I’m going to make some broad assumptions. If you’re reading this, you, like I, likely have an on-again, off-again, love/hate relationship with videogames, and thus enjoy reading and possibly writing a broad variety of opinions concerning them.
Let me tell you how this is going to work. Every week I’ll be editing Revelations. It’s going to be great. You’re going to learn a lot about the confluence of videogames and things like religion, morality, and life from a wide range of sources. However, I, like you, am very busy. This is why I’m asking for your help. If you read, or perhaps more importantly, write anything that you think would fit, please let me know. Your writing might be great but I’ll never know unless you tell me. So let’s make this wonderful together.
Anyhoo. There is a game that you should play if you own a PS3. The game is called Papa & Yo. You’ve might have inferred that it’s an important and unique game. You possibly heard about how it creates a sort of interactive metaphor for the childhood of developer Vander Caballero, creating an emotional response in the player to the plight of a young, abused boy.
Jonah Stowe reviewed it for us. Lots of other people reviewed it too. Our own Drew Dixon noticed something about many of these reviews, that they were approaching the title as something that it was not trying to be. In a new feature at Bit Creature, Drew observes:
“I understand why most people reviewed Papo & Yo the way they did—most puzzle platformers want to be judged on the cleverness of their puzzles rather than their overall narrative impact. However, I think its time that let go of our rubrics for grading video games by our culturally defined genre expectations and by how challenging they are. Games like Journey, Dear Esther, and Papo & Yo transcend easy genre labels. They ask us to judge them not by how good a “game” they are, but on what they mean—what they say about us and the world we inhabit.”
Since he mentions one of my favorite games, Dear Esther, let me direct your attention towards the wonderful insights that Ben Milton had about it over at The Ontological Geek. He parses through the language of the game to discover that (lo and behold) it is chock full of not just religious symbolism, but spiritual and theological meaning.
If theology and gaming is your thing (it’s sort of ours), also check out Max Liebermans thoughts on “Systems and theology in The Binding of Isaac.” Be forewarned though: it’s heady stuff.
The Verge ran a news item this week anouncing that there are officially more mobile than ‘core’ gamers in the US now. This has been a growing trend for the past several years, but this milestone certainly provides some food for thought.
This was great timing for Richard Clark to wax nostalgic about the days before mobile games. In a column at Unwinnable addressed “To All The Games I’ve Loved Before” he spits out a few gems like this:
“In the days of consoles, I would buy a game for $15-$50 and play it for months. It felt like an investment. Now, I buy you just to try you out. I pay a dollar while you’re on sale. I dedicate five minutes to you and move on to the next. I come back to you the next day, and play for one minute. I feel confident that I’ve gotten enough out of you. I don’t toss you out, but I neglect you.”
A book came out recently called “Addiction by Design” and there is a great review of it by Laura Noren over at social media collective. Essentially, the work is about how gambling machines in vegas are created with the sole purpose of addicting players to their systems. Noren beautifully concludes that:
“The demons here are not the machines, though they are manifest in the machines. The demons are not the people who design the machines nor the people who build palaces in which the machines are arrayed in blinking, burbling gardens of vertiginous electronica. The demons are not located in the players’ genes or childhoods. The demons are not the state regulators who now embrace video gaming after corralling it on American Indian reservations for decades. There is no single devil here, and no particular exorcism can right the wrong, but there is something devilish about the way designers’ intentions and users’ neurology meet up to make video gaming so devastating for some and so profitable for others.”
Now this is a big deal: Valve started a new system for publishing indie games via Steam called “Greenlight.” As with anything that’s a big deal, it had a few hiccups. For instance, a surprise $100 fee for publishing. One of the most thought-provoking commentaries came from Jonas Kyratzes, creator of “The Sea Will Claim Everything” (a game we liked). In his blog post he explores the deeper significance of the controversy’s rapid escalation.
What’s very interesting is the sort of grace which people have for Valve that they absolutely do not have for other publishers. Kotaku just ran a piece about how various game companies fare on glassdoor.com, a site where employees can anonymously rate the way their employers. Valve scored the highest rating attainable. Others were not so fortunate.
At Popmatters, Mark Filipowich had an interesting thought. “Games rarely have a parallel to social laws, at least not a parallel that holds any meaning. Social law, in games, doesn’t exist, except in how the protagonist is either above or exempt from it.” What do you think? Have you played any games recently that explore social law in interesting ways?
File this under “things to keep an eye on.” Stu Horvath from Unwinnable is starting a new column called The Burnt Offering. His description says he’ll be “examining the web of connections between games, life, mysticism and anything else that catches his fancy.” Oh, and it’s quite nice writing as well.
If it’s nice writing that you’re after, it doesn’t get much nicer than “With Hands” by Patricia Hernandez. If you don’t know, she writes some really brave stuff. For example:
“And it was in Gears of War that that I disappeared. It was here that my body, my unpure, imperfect, ugly, not-good-enough body was left behind. It felt like transcendence.
I ran, I ran, I ran. I could not run away from not being good enough, but I ran.”
Be forewarned, you might shed a tear as she opens her heart to you.
The time’s come for us to part ways. Don’t forget that if you have any suggestions for future editions of Revelations, I’m only a tweet away. Until then, Adieu!