Political Cartooning is Almost Worth Dying For

Cartoonist Ted Rall:

Scholars and analysts of the form have tried to articulate exactly what it is about comics that make them so effective at drawing an emotional response, but I think it’s the fact that such a deceptively simple art form can pack such a wallop. Particularly in the political cartoon format, nothing more than workaday artistic chops and a few snide sentences can be enough to cause a reader to question his long-held political beliefs, national loyalties, even his faith in God.

That drives some people nuts.

Hell, some people get all huffy over Some E-cards.

How We Won the War on Dungeons & Dragons

Another old bookmark about how D&D was feared as a gateway to suicide and devil-worship, but now informs a ton of pop culture we love so yay, we win!

It sounds crazy in our world today, where there are Dungeons & Dragons movies and a rich game industry full of titles inspired by those old paper-and-dice games we played back in the twentieth century. One of the most popular shows on television, Game of Thrones, features plots that my friends and I might have cooked up back on that playground at lunch. Somehow, the popularity of epic fantasy and role playing overcame America’s fear of young people making up stories about monsters and gods.

I played a ton of D&D as a kid. I miss it. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim was a great return to that kind of world.

tevis thompson – on videogame reviews

I bookmarked this post over a year ago, but it seems particularly relevant now. A long, eviscerating read about the cowardice of videogame reviews:

It’s exactly a reviewer’s job to speak for the minority. A minority of one. How could a reviewer speak for anyone else? They aren’t elected to stand in for some demographic, and the review community is not a representative democracy. Every time I see a reviewer try to speak for the average player, the fabled everygamer, I see a dodge. An unwillingness to put himself out there and state his values, an attempt to hide in the crowd and submit to the majority. I see not a reviewer sensitive to his audience but a reviewer cowed.

Even for those who have the sense to speak for themselves, there is a more pervasive problem. This is the call, posed a thousand different ways, for objectivity. Isn’t BioShock Infinite objectively a good game? Doesn’t it have good graphics and sound, play well enough, provide interesting characters and themes? I mean, let’s be reasonable here. Let’s be fair. Irrational put a lot of time and money into this after all. Most of your criticisms are just based in your personal biases. They’re just your interpretations. At least you have to admit it’s a lot better than most games out there.

Here’s what I’ll admit: many boys have a really hard time with subjectivity. To grapple with your own subjectivity is to grapple with the subjectivities of others. It’s to see the world not as legible, stable, conquerable but as resistant, shifting, and fundamentally unknowable. It diminishes your certainty and authority. It leaves you vulnerable. This is a human problem, being a person among persons, but one that many boys have trouble admitting even the basic tenets of. And so they call for an objectivity that has no foundation except received opinion, that seeks to diminish individual experience, and that turns out to not even exist.

Objectivity is very convenient for the straight white middle class male gamer. Videogame culture encourages him to see his own subjectivity as the standard, as objective. He’ll invoke science, economics, statistics, and all manner of folk wisdom to defend his little kingdom. He’ll decry any challenge as ‘politics’ or ‘bad business’ or ‘whining’ or ‘here we go again’. He never considers how often objectivity is a cover for a dominant subjectivity, for a subjectivity that stays in power by not being recognized as such. He fears what will happen if the established order breaks down and the Vox take control.

This cult of objectivity has it exactly backwards. They want it to be one way. But it’s the other way. A good review is openly, flagrantly, unabashedly subjective. It goes all in with the reviewer’s biases. It claims them for what they really are – not tastes, not mere opinions, but values. It is a full-throated expression of one person’s experience of a game. This is the authority it claims – the player’s. And how could it be any other way? How can a reviewer get outside him or herself?

(Count me among those who feel Bioshock Infinite wasn’t worthy of it’s high standing.)