Every time I think I’m full I end up heading back to grab just one more plate. I don’t know if it’s the venue or the company but I keep coming back for more. Over the course of April we sat down at another Blogs of the Round Table to discuss ‘food’:
What is the role of eating in games? How does the experience of food change the way a game is played, either socially or on your own. What are the perceptions of eating for gamers and how do games treat the rituals around food? Tell us about chicken hidden in walls, mama’s that taught you to cook, dishes that you pass around on board game nights and who is willing to trade me a wood for my fist full of wheat. We want to know about the experience of food in and around games and play.
Zachary Gilpin whets our appetite with a critical look at how food functions in art and film and compares how these media—as well as his personal experiences—relate to food in contrast with games. Compared with other media, games have a unique relationship to food:
Raw chicken, sugar cane, wheat- these things aren’t food, they are elements emergent from the world. It is only through the application of human ingenuity that these things become truly useful to us. Where paintings show us the story of a moment, and films highlight the process, games put us in a position to both value the scarcity of the materials as well as wonder at the strange improbability of a cake’s existence.
Over at One More Continue, Peterz describes the social ritual he and his friends go through when they get together for nights of League of Legends, which is never complete with their favourite bad pizza place:
When we try something new it never really lasts. It has added another ritual to our gaming nights, and additional event that brings us together. When we say, “Pizza West is the Best”, it doesn’t just mean we are hungry, or we appreciate the food we got, but it encapsulates the excitement of the whole night. Kind of like when people yell “woo!” in clubs and such.
Woo, indeed, Peterz.
Sara Davis contributes to our round table from her blog, scenes of eating, which is dedicated to food, the eating of it, and the scenes in which it is eaten. Her contribution to this pot luck is an analysis of how food quite literally shapes the protagonists’ bodies in the Fable series. Although Davis notes the treatment is far from perfect, Fable offers a rare look at the physicality of food:
Both Fable and The Sims depict fatness as something that simply happens when you eat food, when in reality food is necessary and fat is complicated; on the other hand, that is not more unrealistic than Skyrim‘s svelte warriors famously downing multiple bowls of soup mid-battle. Any game that includes food interactions has to make decisions regarding which elements of the experience are critical to gameplay; the Fable series manages to address both bodily and worldly repercussions of eating, but primarily by cartoonifying them with its trademark irreverence
Meanwhile, on Better Games, Better Gamers, the best gamer, Daniel Lipson, describes the role of food in the Tales series. Not only is the cooking mechanic an effective health-topping strategy, but it contributes to the character-building and team dynamics of each game as well.
Whether it’s Symphonia, Vesperia, or Graces (or one of the more recent games) each playable protagonist has a different relationship with food, which is revealed as you slowly unlock and master different recipes throughout the game.
Joey DiZoglio writes from the Nerd Cavern to discuss how Magic: The Gathering‘s more recent shifts have embraced a more complicated relationship with eating-as-destruction and eating-as-nourishment:
Food is not just for healing. It can be equally destructive, consuming, and exhausting. It might never even be eaten! The role of food elicits questions such as who produces the food, who receives the food, and who fails to eat? The need for food, for resources remains fundamentally tied to our own mortality in much the same way that absence of any food signals and promises death.
On the other hand, Leigh Harrison doesn’t mince words when he says he’d rather Starve Than Eat Video Game Food because most food mechanics neither capture the complications of starving nor much of the purpose for consuming:
The little Leighs shouldn’t drop dead from an afternoon without food, and they shouldn’t start feeling hungry again the moment they wipe the spittle from their collective chins with that final morsel of omelette. That isn’t how big Leigh works. He is perfectly happy not eating for about 18 hours as long as there are better things to do, which there normally are. He’s like this because the human body is riddled with a nuance that no amount of steadily decreasing meters on a screen can ever hope to replicate.
I think the little Leighs and the big Leigh might be happier if they found a compromise between a hogie every 10 minutes and five cigarettes in 20. But far be it for me to tell any sized Leigh how to live!
Well, call me a cliche, but I can’t tell you how hungry I am right now. I’m going to keep this short since yesterday I bought two dozen eggs and I’ve got to get home so I can make the omelette.
Don’t go too far though because there’ll be another BoRT announced right after dessert.
Don’t forget that the work we do here at Critical Distance is entirely reader-oriented, so if you have an article you’d like us to see don’t hesitate to submit links to us via Twitter mention or email.
Also, as always, you can support Critical Distance with financial contributions through a monthly Patreon, subscription or a one-time Paypal donation. Any help is appreciated and goes toward all the work I and my excellent colleagues do here.