Decisive Book Reviews
The Study of Play
Emma Vossen is a third year PhD student at the University of Waterloo and the Commentaries editor at FPS. She specializes in depictions of gender, sexuality, and the body in comics, video games, and pornography. What the Heck is Happening in Games Right Now? August was a terrible month to be a games critic. It was a terrible month to be a minority who plays games, an indie game developer, or a games journalist. It was an especially bad month to be a woman working in or around the games industry. So far, September hasn’t been any better. I’ve tried waiting for the dust to settle, but it’s been like the “dirty thirties” on social media and gaming websites day in and day…
What happens when videogames frustrate narrative lucidity and the expected norms of play? Every Day the Same Dream, a 2009 short game authored by Paolo Pedercini and his Italian collective Molleindustria, resists the formulaic patterns of videogame composition to produce new meaning. Gaming essayist Braxton Soderman points to Molleindustria’s penchant for disruptive play, recounting the developers’ ability to “…confront a variety of political, economic, and social issues, embracing a form of design ‘that aims at starting a serious discussion about social and political implications of videogames’” (Soderman). This critical analysis of Every Day the Same Dream locates not only the social and political objectives of the game but also its buried critique of videogame form itself. In offering cyclical patterns of gameplay and monotonous imagery, Pedercini emboldens the ability to break videogame procedure, evoking McKenzie Wark’s notion of allegorical play and destabilizing the procedural rhetoric that Ian Bogost longs to agitate. Moreover, Every Day the Same Dream affirms the expressive capacity of videogame language, antagonizing the generic conventions recycled by familiar algorithms and prosaic authorship.
First Person Scholar Highlights are a way for us to boost the visibility of the excellent games writing on the web. These are (in our humble opinion) timely, thought-provoking, and well-argued pieces that contribute significantly to the tenor and tone of existing games discourse. This inaugural Highlight is “On ‘Gamers’ and Identity,” a blog post (cross-posted, with permission, from Liz Ryerson’s excellent blog) that does an incredible job of navigating the personal in constellation with broader social and theoretical contexts surrounding the recent controversies in the videogame industry. If you enjoyed this commentary, please consider contributing to Liz’s Patreon.
Naughty Dog’s masterwork, The Last of Us, and the recent Left Behind DLC sparked controversy and discussion around two issues: Joel’s rescue of Ellie from the Fireflies and Ellie’s kissing of Riley. On the surface these are two distinct matters. And, in fact, Joel’s morality and Ellie’s sexuality can and should be given due attention independent of one another. Each is impactful, consequential and full of meaning. But, I argue, it is by thinking through the relationship between both of these issues that we might come to better understand the changing contours of contemporary culture. The ideas expressed in these striking moments of The Last of Us and the Left Behind DLC both concern gender and sexuality. Specifically, they speak to the death of heteronormativity, however excruciatingly protracted and melodramatic that death may be, and our general inability as a society to cope with this change.
After receiving 33 submissions for the FPS editors managed to narrow a fantastic selection of procedural poems down to 6 finalists. From those 6 we then engaged in a lengthy debate as to which one should be declared the winner of the first (annual?) Pseudo Game Jam. And, at the end of that debate, we decided that…declaring just one winner was a downright shame. So, thanks to the fine folks at The Games Institute, we now have three sets of prizes and three winners!
The results are in! We received 31 procedural poems throughout the month of July. The poems were then anonymized, and distributed to three editors each, where they were scored for clarity, how well they fit the theme, and their ingenuity. Based on those scores we have narrowed it down to 6 finalists. But rather than posting all the poems and finalists at once, we’re going to publish 10 poems, including 2 finalists, each Wednesday for the next three weeks. In the meantime the judges will conduct a second round of judging, and we’ll announce the winner on August 27th. Below is the third group. We’ll announce the winner next week!
The results are in! We received 31 procedural poems throughout the month of July. The poems were then anonymized, and distributed to three editors each, where they were scored for clarity, how well they fit the theme, and their ingenuity. Based on those scores we have narrowed it down to 6 finalists. But rather than posting all the poems and finalists at once, we’re going to publish 10 poems, including 2 finalists, each Wednesday for the next three weeks. In the meantime the judges will conduct a second round of judging, and we’ll announce the winner on August 27th. That said, we received some fantastic entries and whether they were finalists or not they all deserve to be shared. Please Tweet and post your favourite poems by right-clicking on this icon next…