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What kind of critical practice can be built in videogames blogging? What techniques can we use as feminists to make the best intervention into how games are made? How do we relate to dramatic political change from inside of a bubble that engages so much with matters of fantasy? Writers this week are considering our roles as cultural critics in changing times.

Inaccessible, inward, myopic

  • Why action? | vextro
    In a rare example of meta-criticism, leeroy lewin discusses the writing of Tim Rogers.

“Action games are on average more resistant to learn and the more difficult for impaired players to experience. They’re more inaccessible, more inward, more myopic games. They’re made so incredibly specifically for an audience, with pre-molded expectations of how they should function, that they’re the clear and present opposite of interesting, utopian art.”

Efficiency and ethics

Some complex questions about what kind of feminism to practice come up in this week’s writing on inclusivity in games.

“Efficiency is probably one of the most contested terms in technical communication. A lot of unethical work has been done under the guise of efficiency. It can and does kill people. I think the same could be said of certain terms in gaming; fun, for example, is a defense people use to convince themselves that something racist they laughed at—for example—isn’t important. It’s just a joke. It’s just for fun.

State-sanctioned violence

Increasingly, writing on history and games is taking on board not just how history is portrayed, but what’s at stake in those portrayals – what do the games being critiqued suggest about the way that we remember the past?

“The two strains of late-capitalism, neoconservatism and neoliberalism, both make an appearance in the form of the world’s two main settlements. Diamond City is neoconservative, being both moral and regulatory and having encounters that frequently revolve around ideas of controlling sexuality and identity. Goodneighbour is neoliberal, being amoral in its ends and means with inhabitants enjoying drugs, jazz and paying the Sole Survivor to enact state-sanctioned violence against its inhabitants.”

Mafia III

A particularly important example of historical portrayals in games at the moment is Mafia III, which has attracted a great deal of insightful writing over the past few weeks. This week is no exception.

“NPC chatter has become a hallmark of the open world genre, but rarely does this chatter go beyond “hey, watch it!” or “ahhhh, he’s got a gun!” Mafia III includes this same sort of chatter, but it also features NPC dialogue infused with an impressive amount of historical detail related to the game’s setting in 1968.”

Politics, pleasure and frustration

Two interesting pieces address in very different ways a similar observation: that at the core of institutional politics, in games and in general, is the desire to capitalize on the base emotions of a populace.

“Trump supporters did not vote for him because they were misinformed online—rather, they consumed and circulated misinformation because they loved Trump, because it was an enormously pleasurable thing to do, and because they imagined (correctly) that it drove the educated classes crazy [sic]. […] For better and for worse, digital technologies are rechanneling and amplifying these aspects of human nature […]”

Football Manager 2017

One particularly acute example of political feeling and frustration in games right now has come out of a sports management simulator.

“Although they don’t know when or how it’ll happen, FM managers in charge of British clubs have had to plan for the worst early to mitigate the effects of a hard exit. [… M]any managers have chosen to totally avoid Britain so they don’t have to worry about Brexit at all. “

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