What can the most recent games learn from their own predecessors? And what kind of futures do games point us toward? Questions of past, present, and future pervade this week’s roundup of the most insightful games blogging.
Three pieces this week offer insights for other games critics, helping us to build our vocabulary and refine our tastes.
- Making Fun, Episode 1 – Paratext | YouTube (video: auto-generated subtitles)
Talen Lee suggests the term “paratext” be used for things that the player brings to a game experience, such as hardware peripherals and narrative interpretation.
- Invisible Walls | Problem Machine
problemmachine reflects on some of the disconnects between game design and real-world social systems.
- Bad Images | Midboss (Em) – Medium
Emilie Reed looks to pattern making for the origins, and fundamental structure, of computing, and suggests that we should look to pattern forms for gaming’s aesthetics.
“If we accept that “gameplay” as an abstraction is made up of loops and repeated parts and this is in part because of how computers work, it’s nonsensical to also ignore the implications this has for everything else about the form.”
Reaching out towards the past
This week, there were two pieces that compared the latest iteration in a series to its first title, finding in the original some design strategies that ought not to have been abandoned.
- Reaching out towards the past in Assassins Creed Origins | Eurogamer.net
Gareth Damian Martin compares the vistas of both the first and the most recent Assassin’s Creed games to the work of 19th century “orientalist” painter David Roberts.
- The New Call Of Duty Could Learn A Thing From The First Call Of Duty | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra argues that the “squad mechanics” of the original Call of Duty were far more impactful than the latest iteration.
“WWII’s squad mechanics end up feeling insufficient when compared to the original game’s unpredictable violence. I might appreciate the spare health pack from time to time, but I never built affection for my squad.”
Three critics this week considered the kinds of future scenarios that have been portrayed in games, with a particular eye toward what sort of stories have been relatively rare.
- Where are all the climate change games? | Transformations Journal
How are videogames contributing to the lack of imagination regarding our possible futures? Darshana Jayemanne and Ben Abraham look for climate fiction.
- Everything Is Dying and It’s All Our Fault | First Person Scholar
Cat Goodfellow adds further texture to how we evaluate climate change narratives, and gives us a survey of necropastoral games.
- The War of the Worlds, as told by videogames | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Matt Suckley’s history of videogame adaptations of War of the Worlds asks how a story so influential is not a more lucrative media franchise.
“[I]s it really such a surprise that a book about human obsolescence and our increasingly half-hearted whimpers of protest doesn’t easily make for a blockbuster videogame – particularly within the more established genres?”
The following two pieces concern racism in gaming; one article looking at ethnic stereotypes in a Nintendo game, the other looking at community building in the face of oppression.
- The Uncomfortable Racial Stereotypes in ARMS and Videogames | Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan summarises the racial stereotyping issues with character design in ARMS, while also highlighting that the pain of these stereotypes is affected by social and geographic context.
- Black Streamers Are Here To Save The Gaming Community | FanBros.com
Andray Domise interviews black gamers who stream on Twitch, noting that their community management practices tend to be more focused on creating a positive culture than the average streamer.
“While the gaming community wrestles with the demons inflicted on its own [members], as well as the toxic barrage of white supremacist ideology that’s infected the global body politic, Black streamers have slowly become the counterculture […]”
Turning to questions of morality, in these two pieces brutal and grotesque violence are placed in the context of the larger, structural violences of two different historical settings.
- The Problem with Nazi Punching in Wolfenstein 2 | Gamechurch
C.T. Casberg compares The New Colossus to Inglorious Basterds, arguing that Tarantino’s violence is more than just cathartic.
- Behold! A Paleblood Sky! | Splendors Vendor
Ashley Yawns explores Victorian morality and notions of beastliness in Bloodborne.
“The Church’s foundational sins, in a wonderful inversion of Lovecraftian and Victorian horror’s basis in fear of the lower classes and foreigners, are the violent suppression and expropriation of the knowledge and bodies of lower class communities.”
This week saw a few pieces addressing spirituality, with musings on death, comfort, and how to develop wisdom.
- What Remains of the Body in A Mortician’s Tale | Pshares.org
Patrick Larose praises Laundrybear’s death-positive game for its portrayal of the uncomfortable disconnects and competing interests that often play out in mourning rites.
- It’s So Beautiful: Music and Spirituality in the Wind Waker | Zeal
Sean Rose tells a story about spiritual comfort and musical enchantment.
- Art Tickles: Heroic Levels of Wisdom | Haywire Magazine
Taylor Hidalgo reflects on wisdom and failure in life and in games.
“In practice, every Game Over is a sort of unmade reality, one that erases the mistakes from ever happening except in the player’s memory, and future efforts all benefit from the wisdom gleaned over a hundred now nonexistent failures.”
- November 2017: ‘Collapse’ – Critical Distance
Taylor Hidalgo brings us the call for submissions for our next Blogs of the Round Table.
- October Roundup: ‘Hospitality’ – Critical Distance
Mark Filipowich rounds up the essays submitted for last month’s Blogs of the Round Table.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!