Ladykiller in a Bind: Revindicating Kink

NSFW: In this article we talk about sex, sexuality and we will show screenshots of games containing people showing their titties and being stark naked, so reading this at work might not be a good idea.

Ladykiller in a Bind is an erotic Visual Novel (VN) made by Christine Love, published on Steam on January 9, several months after its release at the Humble Store on October 10th. The delay was due to its erotic and queer content, because Steam’s policies are unclear about which kink it wants to distribute and which kink it wants to play fool with.

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PSA: About GDC and the ways of exclusion

A while ago FundAV reopened their grants that deliver an All Access Pass for the GDC, only this time they were reopened just for women, because the entity that grants the passes decided that the male quota was covered and the remaining beneficiaries had to be women, since they were aiming for a quota of 50% male beneficiaries and 50% female beneficiaries. That measure was taken because women are a minority in the videogame industry.
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The Real Escapist Was Houdini: Molleindustria and Games for Facing Reality

…we can imagine ways to fix Monopoly – either rewarding players who are behind to keep them within a reasonable distance of the leaders, or making progress more difficult for rich players. Or course – this might impact the game’s ability to recreate the reality of monopoly practices – but reality isn’t always “fun”.

MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research
Hunicke, LeBlanc y Zubek, 2004

Game criticism always goes back to the question of what’s the purpose of games. The answer has to be complex because not every game has the same goal, and different players look for different things (sometimes in the same games).

For common sense, there is no complexity to it: the purpose of all games is to produce fun, and the player is always looking for new ways to escape from their mundane reality. Sooner or later one encounters different forms of this escapist idea as a justification for criticism being unnecessary, since criticism often explores the juncture where games and reality are more closely related. Criticism is then left in the awkward position of arguing that many games couldn’t care less if their players are having fun, which is true yet counterintuitive.

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All Mechanics Convey Meaning

A rather annoying thing is how people who don’t know the first thing about videogames think no game can say anything relevant on a human level. But well, we can ignore those people. In my experience reflecting on videogames, the true pebble in the shoe is the people who know them very well and decide that we can only take the message of a game seriously if we’re going to praise it. If instead the game says something toxic and we intend to criticize it, then it is meant to entertain and all criticism is an exaggeration.

The logic governing this reaction is full of false assumptions: that only a few games convey a message, that entertainment has nothing to say, that if criticisms were correct players would replicate in-game actions in real life, that you can make art without your subjectivity getting in the way, that freedom of artistic expression means toxic ideas are above scrutiny.

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Cibele: Making Videogames Using the Body

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT CIBELE

In her blog, Amanda Palmer (singer, songwriter and writer) explains that when we create art, we put our experiences in a blender, and the higher the setting, the experiences that inspired our work become less visible. Cibele (2015) is a videogame by Nina Freeman (poet and game designer) about emotional and sexual relationships that develop over the internet, that is characterized for having set the blender at its lowest setting. In the game we’re Nina when she was 19 years old and she played an MMO with a cute aesthetic akin to the one found in Ragnarök Online (Gravity, 2002). The game is split in two alternating segments. One showcases videos of Nina acting as herself doing real life stuff. The other is interactive and gives us access to Nina’s computer, with pictures, poems and messages created by the author during the period of her life covered by the game.

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Okhlos: Freedom in the Time of the Angry Mob

An ancient conception of the individual (strange to us today) helps us understand what freedom is and where it comes from, while  all the juxtaposed elements of this equation present themselves to us in a recent videogame.

Videogame: Okhlos (Coffee Powered Machine, 2016)
Podcast
: Democracia ateniense by Linterna de Diógenes (March 17th, 2013)
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Bashing the Language

Each medium has its own classicism, a point in which the device (be it a VR helmet in videogames, sound recording in cinema or perspective in painting) is sufficiently advanced technologically and its language is rich enough to build a persuasive rhetoric. What stage are videogames at? Have they reached their classicism? Considering there already are games with a high degree of immersion, in which a player can lose herself for hours on end, I’d wager to say they are; and they keep perfecting that classicism with each new technological improvement and their parallel search for the way to handle that improvement as language. There arises the problem of how to manipulate the player with a rhetoric bold enough to make her say, “It’s just a story, it’s fantasy.” The work creates a symbolic world consistent with ideas of what is beautiful/ugly, true/false, good/bad, etc. and it persuades us to adopt those values, and even reproduce them in our daily lives. Only by getting to the latent ideas that the work constructs are we able to critically analyze its subjectivity. Do the authors want us to achieve this? Or would they rather pass their work off as mere fantasy entertainment that has no repercussion on our way of thinking?

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Minimal input games and the exploration of juice

We’ve all played a game that is simply too much fun to touch. A thing whooshes when you move it, two things wiggle as they push into each other, it all feels alive and reacts to the controls with glee. There might be many things that make the game good (or bad), but just interacting with it on a superficial level you already feel like a baby who can’t look away from the flashing lights of a toy, or the song it plays.

Some game designers call this “juice”. You can define it as “tons of cascading action and response for minimal user input”. A game can be juicy, and most games should be juicy, or so the saying goes. Another saying goes, “Game design is quite hard and it’s impossible to give broad statements that are true for everything, but adding juiciness to your game makes your game better 100% of the time”. Continue reading Minimal input games and the exploration of juice