loved game

Sunday Funday 9.28

Welcome to the first installment of Sunday Funday, Videodame’s curated collection of short, free-to-play games you can play right in your browser.

This week’s collection leans towards the drier side of fun—Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest kicked off my search for other games that similarly explored uncharted territory, at least in the world of gaming. While some may question whether games about depression, Alzheimer’s, or failed relationships and the like can really be all that “fun,” I was impressed how all five of these games succeed at placing the player in the shoes of someone experiencing these various facets of life, and while I didn’t recognize myself in all of them, I recognized others or pieces of myself.

“Playing Depression Quest isn’t ‘fun,’ like watching Schindler’s List isn’t ‘enjoyable.’ They’re important for different reasons, and it’s okay if they exist for the small audiences who will appreciate them as they are.”—Patrick Klepek, Giant Bomb [Depression Quest]

“Alzheimer’s disease, and any form of dementia, can place a great burden on those who love and care for someone suffering from it. The brief, poignant flash game Alz tries to tell the other side of the struggle: what it’s like to go about the day when your memory is so displaced and filled with gaps.”—Owen S. Good, Polygon [ALZ]

“The writing strikes straight at the bittersweetness of moving house, the way we struggle to define ourselves through possessions and despite them. Hamilton has a deft way of plucking these moments out of the mundane, such as the way your pile of things ‘looks small for something that weighs two years,’ or the recognizable twinge of meaningless memory captured by a phrase like ‘the jar that once held sugar.'”—Aaron Reed, Tilt at Windmills [Detritus]

“As we replay adolescence in pixels, Freeman’s games challenge us to revisit the moments that create social identity: sexual discovery in How Do You Do It; shopping for clothes in Ladylike; hording snacks in My House My Rules; pillow talk in Perishable.”—Jason Bell, Full Stop [Ladylike]

Loved, in all its simplicity, expresses a strange kind of love, and effectively communicates the feelings of mirth one can experience when pleasing that special someone in their life, even if it means engaging in destructive behaviors in the process.”—Brittany Vincent, G4 [Loved]

If you’d like to play some games that skew more towards fun for fun’s sake (and fair enough!), try Monday Funday, the post that spawned this (hopefully) bimonthly feature.

There’s like, swords and guns and shit in those.

metroid other m

Quiet Objections:
On Other M & Anxiety

I have an anxiety disorder. Social anxiety has always been a difficult thing for me, particularly so in 2011. I was a first-semester freshman in college. I lived in a large dormitory filled with blank walls and empty hallways. My roommate was loud, stayed out late, and we didn’t exactly get along. I regularly felt alone and scared, and like I had to stay reserved and not show anyone who I really was. A few months in, I picked up the game Metroid: Other M in a bargain bin for $8 (only a year after its release), fully aware of its lousy reputation and morbidly curious. What I found was not only an enjoyable action game, but a story that spoke to me in exactly the way I needed.

Samus Aran was a character I grew up with in games like Metroid Fusion, Prime 1-3, and the Smash Bros. games. I already had a good deal of attachment to her, but she was always so blank and emotionless; I liked her a lot, but I never truly related with her. Here, this would change.

Her stoicism isn’t sacrificed in Other M, as Samus is still presented as a strong character both in and out of gameplay. Even if you’ve never played a Metroid game, the opening cutscene immediately shows that she is powerful and capable. We learn that action, athleticism and professionalism are a major part of her identity, and these are present in key story moments for the duration of the game. When taking down the purple monster at the beginning and other threats later on, she singlehandedly makes the Galactic Federation soldiers look incompetent.

Perhaps this is why her moments of weakness in Other M stood out to many players. The way I see it, her weakness does not detract from her character, it adds to it by fleshing her out and making her more human. For a company like Nintendo where protagonists are usually either simply happy-go-lucky (Mario, Kirby) or a blank-slate for the player (Zelda, Pokemon), this was a major risk. It may not have paid off for other people, but it certainly did for me.

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strong-women-in-gaming

Party Chat 8.27

The past couple of weeks, y’all.

I usually do Party Chats (irregularly) on Fridays but so much has gone down between games journalists and gamers the past two weeks that I wanted to make a post rounding up important links, if only as an explanation as to why I have been so, so unmotivated to write about games.

And man am I unmotivated to write about games. I haven’t even really played any games lately, to be honest. I’m no games journalist—I’m far too invested in writing about my feels to be comfortable labeling myself as anything more than a games writer (and does that sound like I write the scripts for games, or what? Games memoirist, maybe? PS. why is it always a plural “games” with this stuff?)—but a whole bunch of my IRL and internet friends are journalists, and in spite of it all, other people sometimes think of me as one. But I’m a gamer too, and through all of this I’m finding it hard to understand how and why those two things are somehow mutually exclusive.

First off, an orchestrated campaign of harassment was launched against an indie game developer, instigated by accusations of moral failings in their private life. Lots of people decried a lack of journalistic integrity as justification for misogynistic attacks against said developer, a tactic that did nothing more for me than make me think, huh, if it’s about journalistic integrity, why aren’t the attackers going after the journalists in order to shame and terrorize them into being better, moral people? Oh right, because that’s actually not what’s going on here at all. Paul Tassi wrote a good summation of what went down over at Forbes. [Forbes]

Next, god help us all, a new episode of Feminist Frequency’s “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” was released, and with it, more hounds. [Feminist Frequency]

Almost simultaneously, another game developer was personally targeted by the anonymous hordes, leading to some calling for a virtual ceasefire. [Badass Digest]

After the Feminist Frequency episode went live, more threats were leveled and the rift between gaming press and “gamers” (in quotes because unfortunately the term is beginning to mean something other than “people who play games”) grew even wider. [Twitter (Trigger Warning)]

Throughout everything, a real discussion about journalistic ethics was taking place, including but not limited to whether or not writers for gaming outlets should be supporting game devs on crowd-funding sites such as Patreon. Stephen Totilo, EIC of Kotaku, released a statement on that front. [Kotaku]

Honestly, I still don’t know how I feel about Kotaku’s new policy. I don’t disagree in theory, but there’s something in it that smacks of pandering to the very crowd who thinks it’s cool to publicly threaten the well-being of a fellow human being while willfully obfuscating that harassment within a call for “ethics.” Kotaku’s own Kirk Hamilton offered another perspective: [TwitLonger]

One thing I do know is harassing people via rape threats and publicly releasing their personal information is bullshit, and I don’t care how many instances of journalistic ethics were compromised. The fact that much of this is being done in the name of keeping gaming “pure” is atrocious and frankly, makes me want to give up the hobby entirely.

Especially when “pure” seems to mean “free of women or anyone else who challenges the status quo.”

8.28.14: Updated to include this piece on “Gamers” by Leigh Alexander, who puts things into perspective better than I could. [Gamasutra]

ellie-joel-last-of-us

Save the Girl,
Save the World

The damsel in distress plot is one of the oldest and longest running in video game history. The player takes control of a male avatar and goes on a journey to save a princess, saving the kingdom along the way. It’s a story that reduces women to objects—prizes for the male hero and trophies for the player. It has been decades since we first stepped into the shoes of Mario or Link in order to save Princess Peach or Princess Zelda, and all the countless games that followed of rescuing damsels have led us to one place: The Last of Us.

On the surface, The Last of Us seems familiar, especially on the heels of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Bioshock Infinite, both games that feature a father-daughter spin on the damsel concept, rather than a romantic one. We play (for the most part) as Joel, a bitter, jaded old man who survived the apocalypse, and outlived his daughter. Then we meet Ellie, a fourteen-year-old girl who is immune to the infection that destroyed human civilization as we know it. Joel has to get Ellie across the country to the last science lab in North America capable of studying her immunity, and hopefully, using it to make a cure.

We protect Ellie for the same reasons that we rescue Zelda—saving the girl means saving the world. But over the year that they spend together, and the hundreds of miles traveled, Joel and the player both come to love Ellie. We want to protect her because in the absolutely hellish craphole that the world becomes after the Cordyceps infection, Ellie still has hope. She is hope, in both a metaphorical and literal sense.

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