This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Johnny Kilhefner on topics ranging from race and representation in games to what video games can still learn from their board game and tabletop cousins.
Over at Video Game Heart, Grayson Davis doesn't find bad design in videogames to be all that bad:
Bad design isn’t always always without value. On the contrary, Mario Maker is an amazing tool. Much like listening to someone describe their dreams, the Mario Maker experience is a fragmented mess [...] So video game producers and art directors put them in their creations to draw on that shorthand.
Meanwhile, in Gamasutra's blogs, Tim Conkling makes a salient point of the perception of design:
The notion that design is intellectually relevant is uncontroversial. Nobody would ever seriously write off, for example, an Eames chair or a Gehry building; whether these objects fit some random definition of “art” is inconsequential to their perceived cultural value. But outside the industry, I don’t think that games are really understood as designed objects.
Kill Screen's Jake Muncy reviews Undertale and confronts a moral dissonance between playing the game in a way that feels true to his own interpretation, finding his morality at the whims of the game’s mechanics itself. “Every boss fight was not a question of, 'Do I want to kill this individual?'" he said. "It was a question of, 'Can I solve this puzzle? Do I have the resources to survive long enough to deliver mercy before Game Over?'"
At The Guardian, Quintin Smith believes videogames ought to borrow more from board games, while back on Gamasutra's blogs Filip Wiltgren ponders the differences between tabletop games and videogames.
Naomi Alderman talks about the importance of cultural education in videogames, and why it’s not cool to claim “intellectual superiority” for knowing nothing about video games:
But more aggravating even than this are the forums, summits, breakout sessions and seminars on 'digital literature' run by exceedingly well-meaning arts people who can talk for hours about what the future might be for storytelling in this new technological age – whether we might produce hyperlinked or interactive or multi-stranded novels and poems -- without apparently noticing that video games exist. And they don’t just exist! They’re the most lucrative, fastest-growing medium of our age.
As for cultural appreciation, Jess Joho notes how videogames are keeping the symphony orchestra from obsolescence, with The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses attracting twice the amount of concert-goers than the average classical symphony event.
Elsewhere, former developer turned pub owner Jon Blyth compares the games industry to the alcohol business:
Then there are the people who say Her Story, Gone Home and so on aren't "games". We've got that with Craft Beer - eye-rolling at the fizzy upstart, tutting at the genre-stretching novelty of a Chocolate Aniseed IPA, and wincing as the high price of craft beer collides hard with the preconception of craft brewers as privileged hipsters. Conservatism is ugly, whatever the size of the C. Let's just all get drunk on whatever we enjoy and make out in the toilets.
Sadly, Jessica Curry, Director and Composer of The Chinese Room, explains why she is leaving the studio behind, due to a combination of a degenerative disease and toxicity in the games industry:
On a personal level I look back at my huge contribution to the games that we’ve made and I have had to watch Dan get the credit time and time again. I’ve had journalists assuming I’m Dan’s PA, I have been referenced as “Dan Pinchbeck’s wife” in articles, publishers on first meeting have automatically assumed that my producer is my boss just because he’s a man, one magazine would only feature Dan as Studio Head and wouldn’t include me. When Dan has said “Jess is the brains of the operation” people have knowingly chuckled and cooed that it’s nice of a husband to be so kind about his wife. I don’t have enough paper to write down all of the indignities that I’ve faced.
From the Expert Blogs of Gamasutra, Shaun Leach discusses trust, accountability and the concept of creating a ”strong ownership model." Creators need platforms to get their games into the hands of players, but as David Gallant is experiencing with his creation I Get This Call Every Day, that is difficult to do when the marketplace your game is on is in the midst of a collapse:
Unlike almost every other storefront I have used thus far, Desura decided to completely anonymize customer data ... If I had access to those addresses, I could very easily migrate those customers over to Humble or itch.io and ensure that they retain access to their purchases and future updates. But I don't.
Finally, a couple pieces tackling a very serious subject: racism. Go Make Me a Sandwich's wundergeek recently posted about “cringe-inducingly racist” games that actually find funding on Kickstarter. It’s not pretty. In a similar vein, the good folks at Not Your Mama's Gamer have recently launched the first video in their series on race and representation: The Invisibility Blues.
Until We Meet Again