Do you feel like garbage right now? Well then I have a treat for you. Games critics this week have gone searching through the detritus of the city for hidden treasure, and created archives of material for others to enjoy. Along the way, they’ve brought up lessons about why spaces feel the way they do, who makes them that way, and how this all works.
First, a couple of pieces to refer to if you’re working on using visual expression more in your work. By the way, there’s a jam for that happening soon!
- Gamasutra: Felipe Pepe’s Blog – Research Resource: Gallery of 16,000+ RPG screenshots.
Felipe Pepe has created a gallery of screenshots that you are allowed you use in your own work, so that you can discuss UI, plot, and design issues in CRPGs without spending a great deal of time creating your own screenshots.
- I Love Astroneer For Its Optimism
Nathan Grayson describes feeling increasingly confident in a world that nevertheless constantly threatens to suffocate you. Although it’s a written piece primarily, I think a lot is expressed here using well-chosen and carefully-framed screenshots, such as this one:
Next, a pair of pieces that both raise similar points about the arrogant conceits of gameplay and how they map onto the character traits of America’s President, during what has been described as one of the most alarming weeks in US history.
- The Unsettling Political Power Fantasy of Dishonored 2 – Waypoint
Duncan Fyfe makes a broader point about the videogameyness of Donald Trump’s attitude towards leadership.
- Play, Nihilism, and the Magic Circle: Something I Missed – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Alex Layne recognises another connection between Trump-ism and game-isms.
“America elected Donald Trump. England voted to exit the European Union. Yet many of the people who voted for these things say they were simply trying to make a point. Perhaps they just wanted to win; they wanted to excel beyond those with college educations and those they perceive as being elite. In a world saturated with contest, Huizinga would say, there is no meaning and there is no consideration of the consequences. All of life is a game, and we play to win.”
Into our surroundings
Now we find ourselves in the gutter, as great critics engage with useless creatures and human waste.
- Catching Frogs – Medium
Emilie Reed talks about the strange categorization of junk in games.
- Due Diligence: Sublime Filth – Haywire Magazine
Leigh Harrison talks a lot about “bags of sick and poo” in this remarkable account of experiences that oscillate between gaming and situationist drifting.
“Pokémon Go, just like most videogames, is about isolation; about madly acquiring intangible goods because we’re told having more stuff than other people is good for us. Geocaching asks us to dig deeper into our surroundings by allowing us to see previously hidden narratives and experiences.”
For some thoughts on how inclusion and exclusion function, these writers reflect on how artists meet, who they represent, and who gets to participate.
- Gamasutra: Brandon Sheffield’s Blog – How closing borders kills understanding, and censors art
Brandon Sheffield talks about the value of movement across national borders for art and cross-cultural communication.
- A Normal Lost Phone Tries To Explore Trans Identity And Falls Short
Heather Alexandra argues that attempts at “empathy games” on transgender experiences very often veer into voyeurism.
- Busting the myths around sociological accessibility – Meeple Like Us
Michael Heron wanders a bit in the second half of this blog post, but there are some important moments early on where he articulates how the social model of disability affects the way he thinks about tabletop game design.
“The social model argues that society unconsciously adopts conventions that are disabling. When stairs block a wheelchair getting into a doctor’s surgery, […] It is the stairs that are disabling, and they were put there as part of a wider socioeconomic context. Nothing in life happens in a vacuum. It is my view that you cannot meaningfully take a comprehensive view of accessibility without addressing the sociological and economic factors within which people operate.”
Examining how relationships are experienced within games, two writers thinking about how care dynamics are nurtured in quite different ways.
- Lost Garden: Game design patterns for building friendships
Daniel Cook shares the results of what sounds like a fairly involved, collaborative project to conceptualise game design aimed at player-player relationships.
- How The Last Guardian Makes You Care About A Bird Dog
Heather Alexandra offers an alternative reading of the relationship with Trico to some of the articles we’ve featured in the previous two weeks.
“Instead of breaking down the mechanical factors at the core of the relationship, I think we would be much better served understanding how much of it is based upon the space between the two characters. As scenarios change, the space between parties shrinks and grows in order to stress which character is on top in the power dynamics of the relationship.”
This diverse little collection examines how we experience ourselves in games through the senses and the psyche.
- Sonic Meditation – First Person Scholar
Andrea Luc writes about how sound feels and how it affects the way we make sense of games.
- A Phenomenology of the (Gaming) Body: Implications of Materiality for Feminist Game Studies – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Bianca Batti offers a feminist perspective on phenomenological approaches to games studies.
- Gamasutra: Taekwan Kim’s Blog – On Self-Concept Dissonance
Taekwan Kim’s in-depth essay on Jungian psychology and gameplay motivation, in response to a post by This War of Mine designer Kuba Stokalski, is a lush tangle of complex ideas that I will personally be referring back to for close rereading in the future.
“I believe that the tendency to view gameplay as a purely mechanical result, as opposed to understanding it as a primarily psychological process for the construction of personal narratives, causes us to design in a highly circuitous way. We design and then look to see if it is engaging. But if we can conceive a game’s systems as collections of non-overlapping and competing self-concepts, the path to generating engaging tension becomes clearer. “
Before I let you go, here are a couple of messages from the Critical Distance team.
- This Year In Video Game Bloggin[g] 2016 – Post-Mortem
Eric Swain looks back on how the year-end post came together
- Memory Insufficient in 2017
I made an announcement this week about the little niche publication I’ve been running for the past three years.
Critical Distance is community-supported. Our readers support us from as little as one dollar a month. Would you consider joining them?
Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!