This post is part of the Blogs of the Round Table at Critical Distance, on the topic of "Fear and Loathing in Game Spaces".
Just being in the world and around other people is scary and exhausting for me. I forget sometimes, because to me it's completely normal. I've learnt to distance myself from the stronger emotions, leaving behind a constant, dull anxiety. But still, no-one would mistake it for anything but fear. I'm not shy, but still perpetually skittish and closed off from the people around me.
There's a lot of fuss about achieving genuine maturity in games. An uncomfortable amount of this discussion is coming from people who want to delegitimise games they dislike. But if they can use subjective definitions to their own purpose so can I.
My definition of maturity involves not caring what other people think. This doesn't mean taking the idea to its ridiculous extreme — you can still seek advice and treat other people well. But maturity is a particular sense of self that, at its heart, does not rely on how others perceive you. An identity secure enough not to amplify its own uniqueness either, just accepting it.
[This post contains spoilers for Fez, such as they are]
Fez reminds me of the puzzle books I used to enjoy as a kid. I genuinely delighted in unravelling the puzzle logic and secret places. This is pure, simple pleasure for me. Unfortunately, after collecting all 67 cubes (with some hints) I was left with a hollow victory. I loved playing Fez but sort of wish it didn't exist.
One major issue is just how deeply embedded Fez is in game history and culture. The blatant references to Zelda, Tetris and so on make it clear this is a game for gamers, in the most backward-looking sense of the term. Hey listen! It assumes its audience will appreciate a game reference on its own merits with no other reason for being there.
Late last year, A Closed World attracted attention for its queer themes. It was a summer project by a group from the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, so all credit to them for creating something polished and interesting enough to talk about. Unfortunately, it's not quite what it says on the tin and it's difficult not to be disappointed about it.
Initially, the description simply claimed to include "LGBTQ-friendly content", but they presumably got sick of people pointing out that the binary gender selection isn't exactly T-friendly, because now it just claims it "deals with queer issues". Queer issues… like suicide rates, unequal marriage rights, or discrimination in general? Apparently not.
In the pencil-and-paper roleplaying game Changeling the fae are threatened by the concept of banality. The real world is full of dull rationality which threatens the existence of these fantastical creatures formed from dreams. I imagine delicate fairy wings crumbling at the first sight of a Starbucks. Reality is infected, and fae must act carefully to survive in the mortal world.
I find this premise difficult to accept. People aren't some kind of imagination black hole, sucking in anything wondrous and spitting out spreadsheets. Real people are diverse and never stop surprising me. Rationality isn't really a human trait. We try hard for it sometimes, sure, but we're terrible at it. But imagination? Creativity? Call me an idealist, but I'm convinced those exist wherever people are found.