The weird thing about living such a digitally connected life is that all the work needed to make such a world possible is often made invisible and taken for granted. With games, the more human effort leaks into the player’s experience, the poorer the design seems to be. This week saw several conversations about what work makes games possible and the player’s place in relation to all that work.
Last week, Guild Wars 2 developer, ArenaNet, fired one of its writers, Jessica Price, following an exchange between Price and an online YouTube personality. When Price’s colleague, Peter Fries, spoke in defense of Price, he too was fired. Following this event, many critics and workers in the games industry wrote about the labour dynamics between game publishers, creators, and consumers.
- The labour of games – I Need Diverse Games
Tauriq Moosa summarizes the events that led to Price and Fries’ firing and explains the importance of the event as an interaction between employers and their workers.
- ArenaNet ‘folded like a cheap card table,’ says fired Guild Wars 2 writer – Polygon
Colin Campbell interviews Price about her experiences at ArenaNet and the aftermath of the incident.
- Why Are Gamers so Terrified of Women – Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan contextualizes Price’s firing in a brief piece on the broader misogyny the games industry perpetuates.
- Injured Sovereigns, Foucault, and Jessica Price – mssv
Adrian Hon inserts some critical theory into the discussion and analyses the events between Price and ArenaNet as an instance of Michel Foucault’s definition of Punishment.
- The New Vid Economy: Making A Living From Crowdfunded Game Analysis – Game Informer
Jacob Geller doesn’t address the incident between ArenaNet and its former writers, but his interview with several video essayist who make their living from crowdfunded pieces of games criticism touches on similar matters of precarity and power.
Two of this week’s pieces take a hard dive into the stuctures of game systems:
- Thinking in Systems – The Quixotic Engineer
Designer Matthew Gallant discusses Donella Meadows’s book, Thinking in Systems, as it relates to videogame design.
- Cave Paintings – The Writing Platform?
Robert Sherman’s piece on interactive fiction’s narrative conventions is difficult to summarize but well worth a read for anyone interested in exploring the skeletal structures that allow games to mean things:
Outside Looking In
Often games are either looked at in isolation from or in contrast to other kinds of storytelling, but this week three writers try to examine games as a part of a broader media landscape:
- It’s Summer, And It’s Time For Some ‘Pew-Pew-Pew’ Research – NPR?
Linda Holmes, a self-professed pop-culture generalist, has challenged herself to play some of the Nintendo Switch’s popular titles this summer in an effort to broaden her horizons.
- Soap Opera Antics – Gamasutra?
Gregory Pellechi suggests that narratives in games most resemble those of soap operas, and that more writers should embrace the appeal of melodrama.
- Screen Sculpture | Doki Doki Literature Club – Heterotopias
Eron Rauch considers the glitch-artistry and metanarration of Doki Doki Literature Club in light of several pieces of videogame, art, and photography criticism.
Everything old becomes new again. Three pieces this week look at games that try to shake old conventions:
- No Shelter Here – Fallout Shelter’s Useless Nihilism – Old Grizzled Gamers
Nic Reuben’s review of Fallout: Shelter discusses the cynical turn of the series from a satire of consumer culture to an emblem of it:
I hate?Fallout Shelter. I hate it not only for its transparent cynicism, but for how it wallows in that transparency under the mushroom cloud sized smokescreen of an empty aesthetic that once stood as allegory, but now exists only as brand recognition. It is the manipulative monetized clicker game equivalent of re-branding boring clothes as ‘normcore’ to gesture at self-aware irony while altering nothing of substance.
- Overwatch Needs More Than Representation – Sidequest
For all the credit Overwatch gets as a game that escapes the embedded white-supremacy and naturalization of white skin in modern storytelling, Azha Reyes notes that it still treats characters of colour, especially those from Mexico, as villains at a historical moment of heightened xenophobia.
- Rose-Colored Gaming: Bayonetta and the Big Sexi – Sidequest
Joesph Langdon’s column, Rose-Colored Gaming, is a retrospective of games that the author developed an attachment to at a certain point of their life. In this entry, Langdon examines the lasting impact Bayonetta has had on their personal development.
I’m no Bayonetta, but I learned from her to fight the holdovers of Christian colonialism in my own culture. My own aggressive angels are people telling me I’m unworthy of love, and of loving myself, because of who I am. Fighting back is what makes me feel safe.
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