Sundays are for unknowingly watering a plastic plant. Before you pour, let's read this week's best writing about games.
Over on The Guardian, Rick Lane looked at Terry Pratchett's relationship with the Thief series, his favourite games, through Pratchett's post on a Usenet newsgroup. Interesting to see how embedded Pratchett was in videogame forums.
There was shared lineage between Thief’s nameless city and Pratchett’s own work in the Discworld novels. Both take popular fantasy tropes and recontextualise them into a more human world, unafraid to explore the weirder edges of fantasy. Thief’s bumbling, grumbling guards share certain traits with Pratchett’s own motley crew of city watchmen. Pratchett was fascinated by Thief’s rich and distinctive atmosphere. “I wonder what the quintessential ‘Thief’ quality is? The sense of ‘being there’? The feeling of free exploration?’” he pondered in 2003. “THE Thief moment was me dreamily roping my way from beam to beam across that big hall in the Bank, while below me the guards patrolled. No other game has offered that, although Deus Ex had its moments.”
For Into The Spine, Emma Kostopolus wrote about the use of puzzles in survival horror. An academic angle that makes you think.
Survival horror allows us to examine the particular relationship between developer and player that takes place in the genre — even though the emotional experience can be thought of as negative, as one has to stand and face the sense of powerlessness and suffering embedded that comes with it, we get positive things out of our successful attempts. But I believe what thinking about puzzles in a horror game can do for us is to get us to consider the authorial intentions of a piece of media, and how those intentions in themselves can have implications for how we experience that media, beyond just how they’re translated into the content itself.
For Eurogamer, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell wrote about playing videogames carefully. A moving piece on playing games for others as a form of care. To entertain and share time with others, without skill being the main attraction.
What if we thought of playing games as a careful act, rather than a skilful one, whether we're playing for others in a professional context, or by ourselves? It's an idea I've tried to put into practice during hands-on events (remember those?) with developers present. When I play an unfinished game with one of its creators watching I want to show them the best side of their own work. I try to frame each scene as it should be framed, and explore at a speed that lets the ambient detail flourish. I try to behave as my character would behave, and give due reverence to incidental dialogue rather than hurrying through to an event trigger. I want to entertain the onlooker, to catch them in their own net, to reassure them that it was all worth it. Look at this amazing thing you've made! See how it sings and dances even in my clumsy fingers. Marvel at the gentler or at least, more coherent and purposeful reality you've hacked and conjured from the random matter of this hurtling, aimless planet. Please don't fixate on the fact that I've missed a cue somewhere and spent 15 minutes trying to open a single door.
For The Guardian, Alison Flood wrote about Mary, Queen of Scots final letter, which was locked using a paper-folding technique. Had no idea paper-folding was a thing and I've decided it's very interesting, cheers.
Earlier this year, they managed to read an unopened letter written in 1697 without breaking its seal, using X-rays to see inside the document slice by slice, and create a 3D image. Now, as part of research that has seen them look at 250,000 letters, they have discovered the technique of the “spiral lock”, which was used by Elizabeth I as well as her executed cousin Mary, along with politicians, ambassadors and a correspondent of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster.
That's me. Have a solid Sunday everyone!