This was a week of controversies. Since one of the most significant issues this week was a famous Youtuber’s racist outburst, the final section of this roundup comes with a general content warning for discussions of harassment, abuse, racism etc. In the mean time, there are plenty of pieces on other topics to look at this week as well, including narrative technique, sound design, and genre.
This roundup begins with two videos that consider the role of sound design in a game’s impact on its players’ emotions and its narrative message.
- How the song “Undertale” Hits Home | Game Score Fanfare – YouTube (video: auto-captions)
Game Score Fanfare argues that the music played at a turning point in Undertale is composed to reflect the emotions not of the player or protagonist, but of their would-be antagonists.
- Get Even – YouTube (video: auto-captions)
Critique Quest argues that Get Even uses sound design and sense of place to seduce the player into learning secrets and subverting expectations.
I shouldn’t get sick for this
Next, these three articles consider games as reflections on sickness, excess, and the drive for recognition.
- “Hold on to the center” – First Person Scholar
Justin Carpenter reads Hyper Light Drifter via Lao Tzu, focusing on the search for a middle path in the face of great pain.
- BOTTLE FULL OF CARTRIDGES – DEEP HELL (Content warning: addiction, drugs)
Deep Hell’s take on game addiction vs. drug addiction skirts around the common platitudes (“too much of anything is bad for you”) and instead considers the social context that inflects each habit.
- I Wish Videogames Was a Building We Could Live Inside | vextro
leeroy lewin reflects on a small, personal game called The Pear Game that expresses the despair of an underappreciated artist.
“Whoever videogame’s Bjork is, whoever our David Lynch is, they’re making games that get sub-500 plays at best. I shouldn’t mine out my 20s for this. I shouldn’t get sick for this.”
Two pieces on Bioshock, and one piece on Tacoma, explore narrative techniques that provoke players’ emotions and deepen an understanding of characters’ motivations.
- Exploitation and Rapture, how Bioshock Represents Capitalists and Workers
Dakota Joyce explores how Bioshock positions the charismatic villain of Andrew Ryan in a wider social context, seeming to reify his values rather than challenge them.
- “BioShock Infinite’s Tragic Heaven,” by Ed Smith – Bullet Points Monthly
Ed Smith accepts the problems of political reasoning that Bioshock: Infinite presents, and argues instead that it makes a compelling argument through its manipulation of players’ emotions.
- Opinion – Tacoma Takes Interactive Storytelling In A Promising Direction
Elise Favis identifies what makes Tacoma’s approach to eavesdropping different to other games that use this storytelling conceit.
“Voyeurism isn’t new to games – we see it in franchises like Watch Dogs, where you hack electronic devices in civilians’ homes to view their private lives or read a passerby’s text messages. […] Tacoma’s approach feels less intrusive (even as you view characters sing in the shower or see flirtatious encounters unfold), because we know that the characters agreed to being watched and tracked.”
Further examining genre conceits, these two critics consider games in terms of how they relate to their creative context.
- Why don’t we complete games? | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Eron Rauch considers the notion of “completion” as it relates to the object in question, and to the player’s engagement with the object, making use of writing not only on games but on art galleries.
- Socket | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent K. discusses a Dada-ist game that reproduces tropes endlessly until they lose all meaning.
“even among its peers, Socket stands out; not because it tries to do anything different, but because it commits to the Vic Tokai ethos far beyond the point it’s supposed to. The game is so invested in borrowing and remixing contemporary trends that it loses sight of why it’s borrowing and remixing. Thus it remixes these elements to the point of emptiness, where all we’re left with is the fact of remixing. It’s a performance of tropes divorced of any context and undertaken for its own sake.”
In discourse about discourse this week, Kotaku published two pieces on historical shifts in how factual information on games is collated and managed.
- The Story Behind The Home Of Forgotten Video Games | Kotaku
Alex Walker interviews Sarinee Achavanuntakul who in 1998 founded Home of the Underdogs, a site that made old games no longer stocked by publishers accessible on new platforms.
- Fallout Fans Resist Wikia’s Attempt To Pivot To Video | Kotaku
Gita Jackson reports on the clashes occurring on Wikia concerning the tonal differences between video content and text.
“On a page in Nukapedia’s forum collecting criticisms of the new videos, the community at large indicates that they just feel like Fandom doesn’t know, or care, about the wiki they’ve built and the standards they hold themselves to. The community had specific problems with each of the videos, from grainy video quality, to inaccurate and inconsistent information, to the monotone voice of the narrator. To top it all off, the community hadn’t been consulted at all during production.”
Opportunities for indignity
Writing on skill has been important this week, not least because of the renewed argument over whether critics ought to have a particular level of skill as players.
- Gamasutra:Michael’s Blog -Path of Exile Economy: Currenc
Michael Shalyt analysis an MMO that self-consciously imposes a disaster economy in order to provide a specific kind of balance.
- Haunted Cartridges, Lessons Learned from Super Mario Maker | Tumblr
Radical Helmet shares some thoughts on what Mario Maker reveals about game design and the artistic process.
- Being Bad Is Good – Haywire Magazine
Josh Trevett argues that Dean Takahashi’s performance in Cuphead shows a game working well.
“Don’t smooth away the opportunities for indignity – that gives ground to the notion that the only correct way to play is to stroll unimpeded through a garden of cultivated delights. That is the jerks’ view. And besides, what would be the point of Cuphead‘s cartoon visuals if the player weren’t roped into performing some slapstick?”
Inclusivity and Sociality
This section comes with a general content warning for racism, harassment, and abuse. Click the “Let me see!” link below to open it.
- Perspectives Differ on How ‘Hellblade’ Handles Mental Illness – Waypoint
Our latest Waypoint digest focuses on the discourse surrounding Hellblade.
- Reverse Design: Diablo 2 – Intro
There’s a new “Reverse Design” book out. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but it seems worth checking out!
- Vol 3, No 2 | ETC Press
The new issue of academic journal Transactions of DiGRA is out, and it looks pretty promising, with articles on “creative communities” and “playful fandom” as well as game design frameworks and formalist analysis.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!