Archive for category Articles
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.
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.
Epic Games’ and People Can Fly’s 2011 shooter, Bulletstorm, will likely never see a sequel. Twenty years from now when I’m an old man babbling about how videogames used to be when I was young (and things were better, goddammit) the young kids will probably never know that there was ever something called Bulletstorm. They will think me a sad, over the hill geriatric who lives in a world of confused nostalgia where a massive publisher like Electronic Arts would take a chance on a strange, colourful and crude little shooter that was so atypical of the videogame landscape at the time.
It did happen, though. Bulletstorm was created, marketed, released and, in its own modest way, purchased. And in its reality there are many lessons we must take away from its lack of success — from its inability to change the way that first-person shooting games were made and bought in and around the early 2010s.
Read on, savvy industry folks and ensure that you never make the same dreadful mistakes that sank the foul-mouthed shooter that could.
Over time most non-Native North Americans, born in the continent after generations have eroded the lines of their family immigration, come to realize that the place they call home is not really their home at all — that it is in fact land stolen from the people indigenous to it. This, for me at least, was a pretty unsettling revelation. As children, none of us fortunate enough to be born in politically stable nations think much about whether or not our country truly belongs to us. We Canadians sing an anthem that subconsciously reinforce the idea the nation is “our home and native land” and only when we’re a bit older and wiser do we understand just how stomach-churningly ironic such a lyric is.
How do we deal with this?
The bear came closer, obviously angry. Perhaps I shouldn’t have shot it with an arrow. I dismounted and backed away, but my horse was oblivious and stayed directly in the path of the bear. Claws slashed, hooves flew, and there was a terrible cry from above the clouds. A dragon landed in the middle of the scene. I could only stand in shock as my horse, the bear, and the dragon all fought each other.
Thankfully my horse won.
This is an article that I originally wrote late last year, but that fell through the cracks for some reason or another and never saw the light of day. Aside from dated references to the 2011 Spike VGAs, I think it’s still relevant and worth sharing. I’ve made tiny little revisions and expanded on a few points, but left it alone otherwise.
The 2011 Spike Video Game Awards (VGAs) was a ceremony that celebrated pretty much everything awful about videogame culture. The parade of mock teabaggings, awkward celebrity endorsements and gleeful misogyny were all bad enough on their own, but what troubled me most about the VGAs was how all of this was aimed at a supposed subculture of “gamers.”
We, the people who love games, have done this to ourselves.
OK, check this out. Something that shouldn’t be mind-blowing, but, considering the state of recent videogame discourse, maybe (unfortunately) will be to some readers: I’m a straight male and, despite being adverse to self labelling, comfortably identify as a feminist. That proclamation changes nothing about how I’ve always thought and lived.
Should this be a train of thought that should be continued on a videogame criticism site, you may ask? Well, given the apparent inability for the industry to support rational gender and sexuality conversation, it sure seems like it.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is a competition in which the biggest, loudest person in the room wins first prize. On the trade floor there is no room for subtlety. Everyone must participate in an ear-splitting, epilepsy inducing game of one-upmanship in a vain attempt to stick out from the general cacophony of the event. In the jungle of E3 every booth is a shrieking baboon, beating its chest and roaring at all the other vicious apes in hopes of becoming the leader of the tribe for the coming months.
E3 is, ultimately, not very good for the industry it supports.