Notes   /   19 October 2018

How to Talk about How to Talk about Videogames

In this book, Bogost asks us to think about how his kind of writing as something other than academic scholarship, or a journalistic review. He calls this "videogame criticism," and others have used this term as well for similar writing. Since you'll be creating your own videogame criticism soon, a recurring meta-question as we read these essays is, "What is even going on here?" or if you prefer, "How is this writing different from other genres, and how can we emulate those differences?"

To start developing our answers to those questions, it makes sense to think through the specific questions, insights, provocations, and epiphanies in the essays we've read so far. For each -- listed below -- I've selected a quote that, to me, epitomizes a key moment in that essay. In a small group, discuss each quote and its context in that essay, and locate with a different quote from that essay that you think is also important, and explain how it relates to the quote I started with. To make it more abstract: I've picked a dot, you'll pick some other dot, and then explain how to connect those two dots.

Chapter 1: The Squalid Grace of Flappy Bird

We play games because games are stupid, like drawer pulls are stupid. Flappy Bird is a game that accepts that it is stupid to be a game. ... For no matter how stupid it is to be a game, it is no less stupid to be a person who plays one.

Chapter 2: A Portrait of the artist as a Game studio

[thatgamecompany]'s games are about the feeling of being somewhere, not about the feeling of solving something.

Chapter 3: The Blue Shell is Everything That's Wrong with America

Would it be too much to say that Spiky Shell was a Gen Xer's lament, an NES-bred slacker's plaid, tortugal sigh, while Blue Shell was a Gen Y transitional object, a comfort blanket -- blu with calm like Linus van Pelt's -- that proffers assurance to the SNES milksop every time, no matter how infrequently it might appear? Probably so.

Chapter 4: Little Black Sambo, I'm Going to Eat You Up!

No, the interesting part is that Slaczka didn't know what "sambo" meant in the first place. Or more precisely, what that ignorance signifies.

Chapter 5: Can a Gobbler Have it All?

But even as Ms. Pac-Man is allegorically suggestive of the very first account of womain in the Judeo-Christian tradition, it also embraces and performs the new progressivism; a gobbler who can have it all.