We all participate in constructing social structures, though in the real world most people don’t have a whole lot of institutional power. As many look at 2017 as a year that will demand strong resistance, some writers consider how games teach us to relate to governance.
This roundup would be better titled “This Fortnight in Videogames”. If you’re American and you don’t know what a “fortnight” is, then to oversimplify, it’s a kind of time dilation effect that occurs in buildings with retrofitted plumbing that used to have outdoor toilets.
If you nominated something and it hasn’t showed up, don’t despair (just yet) – there are a couple dozen pieces that I wasn’t able to get to this week, so I’ll be looking at them next week instead. This kind of can-kicking is not something I would normally do for TWIVGB, but so much great work happened over the holidays that it took considerably longer to get through everything that it normally would. So look forward to another great selection next week!
Nothing and everything
In this rather fortuitous pairing, writers consider wholeness and emptiness in game design.
- The Art of Nothing: A Look at Negative Space within Videogames
Amr Al-Aaser draws some great parallels between graphic design and level design.
- Radiator Blog: On legacy systems and Kentucky Route Zero (Acts I-IV) by Cardboard Computer
Robert Yang’s short and very sad piece about Kentucky Route Zero hit me right in the gut.
“A lot of people will say Kentucky Route Zero is “minimalist”… but I think that label is pretty misleading. It packs every single scene with countless details and thoughtfully executes each of those gestures. Every playthrough you’ll read tens of thousands of words, much of it expended on long evocative description — this isn’t actually a “minimalist” game, in terms of literary tradition nor in terms of what it demands from its players. Every scene is lush with history, detail, and allusion, and KRZ never patronizes you if you don’t really get it. Instead, it patiently pushes you to grasp it as a whole. “
Ports in a Storm
How is a game made local? These three pieces consider very different ways that a game can be given a place.
- The Passion of the Port | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
This interview about the drama and challenge of porting games is a rare insight into a process that doesn’t get a lot of attention.
- Daughter sims and Clinton jokes: a conversation with the original localizer behind Princess Maker 2 | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Kris Ligman’s interview with Tim Trzepacz presents some interesting opinions on what’s happened to anime and Japanese games over the years.
- Game Studies – This Uprising of Mine: Game Conventions, Cultural Memory and Civilian Experience of War in Polish Games
Piotr Sterczewski’s article on Polish national memory in videogames is a particularly worthwhile read, with some remarkably smooth opening paragraphs and a topic that few outside of Eastern Europe are likely to have thought much about.
“Uprising44, Little Insurgents and Enemy Front are examples of games that aim both at reinforcing national identity through propagating a certain vision of history and achieving success as commercial products of interactive entertainment. […] Sometimes, as in the case of comparing the levels related to the Warsaw uprising in Enemy Front to the rest of the game, it can be observed how genre conventions change possibly because of ideological ambitions tied to them.”
This great little selection provides some perspectives on systems of power, management, governance, and people misbehaving within them for good and for ill.
- Living in the Shadows: Virginia’s Critique of Society’s Power Systems :: Games :: Features :: Virginia :: Paste
Reid McCarter examines the techniques used in Virginia to symbolize oppression and resistance.
- The Ongoing Voice Actor’s Strike Is More Than Just a Little Drama – Waypoint
This important feature pokes below the surface to better understand what SAG-AFTRA’s demands are, and why they have been ignored.
- The difficulty in banning the ‘most toxic League of Legends player in North America’ – Polygon
Daniel Friedman uncovers an interesting case study in what happens when toxicity and technical skill intersect
- We asked a transit planner how to up our Mini Metro game – Waypoint
Robert Rath talks strategy with a professional, and in the process teaches us a great deal about the real-world design of transit networks.
“‘Mini Metro has proven one very important thing,’ said Walker in an email interview with Waypoint. ‘Until it came along, the assumption was that transportation games had to have a rich user-interface with pictures of trains and cars and trees and so on. In fact, you can have a game that strips a problem down to its underlying structure, which is what a metro network is.'”
Propose another world
In pieces that reflect on how the mind works when at play, these writers consider motivation, momentum, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
- How games helped me deal with Tourette’s | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Mike Joffe shares some personal stories about links between games and neuroscience.
- Zeigarnik Effect and Quest Logs | The Psychology of Video Games
Jamie Madigan talks memory, motivation, and the completionist impulse in work and play.
- Virtual Bodies in Virtual Worlds – First Person Scholar
Benjamin Gattet provides an essential introduction to the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as it relates to games. Short, to the point, but could change the way you think about digital media forever.
“Games are not simulations of a physical world. They might contain elements that refer to a physicality, but they are not a transposition of elements from a natural world to a virtual one. They are not a mirror of our reality, for when we play, games are our reality. For the phenomenal body there is not really a difference between being in a game and being in life, because games are a part of life. What games do is propose another world for one’s own body to exist in. I do not play a video game as much as I play in a video game.”
From how we come to be who we are, to how AI characters come to be who they are, these pieces on subjectivity in games provide some fascinating insights.
- Gamasutra: Tanya Short’s Blog – Procedural Personality Generation
Tanya Short shares some fascinating advice on how to conceive of personalities as things that can be shuffled and reconfigured as part of a game system.
- Our Thoughts On Overwatch’s Tracer Being Gay
Kotaku assembled a top notch team to chat a while about hopes and worries around LGBT characters.
- The Last Guardian and the Language of Games | Game Maker’s Toolkit – YouTube
Mark Brown looks at how interaction creates a relationship with narrative weight.
- Opened World: Goodbye to Language – Haywire Magazine
Miguel Penabella argues that unresponsiveness can give non-player characters a greater sense of agency.
“Videogames are a medium where players have come to expect direct consequences for their actions, and a lack of feedback is often cause for complaint that gameplay is “unresponsive” or that an AI is “stubborn” or even “broken” without considering the possibility for deeper meaning. Instead of straightforwardly criticizing these systems, perhaps they can play into broader themes of the game. In The Last Guardian, the lack of feedback reflects the characterization of Trico.”
- Small but mighty!
A new tumblr is highlighting one small game a day from a feminist angle. I know a few people have been hungry for something like this since the loss of Forest Ambassador, so perhaps you’ll find this to be a good resource!
- An Announcement from the Editor-in-Chief – First Person Scholar
First Person Scholar announced that they are paying writers now
- Hi there followers of ZEAL! – ZEAL – Medium
ZEAL also had a big announcement recently
- January 2017: ‘Healing’ | Critical Distance
Don’t forget to consider submitting to Blogs of the Round Table this month!