Tof Eklund's blog

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Ring in my Pocket

This little essay is about cultural privilege and, eventually, video games. It just takes a little while to get to the games, so bear with me.

When I decided that being a "sensitive guy" wasn't good enough, and that I wanted to better understand who I was in terms of what the experience of others was like, I made a horrid discovery. I had a ring in my pocket - no, not just a ring, but THE ring, the "one ring to rule them all." Worse, I'd been slipping it on and off heedlessly, nearly unconsciously.

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Sex, Games and Fatherhood

As I'm writing this, my 2-month-old son is sleeping on my chest (in a wrap-type sling). I said that my comments on Gameology (regarding sex, relationships and romance in gaming) would be a combination of the academic and the personal. This post is going to be more toward the personal end of the spectrum.

My review of the Void went live on Play This Thing! last night, and I'm thinking about how that review turned in part into a discourse on Eastern Philosophy - and the review partially into an analysis of how I played that game.

I've been thinking about process a lot lately - the processes of human growth and development, the process of becoming a parent (a much longer and more complicated thing than reproducing, though human sexual reproduction is a wonder in itself). This has also brought my thoughts back to philosophies that are about process and becoming, rather than telos (ends, goals).

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Sexual and Romantic Content in Games

Having recently become a father, the issue of graphic and gratuitous violence in games has been in my thoughts lately. It probably says a lot about me that this leads me to wonder where all the games with sexual and romantic content are.

So, no, this isn't an anti-violence screed, though I am thoroughly bored with bodies that explode and splatter in viscerally rendered 3d. It's more of a pro-sex, or specifically sex-positive screed.

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A Letter from the Digital Front

I have a couple of ideas I've been chewing on for gameology, but all I've completed recently is a couple more reviews for Play This Thing! The first one is on Brendon Chung's "real-time turn-based" space strategy game Flotilla. You may remember Chung's freeware title, "Gravity Bone" - this game shows his quirky sense of humor as well. The other review is my take on the history of a genre as much as it is about the recent"Space Hulk" port Alien Assault. Let me know what you think.

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Art Appreciation & Gaming?

I have a new review up at Play this Thing, of Cryptic Comet's new PBEM TBS Solium Infernum.

In working on this, I became wrapped up in just how contemplative the game is. No animations, no time pressure, just interesting art, design, and flavor text (but almost no plot). I'm working on a paper on the deliberate incorporation of board game elements into original video games, but some of what I came up with isn't what I'd expected to find.

Thoughts?

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Strategy Game Reviews

It's been too long since I posted anything to gameology. Most of my work online in the last year has been for Play This Thing! and I'm looking into becoming a regular blogger for Alltern8. My hope is that doing a daily blog will help keep the juices flowing, allowing me to post more often here as well.

In case you're curious, here are links to my reviews for Play This Thing!
(newest to oldest)

Gratuitous Space Battles

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Becoming Dragon: Race and the War Machine in Battle for Wesnoth's “Flight to Freedom”

Well, its been months, rather than the “week” I projected after my last post, but that's life in Graduate school. This post also wound up needing to be much longer (three times as long) despite having a much narrower focus. Also, I haven't added anchors to make the footnotes work. Oh well - I'll try to make time to do so tomorrow. As this post involves a critique of the conventions of Fantasy as a genre, including J.R.R. Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings (LotR), I hope to to draw at least as many hostile posts as I did with “Muslim Massacre, Roach Toaster and Iji.” We'll see.

Before I can get into Battle for Wesnoth (Wesnoth) specifically, I need to establish a baseline for racial and postcolonial issues in fantasy fiction, including games. This is the part that would be least controversial in a purely academic setting, but that I expect will be most controversial on-line.

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Muslim Massacre, Roach Toaster and Iji: Prejudice, Offense, Violence and Hope

One of the things that is too often lacking in Games Studies, and almost completely in popular writing about games, is comparison of work by different creators across the mosty obvious lines of "genre." In less than a month, Play this Thing has reviewed Tr00jg's turn-based strategy/puzzle game Roach Toaster, Remar's multiplot platformer Iji and Sigvatr's condemnation garnering Robotron-like Muslim Massacre as if these highly contemporary games were completely irrelevant to each other. (nota bene: in addition to being contemporary, these games are all single-programmer freeware)

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Beating the Chicken: Hero Units and Strategy

RPGs and Strategy games have always shared a uneasy and disputed border. Any pencil-and-paper DM who ever had to fudge a few rolls to save his players from an ignominious death knows this. CRPGs are more extreme in this dimension, as they generally substitute endless stat-building for the social dimensions of tabletop gaming, even in MMORGs.

Strategy games, especially fantasy strategy games, often and only increasingly incorporate hero units built on experience based CRPG systems. Given that some standard of equivalence (or deliberate inequity) of forces and a differentiation of units according use and cost are mainstays of strategy and tactical warfare games, hero units can easily become a problem.

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