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16 March 2015

Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #10

Are games better without characters?

By Critical Distance

Critical Distance is proud to bring to The New Statesman a weekly digest of its popular This Week in Videogame Blogging feature, which promotes the best, often little-known, incisive criticism and cultural commentary on interactive media. This week, we discuss whether games can promote greater social change without stories, and a plainspoken analysis of the behavioral studies which have tried – without much success – to link games with violence.

We start with foremost games scholar Ian Bogost writing on the Atlantic, who questions whether, in our quest for social progressivism in game stories, we lose sight of how games can explore and critique higher-level socioeconomic and political systems. And while you probably won’t agree with all of it, it has plenty of pointed observations:

Amidst arguments on Twitter and Reddit about whose favorite games are more valid, while we worry about the perfect distribution of bodies in our sci-fi fantasy, the big machines of global systems hulk down the roads and the waterways, indifferent. It is an extravagance to worry only about representation of our individual selves while more obvious forces threaten them with oblivion—commercialism run amok; climate change; wealth inequality; extortionate healthcare; unfunded schools; decaying infrastructure; automation and servitude.

Taking what may be the opposite tack, over on Paste, interactive fiction author Javy Gwaltney writes empathetically about the value of characters who move beyond power fantasies, which speak to the experiences of disabled players like himself.

Speaking of writers: on Eurogamer, Christian Donlan pens an affectionate essay for deceased children’s author and illustrator Ellen Raskin, whose puzzle-mystery novels – he says – exhibited a gamelike sensibility.

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Meanwhile on The Psychology of Video Games, Jamie Madigan has just launched an exciting new podcast — in the debut episode of which, Madigan discusses behavioral research methodology with Oxford University’s Andrew Przybylski on establishing a correlation, if any exists, between games and violence. The language they use is both accessible for the layperson as well as rigorous in its discussion on how behavioral research on games is conducted. Highly recommend!

There is much more available in this week’s full roundup at Critical Distance! Tune in again next week and be sure to follow us on Twitter @critdistance for all the latest and greatest games writing from around the web.

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