This week’s roundup is overshadowed by questions about what happens when we die, as well as what kind of work we do during our short time here. Take a moment for some quiet reflection as we look at some of the most remarkable writing on games published around the web this week.
The Senselessness of the World
Games can actively alter the way that players view things, by manipulating context and posing questions. These two pieces describe different ways of seeing that are mediated not just by the screen, but by interactive facets of user experience design.
- Spectating Fortnite: How Battle Royale really comes to life once you die • Eurogamer.net
Christian Donlan relates what he has learned by becoming a spectator to others’ success to what Jeffrey Manchester learned by becoming a spectator to others’ routines, as told in A Burglar’s Guide to the City.
- “Finding the Shape in Sylvio 2’s Static,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter praises this ghost hunting game for its effective use of the relatively abstract forms we are accustomed to in low-fi games.
“Hearing legible sentences amidst deserts of tape noise isn’t difficult when the mind has already accepted that an oily clump of fairly abstract geometry is meant to represent rocks or a flattened computer rectangle stands in for a household door.”
Crunch has been a major topic of discussion recently, and this week is no exception, as two writers address labor issues in fiction and in industry.
- tacoma | malvasia bianca
David Carlton highlights some of the aspects of Tacoma that make it remarkable for its time, and not merely a logical next entry in the walking sim genre.
- Playing for Real: Sweatin’ Pixels – Haywire Magazine
Jesse Porch lauds the value of Jason Schreier’s book at a time when players seem to have little insight into how their games get made, but casts doubt on whether it offer sufficient critique of the crunch practices that abound in its stories.
“Naughty Dog’s development of Uncharted 4, in particular, describes in agonizing detail just how demanding the studio’s acceptance of “crunch culture” was on its employees. Worse, it makes it clear that crunch has been internalized within development culture.”
A Mortician’s Tale
A small labor game about embalming dead bodies has attracted a great deal of attention.
- ‘A Mortician’s Tale’ Review: This Might Be the First Game to Really Understand Death | WIRED
Julie Muncy links this simulator game to the death positive movement.
- A Game That Finds Comfort in the Banality of Death – Waypoint
Kate Gray focuses on the game’s dialogue, inspired by the dissonance between triviality and grief.
- In A Mortician’s Tale, death doesn’t have to be a downer – Polygon
Allegra Frank draws attention to the perfunctory endings that human lives receive, made more apparent when role-playing as someone spending time preparing bodies for burial or cremation.
It read to me as though, now that these lives had ended, I was expected to just … move onto the next one. That’s not what death was supposed to feel like, I thought; death was supposed to be some eternal sorrow.”
Spiritual and ethical systems presented by games are examined in these two pieces, which consider world design as well as the rules that govern a player’s in-game destiny.
- You are Everything: Playing God in a Strange Universe
Harrison Preusse is enthused by the proliferation of game worlds that seem to exist on their own, without a creator god, signalling possibilities for transcendent experiences.
- Values and Consequences in Serious Games – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Alex Layne suggests that ambiguous or complex systems of morality might be more fun to play with than simple right-wrong divisions.
“Whereas the consequences for immoral behavior is usually subtle in AAA or COTS games, consequences in serious games are swift and unmerciful. […] Serious games don’t play with a variety of consequences, because they’re too focused on condemning this behavior or encouraging that action.”
This week, writing on who is included and who is abused by games culture involves issues both symbolic and concrete, covering not only the stories games tell but also the financial cost extracted from vulnerable players.
- What the UK can learn from the Far East’s battle with loot boxes • Eurogamer.net
Vic Hood examines examples of loot box regulation, from Japan to the Isle of Man.
- Dungeons & Dragons Stumbles With Its Revision Of The Game’s Major Black Culture | Kotaku (Content warning: descriptions of racist stereotyping and imagery)
Cecilia D’Anastasio interviews a number of people of colour who run tabletop gaming blogs, gathering a high level of detail on the disappointing cliches and objectification employed by Wizards of the Coast.
- Episode 50 – PostMesmeric – Critical Distance
Eric Swain brought us a new podcast this week – be sure to check it out and rate it on iTunes!
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!