Games on hard topics; TAKE

cover.pngLast night I gave a talk in Vienna at the Subotron arcademy series — an invited talks series aimed at the indie game dev community in the area, taking on matters of art, craft, and politics. Previous speakers have included Meg Jayanth on the narrative of 80 Days, and Marie Foulston on curating video games for the V&A, among others.

I was talking about sex, intimacy, and non-sexual but emotionally intense elements in games; about how fiction gives us enough distance to be able to handle these topics, but how interactivity makes it harder again.

I talked about some of my own games in this area, and also about some games by other people: the emotional brutality of That Dragon, Cancer; the curious partial invitation to intimacy in 36 Questions; the way 18 Cadence invites the reader to pick out themes they find resonant.

And I spent several minutes talking about TAKE, Amelia Pinnolla’s game for this year’s IF Comp, because it is dealing with all of those topics — sex, trust, intimacy, revelation, the vulnerability of the author.

As far as I can tell, even a lot of people who liked TAKE didn’t completely get it. The biggest weakness of the piece is that it doesn’t guarantee that the reader will get what’s going on, because it’s otherwise pretty amazing; and in many cases what it’s saying would be very painful reading if presented without some layers of indirection.

So I want to talk about all that. This will be spoilery: proceed at your own risk.

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