Rachel Kowert

This month, Good Games Writing is going to do something special. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we’re going to post a brief feature highlighting the work of a woman in games writing. These women are critics, journalists, bloggers, scholars, let’s players, artists, musicians and on and on. They are good games writers.

This edition looks into the work of Rachel Kowert. Though Dr. Kowert was awarded her doctorate just this year, she’s build a remarkably robust CV in that time, including several peer-reviewed chapters and articles. She has been kind enough to summarize her research and conclusions on her blog for those without access to academic literature.

As a psychologist, most of Kowert’s research examines the social dynamics of games, particularly online games, in an effort to understand how they facilitate or fail as social tools. Much of her research investigates the changing stereotypes, identity and emotionality of gamers and games culture. Her interest in online subcultures and in gamer stereotypes comes from her personal experience with the myriad of interconnected variables that make up “gamers.” She describes her journey to her discipline and research focus as follows:

Alice Kojiro

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This month, Good Games Writing is going to do something special. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we’re going to post a brief feature highlighting the work of a woman in games writing. These women are critics, journalists, bloggers, scholars, let’s players, artists, musicians and on and on. They are good games writers. Today’s feature focuses on Alice Kojiro, essayist, FAQ writer and critic at Gaming Symmetry. Gaming Symmetry’s focus is on games as phenomenological, psychological works of art and in her time there, Kojiro has etched out a distinct voice as one of the most analytical writers to be found anywhere. She stands out as one of the most knowledgeable writers anywhere on RPGs, particularly of Japanese origin and style, and her writing meshes personal experience and artistic analysis with rare deftness. You can see what I mean in the following summary:

Book Review: Leave Luck To Heaven

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Of all the forms a book about videogames could take, lyrical prose would be one of the last to suspect as a viable candidate. Floating somewhere between poetry, magical realism, and personal memoir, lyrical prose is a difficult writing style to pull off with honesty and verve. It requires a certain amount of cooperation from the reader, who must be willing to forgive a lack of practical clarity in favor of emotional overtures and abstract details that form a story which might only resonate with the author. It’s a personal, risky form of writing, yet one that happens to fit perfectly in the context of videogames.

Brian Oliu, an English professor at the University of Alabama, has written a collection of lyrical prose framed by his memories of playing videogames in the 8-bit era. Leave Luck to Heaven (taken from the English translation of “Nintendo”) divides its brief, retrospective essays according to the games that defined Oliu’s childhood, from all-time classics like Super Mario Bros., to deep cuts unfamiliar to a child of the 64-era like myself, such as Adventure Island and Shadowgate.

Each chapter bears the title of one of these games, wherein Oliu pulls a thread vaguely related to the game in question until the sweater has gone and laid him bare, displaying what we can only surmise are deeply buried emotional memories that these games helped him unearth.

“Its most impressive achievement is that it’s a book that has replay value.”

Few of the essays are longer than two pages, which makes the volume a brisk read, even at 50 chapters. The brevity should not be mistaken for paucity, however. Oliu’s prose is prismatic, shifting between nostalgia, levity, sadness, excitement, joy, and regret with remarkable economy and pointedness. In between the chapters focused on specific games Oliu peppers in little respites, essays that repeat common themes, called “Save Points” and “Boss Battles.”

With every page, Oliu further submerges the reader in familiar NES vocabulary, allowing them to sync together with the emotional contact points of each chapter. Make no mistake, though the body of Leave Luck to Heaven is prose poetry and personal recollection, it is a book for the videogame literate.

balloonfightOne need not understand the language immediately  or rationally: Because the words and stories come from a place of shared knowledge, there’s an enjoyment from often returning to the book over time, opening to a random chapter and reading from there. It’s incredibly satisfying diving in, bridging the  gap from videogame reference to human experience  as you read. The chapter titled “Donkey Kong,” in which a man dresses for a funeral by trying to select– what else? — the proper tie to wear, is a highlight. Excerpt:

 Here is a pair of trousers. Put the left leg in. Put the right leg in. Understand that there are ladders that you cannot climb- there are rungs missing. Wrap the belt around your waist like a tongue. Push the metal clasp through the hole and tighten. Make it press against your stomach: you were not meant for clothes. Later, slap at the leather like an oaf, like an ape. You do not deserve to wear anything, especially today. These are not the tools you know how to use. There is a hammer floating here- you do not know what it does. You cannot fix the holes. You cannot climb the ladder. You are afraid of heights. You are afraid of climbing. Start there.

Oliu bonds abstract-yet-relatable human stories with the language of gaming. In this way, Leave Luck to Heaven’s most impressive achievement is that it’s a book that has replay value, inviting readers to return to it for the same comforting or cathartic nostalgia inherent in the games that inspired it. Though the spirit of the book thrives in the past, its effect is wholly innovative. Each essay coalesces into a larger truthful and beautiful whole. It is good games writing at its purest.

Leave Luck to Heaven is available through Uncanny Valley Press.

Editor’s Note: This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

 

Becky Chambers

This month, Good Games Writing is going to do something special. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we’re going to post a brief feature highlighting the work of a woman in games writing. These women are critics, journalists, bloggers, scholars, let’s players, artists, musicians and on and on. They are good games writers. Today we are featuring Becky Chambers a writer, novelist and editor formerly for The Mary Sue. Even though recently retired from the games writing scene, her voice was one of the most positive and distinct in games writing and it was a pleasure to hear how she came into games writing:

#GGWTalk Nov 15, 2014

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Tonight’s #GGWTalk is about mental health and gaming.

We welcome all participants to join the conversation under the hashtag and by tweeting us @GoodWritingVG.

Given the nature of the topic at hand, we want to remind participants that this is meant to be a safe conversation. We will not pass judgment on those participating and we hope to create as positive environment as possible.

Some of the conversations will tend towards the personal. We understand and accept that not all will be able to or willing to share their personal tales. That’s fine, and we hope you find something to glean from the experiences of others. For those capable of coming forward, we think it provides benefit to not only you, but others going through similar pains. Alas, as is any online conversation, there are certain risks.

Resources:

We understand these conversations can be challenging, exhausting, and intense in other ways. We encourage you to reach out for support should you be triggered by any aspect of the conversation.

Canadian Mental Health Association

Mentalhealth.gov –> links to get help as well as “Immediate” help

Mind UK –> information, urgent help, etc

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

The Samaritans –> confidential, non-judgmental emotional support

Children’s Help Phone

Mayo Clinic –> general info on mental health

eMentalHealth.ca –> general info on mental health

Take This –> a gamer centric mental health charity

Hannah DuVoix

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This month, Good Games Writing is going to do something special. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we’re going to post a brief feature highlighting the work of a woman in games writing. These women are critics, journalists, bloggers, scholars, let’s players, artists, musicians and on and on. They are good games writers. The first woman who we are featuring in this series is Hannah DuVoix, writer, designer, and editor-in-chief of The Ontological Geek, who was kind enough to submit this feature in her own words:

Orange Dot Campaign

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It’s been too long. The last time we properly spoke, the #GamerGate movement had only been underway for a short time. We came out against the harassment the movement was enabling and challenged proponents of the movement there for ethical discussions to abandon the mantle and re-start discussions. We made these statements early and these have stood as our only commentary on the matter.

Now, we’re more than two months in, and the environment feels increasingly toxic. That’s not what we’re about.

Starting this Saturday, November 8th, we’ll launch our Orange Dot campaign. The Orange Dot Campaign has one mission: Take back this space we hold so dearly. Through the next 30 days, we’re going to hit you with positivity in various forms, each and every day.

Orange is the New Black

We’re kicking things off by encouraging you to change your Twitter and other social media icons to an orange dot or similar for the duration of the event, or to add one to your current avatar. This is our show of solidarity; our banner for those out to leave a positive impact in the gaming space.

Why an orange dot? Orange is about as opposite the negativity you can get. We think of the orange dot in different terms though – it’s like that welcoming indicator on Skype informing you that someone is there to talk and listen. It’s an invitation for a good conversation.

Some have already done it and with various effect. Check out @fazor3D, @thirdkoopa, and our own account @GoodWritingVG to see various orange dots. We’re not necessarily asking you to change your avatar — you can change your background, tweet an image out, do whatever. Raise awareness. You’ll be seeing us promote various orange dots as we go.

Here’s a dot in Wikimedia Commons for you to use if you desire. [Click]

Here’s some of what we’ve got coming to go along with it all…

Our Lucas Guimaraes will officially be kicking off our video series Pick 3, where we compare three budget friendly games and tell you which will be worth your time. Our Nick Kummert will begin his time as Development Officer, and we’ve booked a couple of interesting chats to be had for aspiring games writers.

We’ll be having Mario Kart Mondays, inviting all of you to come out and play Mario Kart 8 online with us. We promise we won’t win every match. On the 22nd, we’ll be celebrating all things Super Smash Bros. with online play, and, if we can manage, a tournament of epic proportions.

On Saturday the 22nd, our friend Jose Cardoso is launching Team GGW’s Extra Life campaign. He’ll be gaming starting Saturday morning for a good cause.  He’s famous for showing off great Nintendo games, and we hope you’ll join his stream. Stay tuned to our Twitter for more news on the specifics.

Also joining Jose, our Evan McIntosh will be streaming The Long Dark on Saturday. He’ll be talking Canadian literary tradition and The Long Dark’s place in that tradition. If you’ve ever wanted insights into the Great Arctic Beyond, this stream will be informative. Also, there will be many, many, deaths.

So far so good, right?

Orange you glad we didn’t say banana?

We’re going wild on Twitter, too! You’re always welcome to join the conversation with us @GoodWritingVG, but we’ll be hosting two Twitter chats we believe are important. The first will take place on November 15th, and will be about mental health and gaming. We hope to make a show of support for mental health awareness in a big way. On November 25th, we’re hosting a Twitter chat on the Games of the Year. We want you to share your favourite gaming moments of the year with us. Both chats will take place on the hashtag #GGWTalk.

Mark Filipowich will be highlighting women creators in our space too. Critics, developers, comic creators, Let’s Players, and more will be featured. Our hope is to present their work, largely in their voice, for you to find new and interesting creators to follow. These features will become a cornerstone of our Orange Dot Campaign – you’ll be seeing a lot of these as we go on. He put out a call for submissions here.

There’s a bunch of other stuff happening, too. We have a book review. We have a couple of original features. We’ll have a handful of giveaways. We’re well underway in our Games Writing of the Year awards. We have something for every day of our Orange Dot Campaign.

Our goal, as it always has been, is to change the discourse. We hope you’ll join us in a month of festivities: Gaming, writing development, sharing great works, and meaningful conversations. These are the things we’re about and we can’t wait to share it all with you.

Team GGW

Seeking Women Writers for Feature Series

This month, Good Games Writing is going to do something special. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we’re going to post a brief feature highlighting the work of a woman in games writing. These women are critics, journalists, designers, bloggers, scholars, let’s players, artists, musicians and so on. They are some of the good games writers we want you to be aware of.

We’re looking to highlight the work of women creators, particularly women of colour and queer women. If you create writing, games or art of any stripe that is connected to analogue or digital games we want to celebrate and promote your work.

Your “writing” may come in the form of criticism, journalism, blogging, game design, podcasting, video, comics, music, powerpoint or, if you’re the raddest, all of the above. Your work may be professionally created or created on your own time, we only ask that if there is a paywall for any material you’d like featured that you allow us to access your material.

We also ask that, while the subject of your writing need not be recent, that you are a ‘current games writer,’ that is, you have published within the last thirty days.

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, send me an email at games.writer.wiki@gmail.com. It’s important to us that we frame your work in a way you want it to be framed, so we won’t post anything without first getting your okay. We’ll also happily take recommendations for women that you’d like to see featured but we won’t print anything about them without first getting in contact with them ourselves.

On “GamerGate”

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Tonight, we, the GoodGamesWriting team, write to you in response to the recent “GamerGate” movement that has taken the Internet by storm and taken over the current discourse around games writing and the games industry.

We are not here to recap this discourse. We are not writing tonight to engage with those trapped in the imbroglio. This post will serve as our sole commentary on this issue.

              On ethics

As an organization, GoodGamesWriting believes ethical concerns around the games writing space–which includes journalists, reporters, bloggers, personalities, critics, analysts, and beyond–are legitimate.

We believe publications should be held accountable for their work in the same way teachers are held accountable for their teaching. Parents have a right to press teachers about their methods, their assessments, and their conduct. Teachers have a responsibility to respond to these concerns, basing their answers in pedagogy.

This is not groundbreaking nor revolutionary. It should be the norm and in this respect our industry has room to improve.

However, these concerns cannot be addressed in the current climate, in which harassment and abuse is commonplace. If this movement is, indeed, about ethics as its anonymous leaders claim, then we advocate for an end to the current approach, proposing to start these ethical conversations anew in the near future.

We have challenged gaming publications large and small to begin having these conversations both internally and with us. We have had some success with this and extend our challenge to those publications that have yet to answer our call.

Further to this, we believe ethics policies should be published by all publications wishing to take themselves seriously. Such a policy should not be buried; rather, it should feature prominently on the publication’s home page or be contained within the website’s footer.

Inclusion

Despite appreciating a focus on ethics, the GoodGamesWriting team believes an ethical framework contained within a broader system that doesn’t support inclusivity, diversity, or positivity, has zero legitimacy.

We believe those claiming so-called “SJW”s are misrepresenting this movement fail to understand two points: (1) that, whether intended or not, such a movement has become toxic and about representation; (2) to those specifically believing misrepresentation on this front we choose to stand with those that have shown they receive abuse.

We will not tolerate such abuse.

We challenge publications of all sizes to remove vitriolic and hateful comments as well as the users posting them. We challenge publications that are already doing this to stay the course. We challenge publications that aren’t yet to step up their game on this front.

We believe publications should be willing to separate themselves from personalities whose conduct is not in line with the beliefs of tolerance, acceptance, and positivity outlined here, even if such conduct is not conducted within the publication’s infrastructure.

To this end, comment moderation is not enough. Publications dedicated to inclusion will make efforts to promote diverse content and voices, and GoodGamesWriting is not excluded from this. Editorial staffing is one such area many publications may look to for improvement on this front.

We understand where some frustrations arise. Many of those concerned are “just trying to enjoy gaming”. This is admirable.

It is the same goal all possess. Unfortunately, due to exclusion in the industry as a whole, many cannot reach this goal.

This is not an attack on those gamers. It is a call for empathy. Those affected by a lack of representation or inclusion face this every day. It is not a new phenomenon. It is the status-quo and it should change.

We believe it is appropriate to champion games that support awareness of minority groups, mental health issues, and other matters of inclusion.

To that end, we believe it is appropriate for criticism to exist where the games industry has failed to deliver on these expectations.

We believe that an argument over what constitutes a game is counter-productive. Arguing over semantics on these points gets us nowhere.

Finally, we ask those considering departing this space because of GamerGate to stay strong. We believe you are voices worth championing. We are committed to defending voices such as yours.

Final remarks

To be clear, we are condemning the actions of those members of the GamerGate movement using it as a proxy for hatred. We believe some parties may truly believe in the stated cause of this movement, though these parties are not hiding behind anonymity.

We challenge the industry as a whole to promote both journalistic integrity and inclusion within this space.

GoodGamesWriting is dedicated to changing the discourse around games writing, achieving its goals through ongoing communication with writers and publishers, the promotion of content, and the development of talent.

Weekend Plans: #CritJam, Voices, #PitchJam, and more

Here are our weekend plans:

CritJam continues on, though we will retool it slightly.

If you wish to have your criticism examined by our experts — Nick Capozzoli, Jason Venter, Scott Nichols, Eric Swain, Patrick Lindsey, James Pickard, Dan Starkey, and a few of the PitchJam panelists — then please email your completed criticism to “thepitchjam at gmail dot com”. Remember: You must have completed the piece within the LAST 3 MONTHS.

We encourage you to rally around the community and post your criticism to the #CritJam hashtag on Twitter. We’ll take the best finds off that hashtag and feature them in a gigantic post tomorrow night here on the blog. And, you know, you could crowdsource your criticism, helping one another out! Our experts will keep their eyes on that hashtag, as will we, to weigh in on crit that slips through the cracks.

Our Writing Challenge will now be a week-ish long and conclude on Friday. We challenge you to write the best piece you can on “Freedom” in videogames, though what that means is up to your interpretation. It’s a very July theme, we think, and as such, we’ll offer up reward for participating…like putting your work directly in front of some very smart, very talented, very successful writers in the field.

We’re working hard to finalize PitchJam stuff, but that will take us through the weekend. Please be patient with us on that one.

Finally, we really, really, want to stress our new feature “Voices“. [CLICK] We’re looking for a diverse group of writers to take over the blog next week, each for one day, and need you to get in touch if that’s the case. Please write evkmcintosh AT gmail COM with a short letter of introduction as to why you’re right for this. We’re interested in what unique perspective you offer. This is a great chance to promote not only the work of others but your own work as well.

Let’s keep our celebration of games writing rolling strong.