Sundays are for starting violin lessons. Seriously. You should all be very glad you don’t live near me. Here’s the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For Vice, Cameron Kunzelman took a look at a book where an academic tries to figure out what indie games are. In this confusing and ever-changing world, it is easy to forget that indie games are the ones about geese.
Juul calls attention to the fact that our very notion of indie is at play with a thousand other factors, and the end output is that our concept of indie is as much a product of the industry looking to categorize things as it is something that developers or players are claiming as a description. The digital object that is the game isn’t indie. The story of the game and the way we understand it is “indie.” It’s a context. It’s a narrative.
For Gamasutra, Pixelles wrote about their research into the top 7 reasons women quit game development. Pixelles are “a volunteer-run nonprofit aiming to help more women make games, and improve game culture.” This is good work.
Most people need to see someone like them succeed in order to believe it’s possible for themselves within an organization. An absence of role models is one of the top indicators of an otherwise-invisible glass ceiling. Therefore, you need to hire or retain a woman at the senior/management level, to hope to keep many women long-term.
If your women keep leaving as juniors or mid-level devs, this can trap your culture into a bitter cycle, requiring high investment in hiring women at the highest levels of power to change culture from the top down.
For PCGamer, Fraser Brown wrote up a nice little history of RTSesses, and stared melancholically into the genre’s future.
These games pushed technology forward and experimented with everything from subversive narratives to asymmetric factions. More experiments would follow, like Total Annihilation’s unbelievable scale and Age of Empire’s mashup of Civilization and real-time strategy. Sure, there were plenty of stinkers, but they were accompanied by a bewildering number of novel, clever games—there was no end in sight. Except, there was, and it was closer than anyone expected.
Kotaku printed an exerpt of sociologist David Sudnow’s 1983 book about Breakout, Pilgrim In The Microworld. Reading someone from the 80’s describe Breakout in intricate detail is strangely arresting. We take so much for granted. Like mice.
Line up your extended finger with the lower left corner of the TV screen a comfortable six feet away. Now track back and forth several times in line the bottom border and project a movement of that breadth onto an imagined inch and a half diameter spool in your hands. That’s how knob and paddle are geared, a natural correspondence of scale between the body’s motions, the equipment, and the environs preserved in the interface. There’s that world space over there, this one over here, and we traverse the wired gap with motions that make us nonetheless feel in a balanced extending touch with things.
Also on Kotaku, Heather Alexandra aired her grievances with the way games media keeps cycling through the same conversations. I’ve definitely linked to a lot of similar arguments in the two years I’ve spent tending to the Papers, though there’s been plenty of “X game gets accessibility/representation right” stuff too.
But another reason these debates repeat and persist is because video games is a space where a warped notion of “debate” is sacrosanct. The current idea of a civil debate leaves a lot of room for bad-faith actors — people who ask for data, get it, and then shift the goalposts. Fueled by online debate culture and toothless journalistic “bothsidesism,” folks took the bait because they thought they could convince these people. Turns out that was impossible.
For Polygon, Patricia Hernandez wrote about Life Is Strange 2’s flawed but vital presentation of racism. It reminded me of that time I was in the same room as a man who whooped when Ubisoft boasted about Watch Dogs 3 not having any politics, and why putting this stuff in front of people can be so important.
Life is Strange 2 may be clumsy sometimes, in that way video games often are, but it’s also doing me the courtesy of reflecting that what I know is true is in fact real. Sometimes, that’s enough.
As Joshua Rivera noted last year at Kotaku, there’s a Latinx void at the heart of video games. This is probably the most visible video game tackling the immigration crisis in the U.S. head on, rather than abstracting it to some mealy-mouthed nonsense involving elves, orcs, or aliens who are likely just as bad as their oppressors somehow.
The people who make People Make Games spoke to Blitzchung, the Hearthstone player banned by Blizzard last year.
Google have built a 3D model of a fruit fly brain and it is beautiful.
Just like this snazzy door world.
Music this week is Midnight Sun by Calexico and Iron & Wine.