The familiarity of portrayals of combat, pain, and trauma were explored by many critics this week, as people look at how tropes get started, how they are perpetuated, and how they can be subverted.
Critical reflection on E3 has so far focused on the overwhelming dominance of combat-oriented games, with a bit of attention also given to reports of poor event planning.
- The First Public E3: A Goddamn Mess – YouTube (video: auto captions)
Hamish Black’s reporting from E3 clearly illuminates how opening up ticket sales for the general public has affected the experience for all involved.
- The Unfulfilled Potential of Video Games – YouTube (video: accurate subtitles)
Jon McIntosh tallies up the amount of combat present in games shown at E3.
- The Violent Banality of E3 & the Need for Better – @tauriqmoosa – I Need Diverse Games
Tauriq Moosa addresses the overwhelming prevalence of violence in AAA games by offering an alternative possibility for games.
“For me, a power fantasy isn’t a super buff, neckless soldier with giant guns: it’s the normal person who smartly, creatively and bravely finds ways to fight back against powerful systems designed to oppress them.”
Of course, games about combat don’t have to lack critical reflexivity – and games that offer dialogue as a way of solving problems are not necessarily nonviolent.
- Why Are There So Many Games About Cops This Year? – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman rightly points out that most of the recent indie games about policing have come out of Eastern Europe, and tries to offer explanations for their familiarity to US players.
- Dan Golding — Spec Ops: The Line and the fine art of subversion
Dan Golding highlights the role of rock music in signalling the subversive intent of Spec Ops: The Line, sharing a piece of writing from many years back that he never got around to publishing. Do you have any pieces lying around that you never published? I’d love to read them!
- How ‘Vanquish’ Subverts the Military Shooter – Waypoint
Seth Shepherd discusses the hyperreality of post-9/11 AAA games.
“Informed by the ongoing War on Terror, mainstream shooters approached reality by appropriating the visual language of the news, recreating the other images that would appear on the same TV screen in the player’s home. In effect, this offered a mediated presentation of reality”
These two pieces discuss how certain game spaces have been constructed to reflect something back to us about our memories of the past or our imaginaries of the future.
- The Cyberspace we Forgot | Neuromancer | Heterotopias
Mark Hill takes a janky game seriously, examining how the internet and communications networks are portrayed as spaces.
- Little Nightmares, Powerlessness, and Survival | digital love child (Content Warning: genocide, trauma)
Reid McCarter’s argument here about the familiarity of certain images and testimonies from major genocides of the 20th century is breathtaking and provocative, suggesting that representations of intergenerational trauma might sometimes be cloudy and not specifically named.
Two critics called out how game developers tell stories about love and hate.
- Kingdom Hearts II Is Full Of Bad Romances And Rad Bromances
Alexa Ray Corriea argues that it’s affection between men that drives Kingdom Hearts’s narrative forward.
- These Sentient Space Mushrooms Teach an Important Lesson About Fascism – Waypoint
Andreas Meier argues that simulation game representations of fascism tend to miss the point.
“Casting players in the role of a disembodied, almost godlike ruler, Stellaris struggles to comprehend fascism’s populist nature and metastasis. Forcing the player to pick and choose from a menu of political ideologies ignores the way these systems historically bleed into each other, how fascism emerges from dying democracies not as a valid alternative in the political buffet, but as a cancer.”
Turning to more ways that sexism plays out in games, gamers’ toxic interactions with women and female NPCs are analysed and critiqued in these two pieces.
- Why Does Everyone Hate Mercy? – Apple Cider – Medium
Apple Cider Mage digs into a number of social and design issues that lead to animosity towards support characters in general, and Mercy in particular.
- Emily is Away Too review | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Bruno Dias describes how a game’s subversive narrative has been undercut by its sequel.
“In Emily is Away Too, you can get the happy ending. That nub of wish fulfillment doesn’t sit right with me, in light of whose wishes are being fulfilled. Emily is Away was a game about frustrating the idea of “getting the girl.” Emily is Away Too is a game about getting the girl.”
- Episode 46 – Talking on Games – Critical Distance
A new podcast episode came out with the one and only Hamish Black
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!