Opponents by chance
Starting this week’s roundup are three pieces on randomness, chance, and probability that all just happened by coincidence to come out at the same time.
- Gamasutra: Josh Bycer’s Blog – Probability Problems in Game Design
Joshua Bycer argues that probability is problematic when it is opaque.
- Spirit Breaker Bash: the controversial role of chance in esports | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Eron Rauch gives one set of views on how esports players and sports theorists address skill and randomness
- Playing Well With Others: Overwatch and Teamwork – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Lee Hibbard argues that randomness is used skilfully in Overwatch to encourage amicability.
“Once I realized the opposing team’s players were just as likely to be in my random group for the next match, I found myself appreciating the spectacular kill cam shots that would come up after yet another in-game death. Especially when that person who sniped me at the end of the last match was fighting by my side two matches later.”
Athletes into abstractions
These articles explore some of the tricky edge cases in game developers’ and players’ relationships with larger social and economic institutions.
- Are Bullshots Illegal? – YouTube (video: subtitles)
George Weidman argues that when it comes to advertising law and games, the construction of the “reasonable consumer” has been far too lenient towards an idea that benefits the advertisers.
- Why It’s So Hard to Make a Video Game | VICE | United Kingdom
Tina Amini talks about the negotiation and compromise inherent in the creative process.
- Football Manager 2017 simulates the consequences of Brexit on the sport – Kill Screen
David Rudin reports on how Brexit is affecting one of the UK’s most characteristic videogames, with some disquiet about the cost of grappling with economic issues through sport.
“Football Manager’s Brexit simulation doesn’t feel entirely laudable. It’s reminiscent of the way that a parallel field, fantasy sports, has turned athletes into abstractions. Every Sunday during the NFL season, you can watch for people complaining how an ACL sprain cost them their fantasy league. That’s what now passes for perspective.”
Unmaking the mask
Two writers consider how game stories put across ambivalent relationships between protagonists and institutions of power.
- Beautiful, deadly, and without feeling – why Modern Warfare Remastered is the perfect organism • Eurogamer.net
Nathan Ditum finds some surprising moments of reflection among the hours upon hours of emptying clips and magazines into terrorists.
- ‘Virginia’: Masks, Identity, and the Horror of Our Own Reflection | PopMatters (Spoilers for Virginia)
G. Christopher Williams talks about irony in the storytelling of Virginia
“The true prison that Anne finds herself in at the close of Virginia is her own face, the one she has slid on and off throughout the game, adopting different poses, different alignments with those around her, but never truly feeling comfortable or anyway free behind. The solution to the mystery of Virginia is solved by unmaking the mask itself. “
Become the scenery
Not unlike the above-mentioned surprising moments of reflection in war games, here we address some unexpected strategies for interacting with other people through games.
- A Parent’s Guide to Playing Minecraft With Your Kids
Beth Skwarecki writes a guide to Minecraft for newcomers who want to understand and support their children’s hobby.
- Stopping and Sitting – Haywire Magazine
Josh Trevett examines the charming contradiction of character emotes that suggest inactivity.
“Sitting is a natural fit for the largest scale multiplayer games because of the nature of those environments. They’re filled with genuine life, real people roaming hither and yon in pursuit of their various purposes. Such a social space would feel uncanny if everybody were always standing and always busy with something; to take the time to sit, alone or with others, in the city or in the bush, is to relish the special power of the MMO. You not only get to enjoy watching the living scenery, you become scenery yourself, an ambient element that helps to sell the setting as a believable place.”
The world opens up
Speaking of believable places, these two pieces concern the societies and economies represented by the fictional worlds of role playing games.
- Knotting into Dishonored’s decaying city – Kill Screen
Gareth Damian Martin reveals the disconcerting marriage between empire and industry in the city of Dunwall (and its inspirations in Great Britain)
- Echo Night | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent Kinian outlines the rhetoric of one of From Software’s early games.
“Exploring fosters empathy and understanding, the game posits, but that process can’t begin unless both parties approach each other on equal terms. A lot of Echo Night centers around learning to see the world not as a space you can act upon as you please, but as a living entity with its own rules and boundaries for you to respect. The world opens up and dispels any source of fear it might have held, and in return, you give up most of your ability to act upon it.”
Long forgotten imperialist campaigns
Next, in writing on how we understand our place in time, we have a piece that looks at our immediate sense of an impending deadline and a piece on our position in relation to a longer historical legacy.
- In defense of time limits | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Jody MacGregor praises the way an awareness of time creates a greater awareness of one’s own actions.
- The Terra Nullius Myth of No Man’s Sky – Digital Ephemera (Spoilers for No Man’s Sky)
Dan Cox makes a familiar argument about No Man’s Sky with some more precise language and in the context of a longer history of European imperialism.
“This is not a colonist narrative. This is postcolonialism at play. The player may be an invader to these spaces, but the knowledge comes from others, from being and maintaining a hybridity of parts, tools, and technologies. Expansion comes not from within, but in using the remains of past and long forgotten imperialist campaigns. Although the player may have the ability to ‘name’ things, everything has already been given a name before her.”
Small enough to fit on the table
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was thinking about why we critique, and what our role is as critics. These pieces stand as very different examples of what kind of positions and strategies the critic can take.
- Finding Ourselves in Play: A New Database of Games on Sexuality, Gender and Relationships by The Editor & Alayna Cole | Model View Culture (Content warning: discussions of sexism and homophobia)
An interview with the curator of the Queerly Represent Me database highlights common issues in portrayals of same-gender relationships.
- You Can Hack Child’s Play, If You’re Rich
Kathryn Jezer-Morton critiques a designer playground.
- Sin, Apocalypse, Cash: The Beginner’s Guide – part 4 | videogametourism.at
Eron Rauch’s four-part series on The Beginner’s Guide reaches its conclusion in this piece on its refusal of critical dialogue.
“By front loading a pre-refusal of all criticism, like the cat in the video knocking every object placed near it off the table, The Beginner’s Guide is choosing to bat away dialog, community, and anything that is part of the human social sphere. That is, it is pre-refusing anything small enough to fit on the table. You can buy The Beginner’s Guide, and have your interaction outside of it, just like your non-interaction with your Ikea shelf called “Lack.” The perfect hyper-capitalist spectacle.”
- Episode 40 – Games literary studies on Youtube | Critical Distance
Don’t forget to check out the latest episode of our podcast series interviewing critical video makers.
- New Website! Part 2: Blogs of the Round Table | Critical Distance
We also have an overview of our redesign for Blogs of the Round Table.