Videogames: where frustration and inconvenience can be enjoyable. This week’s roundup features writing on the design and portrayal of economic systems, emotional loops, and physical structures for human bodies.
First, this week brought us three pieces about dad games, children, and conservative fantasies.
- A Quiet Place presents a world where you can’t learn from your mistakes – Polygon
Ben Kuchera argues that this game reflects the worst paranoias of a parent, without critiquing the harmful behaviors that this paranoia produces.
- ‘God of War’ Triumphs Because It Confronts Its Own Bloody Legacy – Waypoint
Patrick Klepek embraces a more complex Kratos, while also critiquing the problems with redemption fantasies.
- Children of Men – Timber Owls
Ashley explores, with texture and nuance, the figure of the child in contemporary videogames.
“the ideological preoccupations of the far right are intertwined with the values of our white supremacist, male dominated and heterosexual family unit focused western social mores. As such these things inevitably find expression in our media output”
Far Cry 5
The latest Far Cry game continues to provoke discussion; this week, people picked up on its facile fantasies and easy wins.
- Far Cry 5 Doesn’t Understand The Country Life :: Paste
Holly Green critiques the portrayal of rural America, raising some interesting points about what kind of practices are involved in working closely with nature.
- ‘Far Cry 5’ Review: All Games Are Illusions, But This Is Nothing More | WIRED
Julie Muncy finds the unrealistic, dehumanising portrayal of American cults to be somewhat politically disturbing.
- The Far Cry Series Needs to Let Things Break | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra argues that Far Cry 2 had a stronger message because it was willing to inconvenience the player.
“the game was supposed to be about how “human social savagery is more disturbing than the simple savagery of teeth and claws.” To facilitate this, Far Cry 2 is built with systems that intersect to inconvenience the player a great deal and make combat messy.”
Continuing a theme from Heather Alexandra’s piece above, these two pieces look at how limitations to player action or knowledge enrich stories and experiences.
- Mini Read: Stardew Valley—Inconvenience Creates Gameplay – YouTube (Video: auto-captions)
Ludocriticism makes a powerful argument for the expressive role of inconvenience – not gameplay friction, but the deliberate exclusion of specific, expedient tools that we’ve come to expect in certain genres or settings.
- The Pleasure Paradox of Big Buffs | The Psychology of Video Games
Jamie Madigan argues that uncertainty and incomplete knowledge make powerups feel better.
In writing on capitalism and corporatism, three critics highlight the portrayal of economic issues and the economic conditions in which games are produced.
- Gamasutra: John Krajewski’s Blog – Economy as Gameplay: The influences and impacts of player-run economies in Eco.
John Krajewski details some of the social dynamics that are driven by economies in games and in the wild.
- Tacoma, Surveillance, and Confronting My Fear of Corporate Culture | Sidequest
Joesph Langdon sees in Fullbright’s latest game a call for solidarity and organization of labor.
- How the makers of Mafia III lost their way | Kotaku
Jason Schreier investigates the trouble and triumphs behind the unlikely creation of this ambiguous title.
Two critics go looking for joy in videogame story telling, having their desires fulfilled in some areas and left wanting in others.
- The Radical Fairy Tale Politics of ‘Ni No Kuni II’ – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman contrasts Ni No Kuni II with Far Cry 5, arguing for a utopian reimagining of the state.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Ending was a Letdown | Kotaku
Gita Jackson talks about the problems with certain character arcs, and the lack of resolution or payoff in the game’s ending.
“The more I play, the more I see the limitations of world and its characters, the missed opportunities for more nuance and depth.”
Ableism, sexism, and racism are explored in these four articles about games, the industry, and player resistance.
- VR: An Altered Reality for Disabled Players – First Person Scholar
Rebeccah Redden summarizes common ableist design flaws in VR and strategies that players are taking to make the technology fit their bodies.
- Why the games media has a diversity problem – this website especially • Eurogamer.net (Content warning: harassment)
Keza MacDonald summarizes the challenges facing women who write about games.
- How Deus Ex: Mankind Divided nails the personal side of prejudice | PC Gamer (Content warning: racism)
Xalavier Nelson Jr. argues that the portrayal of prejudice in Deus Ex is much more nuanced than many give it credit for.
- E-soterica: Retribution Never Felt so Punk | Unwinnable
Alyse Stanley considers the place for symbolic resistance over factual argumentation about the nature of sexism.
“While every woman’s experience is different, a lifetime of confronting sexism in its many forms informs a certain shared recognition among one another”
- A Profound Waste of Time
A new videogames magazine was released this week, and it looks beautiful.
- April 2018: The Long Journey – Critical Distance
Taylor Hidalgo is looking for new BoRT writing! Take a look at the prompt, and write something to be included in the next BoRT roundup.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!