A hostile and insular following
First, I’m very pleased to have been able to read four fascinating pieces of writing about criticism itself; from advice on writing, to a proposed framework for thinking critically about games.
- The Unofficial Prima Strategy Guide to Submitting to ZEAL
j bearhat gives some fantastic advice for critical writing about games from a queer perspective.
- Gamasutra: Thomas Grip’s Blog – The SSM Framework of Game Design
Thomas Grip adapts MDA to propose a game design framework that takes on board different kinds of work that go into game development.
- literacy in small terms | vextro
leeroy lewin argues that to understand the coherence of a game as an expressive work, you must have a solid grounding in art and history.
- Videogames, hip-hop, and the value of saying yes | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Zach Newcastle argues that structure in art is made to be broken, but beseiged art forms can become overly attached to it.
Fans of both hip-hop and videogames were challenged to prove their hobby’s cultural legitimacy. This situation created a hostile and insular following. Today, this attitude shows up whenever someone mentions that every hip-hop song should prioritize skilled rhyming, or that games should have explicit win states. It’s functionally the same defense mechanism. [zam.com]
The lingering shadows
Next, two pieces of writing evaluate how a game portrays cause-and-effect in human society – one of the games in question being the Great British Bakeoff TV show.
- No Contest — Real Life
Britney Summit-Gil describes how the framing of a game show lends itself to different narratives about how human society functions.
- Future Unfolding review | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Eron Rauch waxes lyrical about the aesthetic joys of this tribute to early 1990s adventure games.
Despite occasional New Age banalities, and its densely lethal and repetitiously ramping late-game challenges, Future Unfolding is an immensely ambitious game that makes an eloquent argument for the relationship between that anxious feeling of freedom in the early days of adventure videogaming and the lingering shadows of surrealist art. [zam.com]
Industry as a hyperreality
Also addressing beliefs about how society works are these two articles, which examine how narrative relates to questions about life, death, and performance.
- Gamasutra: Barisbi Alborov’s Blog – Illusion of choice is better than choice: choices and illusions as narrative mechanics
Barisbi Alborov argues that the reason choice is such a powerful expressive tool is because we are all afraid of our inevitable deaths.
- Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Part 1 | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent Kinian recognises that Tokyo Mirage Sessions has been under-explored by games critics, and delves into a critique of how it portrays the systems in which people live.
the game presents the entertainment industry as a hyperreality; one that not only blends together fantasy and reality, and not only encourages us to do so, but actively closes out any semblance of another reality to establish its claim to the real. For example, why does it never occur to the characters to involve the police in their investigation, even when such help would prove useful? Because Sessions would like us to believe the world outside the entertainment industry doesn’t exist. [gameexhibition.wordpress.com]
Open up the play space
These two pieces look at the moments leading up to death, and what players may choose to do after their resurrection.
- Why PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ Violence is Important – Writing on Games – YouTube (Video with subtitles)
Hamish Black argues that Battlegrounds makes violence terrifying again, with dynamics at play that encourage passivity and fear of loss.
- Why Hitman (2016) Works | Brendan Keogh
Brendan Keogh argues that Hitman uses some fairly well-established but under-appreciated design tropes to make best use of repetition.
Hitman uses achievement points in this way: to open up the pla[y] space. To encourage you to return to an environment and figure out what else it can do. [brkeogh.com]
The mimic AI
Continuing the theme of fear, two critics address objects-as-people in Prey.
- “Prey Uses People as Items,” by Ed Smith – Bullet Points Monthly
Last week I featured an article about how mimics in Prey make an argument about the nature of perception. Ed Smith argues that other game items actually undermine this message.
- Radiator Blog: From modders to mimics: a people’s history of the “prop hunt” genre
Robert Yang contextualises Prey’s mimics in a genre of mod in which players appear as ordinary objects.
Prey’s mimic certainly continues that tradition, sometimes taking on the guise of valuable item pickups like medkits or weapons, but it also builds on top of that history by incorporating this recent prop hunt tradition. Sometimes the mimic AI will turn into a cardboard box or a chair — in a locker room, it might turn into a nearby towel — or in an office, buckets or mugs or even a “wet floor” sign are all fair game. [blog.radiator.debacle.us]
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!