What is left when the chips are truly down? When half of the country is on fire? Is it wishful thinking to rely on the presence of a “something” that shines in our fists or our hearts?
The mid-section of Stellaris isn’t fun, and that’s why I love it. Beyond the sci-fi trappings and Civilization-esque feedback loop waits an embedded critique of late capitalism, of the long and painful transition from a flawed democracy into a resource-obsessed, neoliberal culture overwhelmed by the interests of splinter groups like the Tea Party.
I think video games like pieces of art can find the Waldos that society sometimes cannot, and also, I think maybe the developers want us to think about why they do certain things in video games. I think a way to dismantle these kinds of racial stigmas in games would just be, for starters, to have a main character that is a person of color.
I think Roberta Williams and her team probably did a great job at the time of including so many different representations of women. It just gets back to that issue of representation vs. agency, like in some of the conversations about what’s coming out of Hollywood.
On those weekends, Dad and I would play video games—mostly RPGs. To be honest, a lot of the time, he played and I watched. I was a timid kid, afraid of making a wrong turn in a dungeon or, God forbid, killing the characters in battle.
Maybe the common denominator of my work is the question of making livable, meaningful lives for ourselves. We tend to think that’s the goal, but just how possible or achievable is it? Is it better to travel and enjoy oneself, or to devote oneself to a worthy vocation?
Fallout 2 might be my favorite game of all time. It doesn’t have the same nostalgia factor that earlier games like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger have, and it will never match the replay factor of the Ogre Battle series. It’s not as mind-numbing as Ken Griffey Jr. or Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and it doesn’t have the camaraderie associations that Tekken 3 has. But what it does have is this: perfection.
I think about certain things differently because I played so many video games. The Harvest Moon games influenced how I conceptualize life in general and especially making and spending money, a topic I’m still obsessed with today. Every time I do anything even remotely adventurous, I pretend I’m Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.
I don’t always identify exclusively with female characters. As a kid, Luke Skywalker and Robin Hood were two of my fondest role models. But usually, I do find it easier to focalize through women.
I’ve played close to 300 hours of Stardew, and it’s because it makes me feel peaceful, cheerful, satisfied. It’s like deeply breathing. There is something serene about the soundscape, the way it feels when a day begins with rain, or you crack open a geode, or wrestle with a difficult fish.
I started a football league and recruited a few colleagues, most of whom had never played fantasy. And we all got into it, started talking about our favorite players, teams we discovered that we liked, even the numbers game. And for me, I started envisioning my fantasy team in RPG terms.