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10 March 2015

Critical Distance: This Week in Videogame Blogging #9

On the 'cool gamer girlfriend'.

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 catch up on highlights from San Francisco’s Game Developers Conference and take a stab at dismantling the ‘cool gamer girlfriend’ archetype.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, This War of Mine head writer Pawel Micechowski spoke about designing new kinds of “survival” in the face of players who are trained to think of characters as resources to be used. Also from the conference, the #1ReasonToBe panel was a powerful recounting of women’s experiences working on the game industry.

At First Person Scholar, Mohini Dutta writes about designing for the Other, calling into question the ways that designers think of themselves in position to players and parsing out the ethical ramifications of that split. Elsewhere, Katie Chironis writes about her experiences developing Elsinore and continually answering questions about why a character is black. Her answer is simple: why shouldn’t she be?

Maddy Myers takes a deep personal dive into the image and concept of the “cool gamer girlfriend” and the cultural expectations surrounding her. She writes:

There is no narrative about a girl who shows up to play games and turns out to be kind of okay at them, and then she makes platonic friends who see her as a person, and then she goes home alone. My mediocrity became a huge disappointment for men that I didn’t know in gaming spaces. It was a disappointment for me, too, and it still makes me extra-nervous. Every time I show up and play games in public somewhere, in some male-dominated space, there is some stupid part of me that wants to win beyond all my wildest dreams … even though it’s impossible, especially when people are staring at you. I do okay, sometimes. That’s the most I’ve ever been able to hope to achieve: being okay at games, sometimes.

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At Games That Exist, Alex Pieschel provides an extensive and amazing piece on Final Fantasy 7‘s debug room. Meanwhile, on Vice, Carolyn Petit explains the finitude and pain of time built into Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, while on The AV Club Jake Muncy reads Wind Waker as a response to the Zelda franchise itself.

Lastly, one of the more exciting announcements to come out of GDC is the news that Leigh Alexander, in partnership with Boing Boing will be launching Offworld – a new publication for games criticism geared toward those not served by mainstream game sites. We recommend it!

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.