Sundays are for attending music festivals. I’m in a field in Devon, you’re reading the best writing about video games from the past week (or so). [Mondays are for putting missed articles online. –Ed]
On Waypoint, Cameron Kunzelman dedicated his Postscript column to his late college professor, Anya Silver. He makes a poignant case for dealing with sadness by embracing it, for working through melancholy rather than pushing it away.
When I look at a game that’s tragic or grappling with some kind of human horror, it’s hard not to hear Anya Silver talking. I doubt she ever played a game that might show up in this column, of course, being more inclined to other media and more than skeptical of contemporary technology. But when I enter into a game about sadness or about difficult subjects, I go into it with the same wry smile that Silver had on her face when she talked about the truly weird things that Romantic poets or Regency period writers would do when they were sad.
On the Guardian, Alfie Bown argued that the standard form of video games precludes them from being truly progressive. I’m not sure why he doesn’t count the games he cites near the end as fully fledged examples of the progressive games he claims we’re yet to make, but I agree that the goals you work towards in most games re-enforce a conservative status quo. At least to some extent.
In short, progressive content is not enough. Wolfenstein might be about killing Nazis, but it gave birth to the first-person shooter genre, in which players often spray bullets in the service of American foreign policy. Civilization and Tropico might allow identification as a socialist state or egalitarian democracy, but they require adherence to the principles of western capitalist empire-building to succeed on gameplay level. Video games communicate ideology at the level of form, and laying a progressive storyline over the top does not necessarily prevent a game from serving rightwing ideas.
On Kotaku, Kate Gray wrote about how it’s not easy to write about funny (but creepy) sex games. More specifically, it’s not easy to write seriously about the issues they raise without being targeted by internet idiots.
But there is a complicated conversation here to have about whether or not games affect the way people behave, and whether or not it’s harmful to show negative stereotypes of women in games, but the last time I tried that, I had a bunch of men on the internet attack me for those views, so perhaps we’ll save that for another day. Generally, I’ve found that writing light-hearted or humorously about these issues results in less harassment, but it also feels like I’m hiding my true feelings behind a veil of jokes. Yes, I don’t like being mobbed by people who feel wronged if I so much as suggest that bikini armor is ridiculous, but I’m also a journalist, so I like to be able to have and express my own opinions.
On Unwinnable, Steven Thornton dove into the world of video game Easter eggs and asked their hiders about why they planted them. Go for the Easter egg origin story, keep reading for the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend references in Homeland.
Projects are big, and the world is big, and there’s a reassurance to leaving behind definitive evidence that you touched the walls of a place and wrote your name on it. It doesn’t really matter who (if anyone) will find your message in a bottle – it’s a warm thought in your pocket. It exists because of you, reaching out to touch other people. As many – if not all – of these examples show, creators acting on that desire only enriches the games they are making.
Matteo Bittanti wrote about an exhibition by Lu Yang, which revolves around deeply strange video-game inspired artworks. Bittanti’s writing leans towards the obtusely academic, but I’m linking it here because everyone should take a look at the pelvis chariot in the second video.
Capturing a breadth of influences from hip hop to Goa trance, punk, gothic, and glam rock street styles, gaming, anime, and the practice of Otaku, Lu Yang’s mesmerizing, multisensory environments reflect the dynamic amorphism of today’s globalized cultural climate and the semi-porous understandings we use to define the current historical moment of China and beyond.
On Eurogamer, Christian Donlan compared Dead Cells to a really neat pen he’s been using.
Stepping into Dead Cells for the first time I found a great and boundless and entirely misplaced confidence. It comes, I think, from the movement, which is precise but swift: you can move so quickly, and yet you can stop exactly where you mean to. And combat: Snicker-snack! The blades igniting the air with bright sparks, so swift, so brisk, so much a case of exactly what you intended to happen when you pressed the button.
I enjoyed the second episode of the rebooted Daft Souls podcast, with Matt Lees, Chris Bratt and the Guardian’s Keza MacDonald. They end with a lengthy chat about how to interview people, which was admittedly especially interesting to me as someone who does that.
I’m at the Levellers’ festival, Beautiful Days, so the music this week has to be this.