knowledge within design teams — that’s a last resort for systems that don’t have clear spatial metaphors. Meanwhile, in video game land, we’re building huge spatial metaphors all the time, so why not use it?”
In some interesting pieces on strategic design decisions made by games companies, two critics investigate the compromises and bargains made in order to seduce the right developers and players.
- Why ‘Rocket League’ Killed All Its Weird Maps – Waypoint
Andrew Hayward examines how level design priorities shift as a game becomes a sport.
- How Sony’s biggest failure led to an indie renaissance | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Matt Suckley reports on the history of how indie-friendly business practices developed out of a desperation to attract developers.
“The formal approval process at that time was so daunting that it struck fear into the hearts of many indies. For Shahid Ahmad, who led the developer relations team handling minis, the relaxed approval process the initiative spearheaded was a small-scale realization of a long-term goal.”
Games criticism meets writing on social and environmental justice in these three pieces on portrayals of patriarchy and conservationism.
- This Game About Domestic Abuse Helped Me Understand My Own Trauma – Waypoint (Content warning: detailed descriptions of abuse)
Kate Gray praises Laura’s Story for shedding light on subtle forms of abuse that are usually difficult to depict clearly.
- Juggling the Chaos in Overcooked – and at Home | Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan links the skills behind cooperative play in Overcooked to the emotional labour and cognitive load too-often placed on women.
- Children Of The Anthropocene | Future Unfolding | Heterotopias
Lewis Gordon discusses a nature wandering game, considering the universalism and specificity of paying attention to the environment with reference to the writings of naturalist John Muir.
“For a crisis as enveloping as the Anthropocene, there is a value in this type of universalism. Specific problems abound that require specific solutions, of course, but Future Unfolding, along with other video games, literature, art and music are beginning to craft a new vernacular capable of conveying this shift in expression.”
I love writing that explores the turn towards compassion and mindfulness in indie games, and this week brings two excellent essays on the topic.
- the last guardian | malvasia bianca
David Carlton argues that Trico’s emotional responses to battle give players a lens on the nature of violence – allowing them to sympathise with a creature not as battle-hardened as themselves.
- How Jalopy taught me philosophy – Thumbsticks
Josh Wise relates an indie game about touring Europe in a beaten-up car to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – not just because they are both about caring for vehicles, but because they are both about friction.
“A gameplay loop is a lot like a drinking straw. The little crinkled bellows that rest on the rim of your glass are the areas that so many games look to circumnavigate or cut out completely […] What Jalopy does is pull on the straw and decompress those bellows, elongating and revelling in these little moments.”
Two critics look at narrative through games, peering into the act of storytelling to discern what kinds of futures might be possible.
- Exploiting Your Way to a Better World in Euphoria
Drew Dixon compares a dystopian game to Huxley’s Brave New World, finding it a more fitting allegory for our current predicaments than Orwell’s 1984.
- PUBG Convinced Me Games are the Future of TV | Unwinnable
A J Moser argues that there is a participatory drama to PlayerUnknown: Battlegrounds which points the way towards future forms of televised storytelling.
“the heightened stagecraft of streaming culture have elevated the performative aspects of PUBG, no doubt helping to make it the phenomenon it has become. Individuals form and break alliances, pull off dramatic plays, and chart their own underdog stories online for hours and hours every week, weaving a collective narrative[…]”
- Examining PewDiePie, Toxicity, and Mob Rule in Gaming – Waypoint
Our latest monthly Waypoint digest focuses on the writing coming out examining online abuse and harassment.
- October 2017: ‘Hospitality’ – Critical Distance
Mark Filipowich has announced our latest Blogs of the Roundtable prompt. Write something in response in order to get your work featured in next month’s Roundtable!
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!