People often say that games give us a chance to try out being somebody else. But I think a great strength of this week’s writing was the pieces challenging us to be more aware of who we already are.
This week has seen some fantastic writing on games and the role of the nation state.
- East of the Key Sword (and West of the Triforce) – First Person Scholar
Alexander Ross’s review of Mia Consalvo’s book on Japanese games makes a good introduction to some of the thorny issues around cultural identity and media form that are usually left unarticulated and poorly understood.
- “Heroes of the open (third) world: Killing as pleasure in Ubisoft’s Far” by Christopher B. Patterson
In this academic article that recently went open-access, Christopher Patterson argues that the Far Cry games make effective use of ludonarrative dissonance to highlight the cognitive dissonance of neocolonialism.
- Separate Invisibilities – An Excerpt from Unwinnable Monthly 91 | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole’s investigation of 2016-2017 stealth protagonists through the lens of race might be the definitive article on this topic from the past year.
- Radiator Blog: Some recent conversation on cultural appropriation
Robert Yang presents an illuminating reading list and personal evaluation on cultural scamming, translation, and exchange.
“If I had to sum up all this conversation, I’d say it feels like talking about cultural appropriation is ultimately a bit of a trap, but at the same time, it is necessary for us to fall into it. The alternative is to fall into a much worse trap, full of unchallenged racism and ignored pain and hot molten lava. Compared to that trap, this one isn’t so bad, right? And then when we eventually figure out how to crawl out of this, we’ll be better for it. “
These two pieces give very different perspectives on how games give us a sense of playing with somebody else’s body and personhood.
- Outlast 2 Garishly Exploits Your Sexual Hangups For Horror :: Games :: Features :: Outlast 2 :: Paste (Content warning: descriptions of homophobic abuse, nudity, and sexuality. )
Reid McCarter critiques the politics of shock, shame, and fear.
- How Overwatch Animation Conveys Character in First Person – Extra Frames – YouTube (video: auto-generated captions)
Extra Credits’s Dan analyses the visual expression of personality as shown only through hands, with reference to a GDC talk by Blizzard’s Matt Boehm.
Female subjectivity and memory have been important themes in some pieces this week; additionally, an important call-out was issued about remembering the designers of game patterns.
- Maternal Bodies: Interrogating Pregnancy-as-Risk in Orphan Black and Bound – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Bianca Batti brings feminist readings of film, games, and medical practice to bear in yet another great piece blending games studies and science and technology studies.
- Remember Me – Guide to Games – VICE Video
Mike Diver picks up another game about memory with a female protagonist.
- Gwent: Condottiere under a different name | Erik Twice
Erik Twice argues that The Witcher’s game-within-a-game has been misappropriated, and should be recognised as the work of French designer Dominique Erhardand.
“Mr Monnier and CD Projekt, the company he represented as head designer, has had plenty of opportunities to properly credit Mr Erhard and failed to do so. Worse, they have actively engaged in the minimization of the role both him and Condottiere had in Gwent, by not crediting him and dismissively referencing the original as a mere influence.”
Content warning in this section for descriptions of genitals and erotica: developers discuss their own participation in gender politics regarding two games on the slightly more avant-garde end of commercial indie projects.
- Gamasutra: Free Lives’s Blog – The Many Questions Of Genital Jousting
The developers behind a cute game of fleshy swords evaluate their work-in-progress in reflection upon their design goals, speaking openly about how far they have been able to enact their own values in a commercial product.
- Dream Daddy invites you to make your own ‘Dadsona’ | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
The developers of the indie game that ignited imaginations this week talk about how they’re using the image of the dad subversively.
“‘What does it mean to grow up in a non-nuclear family’ is also something I want to explore, and I think that anything that encourages us to be engaged and supportive of the people around us helps bridge that gap. Again, the genetic link is irrelevant. Everyone can be a Dad.”
In contrast to these developers who actively engage in the political meaning of their work, David Cage has frustrated some critics with his evasive and contradictory answers in interviews.
- David Cage wants you to believe his games have no meaning – Polygon
Ben Kuchera brings together seemingly contradictory interview quotes and speculates on an explanation that might unify them.
- Lieve Oma | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent K. leans into the kind of playfulness that comes from just being, rather than trying to assert yourself onto something.
“Any material aspect of their nature – the things we accomplish, the objects we interact with – are no longer privileged, because games are no longer an activity one participates in. Now they’re a mindset; a state of being one adopts in regards to the world around them.”
The aesthetic qualities of interactive systems are discussed by two critics this week with regard to very different types of game.
- The Thoughtful Absurdity of ‘Spaceplan’ | PopMatters
Nick Dinicola draws connections between this potato-based physics game and 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Journeys | Problem Machine
problemmachine addresses different ways that levelling up can be used in game design.
“We’ve created a collision between min-maxing mentality of creating the best adventurer that can do the best adventures against the role-playing mentality of trying to create the most interesting adventurer that can have the most interesting adventures – and, sadly, and the former has decisively won.”
Finally, this week brought a fantastic selection of writing on space and place in games.
- The Games that Dare to Sail the Dark Seas | Kotaku UK
Andreas Inderwildi looks at some recent games’ portrayal of the oceans, with reference to historical literature from the age of exploration.
- Gamasutra: Konstantinos Dimopoulos’s Blog – Game Cities: The Urbanism of Thimbleweed Park
Konstantinos Dimopoulos evaluates some fictional urban planning
- The Cyclical Apocalypse | Rust | Heterotopias
Ewan Wilson documents a fascinating process of rebirth that occurs in Rust, that I had not previously seen anybody mention.
- An obituary for the architecture of Dark Souls’ eternally dying land * Eurogamer.net
Gareth Damian Martin argues that even domestic spaces are refigured as tombs in the iconic classic by From Software.
“Like the series’ “hollows” a profoundly architectural name for the undead, the architecture of the Dark Souls’ series is, more than a container for walking corpses, and is instead a withering, putrefying, deathless corpse in itself. Its spaces, the cathedrals, castles, caves, sewers, fortifications and forest huts of Dark Souls and its sequels are hollow bodies, locked in processes of organic decay.”
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