Many have said this week that all public discourse seems to be about one of two topics: on the one hand, viral anger, collective outrage, and bigotry; and on the other hand, Pokémon Go.
No man’s land
Much of this week’s writing is in some way about how we imagine our divisions – past, present and future, as well as fictional, non-fictional, and somewhere in-between. These essays look at the historical conditions that produced the antagonisms between the French and the Germans, the digital and the analog, and between an adventurer and a dungeon slime.
- The untold history of slimes | ZAM
A fascinating essay on ZAM explains how the amorphous blob entered the cultural imagination.
- Keywords: Digital & Analog | Culture Digitally
Ben Peters shares a thought-provoking preview from the anthology Digital Keywords, challenging the orthodoxy of the digital-analogy binary and contextualising it in the particular conditions of the 20th century.
- Lest We Forget: World War I in Videogames | ZAM
Jody MacGregor looks at how videogames have managed to treat the Great War with solemnity.
“In Germany they no longer sing the first two verses of their national anthem because of the unfortunate connotations of “Deutschland uber alles,” skipping straight to a less controversial third verse about unity, justice, and freedom. Even though History Line: 1914-1918 lets you choose between controlling French or German troops it’s essentially unwinnable as the Germans, their final mission designed to be impossible because anything else would be both unhistorical and disrespectful.”
Pokémon may seem to have become our main antidote to division and depression, but feminist writing on games readily shows us that we have much more material from which to create positive alternative ways of being.
- The Motherhood in Pokémon | Mammon Machine: ZEAL
At ZEAL, Bernardo Vianasurveys and critiques the mother characters of the Pokémon games.
- Toward Feminist Games Studies: A Conversational Look at What’s Here, and What Isn’t | Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Bianca Batti and Alisha Karabinus discuss how games as a medium provide ample material for challenging dominant ways of reading media and understanding capitalism.
- Beyond Damsels & Villains in ‘A Tale of Two Rulers’ | FemHype
Kathryn at FemHype reviews a fan comic that offers a radical alternative to the Legend of Zelda canon.
“As the partnership between the princess and her erstwhile enemy develops, the tensions that arise between them serve as a means of revealing the ideologies that underlie the foundational narrative of the Zelda series. In the original games, villains are meant to be vanquished, while damsels are meant to rescued. By positioning Ganondorf as Zelda’s ally, A Tale of Two Rulers encourages the reader to reimagine Zelda outside of the damseled role she so often occupies in the games. Instead, the comic experiments with alternatives to the toxic conceptions of femininity and masculinity by which Zelda and Ganondorf are cast as victim and aggressor.”
Outside of the private relationships of motherhood, marriage and study groups, the public sphere is where we act in full knowledge that others are present, where we make choices about how we engage with the world as a whole, and where we arrange ourselves into large social collectives. Pokemon Go has inspired discussion about the public sphere because of how it puts people into physical proximity to each other with a different kind of awareness of each other, but other topics in gaming address this too.
- What an Ingress battle in Hong Kong tells us about the future of Pokemon Go | ZAM
Robert Rath considers the possible social futures of Pokémon Go.
- Pokémon Go Is Bringing New Yorkers Together | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio highlights a short video documentary about the Pokémon Go phenomenon which praises it for creating a sense of commonality between people, while also showing the darker side of fantaticism.
- Jocks without Borders | Real Life Mag
A compelling essay about the imaginaries of sport and e-sport. Side note: the illustration at the top of this article is rad as hell and I want it on a shirt.
“There is a deep-rooted tendency to associate sports with moments of courageous overcoming, with displays of physical strength, grace, and beauty. E-sports contain literally none of these, which means they are particularly well positioned to reveal all the other things that actually make up sport: the reification of competition, victory, and glory; patriarchal nationalism; and the formation of hierarchal social groups anchored in the protocols of spectatorship.”
Looking at how games affect our relationship to physical places around us, two pieces on Pokémon Go draw from different perspectives on non-productive uses of public space: one looking at play as a form of consumption, and the other as a form of rebellion. One cannot talk about rebellion without in some way also talking about control, and the final piece looks directly at how gaming is affecting policing.
- Resist Pokémon Go | Jacobin
Sam Kriss’s situationist critique of Pokémon Go challenges the idea that it facilitates playful engagements with the world, highlighting its use of surveillance structures and lack of sensitivity toward symbolic meaning and social context.
- Pokémon Go is everything wonderful about tourism | Polygon
Evan McIntosh examines Pokémon Go through the lens of theories from the study of leisure and consumption.
- No, virtual reality isn’t going to solve America’s policing problem | Versions
David Rudin’s article on the role of VR in law enforcement training suggests that the through-lines between gaming and simulation risk entrenching high-octane power fantasies, with life-or-death consequences.
“At a deeper level, the challenge facing VR policing simulators is that in a lot of cases they may need to simulate doing nothing. Simulating moments of peak intensity, even ones where the optimal solution is to calm the situation, is an inaccurate representation of the challenges facing modern policing. Simulating the act of doing basically nothing, however, is antithetical to the work of a simulator. Do you just stand around in the thing for days waiting for something to happen?”
As we wrap up, I have a favor to ask of you. We are working on getting to a more secure place with our Patreon, so that we can maintain what we are currently doing and, ideally, allow it to grow. To help us to work out what steps to take next, I’d like to hear your perspective. In one or two sentences, tell us: how do you see the current state of games criticism? Send answers to @critdistance on Twitter, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.