February 18th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Does it matter what console you play a game on? This week a number of writers look at the significance of platforms and ports, and how games deal with their cultural context. This roundup starts with reports on the conditions in which games are developed.

Mushroom

In two fantastic pieces of investigative journalism, labor conditions past and present are revealed, with nuanced and even counterintuitive conclusions.

“If it isn’t the women of Atari who paint a bad picture of Nolan Bushnell, it’s the culture he created there that, decades later, has mushroomed into something else.

Injured horse

Two writers look at colonialist storytelling tropes used in videogames.

  • Savage Beasts – First Person Scholar 
    Alex Duncan studies how quest design frames the landscape of Skyrim, and finds connections to postcolonial theories about the cultural construction of cities.
  • “Villains” | Unwinnable 
    Yussef Cole critiques the trope of tragic mercy killings, which too often frames women of color as sacrificial lambs.

“Videogames need to stop asking the player to put down the equivalent of an injured horse, or a rabid dog – especially when it’s an act of cruelly punching down in the interest of some abstract utopian future.”

Medium

Two critics this week looked at how games relate to the tropes that define their genres, demonstrating the benefits that come from understanding the place of a game in larger cultural developments.

DDLC is hardly alone in the way it combines the cute and the disturbing. Rather than seeing the game in opposition to its medium, it might be more useful to see the ways that it is part of that ongoing conversation.”

Package

In a fascinating set of articles on porting, remakes, and emulation, critics engage with the technology on which games run, asking how it should affect our reading of, and concern for, their cultural significance.

“Games are a collection of lighting, character models, music, animations, textures, and action that create a complete package. Changing any one of these things fundamentally alters the composition of the work and transforms it into something different.”


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