Friday, August 21, 2009

Where the wild things game

Take this post for what it is. Whatever it is.

I just came back from a video game gathering where nerds sit down (and nowadays even stand up!) to play video games for a whole week. This was the summer gathering, which means people actually did leave the premises, even if only to get some air not drenched in the smell of sweat.

First and foremost it differs from LAN-parties such as dreamhack, mostly in size. We also have way more sofas than chairs compared to LAN-parties, so it definitely makes for a more comfortable environment. We also have more drums and popnmusic-controllers than LAN-parties. Drummers may sit down, Bemani players may not. If they’re not playing Beatmania.

"I´m not going to take your insolence sitting down!
Your hemorrhoids are flaring up again, eh?"

(I just had to) Anyway, with the swine flu rumours around, and dirty gamers around, I though I didn’t want to stick around THAT much. Also we had sun, but only on the outside, so as typical Swede with seasonal affective disorder I wanted to go to the beach as much as I could, but found myself having trouble finding others who did. People slept during the day, which is fucked up in my book, video gaming or not. Hm, I didn't think I'd make gamers the subject of my anthropological interest as soon as in my fourth post, but here we go. I guess I should keep my distance not to go native as well, though.

Gamers (and games) are easy targets though. And since I'm one of them I have legitimacy to hurt people’s feelings! Ah, the joys of being able to both be and not to be. We even make fun of ourselves, do we not? Not only by saying that games aren’t art and that what we’re doing isn’t important and doesn’t contribute anything to society as a whole, but we do ourselves in even when gathered together—more so than putting gaffer tape on the ground and letting people know that wrestling is allowed within those boundaries. Oh, well, we played Mafia (that’s Werewolf to the Americans out there) and on the reveal after a night where the mafia kill a villager, the game leader says "… The chances of getting laid have just lowered". Yes, it was someone perceived as a girl who had been killed. And yes, my prejudice concerning video gamers is justified.

There wasn’t much discussion concerning video games as a form of art or subject of critical analysis going around, which is usual, and casual, but sometimes irritating because I myself do not know how to approach the subject. I’ve started to accept that the internet is a great forum for these kinds of discussions, but it does strike me as rather odd that people who spend four, sex, or eight hours a day playing video games haven’t read any game theory, not even on an academic level!

Positivist knowledge though, is high in demand for the people attending the gathering, as; quizzes always are successful. Who knows most about Nintendo, or recognizes the most video game songs, and so forth. Different forms of competition, which makes sense since we’re gaming. The most fun discussing video games I had was probably fighting games, because we at least got into the discussion of the core mechanics and I got some questions answered, including why Street Fighter IV is barely in the top ten list of most popular arcade games in Japan right now (fast projectiles plus high priority long range attacks *cough* Sagat).

I guess XBL achievements have something in common with positivist knowledge; it’s quantifiable. People at the convention I was at have a very special jargon with a lot of irony and insider jokes, so normally I wouldn’t be sure what to make of it when I ask someone for advice if I should be selling a game and they look at me and say “If you managed to get all the achievements”. WTF. Achievement whore!!!!!11

Sorry, it could have been hurtful of me to use ‘whore’ as a derogatory description of someone doing the video game moral equivalence of fast-food eating (Thanks, Jonthan Blow). The journey is the destination; thank you, Braid. Hm, I just realized most of you aren’t Swedish, so you wouldn’t know that the Swedish word “mål” means both “destination” and “meal”. Darn.

Perhaps I should change the name of my blog after this post to have some credibility left? Oh, wait, I could ask people to recommend books concerned with critical analysis and making of video games instead. And then I could bring them to the next video game gathering!

PS: The association which made this gathering possible is Terebi-gemu.


  1. Any sorts of books you're looking for? A few of the more intellectual games blogs out there have affiliate links to a sort of rudimentary "bookshelf" of games writing, but I'm not sure how complete they are. A couple good examples are on Ian Bogost's site ( and Michael Abbott's Abbott has a much more daunting list here:

    If you have any specific areas of interest, let me know and I'll try and point you in the right direction. You might also want to ask the Twitterverse.

  2. Right now I'm interested in books concerning the potential for narratives in video gaming.

  3. In that case, my first recommendation is Janet Murray's Hamlet On The Holodeck.

    Game studies in the 1990s are often depicted as an argument between "ludologists" (focusing on rule systems) and "narrativists" (focusing on stories) with neither side really winning. Though the result is presented as a compromise, it seems that lodology seems a lot more popular and easier to find these days.

  4. More broadly, while I'm still thinking about it: If you want to read more on story, I recommend you pick up a primer on literary theory (I am a fan of the Norton Anthology Of Theory And Criticism) and a copy of Joseph Campbell's Hero With 1,000 Faces, which traces iterations of the "monomyth," a sort of Platonic ideal form of the hero stories told throughout various cultures.