Revelations: Nostalgia, Violence and Hexagons


Written by Jordan Ekeroth / Published on September 14, 2012

Welcome to Revelations! Our main area of focus will always be less about the technicalities of game design and more about the nuanced issues of games and morality, theology, etc.

There were certainly some good articles to come out in recent days. Let’s browse a few of them before checking out the two big gaming hardware announcements of this past week. That’s right, I said two! The Wii-U and the Iphone 5 are both interesting steps forward in terms of videogame technology.

But maybe you were unmoved by news of either device. The truth is, so was I. These announcements carry so much less excitement for me than when I was younger. Am I getting jaded? IS THIS WHAT GETTING OLD FEELS LIKE?

Hopefully you can empathize a bit. Because I will also be the first to admit that there’s something powerful about getting hit by that occasional wave of nostalgia. Leigh Alexander was keying into that this week in a pair of articles she wrote on the subject. The first, at Edge is simply titled “The power of gaming nostalgia.”  She has pointed out before that uninhibited nostalgia can be a detriment to the medium, holding it back, but here she explores how it is one of the key elements that makes videogames particularly enticing to our generation.

In the companion article at Gamasutra, she delves deeper into how game developers can utilize the idea of “Intelligent Nostalgia” for greater advantage. She said there that:

“…as adults we remain fans of games, in part perhaps because there’s that flicker of hope that drives us to believe we can recapture that magic-feeling, transcendent personal relationship we once had with the medium.”

In his autobiography “Surprised by Joy” C.S. Lewis talks about his lifelong search for joy, which in his experience, similar to feelings of nostalgia, utterly disappeared the moment its presence was recognized. The above quote from Alexander regarding video games reminds me of the way he spoke of the untouchable delight he sometimes encountered in literature. Of course, after many years as a successful academic, he concluded that the traces of joy that he felt all his life were actually the stirrings of his soul, pointing him towards God. So, holla, Gamechurch.

In “The Videogame Critism You Don’t See,” which is well worth your time, Marjorie Jensen talked about how she saw videogames from her point of view as an “adjacent-gamer.” She uses this term to refer to the fact that she uses videogames in her role as a teacher, requiring students to play through games and analyze themes in them. She muses:

“My gamer-adjacent students could love games – even become gamers – if videogames taught them how to think critically about violence….I want to ask the gaming community, how can these college students learn about games that are educational and beautiful. How can they learn that “videogame” is not synonymous with violence?”

The following article is an excellent follow-up. It’s from new kid on the block Push Select. Among their new articles, which deal with philosophy, theology and video games, one caught my attention in particular. “The Myth of Redemptive Violence” takes its name from a work by theologian Walter Wink. The article takes Wink’s classic argument against “redemptive violence” and examines how the idea should affect the way we view video games.

“Maybe gaming reinforces the myth of redemptive violence, and keeps us looking for heroes like Marduk rather than like Christ.  Or maybe it’s all in good fun, just a rush, and has no real effect on us.  In order for that to be the case, we need to remember what kind of a hero we serve; we need to remember that we are not literally “Christian soldiers” armed with a “sword” and buffed for battle by the blood of the lamb; we need to remember that a true hero walks to his or her own death for the sake of truth and justice, not just to battlefields to fight about it.”

Along similar lines is this article from the Unlimited Lives blog wherein Mike Schiller says things like:

“The idea that we should be “playing” games, presumably having “fun” while we do so, necessarily reduces the possibilities of the medium.”

(Trigger warning: occult material)

While you’re at Unwinnable, you could also check out Stu Horvath’s weird and interesting latest entry in his new column “The Burnt Offering.” It is about how magic is real and everything is connected and playing as videogame characters actually has mystical connotations.

(End trigger section)

Okay now, honestly, if you haven’t played Super Hexagon yet- what is wrong with you? Maybe that’s harsh, but come on, it’s only a dollar. Unless you do not possess a single iOS device, you have no excuse. Kotaku posted their “Eight Tips for Surviving Longer than Five Seconds” and our own Richard Clark noticed that the list also reads like “8 tips for life.” He also wrote a whole article about this great game for Bit Creature.

Alright, let’s talk Wii U. It’s coming out in November and it’s new and fancy and what do you think? Maybe you’d be interested to see how it holds up in console history against other devices launch prices? Gamasutra did the hard work for you.

What about the Iphone 5? Apple is claiming that it will support console-quality graphics. That, combined with a bigger screen have the potential to make this the industry standard in handheld gaming. Gamasutra talked about the ways it could effect gaming. They also got several mobile developers to weigh in on the device.

What’s that? You want to read even more? Well since you asked.

Here’s a meditation from Kyle Carpenter about Papa & Yo and the escapism of games.

How about an opinion piece by Colin Campbell entitled “When developers speak up, the industry matures”?

In that vein, what about an interview with Valve’s Erik Wolpaw and Doublefine’s Anna Kipnis about their opinions regarding some of the most interesting games out right now?

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. That means I’m always at my computer. That means, if you have some good articles for future Revelations, you can tweet at me and I’ll see it almost instantly. So what are you waiting for? Here I am.

About the Author:

Jordan Ekeroth has the crippling inability to say anything more than what he thinks he means. Follow him on Twitter: @JordanEkeroth