What was it like working a Nintendo hotline in the 80s?

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us reading on parenting via Tomb Raider, the utility of the word 'gameplay', and experiences from Nintendo 'play counselors' from the 1980s and 90s.

Can games exist without players?

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us interviews with the developers behind Cibele and Uriel's Chasm, as well as a meditation on games that aren't meant to be played.

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Did you know Carl Sagan designed a game?

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us writing on witch folklore, the intimate language of games, and a lost design doc made by Carl Sagan.

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Get romantic with tentacle monsters

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us a preview of consensual tentacle sex game Consentacle and a new documentary series on women in games. Read the rest

Why games need to stop letting everyone save the world

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us a look inside the cheerful pacifist adventure game Undertale as well as Life is Strange's final chapter.

Kill Screen's Frances Chiem argues that the “gut punch” of futility in Life is Strange’s conclusion is effective because it transcends genre cliches. Protagonist Max doesn’t get to be the hero. As the title of Chiem’s article succinctly argues, "We Need to Stop Letting Everyone Save the World."

Writing for FemHype, the writer known as Nightmare takes on the staggeringly popular Undertale, "the RPG game where you don't have to destroy anyone." The game has become a hit for its charming characters and broad, inclusive representation, as well as its emphasis on pacifist resolutions, which Nightmare argues speaks especially to LGBT+ players.

At Ludus Novus, Gregory Avery-Weir explains how Skyrim’s city of Riften is doomed to perpetual crime and poverty because the thieves and thugs running it are “essential” in the game’s code and therefore can’t be removed:

When games portray fictional worlds, they make implicit statements about the nature of the real world. By placing the Thieves Guild—one of the game’s three major employers—in a corrupt town ruled by a coldhearted mead magnate, Skyrim makes a statement about criminals and morality. Criminals come from bad places, and there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation.

Bianca Batti of Not Your Mama’s Gamer takes a look at women-driven horror games like Among the Sleep and Alien: Isolation and concludes that they, too, often 'hard code' their mother figures as either victims or monsters:

In these two texts, motherhood becomes binaristically constructed between the two poles of good mothering and bad mothering, with no other options for maternal identity made available.
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What makes someone a 'girl gamer'?

In her recent video project, Latoya Peterson explores the label "girl gamer". Meanwhile, Kevin Nguyen has a hypothesis about the "Jonathan Franzen of video games."

How games are keeping traditional symphony orchestras in business

Read about the surprising role games are playing in sustaining symphony orchestras, one woman's struggle in a toxic industry, and how a player discovered their sexuality in Borderlands.

Let's talk more about The Beginner's Guide, a game about games

This week, our partnership with Critical Distance brings us further discussion on one of the most interesting works of game criticism ever to be playable, the untold story of the Net Yaroze homebrew community, and more. Read the rest

Wil Wheaton on voice acting and the virtues of therapy through Mario Kart

Greetings, Offworlders! We're proud to team up with our friends at Critical Distance to bring you a special digest edition of their popular This Week in Videogame Blogging feature, showcasing games discussion from all around the web. This week, a therapist shares her successes getting through to young patients through Mario Kart, actor Wil Wheaton discusses a possible union strike by industry voice actors, and we explore Line Hollis's mixtape of games that break the fourth wall. — Leigh

First up, at Ontological Geek, therapist Kim Shashoua shares a couple of experiences where videogames became an essential tool for reaching young people in group therapy:

I finally thought, "screw it, I'm just going to talk about Mario Kart.” I asked everyone who had played Mario Kart to raise their hands. The response was universal. Okay, already we had a better recognition rate. I asked about a time when they were doing great in the game, and if a friend had ever done something that left them feeling betrayed and angry. Their immediate answer: the blue shell. And there it was. A simple term we could use to parse the mire of childhood friendships.

[...]

Instead of tearing up the floorboards and replacing all of our current analogies with gaming references, I suggest that we recognise video games as a font for cases where kids have already encountered (and often triumphed over) real-world issues. Mario Kart wasn't just a thing that those kids knew -- it was a place where they felt anger and betrayal.

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