BG 37 – The American Dream is SPENT

Futurismic have my thirty seventh Blasphemous Geometries column.

Entitled “The American Dream is SPENT: Two Visions of Contemporary Capitalism”, the column looks at two different browser-based business simulation games and shows how, despite both operating on the assumption that capitalism is a functional rules-based system, the games use their different depictions of that system to produce withering critiques of contemporary capitalism.

BG 36 – Why Strategy Games Make Us Think and Behave Like Brutal Psychopaths

Futurismic have my thirty sixth Blasphemous Geometries column.

The column argues that the reason why we tend to swing to the right when we play games is because the video game interface changes the way we perceive the world.  Strategy games effectively make us see like a state and when we see like a state certain human values (like the cost of grand strategies in individual human lives) and concerns disappear but other values and concerns (such as stability of the international system and efficiency of government) appear to take their place.

The column draws quite heavily on the work of James C. Scott’s book Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (1998) but I am much more willing to lend the state an agency of its own than Scott was in the context of that book.  One reason why I did this is because I read and wrote about Scott’s more recent book The Art of Not Being Governed (2010), which really does present the state as a class of  entity in its own right.

BG 35 – Heavy Rain: Free Will and Quick Time Events

Futurismic have my thirty fifth Blasphemous Geometries column entitled “Heavy Rain: Free Will and Quick Time Events”.

Evidently, I am absolutely terrible at Quick Time events as I managed to achieve what is evidently the most downbeat ending that Heavy Rain has to offer (killer goes free, everyone else dies in misery), but despite my lack of basic competence at… well… video games in general, I nonetheless saw in Heavy Rain a quite revolutionary approach to gaming.  An approach that restricts interactivity whilst also managing to make what little interaction the game allows seem so much more important and meaningful.  A brilliant game and an enjoyable column to write.

BG 34 – Digital: A Love Story; Nostalgia, Irony and Cyberpunk

After a month’s break, Futurismic have my thirty fourth Blasphemous Geometries column.

The subject of this month’s column is Christine Love’s amazing indie (and freely downloadable!) game Digital: A Love Story and how some video games deploy nostalgia in a decidedly ironic register in order to both revisit the past and deconstruct our desire for a non-existent idyll.

BG 33 – Tell Your Own Damn Stories! Games, Overreading and Emergent Narrative

One of the most startling things about the opening to Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas is that the cut scenes are well-written.  Their characters are well drawn, their dialogue is consistently funny and their narrative arcs are drawn boldly and with a real grasp of human psychology.  In the world of video-game cut scenes such artistry is practically unheard of.  In fact, by and large, you are far more likely to remember a cut scene for its terrible dialogue or woeful translation than you are for its aesthetic quality.  Unfortunately, as far as most video-games are concerned, the problem stretches beyond a few laughable cut scenes and into the realms of systemic narrative failure: Like operas and porn films, video-games are universally badly written.

And yet games are more than capable of telling great stories.

My solution?  Hang all video-game writers and Tell Your Own Damn Stories!

My thirty third Blasphemous Geometries column over at Futurismic explains how.

BG 31 – Paying Attention is Not Fun : Crackdown 2

Futurismic have just put up my latest (and somewhat delayed) Blasphemous Geometries column.

The column looks at Crackdown 2 and wonders why its main narrative is so utterly incapable of maintaining our interest.  Is the problem bad writing?  Have our brains been re-wired by the internet as suggested by Susan Greenfield and Nicholas Carr?  And if it has, should we care?

BG 30 – Roleplaying Games and The Cluttered Self

Futurisimc have my thirtieth Blasphemous Geometries column entitled “Roleplaying Games and The Cluttered Self”.

The column is both a defence of Consumerism and an examination of the ways in which we express, formulate and find ourselves through the process of playing games.  It is also the longest piece of writing I have ever published, clocking in at over 6,500 words.  It is also the first piece of writing for which I took photos (the photos in question are of my old room at my mum’s house, which I have been clearing out over the past few months).

Aside from these minor formal experiments, the piece also marks something of a departure from my traditional critical stomping grounds and towards something a good deal more personal in that I try to use my thinking about games to shed some light on some thinking I have recently been doing about myself.  I’m not entirely sure how effective the experiment has been, but it was certainly an interesting experience trying something so different.

BG 29 – Microsoft Kinect: The Call of the Womb

Futurismic have my 29th (!) Blasphemous Geometries column entitled “Microsoft Kinect: The Call of the Womb”

The Kinect is really nothing new, much like the Playstation Move it is a rather blatant attempt to tap into the market for casual gamers uncovered by the Nintendo Wii and its much vaunted non-standard controller.  However, while Sony were busy Me-Too-ing in a way that is weirdly unconvincing (if I wanted that kind of play experience, I would still buy a Wii despite the fact that I’m sure that Playstation Move can and will do everything the Wii can do and more), Microsoft decided to renew their long-standing desire to use their games console as a means of securing complete dominion over a house’s entertainment media.

Again, this is nothing new as it is arguably what the original XBox was designed to do, but there is something incredibly bleak in Microsoft’s vision of a future in which everyone socialises through a games console.  Something so bleak that I had to write about it.

The column taps into some of the recurring themes of my writing but it is particularly linked to themes explored in other columns I have written including the banal and unpleasant nature of our escapist fantasies and our desire to have a group gaming experience without actually gaming with other people.

BG 28 – Dead Space : The Shock Doctrine Goes Interplanetary

Futurismic have my latest Blasphemous Geometries column.

As I promised last month, this column moves away from my recent tendency to use games as launching pads in order to provide a detailed analysis of one particular game – the zombies-in-space third person action game Dead Space.  This piece was quite a lot of fun to write, hopefully you’ll enjoy reading my analysis of what is possibly the most furiously Marxist video game ever produced.