Ebook: M. Jansson “Everything I Shoot Is Art”

“Everything I Shoot Is Art” is a collection of essays and interviews written by Swedish art critic and researcher Mathias Jansson along the last few years, and first published on various online magazines and journals. Their main, though not unique, concern are the various possible connection lines that can be drawn between what we usually call “games” and what we usually call “art”, in the constant effort to help finding a broader, more comprehensive definition for the latter. Included are interviews with artists and indie game designers, from Rafael Rozendaal to Pippin Barr.

Download the ebook for free (or buy a printed copy) at http://linkeditions.tumblr.com/jansson

PhD thesis: Playing Games with Art

Felan Stephen Parker’s dissertation, “Playing Games with Art”, addresses the question «How are games being reconfigured as art, where, and by whom?». It focuses on the historical period between 2005 and 2010, and is made up of several case studies, including the highly public debate precipitated by popular film critic Roger Ebert’s derisive comments about games as art; the cultural reception and canonization of blockbuster “prestige games” that pursue artistic status within the boundaries of the commercial industry, such as Bioshock; and at the opposite end of the spectrum, the construction of independently-produced “artgames” such as Passage as a gaming analogue to autobiographical indie music and comics. Each of these overlapping contexts represents a particular conception of games as legitimate art, mobilizing different elements and strategies in pursuit of cultural and material capital, and establishing the terms and stakes for more recent developments.

Read the full dissertation at http://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/28164

Political game: Touchtone

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Touchtone, out now for iOS, is a puzzle game with a satirical/political stance against the NSA. Evan Narcisse on Kotaku writes: “It is a deliberately political video game. It takes aim at the creeping invasion of privacy—escalating ever since the World Trade Center bombing fourteen years ago—that’s metastasized into the present surveillance state. It’s also a fiendishly designed set of puzzles, one where players embody the role of a new National Security Agency trainee, learning the ins-and-outs of intercepting and decrypting private communications”.

Read the full article at http://kotaku.com/fake-nsa-spying-game-is-fun-and-thats-scary-1693149779

Article: Remembering Brian Sutton-Smith

Throughout his career, prof. Sutton-Smith sought to answer a set of fundamental questions: What is play? Why do human beings engage in it? What psychological, cognitive and cultural functions does it serve? The answer, he concluded after six decades of study, was one that befit his quicksilver quarry: No single definition could contain it. “Something about the nature of play itself frustrates fixed meaning,” Sutton-Smith wrote in 2008. “Just as some scholars spend their lives consumed by the metaphysics of literature or history or philosophy or theology — you name it — I came to spend mine in search of the metaphysics of play.”

Read the full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/science/brian-sutton-smith-scholar-of-whats-fun-dies-at-90.html?_r=1

Book: The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games

This is one of those books that I would have liked to write. Jennifer Grouling Cover, a student and colleague of the famous narratologist David Herman, analyzes the practices to create narratives in tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. I have read this book and it is actually quite valid – creating the bases for more advanced analyses.

From the book blurb: “This work explores tabletop role playing game (TRPG) as a genre separate from computer role playing games. The relationship of TRPGs to other games is examined, as well as the interaction among the tabletop module, computer game, and novel versions of Dungeons & Dragons. Given particular attention are the narrative and linguistic structures of the gaming session, and the ways that players and gamemasters work together to construct narratives. The text also explores wider cultural influences that surround tabletop gamers”.

Download it in ebook format at https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=xl7P7GwME3gC

Article: Narrativity of Computer Games

The narrative qualities (or lack thereof) of computer games are a debated topic that is clearly very close to my interests. I have often lamented the lack of a complete, authoritative, up to date and balanced reference on this point. I’ve very recently discovered a very good entry by Britta Neitzel on the Living Handbook of Narratology on this topic that makes a good job of summing up a very reasonable approach to this topic. “Narrativity can be understood as a virtual capacity of computer games. Like every game, computer games consist of rule-governed actions carried out by a player. But they may also contain elements typical for narratives: actions, events, characters, and a setting. If these elements are arranged in a story-like order, a computer game possesses narrativity. Additionally, computer games, in contrast to other games (such as ball games or chess), integrate a representational level depicting the player’s actions in the game world and the player herself in the form of an avatar who acts within this world. This representational level can be compared with the level of narrative discourse”.

Read the full entry at http://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de/article/narrativity-computer-games

Game: Albino Lullaby

Albino Lullabyis a game that seems to rely on the mixture of narrative genres to produce uncertainty, a sense of uncanny and horror. Adam Smith writes: “My favourite thing about the demo was the tonal uncertainty. Rather than being pure terror, or adrenaline-pumping tension, Albino Lullaby is packed with odd little jokes alongside unnerving suggestions and grotesque realisations. The world is confusing – having elements of Victorian gothic and steampunk alongside its abattoir parlours – but there’s a thread of internal logic running through”.

Read the full article at http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2015/03/04/a-twisted-family-tree-albino-lullaby/ and get the preview episode at http://albinolullaby.com/

“Her Story”: a narrative procedural video game

“Her Story” is a video game where player listen to the interview of a woman whose husband has gone missing – and they are cast into the police researcher trying to piece the truth together. Game designer Sam Barlow says: “In most games, because the story is communicating your challenges, it’s a usability thing. Everything has to be on the surface: ‘Go here, kill this, do that’. This mechanic of searching the woman’s words kind of forces you to engage on a deeper level – it highlights those layers of meaning. The heart of any human story is subtext.”

Read the full article at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/27/her-story-computer-game-true-detective-meets-google

Game: Sym – a game on social anxiety

Sebastiano Morando and Francesco Lanciai will launch Sym, a game that offers a metaphor of social anxiety disorder, next March on Steam. “Sym is (perhaps accidentally) part of a recent trend: independent games designed to help players manage, recognize and discuss their personal demons”, writes Jessica Conditt on Engadget. “Sym is not about high scores or speed records,” says Sebastiano Morando. “There is no evil villain. Sym is for people who believe games can also make us think about the world and ourselves. We want people to think about the character’s words, why a level is made this way and what it means to them.”

Sym is due out for PC and Mac via Steam in March, and there’s a free demo available on its Steam Store page right now at http://store.steampowered.com/app/342100/

Read also the full article at http://www.engadget.com/2015/02/20/social-anxiety-indie-game-sym