"Diversity in games is a huge problem that the industry knows about, and is going to have to do something about," says game developer Naomi Clark in the trailer for Gaming in Color, a documentary film about queer and genderqueer players and creators in the world of video games.
Created by Midboss, the company behind the GaymerX convention, the film deals with the harassment faced by LGBT gamers, the importance of representing them within games themselves, and the shifts already taking place within gaming and game development communities. "There are a lot of gamer and game designers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or genderqueer who are really seeking to reinvent games," says Clark.
The film is now available through on a plethora of sources: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Playstation, Xbox and more.
As a woman who writes articles about video games, I hear the word "censorship" a lot these days. To hear certain corners of the internet tell it, "censorship" supposedly means having discussions on the images we see in media, asking people to think about the language they use and the effect it achieves, doing any kind of media criticism, or moderating comments so that nobody can shit them up with frantic sealioning about how other people are being too sensitive to criticism.
Fortunately there's a game in the works about actual media censorship, as in a system wherein only government-approved or politically-advantageous speech is allowed and defiance solicits retaliation. The Westport Independent tasks players with deciding how, when and whether to strike out "offending" comment from the people's news, whether they'll work in step with the government agenda or attempt to subvert it, and who among their employed transcribers can be trusted to help.
The game's still very early yet, but there's an alpha available for you to preview some of the intriguing systems. The Westport Independent has eloquently borrowed one of the best parts of its aesthetic-alike predecessor, oppressive border control sim Papers, Please: It's that element of having tools, papers and information splayed out across the intimate work space in front of you, all of it a pleasure to pull, sort and rifle. That pleasurable intimacy tends to reinforce the idea that your tiny decisions reverberate massively.
We recently covered Holly Gramazio's work on a newsgame about the arbitrary (and basically sexist) list of acts banned in the UK's pornography. What other games about censorship have you enjoyed?
Take one part roleplaying game, one part dating sim, and one part mystery-solving, set it in a traditional elite girls' school, and you'll have Hanako Games' Black Closet, a slightly rough but engaging twist on more than one genre.
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The world of Ink begins in darkness. You're a little white square surrounded by what appears to be nothing—until you start painting.
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What in the unknown world is Jason Rohrer up to now? Read the rest
Arielle Grimes' What Now?
uses constraint and glitch aesthetics to explore emotional overwhelm, care for oneself and othersRead the rest
The age of obsequious, infantilizing, anthropomorphic operating systems—think Clippy and his cohort—may be a dim comic memory, but it's helped inspire an entire (though brief) generation of art and music.
Now, a new jam game called RadOS, billed as a "modern horror experience", summons the simultaneously hilarious and nightmarish circumstance of cursing softly at a bright, gooey GUI as you struggle desperately against losing everything. Your virtual assistant is a goofy, wittering submarine sandwich wearing shoes (this is never explained), who cheerfully informs you that thanks to some crucial updates, your system will restart in 30 seconds. That's about how much time you have to save all your unsaved work.
RadOS presents you with the impossible feat of saving several windows' worth of work in those 30 seconds, and these vary for each playthrough—figuring out how to save, export, submit, et cetera each open project is made ever more enraging by the assistant continually popping in to "help."
If it's possible to succeed, I haven't managed it; I think instead it's a nihilistic commentary on Windows 95, designed to frustrate you and make you laugh a little bit (the user icon, a cavernous hood with a blossom emerging from its depths, is wonderfully eerie).
RadOS was made for the recent Toronto Game Jam and is downloadable for free. There's no Mac version.
Infinideer is a weird little diversion made for the tenth annual Toronto game jam: You are a deer, you gallop into traffic, and you have to cause as much wreckage as you can before you die grossly, which is inevitable.
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Why are 80-hour work weeks considered normal in the world of video games? At Kotaku, Jason Schreier investigates the phenomenon of "crunch time," where employees of video game companies are routinely expected to work nightmarish hours, most of which is unpaid overtime.
Crunch, as it’s called, has become status quo for the video game industry, as normal to game developers’ lives as daily commutes or lunch breaks... Developers regularly lament having to suffer through unrelenting crunch cycles where they go weeks or months without seeing their families. A 2014 survey by the International Game Developers Association found that 81% of polled game developers had crunched at some point over the previous two years. (50% felt crunch was expected in their workplaces and a “normal part of the job.”)
Crunch has become an ingrained part of the culture at many game companies, one that has ruined relationships, driven people out of the video game industry, and prevented others from joining it. Schreier digs in to some of the reasons why crunch exists—bad management, unreasonable expectations, equating passion with sacrifice—and why it may not even produce better games.
It's also worth asking what the world of video games loses creatively (and in terms of employee diversity) when it drives out people who aren't willing or able to work 80-hour weeks. This isn't a new phenomenon, but it's been under increasing scrutiny since a scathing 2004 blog post by the spouse of an Electronic Arts employee, and a subsequent class action lawsuit. But the practice continues, and there are still plenty of game developers who treat it as a normal part of the industry, or even something to celebrate:
I haven't always loved running, but thanks to Zombies, Run, I can't stop.
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When a game glitches, is it broken—or just opening a door into an unexpected new game?
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As part of the larger Twitter Fiction Festival, author Jeanne Thorton will be creating a live, interactive mystery tale on Twitter today, and you can help write—and solve—it with your own tweets. Imagine a choose your own adventure story crossed with a D&D campaign, unfolding 140 characters at a time. Here's the pitch:
Two trans women living in New Orleans and selling cakes to punks for a living encounter a terrible occult-themed crime, and via a complex and TBD chain of circumstances set forth to solve it. The audience will submit ideas for actions that the women might take at critical junctures, which the author will then either use as a basis for her storytelling decisions (with proper credit given) or ignore entirely.
Although anyone is welcome to submit their ideas, submissions from trans participants will be given priority. The story begins on Thorton's Twitter feed at 11 am EST and is slated to end at 1 pm, though Thorton says she "will clearly be going over the allotted time." If you come in late, you catch up on the story so far at this page, which Thorton built using the interactive fiction tool Twine.
The page outlines some rules for submitting your ideas, and will display updated character stats like hits points, magic points, and inventory. It also offers more backstory about the two main characters, Ava and Kells, and their "queer-owned home delivery baked goods and investigative services firm," Red Velvet LLC.
What can thinking like musicians teach us about game-making?Read the rest
Based on the trailer, the Jem and the Holograms movie looks incredibly disappointing. It's ok. You don't need it. Read the excellent new Jem comic book instead.
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Over the past decade or so, gritty, apocalyptic worlds were the favored setting of popular video games, and machinelike cyber-dystopias were a reliable aesthetic before that. But No Man's Sky, a highly-anticipated upcoming world, is infinite and hopeful.
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