Centers and Peripheries of Games Criticism

Remedios Varo - Center of Universe

Last week, Rami Ismail made a brief but important call for a bit of awareness concerning the status of English as the lingua franca in (the major part of) the games industry. I had been gathering thoughts on a discussion of the role of language in games criticism, specifically, for a while, so I figured now would be a good time to make things a bit more concrete. I had written a paragraph calling for awareness of linguistic diversity in games last summer, but didn’t really take the argument anywhere, so let me build on what I wrote there. [...Read more...]

Re: Virtuous Discourse; a letter to Chris Bateman


Dear Chris, It is an honour to be the recipient of the first entry in what I hope will become a long series of digital letters, a reinvigoration of online conversation, rather than the exchange of only the briefest of thoughts and comments. That we, and Alan Williamson with us, share much of the feelings on [...Read more...]

Future Nostalgia (A Fictional Review of ‘Bientôt l’été’)


[From a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, I received the original version of the message below, which was picked up using radio observation of signals from outer space. For the reader’s convenience, I have rendered it in contemporary English, rather than the early modern English in which it was written.] Archive: Desbaresdes belt [...Read more...]

Hot Wet Air Trading Cards


Steam has trading cards now, as all my gaming readers will probably know. The whole thing is a profoundly vacuous capitalist enterprise of the kind that cynics gobble up for breakfast. You can get the cardies for free just by playing your games, but that’s because they don’t have any substance apart from a database entry somewhere. Sure, games are just a bunch of bytes too, but at least some creative people have spent their browsweat designing the things, whereas the cards are just cropped bits of art from those actually usually pretty substantial games. You can’t even play with the damn things! [...Read more...]

The Future of Videogame Logging


In an interesting self-reflectional turn, blog discussions about the nature and future of blogging have recently been reopened in certain corners of the internet. I contributed a little bit to the discussion with my earlier musing on the nature of online conversation, and Chris Bateman has summarised some of the thoughts gathered in our ‘bloot’ (blog-moot) in his wrap-up post. In short: I’m convinced that meaningful online conversation is possible, about any subject, but that it requires investment of time and attention, as well as convenient technology.What I want to focus on this time is videogame blogging in particular. This month’s theme on Blogs of the Round Table (hosted by Critical Distance) is “Blogception: What is the future of videogame blogging?”. Before I want to say something about the possible futures, we should turn to the current state of videogame of blogging. [...Read more...]

Always +1


On Sub Specie I don’t write about linguistic matters all that much. To kick off, I’d like to start with what is a relatively obscure phenomenon in the Dutch linguistic landscape: the use of +1 (or as a pronounced phrase plus één) as an adjective in predicative position. Basically, it’s used to signify approval or that something is better than something else, as might be expected. [...Read more...]

On Blogging & Online Conversations


How has the advent of social networking sites changed the nature of (online) conversation? A reply to Chris Bateman, and a rumination on whether or not the problems surrounding in-depth conversation have changed all that much. [...Read more...]

Ludus Linguarum (This Is (Not) a Game)

It is a discussion that crops up from time to time: what is a game? This would be a fairly academic definition question, were it not that it finds a much larger battleground mostly outside academia, where consumers and critics of video games are the participants. The direct catalyst for the most recent iteration of this discussion was the release two days ago of Proteus, a game developed by Ed Key and David Kanaga. This work, as I briefly explained in my piece on Noctis, is all about free exploration of an island and its flora and fauna, about building a soundtrack by moving around. It is limited in its interactivity compared to many other video games, and this has sparked the discussion on whether or not Key and Kanaga are right to refer to Proteus as a game. [...Read more...]

The (Im)possibilities of Communication


During my time as a student of language, I’ve become convinced that there is no direct one-on-one connection between thought and speech, and between logic and language. This is one of the reasons why communication between people doesn’t always go according to their intentions. This is sometimes obvious in real life, but it can also become highlighted in art. In videogames, communication as a central theme—rather than just something that happens—is a rare thing; however, in a recent article I’ve highlighted two games that do focus on the possibilities and impossibilities of communication. Surprise, surprise… it’s two works by Tale of Tales. First of all, The Endless Forest, about which I’ve written before here, and secondly Bientôt l’été, their latest title. [...Read more...]

The Iterations of Punxsutawney Phil


Remember Groundhog Day? It’s that 1993 film about Bill Murray’s character, Phil, who keeps reliving the same day, February 2nd, in the Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, where on that day, the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil will predict when winter’s going to end. [...] It’s an awful lot like the way we tend to play video games these days. Faced with challenges in a game, we have the quicksave and quickload buttons close at hand, ready to revert to an earlier point in the game to try again. If you get to replay a section of a story over and over again, any challenge inherent in the original situation quickly morphs into a matter of trial and error. Like Phil in Groundhog Day, we get to try out every interaction, every conversation option the world allows us. More importantly, in a typical collapsing together of character and player, Phil – like us – retains (meta)knowledge of everything he did earlier. [...Read more...]