Episode Date: September 11, 2019
Transcribed by: William Lett
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Trevor Strunk: Welcome to No Cartridge. My name is Trevor Strunk, Hegelbon on Twitter. And I’m here actually by myself today – I’m doing a little bit of a solo show. We took a week off last week partially because of – I dunno – a lot of the bad feelings and controversy that came up after the death of Alec Holowka. You know, I think I’ve talked enough about this online and other have people talked about it online enough too. I would urge you to read Scott Benson’s account of his relationship with Alec, and sort of the mixed feelings and the difficult nature of the whole thing; he’s going to do much better than I can. He has a Medium piece up at his Twitter @bombsfall. But at the same point, we do need to come back. And, you know, in my time away, I noticed a lot of things happening in video game discourse and sort of around video game discourse and I wanted to… I really thought it might be nice to recontextualize things a little bit, particularly in terms of what exactly it is that we do here vis a vis criticism and placing this within the realm of say literary criticism.
So I wanted to start off with thinking about basically, gaming discourse in terms of other mediums that have come into the world. So you know, you compare, say, video game discourse – or video game criticism – to literary criticism, or criticism of novels, or criticisms of poems, or anything like that. And it’s very easy to get sort of discouraged because video game criticism is, you know, notably… I don’t know, “lacking” is probably the wrong word. But it’s a little less than, let’s say that much. You know, one thing that is wrong with video game criticism at the moment is that most of what it does is produce readings of games. Which is to say: I’ll play Celeste and say Celeste is a “trenchant take on depression” or something like that right? And I’ll read the game via that playthrough. Or it’s an account of the creator’s politics, you know? “This person has good politics and the game is worth buying. This person has bad politics and the game is not worth buying.”
You know, there’s good reasons to be doing this. I think especially the recent discourse on Randy Pitchford is worth having and around a lot of games creators. Obviously I mentioned at the top of the show the controversy around Alec and that was a controversy that was widespread. We talked about this on Patch Notes around men in the industry behaving in very, very unacceptable ways and, you know, abusing and harassing people. So of course, yes, we want to talk about the people’s politics. But while a lot of the people I like and I’m friends with in gaming have created great games and I like their politics, that doesn’t mean that everyone with good politics is going to create an aesthetically good game. And it doesn’t mean that everyone with bad politics is going to create a game that has no aesthetic interest at all. You know, there are a lot of games that are quite interesting made by really terrible people, and vice versa. So, you know, this seems like a video game problem in some ways where you sort of say, “Well, you know, what do you with a medium that has so many people, some type of a personal connection, so much of the individual front and center.”
And then I think you have to just say “Well, this is a problem with every medium,” right? People with good politics produce terrible novels; you know I really, really hate that Ishmael novel by… I think it’s Daniel Quinn. And I think it’s awful. Quinn probably has environmental politics I would totally agree with. I don’t necessarily love all the ideas in that book, but certainly the environmental politics: right on. The book itself is garbage. It’s real bad. No offense, if you like it. If you like it… I mean, tastewise, it’s fine. But as a literary piece, it’s just a- it’s a pamphlet. It’s not really a novel. It is barely Socratic. You know, on the other hand, you look at some of the politics people like… I’ll try to think of a good have a good author here… Oh, I mean like Anthony Trollope is a good example. Or Honoré de Balzac. You know, masses of Marxist literature has been- or, Marxist literary criticism has been related to reading these people and saying, “You know, Balzac was, by all accounts, kind of like a bougie landlord type. A petty bourgeois sort of elite.”
And he wrote books that absolutely expose the class distinctions and class animosity between the elite and the working class. Same with- same with Trollope. Actually, perhaps, even more with Trollope… Same with Tolstoy. You know, the question of “do these people have good politics” is less important than the question of “do their novels have good politics?” And that kind of distinction, right, does the piece itself have good politics versus does the author of good politics is a really hard one to make. And it’s one we haven’t quite figured out in video games yet. So one of the things I was thinking about was okay, so like, why can’t we do it? It’s not as if, you know… it’s not as if I feel like I’m doing such a good job and no one else is. It’s not as if I feel like there are specifically people in gaming that are holding us back. You know, gaming has become this fraught space post-Gamergate particularly. But I mean, it’s just a space that we should be able to perform readings in and work in. The fact that we can’t sort of gave me pause.
So the fact that we don’t, let’s say, not can’t. There are good readings out there; I feel like I’ve done some good readings, I feel like lots of people have done good readings. But what I realized on my week off was that video games are in a place similar to the novel in the basically the mid-17th and early 18th century. So you’re talking about like… you know… for a loose, loose estimate – don’t hold me on this – it would be like 1650-1700. This is where we’re at with the novel. But think about- or, this is… how to say this… This is where video games are if we compared them to the novel, right. They’re a fairly young medium in the grand scheme of things. I mean, even if you want to trace it back to… I don’t know. If you want to trace it back to the collectible card game that Nintendo company started out as, even that is an extraordinarily young medium. The novel itself is over 400, 500 years old. Poetry is millennia old, drama: same. These are massively, massively old mediums that, you know, totally are different than the newish medium of the video game.
So I mean… Real quick, just to clarify this. let me talk about why that’s important.
You can mark the beginning of the novel in a number of places, right? This is a very controversial question: “what is the first novel?” Some people say Robinson Crusoe is the first novel. Some people will say Tom Jones is the first novel. Some people will say Clarissa by Samuel Richardson is the first novel. Some people even say that Oroonoko by Aphra Behn is the first novel – though I’m kind of split on that, because it’s more of a short story. It’s a little tricky. But there are a lot of things that could be the first novel.
If you’re ever going to get into comic books, reading about the first graphic novel, this is the same thing that comes up. I mean, think about the question you’d have if you asked someone what the first video game was. It would be nearly impossible to figure out.
But whatever you do, however you mark the beginning of the novel, you are… you’re looking at, like the beginning, and then the first say 50 to 75 years as this… maybe even 50 to 150 years as this kind of solidifying of the medium, this way that the medium actually finds its feet. And within that, there are a number of, sort of, alternate paths it could have taken. The novel wasn’t always going to be the novel as we know it. You know, if you read old books, like Tom Jones, Henry Fielding – considered by someone to be the first novel – you’ll find these weird moments where they’re just kind of… the authors are just like, “Yeah, I don’t know what we’re doing here.”
Fielding writes, just a brief quote. This is on 65 of my copy it’s book two, chapter one of [Tom Jones by] Henry Fielding. He says “My reader then is not to be surprized, [if,] in the course of this work, he shall find some chapters very short, and others altogether as long; some that contain only the time of a single day, [and] others that comprise years; in a word, if my history sometimes seems to stand still, and sometimes to fly. For all which I shall not look on myself as accountable to any court of critical jurisdiction whatever: for as I am, in reality, the founder of a new province of writing, so I am at liberty to make what laws I please therein.”
And, you know, Fielding is speaking tongue-in-cheek of course. But this is absolutely something he was concerned about, the unity of the piece right. Like, oh, every- is every chapter going to be five pages long? Is every chapter going to cover one day? Is every chapter going to cover eight years? This question was absolutely of the moment and Fielding basically says yeah it’s just all gonna be all over the place, but that’s what I think it should be. He could’ve very well have said the exact opposite.
And so how novels become what we recognize them as is actually like a really important study- or I’m sorry, a really important question to study. A really important direction of study within literary studies. And, you know, there’s a lot of ways you didn’t understand the history of the novel, but the three sort of most canonical ways, right, are through these three thinkers: Michael McKeon, who wrote Origins of the English Novel – very famous, very massive text; Ian Watt, who wrote Rise of the Novel; and Nancy Armstrong, who wrote Desire And Domestic Fiction. (Some excerpts available here: https://twitter.com/Hegelbon/status/1171933181949468672)
There are others of course, and in fact, all three of these sort of suffer from being a bit too Eurocentric and a bit too white. But, you know, within the questioning of what do we think of when we think of the history of the novel, academia can be slow to act. So these are still the main ones. So McKeon – just again, brief background – McKeon’s a historicist which is- which means he cares about, like, what actually happened with the novel itself. Like where, you know, can we track the time down? Can we track, you know, what changed over time? What differed, what stayed the same. He is looking for purely formal shifts to explain the historical trajectory of the novel. So for him, the difference between Tom Jones’s novel, and say, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa – which is told through a series of letters – that’s huge for him. It’s- these are two formally distinct things and the way they converge into the novel itself, what it is, is like the story for McKeon.
For Watt… he’s a political thinker. He explores and mobilizes capitalism to explain the rise of the novel. And so it probably should come as no surprise that he’s a Marxist. His sort of way of thinking is absolutely present in games criticism – both good and bad. I think this podcast is a good example – Waypoint, Kotaku; all of these things kind of take the idea of capitalism and use it to explain the evolution of gaming, in the same way that Watt says that mercantilism and differing economic trade routes and such helped cause the rise of the novel. Not just helped explain, but helped cause the rise of the novel; something that a medium in Watt’s imagination that is purely and specifically referential to capitalism.
However, this way of criticism also is a risk of becoming a shibboleth – in a sense of every game and every novel becomes judged on its class politics, which can produce didacticism instead of aesthetics. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; some people would want games to be didactic as opposed to aesthetically interesting. Some people would want novels to be that way. We could talk about that a bit later. However, just put a pin in that now because I think that is something of a risk and I’ll explain why it ties back to our situation very soon.
Finally, Armstrong is kind of like… sort of like… the last person to show up is Armstrong. She- her work is later than both McKeon and Watt’s. But she also is… she’s kind of like the first wave of games criticism. She has a Foucauldian take, an idea that’s sort of like novels operate upon the genealogy of power. And you know, both… let’s see if I can do Foucault in a really short way… Both call into existence and then reinforce power. It’s echoed in a lot of the early ludonarrative analysis of video games, where the ideas- analysts trying to figure out, okay, what do video games do? What is their- what is their purpose? How do they- how do they produce meaning within the systems of, you know, production that they represent. But I think it’s also something that is an extreme issue today, vis a vis, you know, they should be quote unquote “just games” or “these SJWs are, they’re after our culture.” The issue of power, and who wields it, and who should wield it is absolutely of issue.
So what’s the point of me telling you all this? Let’s get to that.
So the novel in its transition to what we know today wasn’t always destined to be the novel, that’s sort of what I brought up. And in fact, this initial novel is so hard to pin down in part because the definition of what it was was so fraught to begin with. So the bit I read from Tom Jones, uh, Henry Fielding-
…Did I say that was “Henry Fielding by Tom Jones?” [Yes.] I’m not actually gonna correct that, cause that is so embarrassing, but it is Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. You can tell I’m not working on my normal amount of sleep.
But the bit I read from Fielding, right, the bit I read from Tom Jones is… Fielding says that the novel itself is sort of this weird thing that he’s coming up with on his own. And a lot of people were coming up with their version of the novel at the same point; Robinson Crusoe, as I said before, it’s sort of like a bit of a diary. There are epistolary novels, which are letters to each other.
Richardson, Tristram Shandy is a perfect example of a novel that looks like an experimental novel of the recent- of recent years, in part because it was experimenting. It was trying to figure out what this format was and what it would look like. People knew what a poem was, people knew what a song was, people knew what a play was. But this new thing was very, very confusing. And games, surprisingly enough, are still in this phase. We imagine they’ve been around for long enough so that we know what a game is and what it isn’t. But ultimately, if you look at them in the long view, they’ve been around for 30 to 40 years – maybe 50 if you stretch. And if you really want to stretch, if you take a super long dureé view, say 150, right? Novels weren’t consistently in the format we expect to see them in for perhaps a century or more after their inception. And even now the debate rages on; you can find a lot of people arguing that something is or is not a novel.
Thinking, in graduate school, a lot of people would write collections of short stories that they would say, “acted as a novel.” And people will challenge that like, “Is it a novel or is it not a novel? Are these just short stories?” A good example for this is the novel Visit from the Goon Squad, which is a great novel. It’s a bunch of short stories, basically, but they coalesce enough to be a novel. Similar would be Lovecraft Country, another really excellent novel by Matt Ruff. Sorry, I actually neglected to say who wrote A Visit to the Goon Squad- Visit from the Goon Squad, excuse me. And that’s Jennifer Egan. But both of these novels are short stories, but also novels. And is, you know, a long poem a novel? Does… does it have to take the form of a series of, you know, chapters of indiscriminate length as Fielding would suggest? Or can it be one extremely long chapter – someone like James Joyce might argue.
Novels are still being debated today. And they are how many years, how many centuries old at this point? It’s no surprise that people are up in arms about what games are and aren’t; there is no historical reason that they should be- this debate should be settled.
So in the other- in other words, the question of what is and isn’t a game is not nearly as self evident as either experimental games creators would want us to believe or extraordinarily conservative games people would want us to believe either, even if I would, of course, side much more with the experimental end of things. You know, arguing that something is or isn’t a game self-evidently is just kind of a mistake at this point. And also, if you think about outside of the formal, the battle for the soul of games is a moral scare that happened in the novel as well. So you know, you see people arguing about what games are, who should be making these games. You know, getting social justice into games, getting gender into games, bringing in politics into games. Or rather, you know, focusing too much on difficulty mode, focusing too much on alienating your players instead of providing access. These arguments take on a moral tone, which basically becomes games had an initial audience. Should we cater to that initial audience as they imagine themselves? Or on the other hand, should we accept that that initial audience was not nearly as limited as we once believed and that contemporary games are providing representation and access that needs to be expanded? Again, much more- I- the latter point is my position, but both sides are arguing with each other and this question of limiting versus expansion is something that happened with novels as well.
Novels were initially when they came out seen as corrupting forces. Like reading a novel would be the same thing as like, I don’t know… I mean, some novels like Madame Bovary,were seen as, like… or Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the 20th century. If you want to imagine how controversial these things can actually be… This 20th century novel, it was seen as pornographic. Pornographic, not just because of what they described, but because of their moral impact or their perceived moral impact on women, right? The sentimental novel was a craze in the 18th century because it was basically just instructive, it was didactic; it told women, you know, “behave well and behave like a normal- like a chaste and pious woman or this could happen to you” is like, usually what happens. There’s a chaste and pious woman in the story, she does something wrong, and she usually dies.
You know, novels are seen as corrupting to women unless they are didactic. And they’re corrupting, as opposed to poetry and religion, which are known quantities. You know, reading Homer is fine; it is educating and gives you something that these people recognize. The novel is just this strange, vulgar, common-tongued form that anyone can pick up and anyone can learn from, and it bothers people a lot.
Newer novels are also seen as lewd and dangerous. So not just Chatterley’s Lover, but take Gothic literature. Frankenstein. You know, even actually before Frankenstein, Mary Shelley’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft wrote a book called Maria: or, The Wrongs of Women [sic]. The Monk is a famous one… I’m just gonna start naming Gothic novels if you don’t stop me, so I won’t do that. But you can even think of something like Wuthering Heights. I mean, these are seen as lewd or dangerous – strange, weird, unholy, heretical, whatever. There are critiques to be made of these dark novels by people of the time; they’re seen as like, this is going to cause people to act strangely in the same way we hear about video games. Novels by women are often seen as frivolous – less serious, less important; meant for light fare, gossiping. Penny dreadfuls, which is sort of like the schlock of the day. You know, something that you read if you’re not reading a Serious Novel by a Serious Man.
And I mean novels, even using non-standard English; Tristram Shandy is an early version of this. But especially when black novelists start including non-standard English in their work and then later on Asian novelists, Indian novelists. I’ve seen the use of Tagalog in a wonderful novel called Troublemakers. This is absolutely a huge issue for people – the idea of should you include non-standard English? Should it just be all straightforward English? Or is it okay to include stuff that your average English reader is not going to understand? All of these things echo stuff in gaming, which is like, should we be just- should we be, you know, forcibly diversifying this space to allow for people, you know – women, noncis people, queer people, people of color – should we be diversifying the space to allow them a space to feel comfortable and represented in gaming? Or should we focus on the way gaming was in order to refine it into, what it existed as prior to that? Again, absolutely; I believe in the expansion version, the inclusion version. And I don’t agree with the conservative version there, but those are the two sides, and that they represent the two sides in the same way that the novel does is fascinating to me. In other words, if we’re thinking about games, we should you be thinking about them in the context of the development as an art form. Not even necessarily as some sort of like capitalistic widget, although they certainly are, but that’s everything in the world.
We should be thinking about them in terms of an art form and they’re very early in that development, especially if we imagine them as literary primarily. If we imagined them visually… Visual art has a way of developing incredibly quickly, and in some ways this is because the actual mediums of visual art – that is to say: painting, sculpture, lithograph – are fairly old to begin with. Photography caused quite a stir; the questions of whether or not a photograph could be art were… you can imagine how raging they became, but they were extremely controversial. But you know, visual art kind of moves a little faster; literary art, which I think gaming kind of looks a little more like… we could- I could have a whole episode on that though… it moves a little more slowly. And so, even if we haven’t nailed down what games should be, we haven’t even actually… we shouldn’t actually feel bad about that, because I don’t think we have even nailed down what canonical a game is. Like, the definition of the medium is not particularly clear, which is to say, all the sort of tired arguments about walking simulators are tired but they serve a fairly useful purpose in developing the discourse around games.
You know, this doesn’t change my focus, though, in a maximal sense. It’s not like No Cartridge is going to change. This is more just an introspective point of thinking, you know, we have these arguments, and it feels so hopeless; it feels like a terrible discourse, a terrible art form. At times, it feels completely uncaring and completely awful. And it is, in a lot of ways it is. You know, the controversies, the space itself, it feels kind of hopeless at times. But this is an extremely early point in this development. You know, games are going to develop and change in ways we can’t really conceive of yet. And anyone who says there’s some sort of cultural battle for gaming is selling you a bill of goods. Now most of the time, this is a conservative kind of politics, right? Like a cultural battle for gaming would be like, let’s keep gaming the way it is. Let’s keep gaming for gamers, right. But the other arm is to say, new games like a Souls game or something like that is necessarily bad for gaming because it represents an outdated version of difficulty and progression, right. Both these just don’t make any sense because the soul of gaming – such as it is – the cultural signifier of gaming is not pinned down. It is shifting, it is fluid – just like the cultural quality of the novel is shifting, its fluid. These things are not static, and if anyone’s telling you they are this is simply a comfort. If you’re worried about gaming changing, I really have bad news for you: it has been changing since day one and will continue to for a long time before it even has a semblance of stability.
The idea of a traditional novel, is something that truly wasn’t around until probably… the 19th century? That’s 150 years, give or take. The idea of a quote unquote “traditional game” holding any weight, may be well, well down the line. And the plenitude of games available means unlike with novels, right- the printing press was a huge deal. But novels could not be produced as easily and- let’s say, actually, “produced” is the wrong word. “Distributed.” Distribution is the big thing. Novels could not be distributed in the same way that games are today. And so, so many games are out there, more games that anyone has any possibility of playing. And so, we complain about this; we complain about our long Steam lists, or how many games we have to play whatever. “Oh, I bought another game in the sale, I’m never going to play that.” This plenitude of games, both triple A and independent, means that genres are certainly not at a risk of dying out. You can’t name a genre that is truly about to die out.
There are genres that have dipped in popularity; rhythm games came up recently as an example of this. Adventure games are something that have, like… we talked with Grundislav Games about this. The rise-and-fall of popularity is a thing, but there’s no real danger of a formal narrowing anytime soon. No real danger of a classic shooter disappearing. Yes, the Ion Storm stuff was extremely bad and represented sort of a low point in discourse with what they said about trans and gay people in their Discord, and all the sort of stuff they kept in just because the regressive arm of the gaming populace wanted them to. But it also shows that people still want Quake games, right? Like, you can think back to any version of the game. The platformer is alive, the classic first person shooter is alive, the mission-based first person shooter is alive, the action-adventure games, the pure adventure games live, the visual novels alive, text based adventures are alive. Everything is still existing because gaming can just be produced. And so it’s arguable that a formal narrowing will never happen if this distribution is so easy. If it’s that easy to produce your games, why ever stop producing the ones you want?
So this is all a way of saying that inclusion of other voices in gaming, which is to say: nonwhite, non-male, noncis – however you want to imagine it, but you know the sort of terms that lack representation and gaming – it’s a long dureé, it’s a process. It’s a thing that’s going to happen over time, whether you like it or not, and it’s a thing that we should encourage to happen. It’s not going to result in what I think some people, particularly in the stupidpol left… You know, I know that people like, I think… Jonathan Daniel Brown of- formerly of Struggle Session, some others that probably aren’t worth mentioning right now, have this fear of identity politics somehow infecting left discourse and ruining us right. Which… I took my doctorate at UIC, which is like the home in some ways of anti-identity politics theory. I know how it works and I believe in a lot of it. Which is to say, that capital can co-opt identity politics. The idea of hiring more black people or having a game written by a trans person is not… that’s not identity politics. It’s not woke scold. It’s not ignoring material conditions or something. It’s just representative politics; it doesn’t have to be revolutionary, it doesn’t have to be what’s gonna get us out of capitalism. It can simply be just a good thing. And in fact, it’s going to produce a more nuanced, open space.
For what it’s maligned, people don’t like contemporary art and contemporary literature. But contemporary art and contemporary literature is extraordinarily vital. It has a lot of stuff going forward; It’s a beautiful collection of fascinating genre works, fascinating experimental works, fascinating turns towards the traditional. You know, we hear a lot about Franzen or whatever, but we don’t hear about the Egans and Ruffs, and that’s a real shame. There are brilliant people writing right now and they should be… you know, Teju Cole! Teju Cole should be as much a name as Jonathan Franzen or anyone we sort of complain about online. And he’s not. And you know, I don’t know why. But at the same point, even without that sort of recognition, contemporary literature and contemporary art are producing wonderful work. And it’s not sterile, it’s not uninteresting, it’s not aesthetically bad because all of a sudden, there’s more representation in it. It simply is more capacious, and being more capacious is not the same thing as not being important or not being materially relevant.
Finally, last point. The moral quality of games makers is being and must be divided from the games themselves as aesthetic objects. And this division is actually, you know, fraught. Because of course, sometimes we don’t want to. Sometimes we want to draw a line in the sand and say, “Hey, look, I’m not going to be reading an Ayn Rand book even to critique it. I don’t like her, I don’t like her politics, I don’t like her personally, I don’t like her ideas. I don’t want to read that book.” And that’s like, that’s fine. You know what, that is fine. The thing we have to understand, though, is that sort of critique, which is a perfectly legitimate critique is not an aesthetic critique, right? If I want to say I don’t want to play Borderlands 3 because of Randy Pitchford, that is perfectly acceptable and in fact maybe even admirable – it depends on who you’d ask, but you know, sure. I don’t want to play
Ion Storm Ion Fury, for instance; I don’t care, I don’t really want to play it. I will not be supporting it. That’s the kind of thing that I do sometimes too, like, I won’t draw a line in the sand and say which ones I will and which ones I won’t, but everyone has their limits, and everyone buys things that they like and will refuse to support people they don’t and that’s fine. Like, I think that’s perfectly reasonable. And even if you, you know, say it were… you don’t like socialism and you don’t want to support me or whatever right. That’s fine. That’s totally okay. That’s a kind of argument; it’s sort of like a taste argument, and a moral argument, and an ethics argument. It is not an argument about aesthetics, however, which is important. Because this is a quality in art that is consistently part of the tension that produces good analysis and good art.
I’ve talked to a lot of creators I like and whose games I like, but the two don’t need to be connected. I don’t have to like Scott, for instance, in order for Night in the Woods to be good. I can think he’s a total jerk and Night in the Woods can still be good. Right? I have had some unpleasant conversation- I wouldn’t say we fought but I’ve had some relatively unpleasant conversations with the guy who wrote The Talos Principle. And I think he’s a, you know, whatever. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. And I think The Talos Principle is great like, I liked that game. If you read my article on it on nonsite it’s mostly complimentary. I think it’s a great game. It doesn’t matter if you like the people whose- who are producing the art necessarily; you can stop buying their games, but any aesthetic critique is about what the game is, as opposed to what the creators are. And where that stops is super interesting and super productive of analysis and something that we really should be thinking about. Putting aside the social perception of frivolity, childishness, and unseriousness of games is also going to be double-edged. Games are going to become more accepted over time, but people who are able to create within the scope of that acceptance will shrink. So formal narrowing might seem like a great thing, because it’s always, we’re going to get legitimate legitimacy as a form for video games. But it’s just going to be sort of like a tricky, hard, growing pain-filled process.
Ultimately, the pointed and aggressive pushes towards differing futures in games making, the idea of just like positing a direction forward and producing it until you can’t produce it anymore – which is, of course, how the novel developed. Branching off tributaries that end, tributaries that turn into their own versions of the novel. Modernism, postmodernism, formalism, realism… Games- this is going to happen in games too. Walking simulators were probably the first version of this. It’s fascinating how the true, true walking simulator had its moment as if it was going to be the next move in games… And then, receded. And this is so similar to stuff like realism and naturalism where, this is the moment. And then it recedes. It is a historical moment, it is not a new direction for the form necessarily. They’re going to continue though. All of these pushes forward are going to continue, because the future of the form is up for debate. It’s not however, likely to fall in formal and aesthetic ways we or our conservative opponents can quite yet imagine.
And I think it’s important, when working out our feelings towards gaming, that we remain open to these potential futures. Because of course, it’s very easy to imagine that we’re going to be stuck in this position of… I don’t know… problematic, and frustrating, and bad political actors for all time. Or, if you’re a more conservative thinker, that we’re going to be dealing with the cancel culture – whatever you want to say – of games forever as well. These things aren’t forever. This is something that will be produced… I don’t know. Over time. And it will be something we don’t know… the future of games is something we’re not gonna understand. Let’s put it that way. It’s something we can’t predict. It’s something that we’re gonna have to watch happen. And that’s the interest of the analysis. So while there are moral truths, and ethical truths, and things that I will argue for on the show, it’s kind of refreshing? I guess? To step back and take an aesthetic look at this. Because of course, I’m not going to buy Ion Storm, I’m probably not gonna- I don’t think I’m going to buy Borderlands 3. I don’t like these creators, and I think they are morally problematic and I don’t want to support them. But that is a different argument. And it’s really interesting for me, and maybe hopefully, for you too, to sort of step back and say, “Oh, yeah, these are different arguments. Both good arguments to have, but they’re different.”
Anyway, I hope that was helpful for you too. It’s something that I wanted to get off my chest and something that I wanted to get off my mind. And… maybe you learned a little bit of history the novel too. If you liked what you heard, always Patreon.com/NoCartridge is a good place to go, @Hegelbon is a good place to follow me. And yeah, I hope you’re here next week. I will probably be back to more normal… programming. All right. Take care.
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