Is ignorance bliss? What kind of things can we learn when we admit to truly knowing nothing at all? Games critics this week have been considering the problems of celebrating ignorance as well as the benefits of eschewing expertise.
First, these pieces consider how play affects what we expect to know about who we are in relation to one another and to society.
- Two-Player Co-Op – ZEAL – Medium (Content warning: sexually explicit imagery)
Annie Mok uses a cute comic strip in soft, restrained pastels to discuss the joys of playing with others.
- The Difficulty Of Making A Game Where Players Are Other Players’ Parents (Content warning: cissexism)
There’s a lot going on in this interview that Nathan Grayson carried out with Jason Rohrer, a thought-provoking and at times troubling figure of game auteurship.
- On Stuckness: Getting Lost in Feminist Game Studies – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Bianca Batti continues her ongoing theme of exploring how ideas from feminist science and technology studies can invigorate games studies. Here she embraces the different kinds of knowledge that come from not always having an answer.
“‘getting lost’ is a methodological alternative that challenges and deprivileges mastery discourses because it focuses on ‘places where we are not so sure of ourselves and where this not knowing could be seen as our best chance for a different sort of doing and knowing.'”
The abandonment or denial of knowledge are implicated in these pieces on games that deal with violence.
- We Are Chicago review | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information (Content warning: racist violence)
Johnny Kilhefner finds much at fault with this well-intentioned project.
- Opened World: Get Points or Die Tryin’ – Haywire Magazine (Content warning: middle-east wars)
Miguel Penabella revisits 50 Cent Blood on the Sand, bringing a new perspective to its nihilism and embrace of ignorance.
“The game may resemble conventional third-person shooters, but its ugly power fantasy has close parallels with Spec Ops: The Line in particular, albeit with a meta-commentary not deliberately authored but emergent […] while Spec Ops directly skewers and subverts these conventions to comment on the morality of violent videogames, Blood on the Sand wholly embraces its violence, resulting in a differently sobering perspective on videogame culture.”
The darkest chapters
Our understanding of the world is only ever provisional and partial, but when it comes to some of the most shameful aspects of our own history, how do we ensure there’s some sort of consensus about reality?
- Banished: Towards a Playable Human Ecology | Play The Past
Adam Kranz examines how Banished portrays a particular set of historical conditions and ideas about the goals of a settler colony.
- Virtual Atrocities — Real Life
Linda Kinstler questions the value of introducing player agency to portrayals of history through VR and gaming.
“Kansteiner complains that “the websites, displays, and animations dedicated to the dark side of history do not offer its users a chance to shape content according to their own aesthetic preferences.” But what if someone prefers the aesthetics of the torturer, or of erasure? […] What he advocates is, essentially, the gamification of atrocity, which would allow newcomers to the darkest chapters of history to customize their encounter with the past. The past would be up for grabs. “
What kinds of ways of knowing become possible through game design? These two pieces consider spatiality and the use of the body as one particular example.
- Radiator Blog: “Press Forwards” and the pleasing death of agency
Robert Yang discusses how spatial and visual techniques can bring a particular set of pleasures to relinquishing control.
- Spatial Experientiality in Journey – First Person Scholar
Taif Zuhair uses Journey as a way in to exploring some complex ideas about player perception of games as spaces.
“embodiment is not only about seeing, but also about seeing within a context that extends beyond visual perception; humans possess perceptual abilities that allow them to sense movement behind and beside their bodies (29). It makes sense then that the richer view made possible by a third-person POV provides a better translation of these perceptual abilities (30).”
Crusty old man
Another way that games communicate knowledge is through the subtleties of visual art, from character-building through costume to overall technique and style.
- An Appreciation Of Pixel Art, Gaming’s Most Beautiful Style (Video, auto-captioned)
Leo Wichtowski argues for a reading of pixel art not as a style, but a technique.
- How Ethan’s sleeves saved Resident Evil
Ray Porreca uses costume design as a lens for thinking about Resident Evil 7‘s horror and worldbuilding.
“The clash between the decay and death that surrounds Ethan and his ever-resilient sleeves delineates what a modern hero can look like. From a design perspective, it’s a snazzy and practical, yet constant, reminder to players that no matter what happens, Ethan’s in the driver’s seat. After all, he’s the clean-cut Average Guy who’s just trying to track down his missing wife. The crusty old man, with soiled clothes and an imposing axe is crazy and evil, we’re told, just by observing the difference in how he and Ethan dress. It’s a subtle touch in a game that’s preoccupied with detail, and Resident Evil 7 is better for it.”
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