Shining a light on media can help reveal the dark truths lurking beneath the surface. This week in videogame blogging, critics discuss power fantasies, prisons, and psychoses.

Persona 5

We start with some writing on the problems with the latest game in Atlus’s teen psychology adventures.

Let me see!

The lizard man

In these two pieces, critics shine a light on the disturbed subconscious underpinnings of patriarchy.

“the aliens in Duke 3D, in the fictional world of the game, are really just thinly veiled stand-ins for human men. Men with power and authority. […] They’re both the lizard man in power at the center of every anarchic, system-toppling fantasy and the scary foreigner at the end of the bullet in every xenophobic, reactionary fantasy. Men as aliens are the unknown, detestable creature that sits in the way of realizing dreams and desires of a new world; they must be destroyed at all costs.”

A brief glimpse

Waypoint has been particularly strong on narrative analysis this week, looking at how changes to pacing can make all the difference to storytelling.

“Instead of simply showing me a brief glimpse of the world after my hero has saved it, let me wander through it—or even just a part of it! Let me meet the old fish seller again, or check in on that bickering couple. Let me call up an old friend and get a drink, or catch up with that party member I lost at the end of Act 2. You’re so, so, so good at climaxes, video games. But I’d love to see a little more denouement.”

Unsustainably idle

The impact of different degrees of interactivity on a game’s message and a player’s sense of satisfaction was examined this week with regard to satire, documentary, and sports.

“Maybe this kind of minimalist game design, the kind that cuts through the violent power fantasies, that turns away from pedestaling things I feel like I need in life, is strong satire. […] At a certain point, when there’s a mass of people, when they’re united in making a new kind of whole, the game stops working. Even if unintentionally so, I think it’s the only idle game that ends. Almost like it’s saying this behavior is not sustainable.    “

Life without prisons

Finally, in this section writers consider violence and oppression in relation to gaming as an activity and as a representative medium.

Let me see!

“My intention is not to castigate the developers of Prison Architect. In many ways, the game’s chosen theme and aesthetic simply makes explicit the fantasy of regimentation, management, and control more subtly implied in other games like Dwarf Fortress. My intention, rather, is to highlight the overwhelming dominance of the reformist ideology underlying Prison Architect and other media like it. It cannot be overstated how difficult it is for people, Americans especially, to imagine life without prisons.”



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