BenWoodIsMe

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    Latest Topics

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    Is Depression An Over-Explored Concept In Indie Games?

    It’s literally become a meme at this point; top text saying "oh this indie RPG uses pixel art and is really an allegory for depression-", accompanied with a gif or short video of somebody leaving a room or closing a door. It’s certainly not an idea that spawned from nowhere; LISA The Painful, OMORI, Yume Nikki, Celeste, just to name a few, all have strong themes of depression or mental anguish of some sort as their main focus. And there seems to be a consensus amongst some gamers that it’s beginning to become unoriginal. Just two days ago my recommendation of LISA was shot down by a close gaming buddy, on the grounds that it’s "just another indie game about depression". But is this negative reputation deserved? Are these games just treading old ground, or do they still have more to say about mental health, a topic that is becoming all the more relevant in an age dedicated to squashing the stigma? And even if they don’t, do they still have value in our modern gaming landscape?

    • I would argue that there are so many indie games, with such diverse such matter, that the amount of games listed above would not rise to the level of "over-explored". – Sean Gadus 5 months ago
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    • I've seen memes about 'indie pixel rpgs about depression/mental illness' myself, and personally I think it's an overstated connection. Yes, there are a number of indie games about mental illness, but I've seen a few comments making this statement about games that don't really fit these categories. After all, even the meme you mentioned doesn't apply to all your examples (Celeste is pixel art, but not an rpg). Also, while there are a number of games about depression and mental illness, they are not the only well-tread topic in indie games. – AnnieEM 5 months ago
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    • In an interesting parallel, I find that many Twitch streamers are tagging their streams with "anxiety", "depression" and other words associated with mental health. While this *could* be seen as trying to capitalize on the stigma, or to be "edgy", I feel that this possibly means that consumers are looking to have honest conversations surrounding these topics and are seeking safe spaces. I think that the past few years have really pushed the need for this initiative. In response to this, I feel that indie game developers want to produce and share their own versions of lived experiences with these conditions, in order to further encourage the dialogue. This is most likely much easier to accomplish in the indie scene, for sure. That could be wishful thinking, but regardless, I feel that indie games with these themes haven't unbearably oversaturated the market yet. – MadamNarwhal 3 months ago
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    Latest Comments

    Feels like every time I’m writing a sentence for a book I’m essentially rolling a dice on which of those four voices decides to pop up. The amount of times I’ve thrown in a phrase in Latin or some other language and had the snap reaction of calling myself a pretentious dickhead is incredible, but the next sentence I write ends up being this imagined magnum opus that my overenthusiastic brain ends up forcing on and on for far too long.

    A Short Guide to a Writer's Imaginary Critics

    Back in the good old days, my favourite game franchise was Skylanders. My parents could barely keep me off the Wii in the few weeks after each of the first three titles came out. It still boggles my mind how on Earth they were able to make a game that essentially charged up to AU$20 per character and somehow get that over with practically all the parents in my friend group. Now that I’m less blinded by the nostalgia I’m a bit gobsmacked at the gall they had. If they tried to leverage the same idea today I’m certain far more articles would be written about how sleazy the practice was. Or maybe not, considering Fortnite is pulling essentially the same trick by getting people to pay two-figure prices for digital skins. At least you could stick Skylanders figures on the shelf after you were done playing with them.

    Alternatives to Microtransactions in Games and Apps

    When I first saw the title, “Dreamboats or Brutes”, my mind initially snapped to the idea of the Angel/Whore split discussed by Margaret Atwood in her essay “Spotty-Handed Villainesses”, the notion being that traditional portrayals of femininity are either perfect and pure of heart, or evil monsters/masterminds. Of course it may be prudent to consider how many of these female characters were written by male authors or playwrights.

    However, your article approaches males characters as written by women in a very different light than I was expecting, identifying both harshness and more positive attributes alongside one another. I wonder to what extent the darkness is inseparable from the good? If a man with no goodness is more a monster than a man, then what’s a man without darkness?

    Men Written by Women: Dreamboats or Brutes?