This Week We Read: 12/10/14

Each week, I ask a group of peers, colleagues and strangers to share with you some articles they read over the previous seven days. The articles they find noteworthy may directly or indirectly relate to games, they might be a day old or a year old, they can be highly academic or make for nice light reading – the only criteria for contributors is that they found their articles to be relevant and noteworthy.

Stephen Beirne, Ireland – game critic; normallyrascal.com; @stbeirne

Emily Short’s accessible and eloquent review of The Ascent of the Gothic Tower is a sharp thematic analysis supported by a rundown of developer Ryan Veeder’s authorial voice—the effect is an incisive narrative critique of The Ascent contextualized within Veeder’s work as a whole.

Katherine Cross penned this robust piece on the political underpinnings of Gamergate as a movement filled with internal contradiction, insofar as it lives and breathes by ghastly ideological puritanism while modelling itself on the same caricature of the ‘Social Justice Warrior’ it claims to oppose.

Elsewhere, Jaya Saxena has this wonderful breakdown of dynamics of sociability in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. More specifically, Saxena illustrates how the game’s energy mechanics can be a useful guide to concepts of introversion and extroversion in the psychology of Carl Jung.

Jackson Tyler, UK – podcast co-host and writer. Follow him on twitter at @Tylea002 or find his work at abnormalmapping.com

A well written, exasperated article by Caroline Petit largely devoid of criticism as the glaring absurdities and problems within Shadow of Mordor (and other such games of its ilk) are so obvious, persistent and saddening that critique is self evident.

Lex Tyler wrote a piece from all the way back in April, which I stumbled upon earlier in the week, simultaneously a damning indictment of the state of the portrayal of queer relationships in games and a love letter to interpretation, on how important and hopeful it is that queer players are able to see themselves in the spaces the designers don’t fill in.

I love this short Amy Dentata article because it’s an encapsulation of a momentary thought, all questions and no answers, of someone going through the process of putting out a game. The ‘hype machine’ is inherently dehumanising, so writing like this about the affect of making yourself a cog within it is vital.

Ethan Gach, USA – currently blogging at Gaming Vulture and elsewhere. See him anticipate the post-human future with gusto on Twitter at @ethangach

As more videogame developers leap over one another to include multiplayer modes in all of their creations, no matter the genre of fundamental structure of the game itself, what saddens me isn’t that multiplayer driven games like Destiny or Dota 2 will become more prevalent but that, in time, they will come to monopolize the scene altogether. Michael Thomsen’s analysis of the nature of online play helps explain why.

Oniadh writes a somewhat esoteric but extremely thorough post that contrasts how the Fallout and Tomb Raider series approached norms of sexuality in games. It’s worthwhile reading for anyone interested in how games can play off of and subvert existing normative expectations in videogames that are otherwise constrained by the expectations which accompany larger development budgets.

With the release of another Borderlands just around the corner, it’s worth reconsidering a number of the controversial character portrayals from the second game. Earlier last month, Todd Harper expanded at length on how the game tries (and sometimes fails) to eschew conventional, idealize representations in the context of over the top comedy.

Zoya Street, UK – freelance historian and journalist; zoyastreet.com; @rupazero

Early this week I was reading some fan analyses of Star Trek‘s utopian image of the future. Is a future with no money, where people simply pursue interesting activities in order to better themselves and others, necessarily communist or socialist? I started at this wiki page, and then Raph Koster forwarded me to these two more detailed articles on the subject: The Economics of Star Trek and That Star Trek economy thing.

Speaking of less utopian worlds, Rob Fahey (full disclosure: a colleague of mine at Gamesbrief, though we didn’t collude in this article at all) wrote an excellent piece in which he points out that corruption is a flow of power or money that cannot come from people are largely powerless and impoverished, such as indie developers and games critics.

This interview with Marcus Novak in 1995 gives us a way into thinking about digital media in general and cyberspace in particular as “liquid architectures” – fluid spaces that shift according to their use. The idea had been introduced to me in a conversation with friends about the current state of our online spaces, and I’ve been really excited to explore the idea further.

I also finally started doing some course reading for my PhD this week, and the introduction to quantitative research has ended up being much more closely connected to games than I had expected. The introduction to Chance: An Informal Guide to Probability, Risk and Statistics by Brian Everitt acts as a great overview of the shared history of games and fortune telling, both being numerical ways that world cultures have managed uncertainty with dice and cards. For a few months now I’ve been thinking about how games are closely connected with fortune telling, and it was great to see that so clearly in this book.

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