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The Sunday Papers

Don't call it a comeback. We do this every week.

Sundays are for work, for wishing it would stop getting dark at 2pm, and for panic-buying gifts for family and friends while wondering if you couldn’t just give them links to the week’s best game writing instead.

  • Paul Mason at the Guardian posits a game based on creating radical economies, imagining how players might exist outside of the economic mechanics of EVE Online, Skyrim, or a whole new game: “What I am proposing is something different. What if, just as in an Occupy camp, where they try to “live despite capitalism”, you could live “despite” the property forms and voracious market economics of a computer game?” A great article and design experiment. Also noteworthy: it’s about games, but it’s not in the Guardian’s games section.
  • Simon Parkin argues in the New Statesman that the term “gamer” needs to die, as its tribalism excludes some and marginalises others. “Players and commentators talk of the ‘gaming community’, as if the cross-cultural, socially diverse mass of humans who play video games is somehow uniform in gender, race, age and class. The idiocy of the term is only too clear when applied to other media such as literature (the ‘reading community’?), music (the ‘listening community’?) or film (the ‘observing community’?).”
  • I agree with Simon on one level, in that the cliques, stereotypes and stigma of gaming need to die. But “gamer” is still an occasionally useful word in conversation; the diversification of gamers that has led to the term becoming less useful and ambiguous is countered by using more specific versions of the term (“hardcore gamer”, “casual gamer”, “puzzle gamer”, “competitive gamer”); and other mediums do have equivalent words to denote a particularly passionate strata of consumer (“moviegoer” for film, “bookworm” or “booklover” for reading, etc). The persistence of the word “gamer” and its very specific stereotype – the late-teens/early-twenties man – is also probably because it’s a marketing group. Everyone watches films, but we can sell popcorn to “moviegoers”. Similarly, everyone plays games, but it’s “gamers” to whom companies can market energy drinks, crisps and microwaveable burgers. I understand that language and politics are linked, but I suppose I don’t think it’s possible to stamp out this specific word, and would rather people directly challenged the negative behaviours that the word has come to connote.

  • This man shouldn’t be needed, but I’m glad that he exists. Wired write about Peter “Durante” Thoman, a modder who fixes crappy console-to-PC ports. Wherever there’s a game locked at 720p, he’ll be there, as he was with Dark Souls and Deadly Premonition. “Still, it makes you wonder why companies would release such slapdash products in the first place. Thoman says that in his opinion, Dark Souls and Deadly Premonition weren’t really broken — they just went from game consoles to the PC without any enhancements. PC games don’t sell very well in Japan, he says, so when it comes time for a Japanese company to port a game to PC, they often underestimate what PC gamers expect in the way of features.”
  • It’s a week for good games writing from the mainstream press. The Boston Globe write about Miguel Sicart and his book ‘Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay’. “Sicart’s primary motivation in writing his book, he explained via e-mail, is “not only that games can be ethically meaningful, but also that game design can systematize that process, so those games can be made, played, and analyzed.” So just as there are now certain best practices for developers creating, say, a first-person shooter, Sicart wants to establish a smarter conversation for developers trying to push the frontiers of what he calls “ethical gaming.”” In the article, Sicart flags Unmanned as a good example, and he’s right about that.
  • On her blog, Polygon’s Emily Gera writes The Games Industry Is Just A Spectator Sport. I’m a sucker for the wise words of Vince McMahon, and this draws smart parallels between wrestling and the so-called console wars: “In the words of the venerable McMahon, the “crossover of whether [something is] entertainment or news is the biggest crock of B.S. in television today, because it’s all entertainment.” For McMahon, the face behind pro-wrestling behemoth World Wrestling Entertainment, that statement was central to the industry he helped build in the early ‘80s. His vision of the WWE was driven by a stoic sort of principle. “We [in the WWE] look at everything as an entertainment vehicle,” he said in a 2001 interview with Playboy. “Nothing is sacred.””
  • Cassandra Khaw spends her time between Bargain Buckets writing fine words across the rest of the internet. This week she took Wildstar to task for its female character design. Specifically, that the game’s enforcement of traditional ideals of female beauty limit the expressive and roleplaying potential of the characters. “Even ignoring the suspiciously human voluptuousness, the female Granoks make for, well, unconvincing Granoks. Their racial lore dictates that Granoks are boisterous, beer-swilling battle-addicts. They fight. They fall down. They get up again and charge into the new fray, exulting in the mad panic of their enemies. It’s fantastic imagery that is telegraphed perfectly in the gargantuan build of the males and the fact they have customization options that allow you to rather literally look like you have had your face smashed in.” This is pretty much the perfect example of why this stuff is alienating.
  • Also linked within, this similarly excellent piece – “Wildstar, Character Design, Female Objectification, Sexual Dimorphism and Biology in Video Games” – which takes a less experiential approach to the same frustrations. “Why does this species—a species composed of rock—have sexual dimorphism even more stark than mountain gorillas? What purpose does this serve? Come to think of it—why do the women have plant hair? It appears to be growing out of their skulls—so it must be parasitic. But this is a sentient species in a futuristic setting, meaning that if it were a non-beneficial parasite, they’d have removed them. So are Granok-plants an example of resource-resource mutualistic symbiosis? Wouldn’t the males then also cultivate plant-hair? Why is it gender-segregated?”
  • Over on GameChurch, April-Lyn Caouette writes about Sex as Play in Luxuria Superbia. I think the article is better than the game, so worth a read.
  • The tastiest looking food in videogames.
  • Music this week is Peggy Lee asking what we’ve all thought, and then to pick you up again afterwards, Craig reminded me of this. Don’t call it a comeback.

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Graham Smith

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