This week in our roundup of games writing from around the web, we go on a little meditative journey about our place in the world and how we act within it.
The digital is not flat
We start by asking who we are. The three pieces below destabilize our assumptions about the people and positions involved in game play. Who makes games, who plays them, and how does their design affect the way that we see ourselves?
- The Artist is Absent: Davey Wreden and The Beginner’s Guide | YouTube (video, auto-captions. Spoilers for The Beginner’s Guide)
This excellent mid-length video takes an in-depth look at the existential questions provoked by the question: who is the author?
- Point-of-view in The Witness: design ruminations | The Gameshelf (Spoilers for The Witness)
Andrew Plotkin discusses how questions around identity and unreality lead to a discomfiting state of affairs in interactive storytelling.
- One Pokémon to Rule Them All | The Centre for Internet and Society
This short article provides a perspective on Pokemon Go from India, where it has not yet been released, with wider lessons about how the imaginaries of the internet are failing us.
“Pokémon Go, and its obvious geographical privilege reminds us that the digital is not flat. It is oriented towards a very obvious logic of geopolitical, economic, racial, and identity privileging that continues to promote some parts of the world as favoured standards of first access.”
Cops and critics
Next, we reflect on our place in the world around us — particularly, the institutions and systems that we belong to. What are the benefits of the institutions we exist within, and what is the price we pay for membership? Who benefits, and who is sacrificed?
- This Is The Police won’t accept blame | Kill Screen (Spoilers for This Is The Police)
Brent Ables goes further than criticising a developer for claiming that their topical game is apolitical, reflecting on the dynamics of apathy in game development and play.
- This Is The Police review: US law enforcement over-simplified
Ed Smith also has misgivings about the attempt to depoliticise this police simulation.
- Gamasutra: Brendan Vance’s Blog | Before The Wheel
Brendan Vance uncannily manages to describe the kernel of my entire career in games — and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. This piece explores the conflict between knowing that you can’t truly know anything, and nevertheless needing to sell knowledge.
- Academic Vigilantism | First Person Scholar
Emma Vosen argues passionately for the role of the semi-outsider, the educator who makes knowledge more widely available, as she reflects on her time at First Person Scholar.
“I had so many people see my talk at Congress, learn about middle state publishing, and then be incredibly sad that FPS only publishes scholarship about games. While game studies is the focus of FPS (and that isn’t changing) I strongly believe there should be an FPS in every discipline.”
Having recognised the systems within which we live, and understanding our own position within them, what do we do to make things better? These piecces all provide interpretations of the consequences of player action.
- This War of Mine: Human Survival and the Ethics of Care | Play The Past (Spoilers for This War of Mine)
Gilles Roy describes the personal and social benefits of experiencing a simulation of the despair and determination of survival in a war zone.
- In praise of travelling slowly in Shadow of the Colossus | Thumbsticks
Miguel Penabella discusses not just the slow pace of movement, but its specific impact in the carefully-honed contexts of specific emotional moments.
- Jet Set Radio | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent K. praises stylish flaneurism and anti-authoritarianism.
“If anything, the game is all too aware of how capitalist ideals structure our lives, which is why it suggests transcending them by turning life into a radical performance. Given how stylishly Jet Set Radio renders those performances, it’s hard not to be swayed by the game’s arguments.”
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