Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BoRT: Videogames as a comfort during breastfeeding

I mentioned in my last post that I feel like the "how videogames changed my life"-type personal essays help legitimize my time spent playing videogames. Now I'll write my own personal story about it as part of the latest Blogs of the Round Table. "Did you ever find yourself in a better place or positive position as a result of play?"

About two months ago I had a baby whom I'll call Piper. I did use Lumines to cope with some of the pain of childbirth, but at some point I couldn't really concentrate on anything besides the experience of pushing an infant out of my uterus. The birth went fine, and after a week in the NICU with some apnea, we were able to come home with our baby. I had tons of support learning to breastfeed in the hospital, but after I got home, feeding all the time was starting to drain (ha) me. I found ways to watch TV while I fed Piper, but I also wanted to play videogames. 

My desire to multitask while breastfeeding was actually a really good thing. It helped me to improve my breastfeeding posture so that I was slouching back instead of leaning over to feed Piper. It made me learn how to cradle Piper in the crook of my arm instead of clinging her to my breast with two hands. And it also helped me relax during breastfeeding instead of worrying about if she was eating enough or if she was latched on correctly. I was able to play the third Ace Attorney game, which is playable one-handed and easily interrupted. Playing games also helped me to feel like I was more than a milk machine--I was a milk machine AND someone who could connect small logical leaps in a videogame! 

As lovely as videogames are, I feel like I could have made similar progress in my life with other media. What if reading a book two-handed while breastfeeding had been my goal? Or talking on the phone? Maybe I'm giving videogames too much credit here?

Friday, August 15, 2014

On videogame personal essays

I've been reading some of the Games Journalism 2013 shortlist ebook on my e-reader while exercising. First off, it is such a different experience to read games journalism in book-like form. If I feel a little bored, I can't immediately close the tab and start reading something else. So I'm a captive audience. I enjoy most of the articles too, especially the ones that focus on the psychology of videogames, like the one about freemium whales (users who spend lots of money on premium content in free games). There are some close readings of games, and also a fair amount of what I'd call personal essays centered around videogames.

Recently Jonas Kyratzes and Dan Cox (see the comments) mentioned how they're tired of these videogame personal essays. I know in other places people have said that such essays aren't journalism, or that the experience of reading them is unsatisfying. I agree that a personal essay is more like creative writing than journalism. I like reading personal essays about videogames though! I feel like reflecting on the experiences we have in games legitimizes them. It makes me feel better about playing games in my free time. 

I also think that the videogame personal essay is much more accessible than close analysis. Someone who has never played the game you're talking about can still enjoy a personal essay about playing it. It's a little more difficult to engage a naive reader in a technical discussion of a game's design points. For example, I skipped the piece in the games journalism e-book about silent hill savepoints, because it had spoilers for the series, and also because I wasn't sure if I'd really understand the analysis, since I've never played a Silent Hill game (even though I'm pretty sure I've read an article about how awful those save points are). I think this is why the most successful "close readings" of games are often focused on games that are already popular. 

On the other hand, a skillful writer can make game design analysis interesting, usually through the use of diagrams and screenshots. But man, those things are a lot of work! Especially since there isn't a way to take screenshots on the PS3/Wii in the console's software (but even if there were, it would still be a pain to move the files somewhere I could use them). Some day I will do a great game analysis complete with screenshots.