October 29th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

This week we continue a look at industry and cultural practices in videogames while several authors offer critical approaches to their favourite games.

Visual Essays

Let’s start this week with a pair of visually based pieces of criticism about turn-of-the-century JRPGs.

Challenge and Gatekeeping

Difficulty is again the focus of much debate about what extent it contributes to making games what they are versus how it shuts people out of games entirely.

“We do this a lot in videogames. I think I’ve done it a lot in videogames. Sometimes I’m hypercompetitive, mostly as a response to the anticipated rejection of my peers. In my rush to get ahead of the criticism, I’ve been obnoxious. But looking back at my life, it’s also been a pattern. There are many times where I’ve overcompensated for my mental or physical health because I didn’t want to feel different, or less than.”

History

This week there have been a number of retrospectives looking both at the development history and critical work about different games.

Girls on Neopets took what they needed from the site and used the skills acquired there to further develop a burgeoning digital girls’ culture, whether it be in expanding their guild pages into personal sites, teaching others to code, or exchanging those skills for economic gain in Neopets.

Abuse in Industry

Unfortunately, this week also prompted conversations about how figures in the videogame industry continue to participate in sexual assault and in exploitative labour practices.

“While many jobs are demanding, the conditions in this industry are uniquely unforgiving. Most game developers in the United States do not receive extra compensation for extra hours. They may gaze with envy at their colleagues in the film industry, where unions help regulate hours and ensure overtime pay. Their income pales in comparison to what’s offered in other fields with reputations for brutal hours, like banking and law.”

Close Inspection

“Scenes” I expected to be cute are overlaid with static and blacked-out eyes, and characters sometimes zoom in with uncomfortable closeness. The game knew that I knew this wasn’t normal, and it used that as a tool to make me uneasy.


Plugs

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