Our Monday reflection is a regular weekly item here on Offworld, a special satellite transmission designed to highlight our favorite Offworld stories, wonderful trends, and the stories from elsewhere in the galaxy that got us talking. Sign up here to receive this digest each week via email—it's a great way to avoid missing anything.
A few years ago Anna Anthropy wrote a revolutionary book: Rise of the Videogame Zinesters documented the groundswell of free, cheap and easy-to-learn game-making tools, and how they were enabling new creators, particularly women and marginalized folks, to participate for the first time. She made the point ahead of its time, but since writing her book, she says the landscape has shifted—many of the tools she once celebrated have evolved away from their entry-level audience.
In her latest Offworld feature, Anna looks at what WarioWare D.I.Y. did correctly to teach and reward entry-level game makers and designers—with Nintendo's new Super MarioMaker about to inherit the mantle, her design study is an interesting look at what truly democratic software looks like.
Previously at Offworld Anna has looked at what games must learn from children's books, and has written about her personal (occasionally-scary) experience of Nintendo Style Savvy: Trendsetters.
We were given an amazing compliment to our curatorial skills last week by Wired, who called us one of 20 must-follow feeds in entertainment. The only other games-related shoutout on the list is Double Fine's Tim Schafer (a giant among men, it's true), and we're one of only two websites—the rest are comics to read, Instagram feeds and Tumblrs to follow.
We're proud that every day we put forward a new and unusual face of the video game industry—Offworld is run by two women, our contributors are mostly women, the games we put forward are strange and easy to play and often free, and in this way we want to bring you not only the coolest and most creative games, but to offer you a fresh breed of game culture. You might not be the lanyard-wearing, model weapon-toting type, but we won't let that scare you, your friends, your family, your girlfriend, your Mom, or anyone else away from the wonderful world of play and creation.
Last week was the latest Ludum Dare competition, and the theme was "You are the Monster." It's amazing to see what game developers find monstrous: Passengers is about the complex and often grotesque machinery fueling Europe's ongoing refugee crisis; Unsolicited is about working at a form letter company (it's by Papers, Please's Lucas Pope, naturally). We also dug Everyday Misanthrope, a game where it's fun to be a jerk to others.
Our Mobile Game of the Week last week was Pac Man 256, and everyone is convinced that Pac Man looks like a dong in the screenshot. Finally, we loved Subway Adventure, a new game from the prolific and brilliant Increpare that's about wandering the "Dream World of Sadness Metro".
Transmissions from Elsewhere
My colleague Jordan Erica Webber wrote a piece that's part humorous, part sincere, about what we can learn about managing our life from The Sims.
At Kotaku, there's an interview with storied designer Harvey Smith of Arkane Studios about challenging the traditional tendency of commercial games to celebrate players' doing just whatever they feel like:
"Because people are not used to video game characters being mean to them, or telling them you’re not a hero, you’re a bad guy. Everybody just wants to be told in a video game that you’re great, no matter what you do. If you slaughter everybody—you killed the maids, you killed the old people, you killed the beggars—you’re great, here’s a medal, you’re a hero.
We decided that sounds psychotic. It doesn’t match our values, it doesn’t match the way the world works, it doesn’t match the way any other fiction—imagine a novel where a guy wakes up in the morning, kills everybody in the house, goes down the street, kills everybody on the way to work, kills everybody in the office, and then at the very end of the novel, there is a scene where he is given a medal and made some sort of hero and anointed in some way. It doesn’t make any sense."
After going most of my life with basically zero interest in cinema, I've been suddenly watching beautiful old films from the 1950s and 1960s. Whereas I'm used to using Netflix et al to zone out, lots of these timeless films (particularly the Alfred Hitchcock ones) encourage mindful watching, like noticing The Birds' gently-repeating lovebird color palette of red and green following Tippi Hedren around everywhere. From how excited everyone gets whenever I bring this stuff up I'm guessing this is what my friends did at college?
As I've been doing this I've gotten into the costume design work of Edith Head, who was apparently totally amazing. A good deal of the pleasure for me in watching these films is how finely everything is made. How I covet all those tailored lines! Breaks your heart!
Anyway, just look at this gallery of 30 Edith Head costumes and sigh along. Wow.
That's all for this week's reflection—remember to subscribe to get it to your inbox, and to share your favorite article with a friend to join the OFFWORLD POPULIST GAMES REVOLUTION.