It’s the first blog roundup of April! Here in England, the bulbs and trees are starting to blossom and the birds with rude-sounding names have started to flutter about. The world is becoming colourful and bright once more.
Due to a number of concurrent distressing events, this week saw an uptick in discussions of serious harassment and abuse, and I’ve tried to keep those discussions to a section at the bottom of the page to facilitate safer reading for anybody who will find those topics triggering. Content warnings have been used throughout in the usual manner.
As always, if you like what we do here you can subscribe to our Patreon and send in recommendations for pieces to include. I’m so grateful for your support.
This week an archaeologist takes us all the way back to the beginning of human history, and games critics look at the early years of game design history and the golden age of conceptual art.
- Let’s Play: Far Cry Primal Ep.1: An “Archaeological” Exploration (Video: auto-captions only)
Philip Riris begins a series of Let’s Plays of Far Cry Primal in which he comments on the game’s portrayal of history, based on his expertise as a research archaeologist.
- Brief Bibliography about IF History
Emily Short provides an extremely useful chronology of interactive fiction, covering both the social organisation of IF communities as well as design change.
- Pop’n Twinbee: Rainbow Bell Adventures
Vincent K. considers the successes and failures of the design of 1985 Konami title Pop’n Twinbee
- Opened world: Art Imitates Art
Miguel Penabella immerses us in the intersection between games and conceptual art offered by Cardboard Computer’s Limits and Demonstrations.
“It makes sense that Cardboard Computer would be interested in the work of the artist because both Kentucky Route Zero and Nam June Paik integrate television screens as important motifs. His famed installation Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii involves television screens framed by neon tubes in the shape of the United States map. Paik envisions an interconnected network of digital routes and passages that traverse the country; Kentucky Route Zero envisions a network not of digital media but of myth and memory.”
People are fighting for recognition in sports both electronic and figurative, including Starcraft II, advertising, and politics.
- The loneliness of the professional gamer
Will Partin reviews a new documentary about esports
- How long until a videogame ad kills someone?
Robert Rath gives a rundown of the dangerous advertising campaigns that have been undertaken in the games industry (Content warning: assault)
- Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian: How Illustrious People Catapult Themselves Into New Industries
Ian Bogost argues that the almost incomprehensible career moves of high-profile achievers follows the logic of the New Game + rebirth “prestige”.
“In addition to offering bling that demonstrates a player’s overall prowess and patience, prestiging now allows players to bring along certain late-game abilities into the early stages of the experience, giving the game a different feel and flavor. With their career moves, Schmidt and Poole gain prestige (not to mention financial benefit) in new domains, while also transferring their entirely distinctive traits to bear on new organizations in ways that few others could.”
Several pieces this week address labour within games as an industry as well games as an activity.
- Conference access, and related topics
Emily Short has also this week provided a list of resources regarding access to conferences to help people overcome barriers to professional development.
- Why I probably won’t beat Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear
Kris Ligman talks about the inscrutability and deep nostalgic pull of Baldur’s Gate.
- Scavenging, Selling, & Spa Days: Self-Care in ‘Stardew Valley’
Jay looks at how the choices and consequences of Stardew Valley construct a space for self-care.
- Stardew Valley review
Carli Velocci argues that Stardew Valley uses freedom of activity to make an experience that is about more than just getting things done.
“Stardew Valley isn’t only about what you do, because ultimately you’ll do a lot. It emphasizes what you do with what you’re given: How you choose to build your community and relationships, and the power of a simple hello, said every day. Building a farm isn’t just a physical task, but an emotional one, too. No simulation or game is an exact copy of what it’s trying to emulate, but Stardew Valley, above all, expertly explores the connection that someone can have with their environment, their work and the people around them.”
Are games therapy or vice? Are they human or machine? Divergent perspectives approach the role of games in helping us to manage our own minds and conceptualise the minds of others.
- Mind of the Machine: AlphaGo and Artificial Intelligence
Eric Swain argues that the success of AlphaGo challenges our human reading of the game’s language as reliant on theory of mind.
- Discipline and Pleasure
Willie Osterweil bemoans the trap of addiction comorbid with depression, in relation to the escapist use of competitive online gaming.
- MMOs And Anxiety: How The Best Game Design Helps Me At My Very Worst
In contrast, Ashe Samuels praises the therapeutic benefits of many MMOs finely-tuned escapism
“While I won’t deny the onset of helpless boredom that comes with slaying fifteen creatures in a row for a five-part quest or running around gathering herbs over and over and over, I soon learned keeping my attention span barely above water had a way of slowing down my heart rate like a mug of warm tea.”
The semiotics of bodies clash with the diverse experiences of embodiment in these articles about diversity.
- Meet the blind gamer with a Killer Instinct
Wesley Yin-Poole interviews “Sightless Kombat”, a top-ranking Killer Instinct player who relies entirely on audio cues, about how game design can be more inclusive of blind players.
- GDC ’16: World-Changing Games: How “We Are Chicago” (and all other games) Shape Society
Josh Boykin considers what it means to portray Chicago’s black culture responsibly in games, and what effect that may have on audiences, taking We Are Chicago as a prime example.
- Body Language & The Male Gaze (Video: auto-captions only)
There’s a new Tropes vs. Women, this time about the male gaze and character animation
- The Rational is Personal: Overwatch and Fan Debates
Alisha Karabinus talks about getting up close and personal with the semiotics of butts, dismantling along the way the dichotomy between feminist advocacy and objective analysis.
“Once we mix logic with humanity, with society, the rubrics become messy–instead of clean lines, they are knots. And we do not, cannot exist without those entanglements, without experience, education, identifiers. Logic on the page is not always logic in a situation. We are fluid. So too goes our language and our perceptions.”
The pull toward violence and the question of its justification resurfaces this week, with references not just to shooters but to live-action theatre and religion.
- A theater ensemble turns mutually assured destruction into a live-action game
The A.V. Club interviews Nathan Allen, director of a live interactive theatre ensemble, about conflict and group dynamics in his latest work on the Cold War and gun violence.
- Manhunt (Audio, no transcript)
Bullet Points Podcast hosts a discussion about Manhunt, following on from essays on the topic such as the one we featured last week, with some complex and robust disagreements on the narrative goals and achievements of the title (content warning: spoilers, descriptions of graphic in-game violence).
- ‘Dying Light: The Following’ Makes Doomsday Cults Seem Surprisingly Reasonable
Reid McCarter praises the worldbuilding in Dying Light for using zombie horror tropes to create a more sympathetic portrayal of religious cults (content warning: spoilers).
- Turning in the Badge
Heather Alexandra critiques the compulsion towards violence and the creation of worlds trapped in never-ending cycles of conflict.
“This focus on “legitimized” violence leads to a tragic (and likely unintended) implication, too. Exceptionalism puts the player outside of the bounds of responsibility, and in doing so, it divides them from the rest of the world’s inhabitants. If The Division ever “secures” New York for the everyday civilians left standing, it would mean game over. Like so many other games, The Division isn’t interested in accomplishing the mission. It would rather have the conflict last forever.…”
Abuse, harassment, war
This was a week in which virtual wars, harassment campaigns and misogyny seemed to blend continuously into one another.
- EVE Online: What Is The Northern War (aka World War Bee)? (Video, auto captions only)
To open with a relatively benign example, a synopsis of the events leading to the current dramatic war in Eve Online explains how events in the game have been affected by alleged economic bleed from the outside world.
(Content warning for everything below this line: graphic descriptions of abuse, harassment, some quotations of oppressive slurs, and references to child sexual abuse.)
- Griefers or saviours? The Elite Dangerous players causing a rift in space
In another example of massively multiplayer space-war driven by grievances outside of the magic circle, Wesley Yin-Poole investigates the mob that is harassing players of Elite Dangerous it considers not hard-core enough.
- Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem
An extremely harrowing piece details the extent and intensity of abuse that one woman has experienced over many years’ work in tabletop gaming.
Nintendo’s firing of Alison Rapp
- The Ugly New Front In The Neverending Video Game Culture War
Patrick Klepek wrote a detailed piece on the harassment campaign against Alison Rapp.
- Another Woman, Another Loss: Nintendo Terminates Alison Rapp
Samantha Blackmon and Alisha Karabinus call out Nintendo’s treatment of Rapp.
- Gamasutra: Brandon Sheffield’s Blog – Why I canceled my Wii U game
Brandon Sheffield announced that he would no longer be comfortable publishing on the Wii U as a result of Nintendo’s actions.