Games history went off the beaten track this week, with pieces of writing and video on alternative and even unsanctioned aspects of the medium’s heritage. Meanwhile, genre-bending analyses and challenging calls for better artistic dialogue abound, as writers unpick the critical issues shaping what games could become in the future.
Writing and documentary on games history has had a fantastic week, with four particularly stellar examples.
- Brazil’s Video Game Gray Markets – YouTube (video: subtitles)
Cloth Map visits games collectors in Sao Paolo, Brazil, who discuss how games culture there is influenced by a history of dictatorship and ongoing limited support by hardware producers.
- Let’s Play – Lifespan and The Dolphin’s Rune (feat. John O’Neill) – YouTube (video: auto-captions)
Paolo Pedercini discusses the “first art game”, and interviews its creator.
- Your Amiga games are likely dying • Eurogamer.net
Lewis Packwood visits the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, UK, to report on their efforts to preserve games stored on fragile magnetic tape.
- The history of bleem! • Eurogamer.net
Ewen Hosie tells the story of a legally-contested emulator from the late 1990s.
Modes of play and designed interactions are highlighted in these four pieces, with a particular interest in designs that either add extra mechanics or pare them down.
- What If Platformers Had Fighting Game Motions? | BoukenJima – YouTube (video: subtitles)
BoukenJima gets into a great deal of detail about the platformers’ and fighting games’ contradictory uses of player skill and screen space, to explain why marrying the two genres might not lead to harmonious results.
- How Snake Pass Works | Game Maker’s Toolkit – YouTube (video: subtitles)
Mark Brown, meanwhile, addresses a game that takes established mechanics away, and finds it remarkably effective.
- Radiator Blog: The joy of learning how to freeze to death
Robert Yang describes a new use of environmental cues in a game that tasks you with maintaining the player-character’s health in harsh conditions.
- SOMA is a different game in ‘Safe Mode’ — a better one | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Brock Wilbur describes how a game’s narrative shifts, and perhaps deepens, when some of its most videogamey elements are suspended.
“SOMA is less about the monsters and more about what you can sacrifice and still consider yourself human.”
In other discussions of genre, three critics reconsider common AAA game design conventions.
- DayZ – Tragedy of the Commons: The Game – Extra Credits – YouTube (video: auto-captions)
The latest Extra Credits reads high-octane action as an almost mythic tragedy, with clear implications for the times we live in today.
- “Destiny 2 Finds Its Beauty in Numbers,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter waxes lyrical about the artistic sins of loot games.
- The debate over microtransactions isn’t really about money at all | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Eron Rauch points out some alternative directions that the constantly-repeating discourse about monetization models should take us.
“What is exploitive, or more precisely, insidiously self-exploitive, [sic] is that as videogame fans, we’ve shackled our community’s identity to our skill at discerning between nearly identical products, not to our skill of engaging deeply with them.”
Everything Is Going To Be OK
Continuing on from a discussion in previous weeks, Nathalie Lawhead’s work is challenging people to address games with the analytical skill that a work of art ought to demand.
- moving past destructive cycles, and modes of thought, about different game experiences
Nathalie Lawhead wrote another post on the reception of Everything Is Going To Be OK, with some thoughts about why games culture is so at odds with the goals of art.
- Vintage Windows GUIs in Everything is going to be OK
Alexander King interprets the 1990s user-interface references in Nathalie Lawhead’s game.
“These are all GUIs from a time before widespread internet use, when digital life was more solitary but also less stressful.”
The value of personal perspectives and the impossibility of achieving perfect objectivity are both explored and demonstrated by three pieces of writing.
- Farkas | Unwinnable
Deirdre Koala tells a sweet story about love, Skyrim, and gendered baggage.
- In ‘Prey,’ I Could Deal with Violent Aliens, but not the Gaslighting – Waypoint
Carli Velocci argues that Prey fails to critique some of the patronizing and manipulative behaviors it portrays.
- Period Piece — Real Life
Jeremy Antley critiques board game designer Phil Eklund’s notion of historical simulation, arguing that history can never be studied in the scientific manner implied by the ideal of a perfect simulation.
“To play Pax Renaissance is to not only re-enact the emergence of Western power but to celebrate it.”
We’re preparing our year-end roundup this month, known as TYIVGB (The Year in Videogame Blogging). Don’t forget to submit the articles you read or wrote this year that you want to remember forever! Everything we link to is archived in multiple places, so by submitting you are ensuring that something becomes an accessible part of games history for years to come.