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.
- Companies waved the Pride flag but gaming is still far from inclusive — Eurogamer
Sam Greer discusses LGBT+ concerns with two Twitch streamers, and discusses gaming’s ongoing issue with inclusivity and toxicity.
- Remothered: Tormented Fathers perpetuates horror’s harmful anti-trans stereotypes — Unwinnable
Bryan Cebulski highlights the anti-trans history in the horror genre, and considers the long term issues of stigma that form around narratives. In particular, how Remothered: Tormented Fathers carries that torch forward such a bit further.
- 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.
- Simulations vs Games or: Why I’m Disappointed I Can’t Melt Myself — Outside Your Heaven
Matthew “Sajon” Weise discusses No Man’s Sky and Freelancer, simulations, and how design decisions that reflect on the feel the game leaves the player with.
- The Dangers of the Echo Chamber Effect on Game Developerment — Gamasutra Blogs
Josh Brycer on the the flaws that come from discounting criticism and seeking fans when considering game design.
- 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.
- Playne: Encouraging mindfulness through video games — GamesIndustry.biz
Haydn Taylor discusses the intersection of mindfulness and meditation and how they’re explored, encouraged, and gamified in Playne.
- A Narrative Strategy Game That Confronts the Nature of Power — Waypoint
In his Postscript column, Cameron Kunzelman confronts not just gaining, but considering the ramifications of, power in Dust & Salt.
Dust & Salt is a power simulator, pure and simple, plopped in the middle of a well-written tale of revenge. It’s my ideal adventure game.
What Games Reflect
Ways games actively illustration something of the outside world.
- Evidence That You’ve Taken a Game a Little Too Seriously — Waypoint
Rob Zacny thinks back on a spiral notebook full of lap times, and a deep obsession with details that led to its formation.
- 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.”
- “Games need to talk more responsibility” — GamesIndustry.biz
Brendan Sinclair speaks to Nick Button-Brown about licensed games for kids, and the already existent division of responsibility in content between parents, kids, and games.
- 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.
- A Relaxing Game Where You Serve Coffee To Orcs — Kotaku
Drawing from knowledge earned as a former barista, Heather Alexandra talks about upcoming game Coffee Talk, conversations, and mixing caffeinated drinks.
- A Game That Lets You Solve Crime By Yelling At Your Computer — Kotaku
Looking for clues by talking to your computer, Gita Jackson attempts to solve crimes using the vocabulary of CSI computer techs to a computer that listens and obeys.
- The Last Bastion of Steel Battalion — Unwinnable
David O’Keefe tells the story of Bill Lange, the face and emcee of PAX’s Steel Battalion room, which is devoted to the original Xbox’s enormous, complex mechanized combat game.
- 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.
- Graveyard Keeper Feels Like A Job — Kotaku
Heather Alexandra laments the job-like tedium of Graveyard Keeper, despite the charm the game could easily have put in its place.
- 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 Real Future of VR Probably Isn’t at Your Computer, It’s at the Mall — Waypoint
The VOID is a VR experience that incorporates physical objects and sensations into VR experiences, and Rich Monahan interviews one of the cofounders to discuss the experience and its potential applications.
- After Hundreds of Hours of ‘Into the Breach,’ I’m Inventing New Challenges — Waypoint
Nearly 600 hours of Into the Breach has left Danielle Riendeau to create new challenges for the game.
- 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.
- The Battlefield 1 Community Is Torn Over A Mountain — Kotaku
Cameron Kunzelman takes us on a humorous tour of reddit’s Battlefield 1 community in their search for the real Monte Grappa.
- 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.
- The Design is the Implementation — Gamasutra Blogs
Daniel Shumway explains the importance of design and implementation, in particular how they relate to time travel in Hard Reset.
- Game Developer Diaries. Crush of Bones — Gamasutra Blogs
Andrei Semiankovich talks about Polygon Labs, a group of students looking into learning about game design, and their first week and designing a game.
- The Dream IS the Product — Gamasutra Blogs
Neil Schneider explains the expense of technology, and what drives companies to spend so much in search of technology that isn’t yet in reach.
- 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.
- New YouTube Series Explores The One Sided Relationship Between Creators And Fans — Kotaku
Gita Jackson discusses Shannon Strucci’s documentaries on parasocial relationships, and the feeling of friendship fostered when one absorbs another group’s content.
- 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: Akihiko Taniguchi’s Practice for In-Game Photography/virtual Photography “Selfie” (2018) — GAMESCENES
A little abstraction between digital and real with Selfie.
- 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.
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