here are some weeks when searching the vast recesses of the internet for good videogames writing feels like wandering around a dusty old library looking at identical bindings, wondering if any of it is even worth your time. Other weeks, like this week, the content and the fresh ideas seem to jump off the page at you, like glossy images in a magazine.
So welcome to Revelations, where we are committed to thinking about videogames and the myriad ways they criss-cross through our lives, as well as lauding the writers and thinkers, those engaged hobbyists and professionals alike, who have committed themselves to tackling the uniqueness of this medium.
We have some good links for you this week.
1. Religion in games is awful.
Not the idea of it, but the execution, argues Jordan Rivas for Nightmare mode. After laying a foundation of the massive influence which religion holds in our present world, he laments the fact that by and large, accurate and worthwhile depictions of religion in games is almost entirely absent, occasionally replaced by “kitschy” depictions of vague religious imagery.
“Christians don’t believe in “a higher power” — they believe in a God with a name: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Yahweh, Jehovah, El Shaddai, El Elohim, Adonai, the Great I AM, Jesus of Nazareth, Emmanuel, the Messiah, the Christ.”
“Some people squirm when they read or hear that. Some Christians squirm at that kind of specificity. It’s not kitschy enough. It doesn’t play to a wide enough demographic, even though the numbers worldwide suggest that it does. There are equivalents to that example in every faith, and that is what we’re discussing — fervent, personal faiths of lots of people.”
2. It’s all connected
Jenn Frank writes about games and life simultaneously and interchangeably. Each of her pieces feel like a lovingly crafted collage where you can see illustrated so clearly that games are not merely an escape from the pain and sometimes joy of this present life, but simply another component of it.
In this, her latest, she weaves through moments that accompanied the passing away of her mother. Videogames are present, but not the focus. Neither is mere life or death the focus; though both make an appearance. The focus is something deeper; more real yet more intangible. Just go read it and you’ll see what I mean.
3. Worshiping our Technology
There’s another smart guy named Ian Bogost. He makes games and often has Some Things To Say about the current state of the videogame industry. Leigh Alexander did a profile on some of his latest ventures for The Creators Project in an article named “Gamer’s Paradise: Worshipping At The iOS Altar“ which could be seen as a sort of counterpart for the first article I linked, as it explores the ways that many people use technology as a replacement for religion.
“Do we go to church because we believe? Or do we go to church in order that we have some structure that demands belief?… Do we buy iPads because they change and improve our lives in positive ways? Or because we need something we can believe improves our lives?”
In this scenario, perhaps the reason religion is not depicted in games with much detail is because most people see them as “either/or”. They do not have interested in both technology and religion at the same time.
4. Crazy ‘Ol Richard
Our own Richard Clark is always saying crazy things on the internet. Something like how videogames enable us to be selfish, which we already are, but they have the potential to do the opposite, if we would only let them. Or something like that. That’s my poor summary. You really need to read his article in its entirety, as it is a compelling and challenging reminder our own personal bent towards selfishness.
5. Games teach us to lie to ourselves
When compiling my top seven links for this week, I didn’t initially realize that two were written by the same man. Nevertheless, Jordan Rivas’ work speaks for itself. At his personal blog he toys with the idea of how games can be a tool that we use to lie to ourselves in order to reinforce our preconceptions about the world.
This is a great companion to Richard’s piece, as Rivas goes perhaps even deeper in trying to understand how problematic it is that we as humans have such little difficulty playing whatever role a game wants us to. The implications being that, as in games, so in life, we are very susceptible to naturally conform to the expectations of those around us, whether or not those expectations are actually good ones.
6. Capitalism is ruining everything
Or at least, it has ruined creativity, taking creative power out of the hands of the masses and putting into the hands of the few elite who have poised themselves to profit.
But a revolution is brewing, insists Porpentine, author of this fascinating piece for Nightmare Mode. The revolution is that creative power is available to anyone who would take it; the only obstacle we need overcome is our own trained reluctance to see ourselves as having anything worthwhile to create.
7. Killing is Harmless
A writer named Brendan Keogh wrote a book about videogames, or rather, one videogame. That’s right, an entire book about a single game; namely, Spec Ops, the Line, a game which we have already shared several links to right here.
Some are saying that the thing is a landmark in games criticism for it’s length and depth of insight. Others say that the length is meaningless in and of itself, and the critiical depth is slightly lacking, but that the book is still worthwhile for being an engaging personal reading of the game as a whole.
If you wish, you can purchase the book, entitled “Killing is Harmless” for a mere $2.99 and decide for yourself. Personally, I’m about halfway through and enjoying it immensely so far.
Well the time has come once again for us to part ways, for a brief moment. If you have any articles which you’ve written or which you would like to see featured on Revelations, don’t hesitate to let me know, via a comment or a tweet. I love your feedback.
Also, if that wasn’t enough for you, check out:
“A Devastating Account of the Crap Women in the Games Business Have to Deal With. In 2012.” by Luke Plunkett for Kotaku
“Decipher The Unexpected Hurt: The undressing of an emotional pain in Borderlands 2 with a paratextual lens.” by Lana Polansky for Bit Creature.
“Five Out of Ten Magazine” a new compilation available for purchase featuring some lovely writers bringing their tremendous talents to bear on the medium of videogames.