Linkspam: May 12th, 2017

This is my monthly linkspam, which includes some articles I found interesting, and some brief commentary.

Video games are better without stories – Ian Bogost argues that video games just aren’t as good at storytelling as movies or literature.  Currently the best stories seem to be told through environmental storytelling, which falls quite short of the interactive storytelling often envisioned.  This is a point I’m sympathetic to, having played several games that were widely praised for their story, and being frankly disappointed at how poorly they compare to even mediocre literature.

As far as my personal calculations go, it’s not so much a question of what the medium of video games is capable of. To me, the question is, “Is it economically feasible for the medium to produce good stories that go beyond mainstream tastes?”  For me, movies fail this test because either they need to sell to a broad audience (which generally doesn’t include me), or they need to be poorly produced.  Video games are also in a bad position, but they may get better as development costs go down.

I found this link via Critical Distance, which paired Ian Bogost’s article with several critiques.  To be honest, I was really put off by that Gamasutra article, which started out by complaining that this whole debate had been dismissed by academics since 2005, and then immediately followed this with the complaint that Ian Bogost was being elitist.  Games critics, why are you bad?  Patrick Klepek makes good points though.

Hypatia affair – So, this requires some context.  There was recently an article in Hypatia, academic feminist philosophy journal, which argued that if we accept transgender experiences, we must also accept transracialism (a la Dolezal).  It would actually be interesting to see a rigorous philosophical argument along these lines, but the paper did no such thing.  In fact, it showed a complete lack of familiarity with trans issues, indicating that Hypatia, a feminist journal, failed to get the right referees to review the paper. This is troubling to philosophers interested in writing about trans issues, knowing “the fate of your work (and, by extension, your career) is being decided by people without even the most minimal literacy in those issues.”

Anyway, academics wrote an open letter criticizing Hypatia.  And then New York Magazine writer Jesse Singal brought it to the public realm, referring to it as a “witch hunt” of the paper’s author (who is not even named in the open letter?).  Siobhan wrote an article talking about how bullshit this is, and includes many more links on the subject.

A message from Anita on the end of Tropes – Anita Sarkeesian has made her last Tropes Vs Women in Video Games video, which is sad.  For most of the series, I have felt that almost everything she said was just basic feminism.  And yet, it was so important, because to many people who consume or produce video games, her critiques were eye-opening or subversive.  Myself I enjoyed watching her videos because I liked seeing all the examples, oh so many examples.

Oh, but I can’t be too sad about it, because Anita Sarkeesian has already started a new video series!

Speak Your Mind-Even If Your Voice Shakes – This is a first-person perspective from Luxander on purism in our feminist communities.  Oh, I have many thoughts on this topic, but they haven’t really coalesced into blog posts, except this linkspam.

You Draw It: Just How Bad Is the Drug Overdose Epidemic? – I was surprised to find that drug overdose deaths are now outnumbering car accident deaths. I’ve always kinda assumed that car deaths were so common that it would be disproportionate to be afraid of anything without also being afraid of cars.  Oh, I wonder how Trumpcare will affect that.



  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … without even the most minimal literacy …

    Ye dogs, a whole committee of PhD+-level scholars all read and approved that phrase?!?

  2. says

    @Pierce R. Butler,
    I’m not going to comment on word usage, but I’ll note that the quote in question was from the Medium article, and was not reviewed by any committee.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Siggy @ # 2 – Thanks for that clarification. Somebody pls slap the Medium editors’ wrists!

  4. Kreator says

    I find Bogost’s article boring and unoriginal; to me it seems just another entry in a genre that’s quite popular on the net: “games should cater to my tastes and my tastes alone.” It’s almost on the same intellectual level of GamerGate.
    I’ve read a lot and watched lots of films in my life, and even the best classics in those mediums don’t satisfy me quite as much as experiencing a story in a game, no matter how simple or clichéd. You just can’t beat interactivity; in fact, I’ve almost abandoned reading and TV/movies in favor of video games. That’s not to say that I’d prefer the stories to stay simple or clichéd forever of course. In fact, I’d love for some celebrated authors, artists and directors to shift their focus away from the old mediums and move on to gaming.

  5. says

    Is Bogost really demanding that every game cater to his tastes? Oh, roll eyes. One of the struggles of being a cultural critic is that everyone keeps on saying you’re making demands of them.

    But, a question for you. I feel like most of the games hailed as great storytelling these days are in the walking simulator genre. While I like this genre, it isn’t exactly the most interactive. So I’m wondering, were these the games you were thinking of, or are you thinking of some other ones?

  6. Kreator says


    Is Bogost really demanding that every game cater to his tastes?

    You’re right, he’s not. But he says that if they don’t, they won’t have a future, which basically amounts to the same IMO:

    If there is a future of games, let alone a future in which they discover their potential as a defining medium of an era, it will be one in which games abandon the dream of becoming narrative media

    As for your question: I do love “walking simulators” a lot, and I consider them highly interactive: just by moving around the environment, you’re interacting with it, you’re exploring a world at your own pace, something other mediums can’t offer (except for painting and photography of course, but you can’t actually move physically within their worlds.) But in any case, they are not the ones I was talking about, no. As an example I was actually thinking about Alan Wake: the story is full of horror clichés and Anita Sarkeesian could rightfully tear it a hole for its blatant use of the “women in refrigerators” trope, among others, but watching it develop as I move through the game’s world is an incredibly satisfying experience for me. No movie or book has provided me with something quite like it.

  7. says

    I don’t think making a claim about the future is the same as making a demand… In any case, I wasn’t even agreeing with Bogost. The main thing I dislike about video games as a storytelling medium is its economics. What I like about literature is that I actually dislike the vast majority of literature, and I can afford to do so because there’s so much of it.

    I’m not familiar with Alan Wake, but a friend has said good things about it. I don’t think it would be my thing though.

  8. Kreator says

    Yeah, I exaggerated (GamerGate’d?) I guess. I do apologize for my tone; I’ve been in a bad mood these days and only now that I’ve gotten some rest I’m starting to come out of it.

  9. says

    Well, you weren’t the only person upset at Bogost! Did you see his critics? LOL. I didn’t mind your tone, I like the spirited disagreement.

  10. Martin Zeichner says

    I find that Bogost ignores an important fact: that gaming on a computer, whatever form it takes, is a medium in it’s infancy. It’s only about 40 years old. It has yet to find its proper form. It’s a bit like attempting to critisize motion pictures on the basis of having seen some early Keystone Kops films or melodramatic silent films or to critisize photography as an art form on the late 19th century by saying,’It’s just like painting.”

    OTOH, yes games designers can be accused of being obsessed with narrative. But let’s face it, they are working from a tradition of long (and short) form media that have found narrative to be the best way to hold the attention of a audience over a substantial period of time.

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