Postscript on Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

I’m sort of fascinated by Battlegrounds, which is basically Battle Royale: The Video Game but with adults who scream profanity at each other instead of high schoolers.

I’ve been playing it…a lot? More than one might think, maybe, and I think the most interesting part of the game takes place in between the quick-and-brutal firefights that the game is all about.

I wrote about some of those moments over at my weekly column at Waypoint. Go check it out!

Read “A Game Where Your Only Friends Are Patience, Silence, and Murder

Posted in Video Games | Tagged , , ,

Gombart’s Asset and Material Production in Dishonored 2

Despite only understanding about 50% of what is going on here, I am fascinated with the materials production for Dishonored 2 (as I am with basically any game).

I think it’s fascinating that the heavily-evangelized technology of translating photos to textures in games (“the rock wall…IS A ROCK WALL!”) that we saw so much of a couple years ago has some critics internal to the industry, and I honestly think it shows in the final product. The Dishonored games both have a very painterly and specific quality to them that might not be achievable within the bounds of noisy textures, and I’m glad to see that there was a strong internal effort to avoid that kind of thing.

Anyway, read Yannick Gombart on assets and materials.

Posted in Video Games | Tagged , , ,

Bernard De Koven on approaching death

If you want to do something for me or because of me, grieving is not what I need. What I need is for you to continue your play/work however you can. Play games. Play the kind of games I like to teach – you know, those “funny games” – harmlessly intimate, vaguely physical games of the semi-planned, spontaneous, just-for-fun ilk, basically without equipment, or goal, or score or reason, even.

Teach those games to everyone. Play them outside, these games. In public. With friends. And strangers. As many as want to play with you.

Make up your own games. Make them up together with the people who play them. Play. Teach. Invent. Play some more.

Hello. My Name Is Bernie. My Friends Call Me ‘Blue.’ I Have Cancer And Maybe A Year To Live. This Is What I’d Like You To Do About It.

Posted in Annihilation, Video Games | Tagged , ,

On Dishonored, the Inside, and the Outside

This is a quick post about Dishonored, a game I wrote a lot more about back when it came out. Spoilers abound.

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I’m playing through Dishonored again after a very long time (so that I can play the sequel, finally), and I’m struck by how often the side characters talk about the “mission area” of the game versus the “home hub” of the game. If you don’t remember, the structure of Dishonored is that the protagonist Corvo is assassinating and missioning his way through various tasks that have been set up for him by a group of conspirators. Those conspirators want to put the true heir Empress back on the throne of the Empire of the Isles, and to do their bidding Corvo hops on a boat, gets taken into the city, and then comes back again to discuss whatever he needs to that might make the plot move along.

The characters he’s speaking to are very explicit about the separation between those places. They say “the city” despite the Hounds Pits Pub (their base of operations) being located within, or at least in tight relationship to, that city. Sam, the sidekick who operates the boat for Corvo, helps maintain that, and lots of his dialogue pretends as if he isn’t a few hundred yards from Corvo’s violence/sneaking mission.

The big reveal of Dishonored is, of course, that the conspiracy you’re a part of were villainous the whole time. The Hounds Pits Pub, this place that you’ve been traversing for funsies throughout the game, gets turned into its own level. And it would have been easy for that just be a linguistic and mechanical turn (“these people are now your enemies!”), but the game’s continual statements about the content of the game taking place “out there” and “in the city” means that the reversal of the home base into the “out there” is even more distressing.

In a conspiracy, there’s only one safe harbor, and it’s who and what you trust. Through these throwaway lines, the game spends hours establishing that this place, this pub, is 100% legit. And in a moment, it’s flipped around.

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Posted in Video Games | Tagged , , , ,

Consuming Problematic Media

I was re-reading Alexander Galloway’s Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization earlier today, and I came across this evocation of Magnus Enzensberger’s theory of the media:

Taking his cue from Marx’s sometimes sarcastic rhetoric, Enzensberger offers readers the following political warning: “Fear of handling shit is a luxury a sewerman cannot necessarily afford,” meaning that those who are oppressed (the “sewerman”) cannot be afraid to engage with the media (the “shit”) that oppresses them later.

I think there’s certainly a more complicated account of this process available (and Galloway does the work of pulling it apart), but I love the “sewerman” phrasing. I immediately thought about Jenn Frank’s “On Consuming Media Responsibly“. Both pieces lay out the necessity of analysis, of pulling  a thing apart to see how it works.

 

Posted in Theory | Tagged , ,

“No One Criticized Bioshock Infinite Before!”

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All week long I’ve been reading tweets that have intimated that there has been some kind of sea change opinion shift in the way that Bioshock Infinite was received by audiences. The entire conversation has had a kind of “these damn hipsters” feel, as if the HD rerelease of some blockbuster game should be met with the sanctified silence of the venerated tomb, and I just wanted to take a moment to maybe put some of these sentiments into perspective.

In my neck of the internet woods, Bioshock Infinite was put under the knife. I collected thirty pieces of criticism on the game myself, and I probably made the active choice not to put another thirty on there for content overlap reasons. It was a game that the critical community showed up for, talked about, and came to some general consensus about. People were critical, have been critical, and actually formed an opinion about this game before it was expedient to on the release of the HD remasters in TYOOL 2016.

I’m not surprised by the surprise that some people critically engaged with the game. Tevis Thompson’s post-Infinite review castigation piece neatly split “critics” and “reviewers” into two camps, and if I had to hazard a guess I would say that the people whose tweets I’ve seen were maybe more familiar with the latter than the former.

And it isn’t their fault. Games criticism seems to be everywhere in my internet social circles, but that’s because I’m in it, have been in it. I’ve watched a dozen sites, magazines, and personal projects centered on critical inquiry in games sink beneath the tides of no money, no attention, no time. I’ve seen other places linger on (this site might be in that lingering zone). I can’t really say that I’ve seen any site thrive, even if thriving means living on the best side of precarity, but I have seen some critics do well, which is maybe the best thing that I can ask for.

There was a time that the primary argument in the broad world of games criticism went something like this: if we can get things archived so that people have a history and if we can get people paid so they’re not scrambling all the time then we will be able to have a critical community that will raise the level of discourse around games. That seemed to be a shared goal, and many, many people have left the world of games disgusted because they came to believe that achieving the first two might not move the chains on the third in any way.

So “no one criticized Infinite before!” comes to signify two things for me.

The first is that the games criticism of three, four, five years ago wasn’t all that successful. We didn’t reach the broad audience, and that’s a bummer, but it’s also not surprising.

The second is that something has changed. If the world were the same way it was three years ago, the people finding out about these long standing critiques would still be walking around thinking everyone sees Infinite as a holy grail of achievement. And that’s heartening, in some ways, because it means the discourse has shifted that little, small amount. The words got out, somehow.

In any case, that’s just what I’ve been thinking about this week. I’ve got the long view on “games criticism” at this point, like quite a few others, and I’d say that 80% of the people doing that kind of work on the internet who predate myself and my “cohort” have gone on to other things. Maybe even higher. But there’s a weird print in the culture in the shape of their words, and well, I guess that’s something.

 

Posted in Video Games | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Like Mages and Murderdads on Facebook!

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys Baldur’s Gate and its various sequels, you might want to do both me and yourself a favor by clicking on this here link or the image below so that you can signal your “liking” of our show that is about those games. Wowee!

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Posted in mages and murderdads, Video Games | Tagged ,