This Week I Read – On racism, violence, and gamer

Quite an active week for articles so I’ll get right to it. This week saw discussion on the value of the terms ‘gamer and ‘gaming community’, discussions about violence and purpose, institutionalized racism, and a fair bit on BioShock Infinite.

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 **.

Leigh Alexander interviewed Merritt Kopas for Gamasutra* (small spoiler for GTAV) on the purpose of violence in videogames.

Amanda Lange continued the theme of game violence over on Tap Repeatedly,* discussing the purpose of shooting in BioShock Infinite, tying it in to game literacy and accessibility.

On Geek Empire, Liza Daly* reflected on BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, and The Last of Us in relation to the question, “What do I want out of videogames?”

Way back in May on The Brog, Isaiah T. Taylor* shared his own opinions on BioShock Infinite‘s one-dimensional personality, including its pretence of a narrative on racism.

Which brings us nicely to Sidney Fussell, writing for Salon, where he addressed the racism systemic in the medium as an effect of that of the culture and industry, and how to overcome it.

Making the rounds this week was Simon Parkin’s piece for The New Statesman on the terms ‘gamer’ and ‘gaming community’ and why he thinks we would do well to drop them from our vocabulary.

Over on her own site, Mary Hamilton offered a defence of ‘gamer’ as a term of self-identity.

Brendan Keogh shared a blog post in response to both, focussing on the term not as a self-identifier but as a signifier informed by broader culture. On the point Keogh makes about male being the assumption, I’d like to draw in the now-faded identifier of ‘girl-gamer’ since that was expressly in reaction to the exclusionary connotations embedded within ‘gamer.’ It’s great that now we can reference a variety of studies to show that a significant portion of people who enjoy games are women, but it also makes me a little bit sad that we would even need a near 1:1 split of women to men to fuel putting a stop to ‘gamer’ as a term of exclusion. Although ‘girl-gamer’ has fallen out of fashion, ‘gamer’ is still a term implying legitimization or delegitimization of character.

And on Gameranx, perhaps implicitly related to this discussion, Seb Wuepper argued that gaming culture is nothing more than a marketing construct. Each of these articles on the subject of ‘gamer’ and ‘gaming community/culture’ is well worth your attention. And if you’re interested, I weighted in with some of my thoughts on ‘gamer’, culture and accessibility here.

Mattie Brice talked about the use of labels inherent in identity politics as something that she feels can be dehumanizing, and her frustration at how intersectionality is sometimes warped to justify Oppression Olympics.

On Indie Statik, Chris Priestman cautioned against procedurally generated indie games on the basis that more does not mean better.

From earlier in the month, Cara Ellison wrote on Unwinnable about the loneliness of adventure games. I’ll be linking you shortly to a great little adventure game that really carries through on this sentiment.

And again on Unwinnable, but this time from last March, Ellison talked about the social and psychological connotations of a gendered AI.

I’d also like to share this wee post I put up near the end of last week. It’s about aboutness, as in intentionality, that the need to make games about something might perhaps misconstrue what some are.

Next to last is this write up by Zach A on the process of curating Critical Distance and some of the obstacles he experienced the past few weeks.

Finally, it’s not an article but you might be interested in this event for game critics being organized by Zoya Street.

Games

Only a wee handful of games this week but every one of them is well worth your time for different reasons. First is The Linear RPG by Sophie Houldon. You can use left and right to run across a line, and as you progress right two things happen: you lose health but gain experience (representing an automated battle system), and the crappy story unfolds behind the gameplay. It’s delightfully cynical of jrpgs. But it also says something to me about the relevance of the scale of a game’s systems, because ultimately that can be a relevant factor in a player’s enjoyment – Liza Daly’s piece flashes to mind.

Next up is Mind Game by gert_johnny. No joke, this is what I wanted out of Remember Me. It’s a little difficult to extract memories and I wasn’t able to complete the game but the simple execution of its mechanic makes for some design notes worth considering. Most notably, how to implement telepathy without automating it to ‘does telepathy.’

Lastly is Good Morning, Commander by alllen, which is pretty much Moon: The Game. Be sure to turn down your volume before clicking that link! It doesn’t run too smoothly on my laptop which made it a little bit of a trial to play – hopefully you’ll find it easier to handle. This is the one that stirred me with loneliness, and from that a prevailing sense of dread. I adore that it wasn’t afraid to fill the world with so much empty space, risking boredom, but survived by filling that space with the beating of my heart, my fears, my wandering thoughts.

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