man thinking about that post like
social justice warriors are sometimes the leeroy jenkins, they rush right in usually without buffs, without enough equipment, and probably in misguided and counterproductive ways but their hearts are usually in the…
A game is a product of stunning complexity, not merely in its technological base, but in terms of the game’s objects, in their being and relating to each other, composing a world with a logic all its own. As thrilling as it can be to watch such a world move, like a massive diorama or ticking clock, that mechanical splendor is often put to little use. It is swallowed up by the game’s miniscule vocabulary, that omnipresent set of one word commands: kill, run, hide, jump. This is why World of Warcraft,consisting in 2009 of some 5 million lines of code, remains by and large a game about death.
Indeed, game after game for the past decade has put us in the shoes of wanton destroyers, forming a heroes’ hall of simpletons backed up by an equally vapid menagerie of sidekicks. Meanwhile, the old mainstays — your city builders, your adventure games — have become more niche than ever. The arrival of the Xbox 360 and the PS3 coincided with the expansion of the videogaming mainstream, but instead of widening, the scope of future products narrowed, and we discovered the future was going to be about guns and violence.
To insist on this picture, however, is to misrepresent much of the work being done by developers large and small. New things have been learned. New types of games are being made, and are finding their audiences. And a new type of discourse is rising around them, one far removed from the language and customs of review websites. But we shouldn’t fall into the error of thinking that it is only the indies — the small, peculiar people — who are advocating for and putting forward these new (or returning) sensibilities. The mainstream, big developer houses have been looking in the same direction. Yes, they are less free to pursue that path, but we shouldn’t be too harsh: they have many compromises to make. Consider that no big-budget game is published that does not involve the exercise of violence. Very well: for a designer, filling the space in and around the violence becomes the real work.. There are always games willing to rise above their vocabulary, and in this environment it is necessary to create a distinction between what they are made of and what they are about.
How do we find that distinction? Not as easily as the Bechdel Test scans for sexism, I’m afraid. Nevertheless, I propose this test: “Is it possible for a novelist to be born in this videogame, and base his work upon it?” The framing is straightforward but the answer is not. Where the Bechdel Test has us scanning for a particular piece of content, here we investigate the possibility of life as a novelist. We can do so from many angles, applying many types of expertise, but whatever view we take a single effort is common to them all: inserting ourselves and our imaginations into worlds as different as BioShock’sRapture and Pong’s black digi-court.
A proposed test for emotional complexity in games: “Is it possible for a novelist to be born in this videogame, and base his work upon it?”