Let's get this out of the way:
The gang at Critical-Distance ran across
a long-form blog post lamenting
the lack of writing and thinking in the gap between academic critical theory of games and consumer-oriented and hype-filled popular reviews. If you're at this site, or at C-D
, you're probably aware that there are plenty of folks talking and writing in that space. You probably also remember that you stumbled into these discussions half-accidentally. Feel free to file a formal complaint with our non-existent marketing department, but in the meantime, we here at the VGHVI are doing what we can to make intellectual and academic games writing easier to find. It's a big part of why I'm here.
A conversation at Critical Distance sprung up from a brief piece
about Ian Schreiber's recent talk at GDX, titled “Duchamp, Pollock, Rohrer: Games as the Next Avant-Garde.” The take-away: Aspiring critical games theorists need to have a reasonable understanding of the theory and criticism of visual art, film, and literature.
Speaking of such specializations, you might be interested to read up on HASTAC III
, a conference at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign that took place last weekend. You can see a video of the Grand Text Auto exhibit
at the U of I, and read up on individual presentations at the HASTAC website
, which I'll be sure to pay closer attention to in the future.
Steve Gaynor wrote about spatial organization and map design
, and was picked up
. Rob Hale
and Critical Distance
talked about how Damnation
seeks to subvert the flat-plane bias of game spaces.
There are a lot of game interviews and retrospectives that I don’t include in my weekly notes, but I think that Fallout
is important enough as a game and as a series that it’s worth adding a few to my word count. Good Old Games (a cheap, DRM-free way to get older PC titles), celebrated “Fallout Week” with a focus on Fallout, Fallout 2,
and Fallout Tactics
, including interviews on the first two.
The Games/Art Horse is Dead, Long Live the Horse!
Last week saw a continuation
of the debate
, a proposal
of how to make games more artistically mature by focusing on the games being made
instead of the title of "Art," and discussion as to why the label is important
in terms of player expectation. Perhaps the issue is with the "game" moniker
In the quest for more artistic games and more meaningful game mechanics, Words On Play discusses the long-term symbolism and meaning
in Go, and how that meaning may not be inherent to the mechanics and pieces so much as it is the product of the human mind's inherent drive to find meaning
in the simple and seemingly arbitrary
. That's not unheard of for folks who are used to quantifying
every aspect of virtual lives, though.
A lot of people are concerned with labels, taxonomies
and hierarchies in games. There are enough hybrids out there that I'm not sure it's wise to try and simplify games into categories and sub-categories, but maybe someone out there likes systems and order more than I do.
More on artistic maturity in specific instances:
Violence and Fallujah:
Leigh Alexander talked a little more
about Six Days in Fallujah
, but her post mostly focused on an article
from the 18th, but worth reading, concerning game violence: If games are to mature as a medium, the "elephant in the room" of violence and killing as a default mechanic has to be confronted.
Wrapping up RE5:
Leigh Alexander is still a a little uncomfortable
with the imagery of Resident Evil 5.
Ben Abraham explains that Capcom's failures to understand the historicity of their images was just a small part of Capcom's series of failures to think
critically of their own work. It's possible that these problems and previous complaints about the ambiguity of quicktime events (and the need to trigger such events) is the result of a larger failure of empathy
So let's look at the player's perspective for a moment. Our own Roger Travis looked at Plato's cave allegory
as a condemnation of Homeric mimesis
--which in turn applies to gamer immersion and player-character identification, Jesper Juul's paper on failure
as a meaningful mechanic has taken audio form, and Will Wright talks
in a video interview about "massively single-player" games, immersion, player volition, and how “toys” are better tools of player expression. Meanwhile, Leigh Alexander feels ambivalent during a debate
between Warren Spector and Frank Lantz as to whether the player or designer should be in control of the story.
marked the 10th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. That might mean more for me than for others, having attended a similar school and spending the rest of my high school under the umbrage of suspicion and fear. Either way, the backlash against games after Columbine had a massive impact on games culture. The What They Play podcast
interviewed a survivor and former friend of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Game Culture talked to
another survivor who's gone on to become a filmmaker, with a new title about the aftermath of a school shooting.
Those who haven't encountered the arthouse title Super Columbine Massacre RPG!
may want to at least take a look at the controversial and emotionally taxing game. I warn you that you may want time afterward to come to terms with yourself via whatever personal spiritual and emotional traditions you follow.
Adventure, Text and Platform:
Since we're looking back, I'll point out that there were game genres in the '90s that were decidedly less gory than first-person shooters. Last week saw a certain nostalgia
over less popular forms, discussion as to what happened
to text adventures, and how games like Hotel Dusk
keep adventure gaming fresh
. There's also a nice look at the photography mechanic
in Beyond Good and Evil
, a game that helped define the action-adventure hybrid as a genre.
As many art games have shown, platforming is still a popular genre. Last week we learned that many of the design nuances of Super Mario Bros. continue to impress
decades later, and Critical Distance
has compiled as much critical writing on Braid
as they could find. Dan Bruno thinks Braid
plays more like a book
, though, due to the rather constrictive nature of the puzzles.
I remember back when Sierra adventure titles started allowing multiple solutions to problems with titles such as King's Quest V
hit the blogosphere last week, offering the ability to play
some earlier Sierra adventure titles
while also seeing other players'
avatars inside your game. It's a surreal experience, and a decent commentary on the "alone in the crowd" feeling of solo-play in MMOs.
Mark your calendars:
The Games For Health Conference
is coming up in June.
You should know that Stephen Toltilo has quit his job
at MTV Multiplayer
for a job at Kotaku
, where he'll start in May.
I apologize if these are getting too long for you to handle. Please let me know if there's anything you'd like to see more or less of, or if you think I need to add even more feeds to my massive RSS subscription list. I welcome encouragement in my addiction!