During my PhD studies, I lost a passion for many things. I lost a passion for playing games. Playing games to analyze them because I had to was not as rewarding as doing the same when I did it because I wanted to. I lost a passion for reading, both fiction and nonfiction. I lost a passion for scholarship, the history of the medium, and the medium as a whole. This summer, now that I don’t HAVE to do these things, I am re-discovering that long lost love for my chosen medium.
First in this quest of rediscovery is the book Console Wars by Blake Harris. I found this book three days ago while randomly browsing the science fiction and fantasy section in my local book store. Clearly, it was misplaced. However, as a student of gaming, it spoke to me. The book follows the exploits of SEGA and Nintendo’s top brass and how they attempted to outsell each other during the days of the Genesis vs SNES console wars. I have yet to finish it, thus “first impressions”, but thus far it is an enjoyable read (almost reads like good fiction) that chronicles the corporate side of the 16 bit console wars. I’m 300 pages in (in 2 days? I haven’t done that in a while!) and I have loved every sentence of it. I am confident when I say that students of gaming, players in general (specially those who were in their teens during the console wars) and anyone interested in gaming will get a kick out of it.
Yes, it is ultimately glorification of corporate culture and marketing, but it is an incredibly compelling read that sheds light on what was happening behind the curtains during what is arguably the only true console war that the gaming industry has ever seen.
A few days ago, Edward Smith wrote a piece for the International Business Times where he makes the suggestion that the attitude of players towards games like Her Story and Sunset are killing the video game industry. His argument stems, unsurprisingly, from the recent bankruptcy of Tales of Tales, the studio responsible for Sunset, and his perception of the general reception of Her Story, an FMV-driven narrative with minimalistic player input in the tradition of Night Trap. Edward explains how he longs for video games to grow up and become an artistic medium, and that player’s receptions to art games are preventing the medium to grow up. This is by no means the first article of its kind. Indeed several commentators have decried how the medium has yet to grow up and how players are preventing the medium from reaching maturity. I disagree with their premise.
I don’t know that I would call the latest E3 as the best E3 in ages, I have to concede that it was a remarkably solid press conference. From the first major conference featuring Bethesda in their first ever E3 players were shown upcoming games to be excited about. Bethesda had a good showing including games like Doom and an Elder Scrolls Online expansion, but the showstopper for Bethesda was Fallout 4.
Fallout 4 seems to begin in the pre-war era and expand on the already expansive lore of the Fallout universe. Mechanically it seems like it will follow the template set by Fallout III and expanded on in Fallout: New Vegas. However, Fallout 4 will feature the ability of taking over wasteland space and building a settlement. Players will then have to build defenses to protect their settlement from raiders. More Fallout is always welcome, but Fallout with added play content is amazing.
It seems like ludic academics are not entirely amicable to scholarly inquiry into a single text. Browsing through the most recent volumes of Eludamos, Game Studies, Loading (SFU), and Games and Culture, only a handful of articles will focus on sustained analysis about an individual title, and those that do use individual titles often do so as a case study to prove the merit of a theoretical framework posited in the same article rather than as catalyst for sustained analysis of the text itself.
While I understand the reasoning behind this – discussing concepts is, after all, a far more edifying and – honestly – fun endeavor than sustained inquiry into an individual text, I find the relative lack of single text analysis to be disheartening. At times, sustained scholarly inquiry into a single text can shed light not only on the meaning of the text, but about the role of the text and of media as a whole in society and might help reshape the way in which we talk about genres as a whole.
Why do I make this assertion?