Amidst all the excitement of the two new consoles launching this month, there’s a very good chance that an important article detailing some of the more deplorable aspects of the videogame industry will be quickly forgotten. The piece, ‘You Can Sleep Here All Night’: Video Games and Labor by Ian Williams, highlights what many of us who read, write, or care about the medium likely already know, but often choose to put to the backs of our minds: most videogames, in their current state at least, might be awful for the people who create and play them.
Hey Dark Souls, there’s something I need to talk to you about. It’s just . . . Oh man, I don’t know how to say this. Can I sit down? No, no, no. Relax. It’s okay. Aw geez. Okay, no, I’m just going to cut right to the chase here . . . I don’t think things are working between us, Dark Souls. It’s been bothering me for a while.
I think . . . . I think we need to take a break.
Thank you again for the Sony! I had a devil of a time getting it working, but Daniel was so helpful and patient putting all the cords and wires in place. I have to say that it took quite a bit of getting used to. The new television is very big and the hi-fi your father put in is very loud. When Daniel showed me how to play a game the entire apartment shook so much that one of my glass rabbits nearly fell off the shelf! Ha ha. Learning how to use the remote has also been a bit of a trial. I told you how Dr. Singh says “it’s incredible that a woman my age has so little arthritis”, but trying to wrap my fingers around all those buttons hasn’t been easy.
In university I had an English professor who taught a third year criticism and theory class. On the first day he handed out the syllabus with a wry smile on his face. When we looked at it we understood why. The class was broken up into lectures that steadily progressed through a long history of Western literary criticism.
This meant that we’d be spending the rest of the semester reading dense text from Horace and Longinus to Baudelaire and Foucault.
“I know that you’re probably not looking forward to the reading,” he said. “But you have to work hard at dry material to get a proper understanding of literature. My class is about doing that. It may be more enjoyable to read more exciting texts, but this semester we’re not having cake. We’re all going to have to eat our hay together.”
That turn of phrase has stuck with me ever since. In some classes the reading was pleasurable, the syllabus filled up with Alice Munro short stories and Mark Twain novels. In others, like this criticism/theory class, I spent nights trying to unpack huge ideas from intricately written essays and drinking heart-stopping amounts of coffee in an effort to stay awake through gargantuan Victorian tomes penned by Britons who were paid by the word. Just the same, by the time I graduated I appreciated what I had taken from all the effort.
I’ve tried to keep eating my hay on personal time. Since graduating I’ve supplemented a diet of “easy” fiction with bales of James Joyce, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, David Foster Wallace, and Leo Tolstoy in an attempt to keep my reading as full of nutrients as possible. I’ve also found that trying to do the same with both listening to music and playing videogames has been valuable.
Just the same, experiencing the classics isn’t always easy.
Something became pretty clear a few minutes into a demonstration of the upcoming zombie action game Dead Rising 3 at Microsoft’s E3 press conference: videogame violence is becoming increasingly disturbing. The game, a sequel to two titles in which the player uses makeshift weapons to fight through hordes of the walking dead, was used as a showcase of Microsoft’s next generation console, Xbox One, and its enhanced graphical capabilities. The new console (and its counterpart, Sony’s PlayStation 4) will be able to render environments and characters in high fidelity, offering players a greater level of realism than ever before.
The next generation of consoles will also, of course, be able to render the blood and guts common to many mainstream games in incredible detail. This, if my lurching stomach during the Dead Rising 3 demonstration is any indication, may not be such a great thing.
There are women living in the ramshackle settlements of Metro: Last Light‘s post-apocalyptic subway system. There may not be quite as many of them as there are men, but they are there. Unfortunately, they are characterized in a drastically different manner than the male population of the Moscow ruins. Aside from the stray soldier, developer 4A Games portrays the women and girls of their world as either mothers or whores — or some combination of both.