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Brendan Keogh | Keywords in Play, Episode 31

…studies researcher at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Previously a game critic and blogger which you can probably find by searching my name on Critical Distance and finding various old bad takes from a decade ago. Yeah and I research the game industry, game making from I guess a labour and practice kind of point of view, it’s how I’m mostly saying it these days. And before that did a lot of textual analysis, did a lot of game criticism, lot of work about how we talk about game aesthetics and all of that. Yeah, that’s me.

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No Culture? Gameplay Aesthetes

…something of the process of creation, and over time develop individual aesthetics, ideas by which they judge the merits, or lack thereof, of a particular product.

As critics, we can’t help but applaud this sort of sentiment – and while Costikiyan says “We do, at least, have something of a videogame culture” which is aware of it’s history, it’s hits and misses, it’s important contributors, he decries the lack of ‘nuance’ in games discussion:

…gamers passionately debate the merits of the games they play. And yet, those discussions are curiously uncultured, too; the average gamer’s ignorance…

Duncan Fyfe & Hit Self-Destruct, Part 1

…the money; Woodward instead writes a post briefly announcing the existence of the money.” The point nails home because of the inherent problem with game journalism: the news itself is typically a bit dull and juvenile. The need for depth, Fyfe comments, is to try to not present video game culture so simplistically in the first place.

Being a video game critic is extremely difficult work. You’ve got to be able to competently address the game design and technology while still appreciating the art and aesthetics of the overall experience. As more and more blogs about video games hit…

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September 13th

…game (or games) as “Punk Rock”. Rolling Stone did a piece that basically conflated Braid’s ambiguity with being “Punk”. As Roger Travis put it in a tweet “Oh Look, dude’s mystifying-dude must be punk”. Continuing the trend, Rock Paper Shotgun’s Kieron Gillen described Indie Game studio Zombie Cow’s Lo-Fi adventure games as “punk rock aesthetics”. I guess I’m mostly pointing out this trend because Matthew Gallant wrote a piece on ‘Punk and Indie Games’ back in May that pulled together a lot of different ideas about punk and games to make some good observations. Always with the self-referencing, am I.

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February 27th

…other bombastic, macho, over the top shooters.

Meanwhile, G. Christopher Williams again looks at Dead Space 2 and how he misses the details of the game, because of the game itself. His wife, as a spectator, sees the disturbing imagery all too well.

For some performances to work, for some aesthetics to be appreciated, the player does need to shift into the role of spectator, at times. Maybe I should know that I’m playing a game full of copious amounts of monstrous vaginas. Maybe that actually means something or maybe it would mean something to my…

April 17th

…typically subjected to indiscriminate surveillance without checks and balances.

If not everybody signs up for the glass society, those who remain behind walls will hold all of our lives hostage. I hope DTIP scared you as much as it scared me.

Moving on, Mitu Khandaker’s new GameSetWatch column “Gambrian Explosion” continues this week with a piece called “Games, Randomness, and the Problem with Being Human”. And over at the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog, Jorge Albor treats us to a musing on the semiotics and relational aesthetics of Brenda Brathwaite’s Train and One Falls for Each of Us,…

June 19th

…Radiator writes the third instalment in his impressive series on the immersive simulation genre, and it’s called ‘Dark Past (part 3): Letting Go of the Immersive Sim, of flu viruses, ghosting, and why we’re all Kate Winslets at heart.’ I’m really loving the trend to produce large, drawn out arcs of critical writing about gaming, and I hope Yang and others can pick up the ball and run with it.

We value the aesthetics that systems produce (a mission) but not the systems themselves (the traveling in-between missions), aside from the occasional YouTube video of weird stuff —

July 24th

…film and game industries, or they are writing out of ignorance of the stream of innovative titles produced by the indie gaming scene. It is not my intention to fall into either of these traps. Instead, I propose to tackle the question by outlining what gives a film an ‘art house’ rather than a ‘mainstream’ aesthetic and then consider how these aesthetics might present themselves in the context of a video game.

So! Read it? Now take your new-found knowledge and apply it to Jason Nelson’s latest game Scrape Scraperteeth commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern…

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August 7th

…Gamasutra, which is essential reading for anyone interested in how designers, critics and players talk about games. It takes aim at a particular type of discussion of games that, to Bogost, feels proscriptive and is couched in problematic language surrounding normalcy and aberrance. It’s called ‘From Aberrance to Aesthetics’. Drop what you’re doing and go read it now.

And then when you’ve done that, go read the full comment by Frank Lantz way, way down the bottom of page which is perhaps equally important and timely. Here’s a short, powerful excerpt:

…it is never enough to apply

August 28th

…to conclusions, Williams takes a very thoughtful approach, identifying some real gaps in the argument against ‘it’s just a game’, and drawing on the history of aesthetics and aesthetic philosophy to bridge the gap between pure subjective response and rock-solid facts:

I personally very much dislike the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. What bothers me about the phrase is its implication that recognizing beauty can solely be understood as a result of the perception of a thing and that somehow the object under observation has not in some way had the effect of provoking