This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Maps to Pigeon Murder Mysteries
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics ranging from the ubiquity of maps in modern games to the secret storyline of Hatoful Boyfriend.
As an example, IGN, Gamespot, Polygon and Kotaku all wrote dozens, if not hundreds of articles on every possible angle of Shadow of Mordor when it came out. One of those was the very silly 'kiss vs kill' article about the tutorial [...] which is no big deal. But in this case, [certain readers] were led to think this was the norm i that most games writing was actually analysis like this.
This is not at all the case, of course. Most of the articles talked about the sick graphics, the incredible killer combos, the brutal death scenes, where to find all the easter eggs and paid lip service to the pretty-cool-but-really-unnecessary Nemesis system. Just like all the old magazines did when they were printed on tree pulp. These articles represent 95% of games media coverage, talking directly to gamers in their own language, and they rarely raise an eyebrow. That tiny 5% though, the people who decide to try to write about games with unusual perspectives are the ones who cause outrage.
Pairs Well With
Consider the following a red wine to go with the above's butternut squash ravioli.
At The Atlantic, Laine Nooney pens what is, at first blush, a history of computer games' first published work of erotica (and predecessor to Leisure Suit Larry). But it is more accurately a rumination on a period in the tech industry's all-too-recent past where computers were not yet colonized as the domain of heterosexual men. (Content warning: images may not be considered safe for your workplace or your young relative reading over your shoulder.)
The letters [objecting to the adult ad] in Softalk, in some backwards way, show that the world of computing was once more diverse than we've ever imagined. Women were teaching computer literacy classes in the interstate outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. Men were defending an ideology of computers as "sexless tools." Softporn wasn't the distillation of computing's misogynist kernel. In 1981 the microcomputer and its allied industries were not already destined to become a space where women are violently harassed for discussing inequity, or simply presumed to have no native interest in technology. Its future was not yet determined, and need not have played out the way it did.
In some sense, Softporn is least interesting as a game, and most interesting as a piece of social theater. While Softporn seemingly affirms every long-suffering trope gaming has to offer -- its latent misogyny, its middling cultural stakes, its limp internal humor -- it was also developed under shifting social and spatial constraints within an emerging populist computer culture. Softporn flexed a predictable, uninspired muscle against disorienting technological and social circumstances that we long ago forgot were ever disorienting.
And to All a Good Night
While this marks our final regular weekly roundup for the month, you are encouraged to still submit your TWIVGB recommendations by email and Twitter! Normal roundups will resume the second weekend of January.
If you want to submit your links to our This Year in Videogame Blogging mega-roundup, remember that we are accepting these only by email. Go here to learn more. The deadline is December 24th!
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