We spend time in caves, bedrooms, and bathrooms this week as games critics discuss how to make games cute, politically relevant, and intimate. This week’s roundup comes a little late, but it’s a good one!
Back to the cave
We start with some thoughts on storytelling with regard to dire situations, and how visual and narrative techniques can work with the player’s desire to move ahead and explore.
- Framing Dystopia | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Douglas Fry discusses art works placed into the contexts of videogame worlds.
- Nier, Part 2 | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent K. reflects on the narrative structure of a game about a hopeless cause.
“This isn’t like Drakengard 3, where the story loops back on itself but ultimately advances forward. Instead, Nier resembles a continual journey to and from Plato’s allegorical cave: having emerged from a world of shadow and into the light, the player treks back to the cave once again. While they’ve gained knowledge, they now find themselves powerless to do anything with it.”
Comical little wiggle-boys
This eclectic selection of pieces explores different ways that institutional and design tactics are opening up modes of resistance in the world of games.
- Game Developers Speak Up in the Face of Obamacare Repeal – Waypoint
Joseph Knoop interviews game developers and community figures about the impact of ACA repeal on creative output.
- The Game Developers Who Are Also Witches
Chris Priestman investigates the use of magickal imagery and practice among queer game developers.
There’s one more article I want to show you here, but it comes with a content warning for discussion of genitals that might not be suitable for minors or in the workplace.
A force for greatness
Further building on political design practices in games, these pieces address how emotive uses of style can be important interventions in a broader context.
- ‘Rust Belt Gothic’: lead writer Scott Benson unpacks the art that inspired Night in the Woods | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
This interview with Scott Benson brings out some of the linkages between art style and political relevance.
- Slouching toward relevant video games | GamesIndustry.biz
Brie Code argues that care is a more meaningful response to shock and awe, and a more worthwhile response to nourish in game design.
- GDC Showed Me That 2017 Is the Year of Cuteness – Waypoint
Kate Gray’s overview of GDC this year highlights the ascendancy of the twee, squee, and kawaii.
“Cuteness is a force for greatness. Cuteness represents so many things that have been undermined and undervalued for so long: femininity, childishness, being ourselves.”
Balloon in stature
Speaking of feelings, these articles all in some ways address how games (or things related to games) can make us feel in ourselves.
- I Took Gamer Drugs For A Week And This Is What They Did To My Body
Maddy Myers demonstrates some alarming dedication to games journalism in this account of trying out two very different legal drugs in search of the ultimate gamer biohack.
- Immersion into LARP – First Person Scholar
Sarah Lynne Bowman applies a multi-factor model of immersion to live-action role-playing games
- Game Cultures of Collecting – The Ontological Geek
Yussef Cole offers a fascinating account of the subjectivity of being (made into) an aficionado.
“The sensation of growth from time spent on that mental treadmill is ultimately illusory; your avatar may balloon in stature, hoard all within reach, but you remain unchanged. In our isolation, the illusion constructed by the virtual, while appealing, offers us a hollow prize.”
Finally, these last two pieces address space in games in very different ways: one much more formalistic, the other as part of an analysis of aesthetics.
- Gamasutra: David Stark’s Blog – Grids in Games: Scale and Shape
David Stark provides a great overview of how games break down space and time into units.
- ‘Quadrilateral Cowboy’ Points to a Different Kind of Intimacy in Games – Waypoint
Bruno Dias discusses the use of space and silence in establishing friendships with non-player characters.
“the big paradox at the center of Quadrilateral Cowboy is that in making its NPCs non-interactive, it allows them to become intimate with the player in a way that other games struggle with.”
- January-February Roundup: Healing | Critical Distance
Mark Filipowich published the latest Blogs of the Round Table roundup this week.
- A mini reading list for International Women’s Day | Critical Distance
I threw together a list of recent writing on women and games.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!