I read very few articles this past week, but I played a few more games than usual. Actually, I played so many indie games I burnt out a little, so I loaded up Spec Ops: the Line and have been giving that a whirl for the greater part of this week. It’s pretty good. And since I can’t divorce it in my mind from “that game that has to do with Brendan Keogh”, around the house I’ve started to call it Brendan Keogh’s Game. So congrats on a pretty good game, Brendan.
Anyway, on to the stuff I want to share with you.
As usual, links and articles that contain minor spoilers (minor narrative beats or gameplay segments, etc.) will be marked with a *. Those with major spoilers (major plot twists or story beats) will be marked with a **.
On The Psychology of Video Games, Jamie Madigan wrote about a bunch of studies that suggest players seek idealization from their avatars and are likewise influenced by their avatar’s behaviour. I’m not so sure how well that applies to me – I wouldn’t think so, since in the last game I played with customizable characters, Dark Souls, I made a pale blue-skinned weirdo named AQUALAD. Then again, maybe it does.
Maria Konnikova wrote about the concept of “flow” for The New Yorker and on the effects of first person shooters on their players, largely from a neurological and psychological point of view. I’d caution that some of the scientific facts in that article may be total trash, although I’m not in a place just now to substantiate that concern as anything more than just an impression.
Cara Ellison wrote about how journalism and criticism inherently carry what some pejoratively might call an agenda, by virtue of intentionality and relationships.
On Pop Matters, Jorge Albor described design asymmetry in various multiplayer games, most centrally Android Netrunner.
For The Guardian, Keith Stuart interviewed Charlie Brooker about his documentary, How Video Games Changed The World. I haven’t yet seen the documentary myself, so that’s a thing on the books.
Here’s something from Brendan Vance examining Super Mario Bros. through consideration of the fundamentals of platforming design.
Tracey Lien put together this huge feature for Polygon, using a historic lens focusing on the games industry to describe the boy’s club reputation it earned for itself. I strongly disagree with the piece’s conclusion that sufficient diversity already thrives within the medium, as it accepts the consensus that mobile/casual games are for women and console/PC games are for men and interprets this as favourable for diverse representation. It presents this dichotomy as evidence that the boy’s club mentality is a ghost waiting to fade, when in fact all it does is further shutter men and women into separate boxes – these are our videogames, these are your videogames. That’s not a dichotomy I’m striving for, it’s not a status quo I’m happy with, and I’d rather not make to protect it as some sort of totem of feminist triumph. Otherwise, as an account of the history of the industry with regard to gender roles, the article is worth a read.
Back to Pop Matters, Mark Filipowich pitches in to help demystify the principle of interactivity in game design.
Let’s start off with a nice wee one: the very odd Night Rider Turbo. I’m not entirely sure what is supposed to happen or how exactly to control it, but the sheer chaotic glee it allowed me to feel means I have to share it with you. It says there it’s made by Sos Sosowski.
The Very Organised Thief by arcane.artist enacts wondrously on a simple, interesting concept. What’s here is very serviceable as a design demo for a bigger expanded title. As it is, it’s compelling enough for me to have replayed it until I marked everything on my list. Certainly worth a look.
Continuing the theme of organization, Murder at Masquerade Manor by skysthelimit invites you to a dinner party and asks you to puzzle out the murderer’s identity. I absolutely adore murder mysteries so this game wins me on premise alone. For this reason, and for my own stubbornness, I had at it until I finally won a round – I found it to be quite hard to figure out the murderer, but eventually settled into a strategy of organization to whittle down the list of suspects. Identifying what’s useful information and planning your next interview to favour your own safety are what it’s all about. Let’s pretend the left-leaning camera represents your increasing paranoia.
Yay, Bubsy’s back! And this time he’s got his very own art game! Arcane Kids’ Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective is one after my own heart – it’s so blithe and irreverent, I love it. With its circular pretensions and utter disdain for itself, truly we have finally achieved videogames’ Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Lastly, here is a game called Moirai, made by HyperNexus. There’s a lot for me to say about this one – I love its use of control scheme, how it uses gamey elements to manipulate the way you perceive, the discordant atmosphere by the off visuals and music, the way it smashes the concept of “empathy games” to smithereens. I’ll talk about that last on at length another day. This is a game that makes me want to get others to play it. It is one of the best games I have played this year. Do check it out.