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Worth Reading: 07/20/12

When in doubt, try to play saxophone memes through a video game on your keyboard, and get really upset because you suck at it.

Here's a screen shot of Dyad because nothing seems appropriate, and Dyad looks super cool.
Here's a screen shot of Dyad because nothing seems appropriate, and Dyad looks super cool.

There’s not much to be said on a day like this. We will probably never fully understand why a shooter opened fire in a crowded theater last night during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. A sudden heart attack, a senseless act of violence--we never know life's going to throw us a curveball, and change everything.

Have a moment of silence, say a prayer, or maybe tone down your snark on the Internet today. For a couple of hours, anyway.

I’ve been trying, without much success, to track down the developer of Slender. That guy is really onto something, right? Like all horror, it’s not an experience that gets under everyone’s skin, but it managed to mess me up in the middle of the day, and I’m curious to know where those ideas might go next. I’ll keep at it, and let you know. That Amnesia follow-up got sidetracked from real world events the last few weeks, but I’m hoping to sit and play through the downloadable episode, Justine, and return to that mindset from not long ago.

One doesn’t need a game to get scared today, though, explaining this week's highlighted game.

Hey, You Should Play This

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Yes, yes, another game that’s full of tiny pixels, but once you’ve played Epic Sax Game, something tells me I’ll be forgiven. Epic Sax Game is an interactive riff on this meme that came from Eurovision in 2010 (Know Your Meme has the full story), in which players are tasked with recreating the infamous, infectious sax tune with their own fingers. Creator Pippin Barr actually has a website full of interesting, experimental, eccentric games like this one, but I wouldn’t know about any of them if it wasn’t for Johann Sebastian Joust designer Douglas Wilson going on and on about Epic Sax Game on Twitter. If you’re looking for another source of game recommendations, Wilson is your man.

And You Should Read These

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Conversation about the relationship, representation, and interactions between women and games is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, and that’s partially because we’re continuing to see so many great writers weigh in with \ things to say. Jenn Frank’s piece on Unwinnable is long-winded in the best way possible, long-winded because Frank much to say about a subject that is clearly deeply personal, important, and uncomfortable. If you’ve met Frank in person, her writing is a remarkable encapsulation of her speaking style--frantic, all over the place, and positively engaging. As much as Frank’s piece has nothing to do with games, it has so much to do with games, especially as it relates to our socialized expectations and norms, and how easy it is to be misguided about long-held beliefs.

Lately someone accused me of “girl-on-the-Internet syndrome.” He could have leveled a lot of valid criticisms at me, given what I’d written; this particular blow, however, struck me as hollow.

“I have been on the Internet since 1993,” I replied. “I got over being on the Internet long before I ever got over being a girl.”

Do you remember when one games journalist — one of the best, and happenstantially a female — pleaded that we recognize her as a person? Like, as just an ordinary, normal human being? It was heartbreaking.

I remember reading that column and thinking about how, even if you actively work to not “prove your gender” to others, there is an enormous faction that will conversely work to remind you that you are a woman, and “just” a woman, every chance they get.

They might even say it benevolently: “Why, she’s my favorite female games writer!”
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This piece from Kate was one of many in response to IGN’s Colin Moriarty making the argument that political correctness is hurting the creativity of video games, and that we, as players and commentators, should allow developers free reign to try new things, and maybe get it wrong, too. His underlying point is sound, but the holes and caveats within his argument rubbed more than few people the wrong way, including Kate Cox. I’m with her on this one, too. We should encourage developers to be bold, daring, and challenging in their subject matter, but doing so does not exempt them from criticism. When you wade into dangerous waters, you must be prepared to defend yourself, as simply putting yourself in the line of fire, while commendable, does not mean you are suddenly immune.

Make sure to click on the first video in the next section for a good example of what I’m talking about.

But "I don't like it" isn't the end of the conversation; it's the beginning. Next comes, "Here's why I don't like it," which opens the door to discussion. Discussion and awareness are the ways in which culture changes over time. Standards of racism were appropriate in mainstream culture sixty years ago that are unacceptable now, and that's not a bad thing. Yes, you can use a racial epithet in your work of fiction if you want. But you're going to have to have a reason; there will need to be an intention behind it. The audience's standards have changed, and artists, who both reinforce and challenge culture, need to understand how and why.

If You Click It, It Will Play

I Don’t Know About This Kickstarter Thing, But These Projects Look Neat

  • Moon Intern, a side-scrolling action RPG that preys upon my love for pixels and things made in Chicago.
  • Crea, a riff on the 2D sandbox game (see: Terraria) with a focus on player modding.
  • Star Command, that probably dangerously addictive management game is trying to come to PC and Mac.

Oh, And Some Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+