Sundays are for distraction. Here’s the best writing about videogames from the last week.
Nathalie Lawhead blogged about games as found objects and virtual relics. They mostly talk about games that are strange and small, preserved idiosyncratically across human memories and decade-old hard drives. It reads a bit like a very good Have You Played collage, with bonus rumination about the value of small storefronts and personal discovery.
It’s a special experience to “find” something like a game, somewhere in the back corner of some virtual space, and collect it. It’s how we participate in making it our own.
Games that you lose, and then find, is part of the sentimental charm of them as objects.
These things involving you as part of the mystery of their existence adds to the joy of finding them.
Alex Pappademas blogged about the omnipresence of Marvel movies, and their supposed deleterious effects on culture. I mostly disagree, especially in regards to people objecting to Scorsese’s snobbish comments about Marvel movies not counting as real cinema. Yeah, there are a lot of idiots going overboard on the internet, but that is true of literally everything. There’s no shortage of movies that show us complicated dimensions of human feeling, there’s just a lot of daft superhero nonsense around too, and I’m not convinced the preponderance of superhero fantasy creates serious barriers to the creation of more serious films.
Eight years after Avengers, the nerd-cultural takeover of pop culture is complete. Nerds won the war before anyone else realized there was a war on. We don’t yet know what kind of long-term effect the unprecedented dominance of a single pop genre is going to have on moviemaking and moviegoing and life on Earth in general. But we’re starting to see some data on the effect of that dominance on nerds as a cohort and the initial results on how we’re going to govern as the overlords of pop culture are not great.
It’s a bloggy week. Carolyn Petit blogged about what makes criticism valuable, and how a lot of people have become bad at recognising it. I think she’s spot on.
But good criticism does not pull its punches. Good criticism does not actively try to walk some kind of middle road, or to hit the bullseye of collective critical consensus. Good criticism stakes a claim. Even if that claim is that a work is middling, it doesn’t arrive there out of a fear of full-throated recommendation for something that the “average” player may not like, or out of an attempt to predict what others will think. Good criticism knows that it’s the act of clearly offering up one’s own perspective, in all its distinctiveness, that makes criticism valuable.
Trevor Hultner blogged about representations of late stage capitalism in Eliza and Neo Cab, but mainly about driving for LiftShare.
Ultimately you know that this job is as fleeting as any other. You know you’re being exploited by LiftShare, just like the proxies in Eliza; subjected to people at their worst, forced to deal with people’s gross hygiene, inappropriate stories and comments, absurd demands and mercurial tempers. But you’ve also been party to people at their best, their nicest, their most serene. At least you’re not really doing counseling, and people know that. You’re just a taxi service.
And you know what? That’s fine for now.
Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio (soon to be Wired’s Cecilia D’Anastasio) spoke to ex-Razor employees about their terrible CEO. It’s always good to see powerful people being held to account for their abusive behaviour, even if it’s dispiriting to hear about so many instances of it.
In an email exchange, Tan acknowledged that he is “very intense” when “it comes to quality of work,” and especially, he said, when it comes to products’ design and engineering. “If a product does not meet my standards, I may express dissatisfaction, including by raising my voice,” he said, adding that, “There have also been occasions where a prototype has not met my standards, and in a design meeting, I have thrown the prototype to the wall or on the floor.” His reason for this behavior, he says, is “to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the design, engineering or quality of the prototypes.”
For Polygon, Michael California explained how Death Stranding’s reference to asexuality misunderstands what it is. It’s unfortunate that a game fundamentally about connection alienated and spread misinformation about some of its audience.
Asexuality is about connection, not alienation. It shouldn’t be a prop used only to make your fictional world seem a little more dystopian to people who don’t understand what it means to be asexual, nor should it be used in world-building by people who may not understand the misinformation they’re spreading by doing so.
Music this week is Follow Me by James Bryan and Antoine Dufour. (Faldrath – I saw your comment last week, and you’re totally right. Checking for Bandcamp links is a good idea, I’ll do that from now on. These chaps didn’t have one.)