Now that this semester of grad school has ended, I finally have time to write a post! It just so happens to be our last post before our holiday break, too, which tells you a bit about the craziness of my schedule…. You see, I’m a PhD student studying Learning Sciences, which is all about researching how people learn and how we can use those findings to reform the educational system. Trying to balance my online fandom life with my grad school life has been an ongoing struggle, but surprisingly, one of the things I’ve learned in my program is that many researchers in and around this field study the educational implications of fandom. Well, now I’m here to cross over between my offline and online life by sharing some of that work with you, as well as some findings from my own research!
It may come as no surprise to you that fans learn a great deal from engaging in fandom, whether they’re writing fanfics, composing meta, creating fanart, making cosplays, or heck, even writing essays from a critical lens like on this blog! But fandom still tends to be viewed dismissively by mainstream culture, and even we fans sometimes devalue our engagement as a mere “hobby”. Modern learning theorists now acknowledge the importance of learning outside of school, and are calling for in-school learning to be more like the interest- and peer-driven realm of outside-of-school learning, including hobbies like fandom. There are so many ways that fan engagement is related to the kinds of subjects people learn in school and to skills that are generally useful in life. And better yet, it’s in a context that people really care about, rather than the decontextualized content conventionally presented in schools, which can seem random and unconnected to students’ lives.
So, this fandom thing you’re doing right now? It’s totally legitimate, important, and socially responsible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
I can’t say that Twitter is exactly my favorite social media platform, but what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in making it easier for me to keep up to date with the artists and content creators I follow than I ever could on Tumblr. Thanks to this, I was able to quickly discover and devour Lady of the Shard, a new one-shot by artist Gigi D.G.. At this point, I’m definitely fashionably late making this post; however, if you’re a fan of cute comics about lesbians, aliens, and hope, sit a spell and listen to me for just a bit longer about Lady of the Shard.
When I saw B.R.U.H. available on Amazon, I knew I had to pick it up. B.R.U.H.: Black Renditions of Universal Heroes, is a great little art book by Markus Prime featuring exactly what it says: Black renditions of heroes from fiction.
Within the geek community, there are few subcultures that catch more shade than furries. If you’ve been to an anime or comic convention you’ve probably encountered a few of them; some are immediately identifiable by elaborate anthropomorphic animal suits, and in some cases they simply sport some animal features like ears and tails. There are also many members of this community who are fans of the aesthetic but don’t actively participate in the costuming aspect. I’m not a furry myself, and don’t have any authority to really analyze the community, but in the past I have engaged in some active furry-derision, and I’ve been challenging myself about why. What led me—and apparently so many others—to choose furries as a subculture scapegoat (no pun intended)? What inclines a community made up largely of outsiders to exclude another subgroup? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I have some theories.
If there’s one thing that’s been on the tongues of the gaming populace lately, it’s The Witness. After around seven years of waiting, gamers of the puzzle persuasion have finally been able to wrap their minds around the vibrant, and at times trying, world of The Witness. Created by Jonathan Blow of Braid fame (a 2-D puzzle game involving time control mechanics), the games takes the player through a setting rife with puzzles—around six hundred of them—which teaches them the mechanics along the way with no outright statement of “this is how you do this”. Both Blow and the game have been hailed as artisans who take an innovative approach to the genre while providing a game that is strangely compelling despite the seeming lack of story. However, not long after the game’s release, issues began popping up with the game’s accessibility, causing frustration for some of those who had been waiting for the game. Now, unintentionally, Blow finds himself in the middle of not only a conversation about molding gaming paradigms to fit an artistic vision, but a conversation about the adaptivity of inclusion in games as well. And for his part, Blow does little to add to the latter.
For a long time, game creators and fans alike had been arguing for the “outside world” to take games more seriously, to view it as an art form not unlike film or literature. By now, few are arguing that point anymore: games are as much art as anything else that can be considered art. However, certain subsets of game fans take up this strange spot where they don’t want allow games the same sort of criticism as any other form of art, not realizing that this is counterproductive to what they may have argued for in the first place and misunderstanding how most video games aren’t art for art’s sake. Still, critics and players have found themselves in this strange grey space concerning The Witness.The question concerning games—indie games, as compared to games for a larger audience—has shifted from “is it art?” to “should art be inclusive indefinitely?” And that’s a hard question to answer. A simpler concession is that if it’s not, then the artist has a duty to let their consumers know.
There’s a certain level of adulthood you reach where you realize that filthy humor really is hilarious, and you’re not fooling anyone by pretending it isn’t. Unfortunately, this realization tends to come at a time in your life when you’ve also realized that things like misogyny and racism are both incredibly shitty and incredibly prevalent. You want sex jokes, but you don’t want rape jokes, and you want to acknowledge that butt stuff can be hilariously awkward, but you also get furious when people are homophobic. Where can you, an adult with a refined palate for filthy humor, turn to satisfy your deep, aching need for inclusive, witty garbage? Esteemed readers, consider Oglaf.
A wide portion of gamers are probably already familiar with Lab Zero. The studio’s first game, Skullgirls, brought a new excitement to the fighting game genre with its tight controls and interesting plot run by an entirely female roster (excluding later add-ons). I know my friend group was obsessed with the game when it came out. Even I was, and I don’t really even like fighting games that much. But while it was fun to unload a few diamond drops on my opponents, what enticed me was Lab Zero’s art style—a sort of mix between Eastern and Western animation. So when I heard that the studio was gearing up to release another game using the same style, I’ll admit, I was excited. Following the information surrounding their campaign, I’m even more excited.
I’m a huge fan of video games. I think they can be fun, inspiring, cathartic, and generally a positive art form. I truly believe they are, in fact, an art form, and should be for everyone. This mindset is constantly evolving, but is unfortunately not ubiquitous, which is exemplified by the somewhat stagnant landscape of games. It’s been discussed at length how so many games are just straight, white dudes getting revenge, or similar ideas. This may put a lot of gamers off, or even prevent new players from getting into the medium at all. This week’s web crush, itch.io, helps mitigate this situation.
I always mean to read more webcomics, but I’m often daunted by long-running stories which I never manage to catch up with. I’m also always on the lookout for representation of different LGBTQ+ identities, especially those which are most often forgotten, such as asexuality. Enter this week’s Web Crush: Heartless, a promising and adorable webcomic about vampires in Victorian London. It’s only a couple chapters in so far, but the premise is intriguing and the art is cute.
Spoilers for the first two chapters of the webcomic below.
In recent history, Tumblr has been obsessed with the word “aesthetic” recently almost to the point of parody. While it has become somewhat of a memetic joke, aesthetic choices really affect the tone of an artistic work and can affect its quality. It is essentially a method of thematic enforcement through visuals and sound. As well, I’ve seen fantastic writing about fashion relating to games via Gita Jackson’s Wardrobe Theory series, and Zolani Stewart’s discussions about the Sonic the Hedgehog series’ relationship with visuals. These got me to thinking more about the necessity of strong thematic decisions. A series that works with well with aesthetic enforcement is, surprise surprise, the bright, bold, and often praised Steven Universe.