August 19

This week, games and their critics ponders at length about inclusivity, technology, change, and play. In particular, games and their communities are examined on inclusion and the considerations of silence. Games are also thought of as lenses for varying perspectives. And finally, games and mechanics are examined in their relation to art and artistry.

The Ways Games Exclude

Ruminations on the ways games exclude certain audiences, and how these problems have an effect that reaches beyond just that game’s internal community.

  • Who We Are — Unwinnable
    Jeremy Signore visits the intersection of queer identities and role-playing, and how the history of Harlem Balls shares connective tissue with modern role-playing games.

    Games take on a similar role to the Harlem balls, though on a more personal scale. Character creation tools helped me by showing me the nature of my desires, tangled though they may have been at the time.

What Games Omit

Sometimes games say things in what they are choosing not to say, and on what they are unable to say.

  • We’re making the first game that legally shows Nazi symbols in Germany – here’s why you should care — Gamasutra Blogs
    Since 1994, games in Germany could not have Nazi symbology of any kind, despite other art like film or literature lacking the same limitations. Paintbucket Games has worked to change that ruling, and will be the first of its kind to finally show actual Nazi symbology.

    What had been clear, self-explanatory and iconic became vague and required explicit explanation. We lost hours debating and pouring creative energy into possible solutions and workarounds. … We didn’t worry too much at the start, but over time the whole matter slowly started to get under our skin. No other medium has this problem. No filmmaker would need to worry about this issue. They could just show what needed to be shown, because it is portrayed in the correct, legal context. Because we were working on a game, context didn’t matter. No one would even evaluate it. No assurance, no USK-rating. No USK-rating, no sale in Germany. It was unfair, and it began to make us angry.

What Games Inform

Ways we can use games to illustrate something of the outside world.

  • The Witcher 3 — Deep Hell
    Deep Hell explores the topic of feminism by exploring how the two primary women of The Witcher 3 navigate a patriarchal society by steering Geralt where they need him.

 

What Games Reflect

Ways games actively illustration something of the outside world.

  • You Can’t Keep Sims Sober — Kotaku
    Gita Jackson laments that social drinking is nearly inescapable in The Sims, as the sims themselves have no impulse control when it comes to swigging “juice.”
  • The Boxes and Paraphernalia of Captain Spirit — Unwinnable
    Memories tied to objects can be inescapable, a tangible piece of remembered history, which lie buried deep in boxes in Captain Spirit, as explained by Khee Hoon Chan for Unwinnable.

    In the album Rooms of the House, Jordan Dreyer from La Dispute wrote, with striking clarity, the emotional entanglement objects have on their owners. This is especially resonant in the album’s final track, “Objects in Space”, in which the estranged husband carefully laid out the paraphernalia of his broken relationship on the carpet, as he pondered and grieved. Reminiscing with muted sorrow about the memories of their previous life together, the man moved and rearranged these objects quietly with no rhyme or reason, sitting there for hours. Mourning, perhaps. And like a final act of a memorial, he gradually packed them into boxes.

 

How Games Are Fun

A look at the ways in which we are entertained by our games, and the importance of that entertainment.

  • Lovely Planet and the joy of frustration — Eurogamer
    The joy of trying and failing comes easily to Emad Ahmed, but it is not without the understanding that frustration is itself a barrier to the fun that games sometimes need to be after a hard day.

    Playing difficult games for the sake of being frustrated is nothing new, even in recent years as we all secretly agree games are much easier than they used to be. For example, something that’s always struck me about Dark Souls, apart from the mystifying acclaim lauded on the series, is the enjoyment people share regarding its difficulty. The repetitive “YOU DIED” dissolving onto the screen when you’re beaten by an enemy has become a great meme[.]

How Games Aren’t Fun

A look at how games can explicity not be entertaining, and how that sometimes is likewise important.

  • So Long, Summer Days — Unwinnable
    Gingy Gibson slogs through a quagmire of toxicity as reflected by the events in So Long, Summer Days, and discusses the cyclical sadness of its subject matter.

    The inability to break things off with this terrible person could stem from any number of things. Perhaps this is a person to whom you used to be very close but more recently things have become strained, yet they haven’t quite expended all the goodwill they amalgamated in years past with you when times were better.  Maybe they are unfortunately firmly bound to you by ties of marriage or interoffice politics, and you’ve become numb to their antics as a means of self-defense. Or perhaps their awfulness is restrained just enough to keep you from taking that initiative to break free of the friendship, and now you’ve become so immersed in the toxicity of this relationship you don’t even harbor a faint hope of breaking free[.]

How Games Are Experienced

Three varied looks on ways in which games feel when in players’ hands.

  • The Walking Dead’s Final Season Starts On A More Intimate Note — Kotaku
    The closing chapter of Telltale’s The Walking Dead has Heather Alexandra excited for the more social ties built into the story.

    It’s clear that The Final Season really wants to focus on this community, allowing the player to decorate their room, participate in hunting, and know exactly when relationship dynamics change.

How Games Are Discussed

Thoughts on how games are reflected on by those who consume and criticize them.

  • Blur — Game Exhibition
    The intersection of realism, hyperreality, aesthetic, political, and psychological all blur together as the rails pass alongside in this dive into bits and pieces of Blur, a game whose potential discussion points were lost to comparisons and gaming’s immediacy.
  • It’s actually about ethics in games journalism — I Need Diverse Games
    Tauriq Moosa looks at the ethical issues of plagiarism, and how the games writing professional community addressed it in a recent instance of plagiarism.

    When thinking about why something is “wrong”, we step into the realm of ethics. While law is another vehicle of determining whether or not we should do something, I noted above that plagiarism is a kind of wrongful act that isn’t by definition unlawful (unlike murder, burglary, etc.).

How Games Are Crafted

Words from developers and designers on what goes on behind the curtain.

  • What are we talking about when we talk about systemic narrative — Gamasutra Blogs
    A technical breakdown by Victor Sanchez of what system-generated narratives are, and how it differs from narratives already present in games.

    So, when we talk about Systemic Narrative, we talk about creating a system that provide the rules on how the narrative unfolds. We are talking about having narrative elements that may have some inputs, that modify an internal state, that is used to apply a serie of rules, and may provide some outputs[.]

How Games Result

The long-reaching effects of games as a consumer, entertainment, public, and art medium.

  • What It Means To Buy A Video Game — Kotaku
    Heather Alexandra outlines the various depth of the spending dollar, and how the ripples of even little purchases have reach more deeply than one may notice on a quick glance, and how fraught those ripples can become when unconsidered.

    Whenever we give someone money, we incentivize them to continue the process by which it was possible. Like it or not, that means buying a game encourages employers to continue things like crunch. That turns your purchase into an encouragement of behavior and, more importantly, into a moral decision.

How Games Do Art

And finally, a brief snapshot of ways in which games and art intersect.

  • Game Art: Krista Hoefle’s We Build Worlds #1 (2018) — GAMESCENES
    Krista Hoefle distorts the color in No Man’s Sky to create something familiar, but remarkably alien.

    To create WE BUILD WORLDS, Krista Hoefle appropriated No Man’s Sky by Hello Game and juxtaposed its “seductive imagery” of gameplay with “an unattainable rewards system (out of reach papercraft gems)”. The resulting machinima is fragmented into color fields that have a confusing effect on the viewer.


Subscribe

Critical Distance is community-supported. Our readers support us from as little as one dollar a month. Would you consider joining them?

Contribute

Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!