November 12th

What can the most recent games learn from their own predecessors? And what kind of futures do games point us toward? Questions of past, present, and future pervade this week’s roundup of the most insightful games blogging.

Pattern-making

Three pieces this week offer insights for other games critics, helping us to build our vocabulary and refine our tastes.

  • Making Fun, Episode 1 – Paratext | YouTube (video: auto-generated subtitles)
    Talen Lee suggests the term “paratext” be used for things that the player brings to a game experience, such as hardware peripherals and narrative interpretation.
  • Invisible Walls | Problem Machine 
    problemmachine reflects on some of the disconnects between game design and real-world social systems.
  • Bad Images | Midboss (Em) – Medium 
    Emilie Reed looks to pattern making for the origins, and fundamental structure, of computing, and suggests that we should look to pattern forms for gaming’s aesthetics.

“If we accept that “gameplay” as an abstraction is made up of loops and repeated parts and this is in part because of how computers work, it’s nonsensical to also ignore the implications this has for everything else about the form.”

Reaching out towards the past

This week, there were two pieces that compared the latest iteration in a series to its first title, finding in the original some design strategies that ought not to have been abandoned.

WWII’s squad mechanics end up feeling insufficient when compared to the original game’s unpredictable violence. I might appreciate the spare health pack from time to time, but I never built affection for my squad.”

Necropastoral

Three critics this week considered the kinds of future scenarios that have been portrayed in games, with a particular eye toward what sort of stories have been relatively rare.

“[I]s it really such a surprise that a book about human obsolescence and our increasingly half-hearted whimpers of protest doesn’t easily make for a blockbuster videogame – particularly within the more established genres?”

The counterculture

The following two pieces concern racism in gaming; one article looking at ethnic stereotypes in a Nintendo game, the other looking at community building in the face of oppression.

“While the gaming community wrestles with the demons inflicted on its own [members], as well as the toxic barrage of white supremacist ideology that’s infected the global body politic, Black streamers have slowly become the counterculture […]”

Foundational sins

Turning to questions of morality, in these two pieces brutal and grotesque violence are placed in the context of the larger, structural violences of two different historical settings.

“The Church’s foundational sins, in a wonderful inversion of Lovecraftian and Victorian horror’s basis in fear of the lower classes and foreigners, are the violent suppression and expropriation of the knowledge and bodies of lower class communities.”

Unmade reality

This week saw a few pieces addressing spirituality, with musings on death, comfort, and how to develop wisdom.

“In practice, every Game Over is a sort of unmade reality, one that erases the mistakes from ever happening except in the player’s memory, and future efforts all benefit from the wisdom gleaned over a hundred now nonexistent failures.”


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