Sundays are for doing all the things you've been trying to get done the last three Sundays. Or we could put it off again and spend the day reading about videogames. Choose wisely.
- At Paste, Olivia White writes about "the cloying dominance of the fragile woman archetype", arguing that the narrative surrounding a woman's success is too often pitched in terms of hardships overcome and its supposed rarity. Or at least, that's what I took away. Read it yourself.
- John Harney has been playing Euro Truck Simulator 2, and has reached the end of the world.
- Everyone is talking about The Witness. Simon Parkin interviewed its creator Jonathan Blow, who estols the virtues of spending all your money.
- Johnny Chiodini's Low Batteries series continues, and in episode four looks at anxiety; how games represent it, and which games might help you cope with it. The video is accompanied by a text interview, too.
- I'm told Giant Bomb have started running work from freelance contributors, although I wasn't aware they didn't do that before. Among them this past week was Heather Alexandra's argument that it's okay to feel guilty about your guilty pleasures. I normally don't believe in guilty pleasures, but I know what's meant by its use here.
- They also had Greg Kasavin write about his transition from Gamespot journalist to game developer on projects such as Bastion.
- At Kill Screen, Ed Smith writes about the supposed over-positivity of games criticism. I don't see it, but I'll take the lead in negativity by saying: shut up, Kill Screen.
- Stephen Fry's The Letter is superb.
So here is my issue. Being a female creator today is presented as a universally terrifying, life-ruining, soul-destroying career. With a raised awareness of problems women face comes an identity ascribed to us; that of victim, of “other,” that of A Female Creator, rather than “a creator (who is female).” We are portrayed, by the media and culture that supports us, as anomalies. Strange, brave women who endure terrible hardships, who struggle to succeed in our given career. And the struggle to succeed is key here; we are infrequently portrayed as people who DO succeed. We are portrayed as people who are struggling to against all odds. Odds which, the narrative frequently insinuates, will one day become too much for us.
I haven’t been this interested in a sim, an honest to God use square bracket keys and the quotation mark key regularly sim, in a very long time. I’m not entirely sure if I’ve been this into holding down an arrow key while dotting my hands across a keyboard since Gunship 2000. I cheat, of course. I’m a grown man now and my wife thinks it’s weird enough that I’m driving a truck around a virtual representation of the English midlands. I’m not taking on a Volvo F14’s manual transmission. This actually makes my playing of the game more odd, by virtue of the fact that I have reduced it to controlling a virtual truck through careful use of side mirrors in an attempt to get to an industrial hub in a timely fashion. Sometimes I park the truck so my frequently invisible avatar can get some sleep, once he has rudely snored into my headphones enough. I stop the truck for diesel, and I get on ferries.
Perfectionism has come at a great and quantifiable cost. The money is—for now, at least—all gone. The Witness cost close to six million dollars, vastly overshooting Blow’s original budget of eight hundred thousand dollars. When Braid’s profits ran out, he borrowed funds from a friend. “Most people would have felt the need to finish the game much earlier than I did,” he said. “It’s absurd how much I spent, really. But I was willing to put it all in the poker pot and make the thing I wanted to make, without interference, without someone telling me I needed to make everything purple, or something else.” Few of indie gaming’s other success stories have been willing to put everything back into their next project, he said pointedly. “Or maybe some of those games just aren’t out yet.”
Eurogamer: What was your intention in creating Raik? Did you set out to educate people about what it's like to suffer a panic attack, was it designed to help suffers?
I think anxiety and panic are really individual experiences, and that they can manifest themselves in different people in very different ways. So I wasn't setting out to educate a general audience about a generalised experience of an anxiety, but to tell my own truth of it as accurately as possible: Raik is fiction, but all the thoughts and experiences the anxious character has are things I've thought and felt. But writing about your experience can be a good way for readers to understand their own -- and it's something Twine has been really good for in the last few years, with many writers sharing many different experiences of mental health. I've learned a lot about myself from reading other people's twines. I'm generally a bit mistrustful of folk who set out to educate and help others about mental health: too often that tends towards enforcing normative behaviours, rather than meeting people where they're at. But meeting other sufferers in solidarity, that's something I really believe in.
The Metal Gear series is my favorite franchise in AAA gaming. I rank Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty as number two on my vaguely arbitrary list of best games ever made. (For the record, number one is Planescape: Torment). Last year, knowing that The Phantom Pain was on the way, I made a vow to myself. I wasn’t going to talk about the game or the series in any serious capacity. Discussion around the game was getting sidetracked by talk of Kojima as auteur and his readily apparent inability to address certain subject matter maturely. I thought it was distracting. People were ignoring the content of the games in favor of arguments about the man. It was getting to the point that I didn’t ever really want to admit that I liked Metal Gear. I felt wrong for liking it. I felt guilty.
Bastion was our one shot. I felt like it was my one shot. I grew up playing everything. People ask me what's my all-time favorite game I tell them Ultima V and Street Fighter II. Those games couldn't be more different from each other but each in their own right, they're these worlds. I wanted to make these great big little self-contained gameworlds like those. And Bastion was really the first time I had a chance to be a part of something like that, to create characters and stories, build levels, script encounters. See ideas go from just ideas to becoming real things, which players could then interact with and experience, and with any luck extract from them those kinds of little moments that we remember from our favorite games. Games that spark your imagination like the games you played as a kid. That idea resonated a lot with me and all of us. I'll always feel indebted to my friends and colleagues for believing that I had it in me to do this kind of work, because there's just no way anybody else was going to let me do that job, if not them.
But whatever “it” is, games are miles off. In fact, there is no “it”—there is no objective finishing line over which games have crossed, or ever can cross. My problem with gaming positivity—this constant insinuation either tacit or direct that games are “better” than they once were—is that it assumes an end state, some kind of final evolutionary stage whereby artists and critics can rest easy.
Music this week is Heartsrevolution's Kishi Kaisei, which is a big pink birthday cake of a dance track.
You have chosen… unwisely. See you next week!