Friday, June 5, 2015

Second Quest-ions: New Comic Examines Game Culture

In 2013, the FPS BioShock Infinite was released to widespread accolades and high reviews at nearly every major gaming website and publication. Many of the reviews talked about how Bioshock Infinite not just met, but exceeded expectations for a sequel... without really asking questions about what shaped those expectation in the first place. Tevi Thompson published a piece called "On Videogame Reviews" where he used the accolades and acclaim the game was given in reviews to function as a jumping off point for a critique of gaming culture, video game narratives, and the culture in society in general and gaming in particular and the narratives they present at large. Near the midpoint, he observes that:
“The straight white male gamers so untroubled by BioShock Infinite, whose ideology and privilege are in fact perfectly reflected in it, are just not up to the task of reviewing on their own. Their subjectivities betray complicity. It’s a dead end, the good old boys speaking to their bros, and only by diversifying in every way possible can the review community thrive... This means more women, more people of color, more queer and transgender folks, more reviewers from diverse social, economic, and cultural backgrounds that don’t neatly fit the lifelong gamer mold. Not simply because we need reviewers to match the shifting demographics of those playing games, but because diversity is of clear and obvious value to any community and any discourse.”
These are obviously questions and observations that stuck with Thompson, and it's evident in his comic Second Quest, which combines Thompson's writing with the art of video game Braid and the webcomic "A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible" David Hellman. It's a love letter to the Legend of Zelda mythos, with lush visuals and writing that makes some sharp insights, too. The narrative arc of the comic tells a story that also asks us to reflect on What is the how being told that the hero is a guy rescuing a girl, how the hero is always just, how systems perpetuate themselves even as they try and follow a world narrative. As they put it, Second Quest aims to be a "...tale of enchanting surfaces and not-so-secret darkness, one that questions the common legends we tell about our kingdoms, our people, ourselves".

It was crowdfunded successfully and released recently and between the engaging story and the evocative art, is definitely a recommended read-- whether you're into video games, Zelda, sociological narratives or even just really well-drawn comic art. You can read samples, find out more about the comic, and buy it here.

What do you think, readers?

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