Sundays are for chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool. With writing about video games.
For Eurogamer, Philip Boyes wrote about how ideas surrounding civilisation have shaped gaming. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the argument that games reflect our Western-centric ideas about how society progresses, but it’s a good argument that I’ll share most times I get the opportunity to. Also, I really really really want to play a game set in the world of the Culture or the Hainish Cycle.
There’s an implicit assumption that western modernity is a sort of pinnacle, and that the future will look like us, but more so. True, cyberpunk often nods visually to East Asia, but that’s more of a post-Blade Runner genre production design cliché than an attempt to extrapolate a future based on actual society or culture there. Even then, it’s capitalist, neoliberal Japan which is the main touchstone. This approach to futurism isn’t unique to games, but literary science fiction is starting to do a better job at building futures that extrapolate from other cultures within the modern world.
On Kotaku, Keza McDonald wrote about how God Of War accurately presents the stress of parenthood. The game is the main thing I’ve been playing and thinking about all week, for reasons quite different to Keza’s, but my heart still panged at the moment mentioned below.
On one level God of War is the story of how this relationship is repaired—how, in the course of their shared adventure, Kratos develops from a distant, stern authority figure who cannot even bring himself to lay a hand on his son’s shoulder to comfort him, to some semblance of a good father, someone who has faced his demons and wants to be better for his son. It is touching to see this progress, and despite the outlandish things that happen as the two of them climb and slice and tear their way through Norse mythology, there are parts of this story that are relatable to anyone who’s lived with a father who struggles to express himself, hiding instead behind a cold veneer of authority.
On Waypoint, Dia Lacina also wrote about God of War – although she argues that the game contains a deeply flawed presentation of motherhood. Both Dia and Keza’s pieces make very valid points. The game may be a touching look at fatherhood, but it only contains one female voice. That’s questionable, but then again, I don’t necessarily have a problem with a story being told in which mothers are either absent, or portrayed in a negative light. Hmmm.
Atreus, armed with the skills his mother taught him, must face the dangers of the world. But for that to be possible, her role is to die. In the world created by God of War, sons have to be separated from their mothers to become men. The contribution of men is to perform the final test―the viability of a son in the world. Rearing and nurturing is women’s work, but also letting go. If a mother can perform her role and depart she’s succeeded, and with a little luck her son will pass this fatherly test and become a man.
This is a cracking mechanical tentacle monster.
Chris Bratt has launched his Patreon, called People Make Games. Basically, Here’s A Thing is still a thing. Hurray!
Here’s a thing (not one of Chris Bratt’s): a couple of weeks ago someone in the comments linked to Critical Distance, a website dedicated to the same thing as this column. Which makes it an excellent place to check for stuff I can put here, but doing that without saying anything feels incredibly cheeky. I mean, including the pieces below that I found through Zoyander Street’s collecting still feels cheeky, but they’re good and I think you should read them so…thanks Zoyander! Sorry Zoyander!
Brendan Keogh wrote about how the expectations that game development students have when they enter the industry often don’t square with reality. It’s required reading for anyone in that position, and highly recommended for anyone who wants to know just how much work goes into the games they enjoy.
Not only is it invisible, it’s often actively rendered invisible. Large commercial games invest a lot of money in hiding the work that goes into videogames in a number of ways. Firstly, they do this by prioritising frameless and frictionless ‘photorealistic’ game experiences that, as close as possible, feel like full worlds to inhabit. They hide their artifice, ironically, behind a massive amount of labour and, in doing so, make it difficult for a layperson to understand just how much work it took to create that world.
Jesse Mason blogged about how every aspect of Magic the Gathering is shaped by capitalism. I know next to nothing about Magic, other than that it’s a black hole that’ll likely suck in all my money if go near it. I’m really hoping Valve manage to pull off the model they’re going for with Artifact, and that becomes the new standard in the same way that Netrunner’s expansion pack buying ‘LCG’ model did – which still seems too expensive to me!
Anyone that plays constructed is required to intimately know the finance of Magic. It’s impossible to ignore unless you’re so new to the game that you just play with cards you’ve opened from packs and got from friends, or so Montgomery Burns-style rich that you see absolutely no difference between a $15 draft and a $3000 deck. No one gets to just play Magic, if you want to play Constructed. You have to buy or trade for cards, and that means giving up some (large) amount of either your own money, or the cards you own already. Before anyone can be an expert in playing any deck, they have to be an expert on the availability of those cards, the price of the cards that they already own in order to acquire it, and the price of every other deck in the format, in case one of those other decks is more affordable.
Doshmanziari went and found the real-world architecture that inspired the buildings in Dark Souls.
Music this week is The Game by the Levellers, which is a fantastic song with such an appropriate name that I was saving it for a special occasion. Oh well.