Category Archives: Review

The Rise of Us

Rise of the Videogame ZinestersI know the last post was a little bit of a downer, but we’re getting to the fun part real soon. I promise.

Just one more maudlin anecdote.

For a while, I didn’t think I could make anything creative. I didn’t have any interest in writing about love, death, or any cliché. I wasn’t even sure if I was smart enough to comment on media like Ian Bogost does. Unfortunately, this was not a standard I came up with on my own. It was reinforced in school activities and everyday speech. When I was in tenth grade, my literature teacher told his students that no one in high school should write poetry because we, as teenagers, know nothing. Opinions like it came from multiple sources, so I never created; I never even tried.

That’s where Anna Anthropy comes in. Her book Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form is what every gamer needs to hear. Whether you like it or not, all gamers are partakers in this art form. Video games are the only medium that requires participation. Anthropy takes that a step further to say that being a participant alone isn’t enough to make the gaming experience great. She has a unique and personal perspective throughout her book. It’s written in the first person, and many of her examples are of games where she knows the creators and can somewhat speak on their behalf. Although she claims that this book is not a how-to guide for game development, she does offer many useful tools and advice for creating your first game.

Continue reading The Rise of Us

How to Do Things
With Videogames

How to do Things with VideogamesLet’s be real: 2014 was a year full of suck for games. Between lackluster games and #gamergate, the gaming community took quite a hit. As a female gamer, this year was the first time I had logged off of a multiplayer experience in fear of being bullied beyond repair. In the end, this event only seemed to reaffirm the misogynistic conception of gamers in the public eye.

I can’t say I learned much from these social atrocities, so it’s time to take a different approach. This series of Player 2 posts will consist of two books every gamer should read to help the community. This week, we’ll briefly discuss How to Do Things with Videogames by Ian Bogost.

This book is a collection of short essays about a range of topics. Bogost depicts why video games matter in today’s media-driven culture. Each topic is explored in plain language to be accessible for every reader while introducing important new media scholars like Marshall McLuhan. It’s shallow enough for the everyman but specific enough for a game scholar to go to the appendix and research each topic further. Each essay is full of applicable, real (game) world examples that act as flint for deeper discussions of the medium. The gameography alone is expansive enough to traverse a diverse amount of gaming content. Even if you’re a well-versed gamer, these topics will give you a definitive vocabulary to explain things you already know while teaching you about other concepts you had no idea existed. (For me, it was the content management behind those creepy Burger King Xbox 360 games a few years back.) Bogost covers a range of topics from games-as-art to Easter eggs to political use of the medium. For now and for the New Year, I would like to talk about one chapter in particular: Reverence.

Continue reading How to Do Things
With Videogames

Jarring Free

I think I can reveal without too much fear of spoilers that early in the first episode of The Walking Dead Season 2, Clementine finds herself alone and without supplies in an unfamiliar forest. When she stumbles onto a seemingly abandoned campsite, she goes on a desperate search for any sort of food. In a moment of frustration verging on despair, Clem says to herself, “I hate scavengers. They take everything.”

In a game where deciding what to say is a big part of the gameplay, this is a striking statement. It’s not uncommon for a player character in an adventure game to talk to herself, but most often, such statements function as reminders or directions. “I should keep moving.” “The scroll said that the artifact would be in the library.” “Only three more goblins to kill.” That is, the “self” that the player character is addressing is the player.

Clementine’s outburst, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any useful gameplay information. It’s a character moment, revealing both Clementine’s current emotional state, and recalling her discomfort back in Season 1 when Lee and the other survivors looted a seemingly abandoned car. That car, of course, wasn’t actually abandoned, and it was an action that led to consequences later on for both Lee and Clem. It’s also a statement of tremendous hypocrisy, as Clementine is herself a scavenger. Clem’s expression seems to be treated by the game as an opportunity for the player to identify with Clem, but I actually found it jarring. The two of us, Clem and I, were after all digging through the remains of another group of survivors. Photographs, tattered tents, and a child’s toys, objects of use and affection, nothing left inviolate on the possibility that somewhere there would be something, anything to eat. I didn’t have any illusions about what I was doing, but Clem apparently still did.

Thus, this instant, in which Clementine expresses an identity in conflict with her actions, in an utterance outside of player control, is actually a moment of agency.

Continue reading Jarring Free