Writing about art can be a tricky subject. There are many paths to consider, such as composition, context, and creator intent. Complicating this matter is the debate between objectivism and subjectivism. Furthermore, the multitude of perspectives from which critique can be built is unfortunately underrepresented. Even if there are many varied opinions on topics, a diverse group of writers can improve the range of opinions expressed. This week’s Web Crush Wednesday, Offworld, works to add more marginalized voices to the mix in various geek and tech cultures.
At this year’s GDC, prolific writer and games critic, Leigh Alexander announced that Offworld would be undergoing a relaunch of sorts under her and Laura Hudson’s (writer at Wired) direction. The main topics covered on the site usually relate to video games in some way, but sometimes space is devoted to general tech and geek media. Often, the posts are, or include, meta-discussions about the surrounding culture. If a post is not a full writeup, then it is a blurb and link to a post from another site. In a way, this makes a good place to find new and interesting critique from several sources. The site’s goal is to represent more women and people of color, and other voices that deserve a seat at the table. As a recent article by Gita Jackson stated, many of these fans and critics have been here the whole time, whether or not some “gatekeeping” fans may want to believe. In this sense, we are just asserting our right to be here. Whatever your opinion is on how art critique should go, there’s no denying there is a shortage of diverse voices. And as always, representation is important, and seeing faces like theirs can bring more people into the community. One of the goals of the site is to also make it comfortable for more casual fans to feel welcome to join in.
I think it’s also important that they look at video games as a legitimate art form. The debate over games being art has seemed to have lost its intensity, but I would be foolish to say that the argument has completely gone away. While the apprehension to considering games art could be attributed to public depiction and some of the less-savory fan base, a good portion of the fault is in how discussion is framed. Much of games “press” is viewing video games as strictly a product. And although it’s nice to have some level of objectivity to reviews as in movies or music, (I certainly want to know if a game doesn’t work, or may have a length that is a bit short or long) this doesn’t do anything to elevate the medium, or it’s discourse, artistically. It’s nice to sometimes use games as a toy or an escape, but if we’re going to have stories and characters and employ various literary devices, we definitely need to discuss their messages and how they come across. There needs to be a commitment to working with and accepting criticism.
These two intersections, diversity and artistic discussion, are what make Offworld so good and so important. Creating safe spaces for marginalized voices and artistic growth really is a complete positive for geek culture. We’re all nerds who enjoy our hobby in some way, and there is certainly enough space for everyone to have room. But, we’ll never progress if we continue to tread the same ground. Even if you just enjoy the “popcorn-flick” equivalent of games, those too will suffer from stagnation without artistic critique and a variety of personalities and experiences supplying it. If these sort of styles of critique sound interesting to you, or you just want a change of pace to the type of updates and articles you’re used to reading, be sure to check out Offworld!
You can find them at Twitter @offworld to keep up with new posts!