What kind of people do we want to be? What kinds of people do we become when we play games? And how are our gameplay experiences shaped by who we already are? This week, critics, journalists, and video essayists discussed morality, identity, and social pressure in games.
Two critics highlight different ways that games give us new contexts that we have to get used to by changing our behaviors and expectations.
- What’s up with “VR Experiences?”
Discussing Skyrim VR and Apollo 11 VR, Rampant Coyote articulates a dynamic that might be specific to the state of VR at this point in its history – the process of getting used to an unfamiliar place.
- Do Videogames Turn Us Into Bad People? | Paste
Holly Green uses personal stories and scholarly research to explore the moral ambiguities of play, with a particular focus on bad behavior in The Sims.
“While our personal values play a factor in our satisfaction, how we act in games has more to do with how we view ourselves and our impact in the real world, rather than arbitrary adherence to rules and social order for their own sake.”
Two writers considered the lenses through which people experience and critique tabletop games.
- A New Game Journalism Reader | Meeple Like Us
Michael Heron highlights three pieces of critical writing on games that focus on personal experience rather than looking for objective qualities of the games’ design.
- Feast and Our Personal Stories of Food | Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan suggests that, more than having anything in particular to say about its content, Feast might gently point players towards their own reflections about food and emotions.
“Underpinning this game is a exercise on how our food, and our almost instinctive responses to their tastes, reveal our perception and self-identity.”
Usually writing on music in games is relatively thin on the ground – this week brings two pieces examining the role of orchestral compositions in interactive storytelling.
- Shadow of the Colossus: How Music Tells Its Story | YouTube (video with subtitles)
Hamish Black explores musical cues that communicate narrative meaning.
- So Let Us Melt and The Supremacy of Music | Outside Your Heaven
Matthew “Sajon” Weise praises The Chinese Room’s use of a musical score so conspicuous that it feels like the most important thing about the whole work.
In a remarkable little bit of serendipity, this week brought two separate investigations of emotional labor in games that portray romantic relationships between women and men, both of them nuanced and enlightening.
- How to (not) save your boyfriend: examining gender roles in Mystic Messenger | Medium
Giada Zavarise argues that the behavior of NPCs in this dating game places gendered expectations on the player-character, who is assumed to be female even if the player chooses to state otherwise.
- We need to talk about Florence and emotional labour | Tumblr
Mahli-Ann Butt describes the gendered affective labor at play in relationship simulator Florence, and calls for a more utopian vision of romance.
“It’s not just about the labour of making someone feeling happy or contented in an interaction between individual players, but unravels the fabric of social pressures, the processes, and the implications around these dynamics.”
Two great pieces on history and games were published this week – if this is your jam, don’t forget to submit a piece of writing to this month’s Blogs of the Round Table feature, which takes on the theme of history.
- The History and Evolution of Videogame Design – The Game Design Extracts Episode 1 | YouTube (video with subtitles and full transcript provided)
Patrick Holleman has created a video based on his series of essays surfacing major design trends since the late 1970s.
- What medieval bestiaries tell us about Monster Hunter World | Eurogamer.net
Andreas Inderwildi compares the illustrations in digitized historical documents from the 8th to the 18th centuries to creature design in Monster Hunter.
“No-one here uses monster parts to forge stronger weapons or armour so they can challenge and dismember even more powerful monsters, but bestiaries and Monster Hunter share an obsession with the valuable substances created by exotic animal bodies.”
Two critics reflected on how systems shape our social lives and responsibility to others, in videogames and on digital platforms.
- Playing Favorites | Real Life
Sasha Geffen critiques the representations of social life in Fallout 4 and Stardew Valley, and finds similar problems in the past few years’ changes in social media platform design.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition’s War Table Brought The Wider World To Life | Kotaku
Gita Jackson argues that the increasing complexity of the Inquisitor’s War Table reflects the increased responsibilities that come with expanded power.
“Each marker represents another community that I can make better using our influence. As my power grows, so does the pressure to help everyone.”
This deep sea stealth game is provoking some interesting reflections on anxiety and the perceptions of space.
- Mapping the sea floors of Subnautica | Radiator Blog
Robert Yang discusses the advantages and disadvantages of designing an open-world game without minimaps.
- Art Tickles: What Lurks Beneath – Haywire Magazine
Taylor Hidalgo describes a feeling of constant anxiety mixed with irresistible curiosity.
“No matter how successful I am through the course of the game, I never shed that feeling of anxiety, the sense that anything and everything can and will kill me if I slip up. That feeling is awful, and it should make me hate it, but just above it is something else.”
- Call for Speakers 2018 | QGCon
The Queerness and Games Conference, to be held in Montreal this September, will close their submissions this week.
- [Call for Submissions] Game Happens
I’ve also been alerted to this call for submissions to Game Happens, to be held in Italy this May.
- February 2018: History | Critical Distance
There are just a few days left to submit writing for our Blogs of the Round Table feature on “history”.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!