Revelations: Playing Too Much and Too Little
elcome to Revelations, the only videogame link list that promises to make you more spiritual, or your money back! Being spiritual doesn’t mean being spooky and superstitious, it means being engaged in reality in a meaningful way! But enough of my mumbo jumbo, here’s seven great reads about videogames and their meaning in our complicated lives!
1. Grow up, videogames.
David Cage doesn’t want to keep making the same games. The founder of Quantic Dream studios, he is responsible for critically acclaimed titles Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, and the much-anticipated Beyond: Two Souls. At this week’s DICE conference in Las Vegas, he spoke on the need for games to grow up, and Stephen Totilo at Kotaku put together a list of nine ways that Cage says they can do so. The advice ranges from changing our paradigms about what mainstream games are supposed to be, to working with with people from other mediums to tell better stories, (something we saw hints of during the conversation between Gabe Newell and JJ Abrams.)
2. A time for self-reflection
At The Escapist, Dr. Mark Kline has put together a list of ways that games can affect the people who play them. This is not just another slap-on-the-wrist-just-grow-up-already post, it is a challenge for gamers to take a moment of introspection and ask ourselves if certain gaming habits are holding us back in various areas, including community, intimacy and physical and mental health.
3. A time for bold defense
After we’ve taken the time to examine ourselves and root out the parts we don’t like about our gaming habits, we need to continue using our voices to defend the role of videogames in our society. So says Michael Abbott at his blog The Brainy Gamer. In this critical time, when a great deal of people are looking seriously at the potentially negative effects of the countless hours that many people spend playing videogames, those who feel that games have benefited us need to keep talking about why they have benefited us. We need to be willing to humbly enter into the conversation in an intelligent way.
That’s why we who love games need to talk to anyone willing to listen. We need to tell our stories. The defining qualities of games – beautiful systems that engage us like no other medium – are not self-evident, especially when they’re buried inside iterative formulations of shooters, RPGs and other well-worn genres. I am forever explaining why this hero-saves-the-world game is infinitely superior to that one, among colleagues who can see no apparent difference between the two. But they are different, and those differences matter.
(Revelations Bonus: Abbott recently had another brilliant post about Ni No Kuni and “the renaissance age of fairy tales”, quoting who else but JRR Tolkien in the process.)
4. Breccia needs healing
As the purpose of Revelations is primarily to share great writing about videogames, consider the latest piece from Gus Mastrapa for Unwinnable. In “Breccia Needs Healing”, Mastrapa gives a heartfelt picture of the joys he used to have playing World of Warcraft with his sister. However, in recent years, real world health issues have seriously affected his sister, leading Mastrapa to wish he could bring healing to her in real life, not just a game.
5. All around the world
Believe it or not, America and Japan are not the only two nations in the world that make videogames. Of course, other big players are known, like Germany and South Korea, but there is a bevy of nations with emerging videogames industries, and the good folks at Extra Credits have decided to take it upon themselves to examine what’s going on in these countries.
Their first stop is Brazil, and in their trademark, punchy, informative and entertaining way, they examine the potential and pitfalls faced by Latin America’s largest nation.
6. Journey gives and takes away
At the Moving Pixels blog, Nick Dinicola picks apart the systems of Journey. For him, the emotional moments of empowerment through forced cooperation felt rather flat, but he found himself being far more affected when the game began to take away his abilities.
So much of Journey is about giving you a sense of freedom, the ability to float and fly and explore as if you were in a dream, but this exaggerated reality is not new in games. It’s quite common. To experience it here was nothing special. It felt no more magical than hopping on the jet bike in Saints Row: The Third. But when the game tried to take that freedom away, and I still found a way to hang onto it, in however limited a fashion, that limited ability suddenly felt more freeing than it had before, even though I never actually used it.
7. The Sabbath Play
Richard “Navel Gamer” Clark keeps playing cheap, throwaway games; staying up trying to get a new high score instead of just getting the rest he knows he needs. Why does he play? And where is it all going?
…I find it hard to convince myself that such a thing is healthy. Instead, it may be merely unavoidable. Whatever it is, I know that it keeps me from physical sleep, the kind of rest that makes a difference the next morning in a concrete way. I know that it leaves me with little to say. I know that it sometimes leaves me frustrated and agitated.
This week, I hope I’ve encouraged a lot of healthy reflection. Videogames, while a powerful and meaningful force for good, can all-too-easily become a destructive habit in our lives. I pray that this next week you would continue growing and learning and playing in a healthy, contemplative way!