‘Firewatch’ & Leigh Alexander

Campo Santo's 'Firewatch'

We review ‘Firewatch,’ the new video game from Campo Santo, without spoilers. Then (at 20:22), Chris talks to Leigh Alexander, the former editor-in-chief of Boing Boing’s Offworld, about why she is quitting writing about video games, why the culture’s collective amnesia about video games is harmful to the medium, and whether the sexism in video games is worse than the sexism in movies and television. 

NEXT WEEK, WE HOPE:

“XCOM 2” and “The Witness”

SHOW NOTES:

Boing Boing’s Offworld

Leigh Alexander’s Gamasutra essay, “‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers’ are over.”

Leigh Alexander’s Vice essay, “The Final Word on ‘The Phantom Pain,’ a Video Game About Video Games”

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3 Comments

  1. jim
    February 10, 2016

    never insult gamergate again

    Reply
  2. The Man
    February 12, 2016

    real good interview, even if it was a little bleak at times. cheers

    Reply
  3. JRed
    February 24, 2016

    Just heard this episode. Really good, heady stuff here …

    Please allow me some disclosure: I am a disposable office worker with a fairly disposable liberal arts degree based in the midwest rust-belt and a recent returning gamer with the holiday purchase of a PS4. Until then, my PS3 had served as a very casual NHL or Gran Turismo player, but mainly as a Netflix, HBO Go player, as I navigated most of my 30’s. Now approaching the end of this age decade and seeing most of my friends obscured to the demands of family, mortgages, and careers, I decided this winter might be a good time to see what a next gen console can offer. As a fairly comfortable bachelor, I figured what better than a new PlayStation to consummate my Bat-cave and said status. Little did I know that this was exactly the level of escapism and decompression I hadn’t even known to look for.

    Took a chance with Fallout 4 (no small thanks to your NPR plug) and now regularly spend weekend and late night hours checked-out in the Commonwealth. (Saving your last FO4 ep. until I finish, of course.) GTA V and MGS V are also in the post.

    My job consists of mostly routine cycles of busy work so there are no real attainable goals and not much in the way of rewarding initiative. Now, every time I grab a Dual Shock controller, I’m faced with new and previous objectives that must be completed — all at my own pace. There are countless different corners of full hd city’s and landscapes to seek out, all from the steam-heated comfort of my flat. In short, there is a certain level of control and eye candy here that I can rarely find outside my door.

    In this modern age where novels and news compete with app notifications, where TV consists of thousands of the same commercials all stuck on loop, where re-made movies compete with long-form, over-drawn shows on demand, for our precious time, money and broadband-decimated attention spans — all of it mostly passive, hardly challenging entertainment — it seems the only real way to unplug in from it all in an engaging, rewarding way is by plugging-in some headphones and just really gaming-out …

    All this said is to give you some idea of one grateful gamer’s background. In my search for intelligent reviews and engaging dialogue about this very intelligent, engaging and elaborate medium, I came across your work and your podcast — never mind the Monster/Mountain Dew fueled, unlaundered bedroom gaming community of youtube/online talking bro-heads. (Sure, the have their place.)

    But this particular episode really solidified this nagging notion that’s been on my mind since re-discovering the sheer power of gaming; namely, your interview with Ms. Alexander crystallized the notion that gaming in my so-called adult life is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is created by serious adults for adults. It is a medium largely unchecked because it is not taken very seriously at large and therefore, a lot freer and with potential for controversy as with any creative medium. While to Ms. Alexander’s point, it is important that it be criticized and scrutinized against the values of society at large, as with any creative medium, it is also important that the medium sustains itself and its freedom of expression, even if that means pandering to the masses. For every EA title, we must have a Firewatch and a Fallout, just like for every nameless multi-million white-male-washed Hollywood blockbuster, we must have a Straight Outta Compton.

    To be certain, I am completely enthralled with the idea that I can walk into work or a bar or a fundraising event tomorrow and strike up an engaging conversation with a coworker or stranger and reference feral ghouls at the buffet from Fallout, but that’s not likely. And I’m OK with that. But until that post-cultural apocalypse of a fantasy can ever happen, I’m also OK with the reality that many of us can appreciate the value and power of gaming and I’m even happier to support the few of us who can speak on it with the intelligence, respect, and scrutiny it deserves.

    Thank you for your work. You’ve made this gamer proud of the unmistakable fact that whenever it’s clear and sunny out this winter, barren trees and ground and all, he sees Fallout skies …

    Reply

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