Drawing the Line

Being a contemporary artist comes with the knowledge that a significant portion of society is hostile to what you are creating. When people outside of the insular art world view your work, there is a good chance that they think “that is not art,” even if they are polite enough not to utter it. Lately, I have been hearing similar statements in the game world; that a given interactive fiction, or a role-playing game, or a massively multiplayer game is “not a game.” Sometimes the dismissal seems motivated by a desire to protect some cherished form of game, other times it comes from a more dryly academic desire to define and categorize. Continue Reading

The Other Difficulty Mode

What Halo Can Tell Us About Identity & Oppression

If being a “straight white male” is, as John Scalzi argues, like playing a game on the easiest difficulty, then those of us who are less privileged are playing on a harder difficulty. While I think that this metaphor is a sound tool for initial conversations about privilege, its underlying theory of power is too simplistic. This metaphor splits the world into straight white men and everyone else, leaving the reader with no way to account for the many different kinds of oppression that affect us (racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, etc.) and the specific ways in which these oppressions interact. Difficulty settings in games also tend to be arranged on a bipolar line with predictable, quantifiable changes being made to the gameplay as the difficulty increases. Our social identities, by contrast, are multidimensional and we cannot simply arrange them on a line from “most oppressed” to “least oppressed.” Continue Reading