There’s this lady I see selling magazines at the bottom of the escalator whenever I go to ride the metro. I have no idea if she enjoys her work, but she’s there every day with a desperate smile on her face, pleasantly trying to hawk a copy while people ignore her on their way through transit. I’m admittedly one of those people.
This week’s week’s post comes to you in humble Twine form.
Too many sensations, scandals, faux-pas and turpitudes have cropped up since I wrote my last piece. So, instead of writing a response or analysis, I decided to do something a little more fun and a little more cathartic. Below are 16 headlines describing vague—but hopefully familiar enough—incidents that reveal something of a pattern in the general comportment of the multifaceted turd zirconia that is videogame culture. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s something to play around with.
“All art is quite useless” is a reasonably well-known quote by Oscar Wilde from the preface of his book, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Besides Wilde’s plea for the exemption of art from Victorian moral judgment, he does lay down a few truths that at the time would have been outrageous and even today are likely to either be so misunderstood that they’re twisted out of shape or treated like some vague sacrilege. The first is that art, in its uselessness, exists for its own sake. Its utilitarian aspects, if it has any, aren’t generally considered what make the piece beautiful or meaningful. Even for the craftsperson enchanted by the quality and workmanship of a very nice table, they derive pure joy from those qualities in and of themselves, because they’re able to appreciate them as virtues. The fact that you can rest a bowl of cereal on that table doesn’t bring a tear to anyone’s eye.
I don’t tend to write reviews much anymore, but I’m going to go ahead and write a review for Flappy Bird. The sidescrolling “endless runner” was taken down from the App Store recently by its creator, Dong Nguyen, after facing a hurricane of obloquy and suspicion from press and audience alike. I’m doing this because it’s a good mobile game and I think it deserves a few more fair shakes before it gets lost in the mildewy shroud of this subculture’s collective memory.
Today’s the nominal, totally-not-strict deadline for Candy Jam, part online game jam, part act of civil disobedience. The jam, organized by game developers Caribou and UUAV, was put together in protest of the legalistic shenanigans of developer King, and has culminated in a delicious pile of satire and jocularity.
Hello, dear readers. This week’s post is a little bit different, because it’s coming to you in magical ☁SoUnDcLoUd☁ form. This is a first, very haphazard and casual attempt at a podcast hosted by critic and game designer Zolani Stewart and me. By haphazard, I mean we did this at 3 a.m. on my couch while my cat ran up and down the hallway (you can probably hear her somewhere in the middle). By casual, I mean there’s no real rhyme scheme here.
Zolani and I shoot the shit, using Brendan Keogh’s flagship piece at the new, open-access Journal of Games Criticism as a launchpad to talk about things like kyriarchy within both games academia and the games industry, the role of the critic and the hegemony of discourse within games. We take a structuralist view of the concept of formal purity, which Keogh critiques in his piece as being a dangerous preoccupation of games studies academics. We consider the future of “close readings” and subjective relationships to games, the necessity of outsider voices to the broadening of games discourse, and steps that we can take to prevent the reconstitution of hegemonic power structures in this new age of “cyborgian,” outsider academic game critics and developers.
Killing Floor is one of the most unforgivably ugly games I have ever played. The FPS is about balls-to-the-wall grit and brutality. Best played as a co-op game, Killing Floor is not made for the patient sniper: enemy chokepoints are everywhere, writhing with ghouls and zombies, attacking you and your squad as mercilessly as the map architecture affronts the senses. Everything is overlayed with a grainy filter; set pieces are broken, abandoned and often aflame. Every nook and cranny screams violence, dereliction, and mortal peril.
You start with your default male character, your Man or your Boy, a universal archetype made in your image. It’s something players can relate to. Then you bring in the girl for diversity. You make a female avatar to bring in those women players, or if not, to add a little spicy, probably sexy, variety. But really, she’s not too different, because at the end of the day you’re mostly just slapping a pink bow on your default’s head. Pac-Man comes first, and from him flows Ms. Pac-Man.
Lately the private discussions of many people I respect have become public discourse, and I’m really relieved that this conversation is happening. Progressive and social justice communities, largely but not exclusively in the online sphere, have been plagued by misguided, maybe even exploited, hurt that has been whipped into unfocused rage. People who should be able to find common ground through common goals have been split up into tribes, fault-finding and “callout-culture” have superseded long-term community maintenance strategies, and free and open discussion of all participants has been undermined by the constant and immobilizing threat of recrimination or vilification for little or no fault.
I can’t look at that post without laughing a little. As with most things “core” videogame fans take seriously, Game of the Year lists and the lofty editorial responsibilities that come with them are among those journalistic virtues I, somehow, don’t have the moral fortitude to seriously contemplate. Normally, I chortle. I guffaw.