The Witness Sparks Discussion on Games, Art, and Accessibility

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.

The WitnessFor 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.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Games Writing at Offworld

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.

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An Ounce of Encouragement

This is a particularly tough time of year for many of us because it’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if for some reason you don’t know that). You’re trying to make something good and actually write 50,000 words in a month. You’re behind deadline, and there’s no way that you’re going to get to fifty grand by the end of the month. Being in many ways a stereotypical “nerd” with my comical knowledge of Star Trek and my ability to list all the gods in the Deities and Demigods or all the times and ways that a Grey or Summers has died, for me, part of really enjoying a thing is delving as deep as I can into knowledge about the thing. By the same token, as someone who works in and loves the performing arts, I believe strongly in the power of an individual to create something that moves people, and so always want to create the best, most moving things possible. I don’t think that nerds are excluded from the second quality or that artists are excluded from the first. I do know that it creates a maddening obsession with well-informed perfectionism. Surely you know that feeling, too. Continue reading

Web Crush Wednesdays: Shoomlah

After last week’s web crush—Rejected Princesses, for those out of the loop—I suddenly had a memory flash by in my mind. Back before I had my own Tumblr (which seems longer ago than it was) I kept tabs on a few people who I swore to follow once I set up an account of my own. Unfortunately, with the passage of times comes the passage of promises forgotten and—what I’m saying is that I didn’t end up following anyone from that set of people. Yet one of them continued to appear on my dash, year after year, and although I haven’t followed her yet, she played a huge role in raising my standards for historical accuracy in drawings.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: The Laser Girls

webcrush picHere at Lady Geek Girl and Friends, most of our posts focus on geeky media. We hardly ever broach the techie side of geekdom. But it deserves to be talked about, because women and POC are still massively underrepresented in technological fields. When we think of techie geeks like hackers, tinkerers, and makers, we still think mainly of white men.

There are many reasons for this, but one that I’ve personally heard girls tell me is that they just aren’t that interested in technology careers. Most girls in our culture simply aren’t raised to like the hard edges and so-called ugliness of the “guts” that make up the insides of our devices. So how can we get more girls interested in technology? One way is to meet them where they are, with things they’ve already been socialized to like, in order to show that there is more than one “right” way to approach technology.

Enter today’s Web Crush: The Laser Girls. They 3D print acrylic and metal fingernails. Yeah, you read that right.

The Laser Girls

The Laser Girls, Sarah Awad and Dhemerae Ford

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On Black Characters and the Cost of Diversity

michael-b-jordan-fantastic-four-e1392904953390As you likely already know, Michael B. Jordan will play the Human Torch in the new Fantastic Four film, slated for release on June 19, 2015. This casting decision was met with its fair share of outcry, because Johnny Storm is understood to be a White character, and Michael B. Jordan is clearly African-American. I think it would be easy to write it off as just another instance of fans of a very White and very male industry being a very White and male kind of racist. But there are deeper questions about misunderstanding of the role of diversity in artistic representation. During my tenure at this blog, I’ve written a fair amount about race and representation in the geek world, not just in comics, but also in video games, and theatre. I’ll be honest, I’ve found a dearth of good arguments against increasing the level of racial diversity in geek culture. Once more, with feeling: brown kids deserve more brown superheroes. Most counter-arguments to that notion are vapid, disingenuous, or just plain racist, like “most people won’t be able to relate to that character if his race is changed/is nonwhite”. There’s a comic over at Critical Miss that sums it up perfectly:

People can identify with Fox McCloud and he’s a bipedal fox. But a dude with darker skin is somehow too alien? What is that if not [racism]?

Arguments like this one are easily, and hilariously, dismissed (seriously, go read that comic). But every once in a while, a more seductive argument against diversity of representation pops up. It usually goes something like: “Why is it okay to change the race of [x], who is White, but not okay to change [y], who is a POC, to a White character?” The argument relies on a rather misguided sense of absolute equality, among myriad other problems. It’s probably easier to get traction on such an issue if we phrase it in terms of concrete examples.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: bettersupes

It’s no surprise to anyone at this point that there’s misogyny in the Western comics fandom. This sexism is even committed by some of the people that work on said comics, which is unfortunate because then we end up with a bunch of people circle-jerking about how super cool male heroes are and how super sexy female heroines need to be. Though in recent times there have been some pretty major improvements—such as Wonder Woman as portrayed in Justice League: War and Starfire’s character becoming a bit less based around sexual objectification—the bar really should be set higher about how female characters and the female audience itself are treated. Of course, changing an industry so set in its ways is going to take possibly until the end of time. So to tide us over, allow me to show you this amazing site that proves that the female comics audience isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with a tagline like “Little girls are better at designing superheroes than you”, how could your curiosity not be piqued?

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