Interesting Conversations

Finding and creating space for conversations about video games, an insight from author and presenter, Jordan Erica Webber

My goal is to find and create space for the kinds of interesting and nuanced conversations that are afforded to other media, without having to explain or justify the existence of the entire medium beforehand.

I’m the eldest of eight siblings, four girls and four boys, and we’ve all played video games all our lives, so I didn’t know that other people thought it was a masculine hobby until I grew up. Sometimes it feels like I’ve built a career around tackling misconceptions about video games and the people who play them. I used to work in video game retail, gently advising parents on what was and was not appropriate for their children to play, and then I ended up writing about video games in the Guardian and talking about them on BBC Radio 4.

(Jordan Erica Webber - The Gadget Show)

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Now that I’ve been discussing video games professionally for more than eight years, I’ve become tired of having the same conversations over and over again. I don’t want to be called on to defend video games against hyperbolic accusations from people who haven’t bothered to learn anything about them, but I also don’t want to play the part of video game evangelist, insisting that games are some kind of superpowered force for good. My goal is to find and create space for the kinds of interesting and nuanced conversations that are afforded to other media, without having to explain or justify the existence of the entire medium beforehand. Hopefully, some of the work I’ve done reflects that goal.

(Jordan Erica Webber - Architects Underground)

The book I co-authored with Dan Griliopoulos, Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us, explores philosophical thought experiments through the lens of video games. I’m inclined to believe that society could do with more philosophers, and I’m sure the great philosophers of the past would see the potential for video games to playfully demonstrate and test their theories.

My podcast, Talking Simulator, is a series of short conversations about video games with interesting people who play them. In the first series, I interviewed Katie Chironis about turning a Shakespearean tragedy into the time-looping adventure game Elsinore, and talked to Keza MacDonald about how video games treat parents and how parenthood changes one’s experience of games. In April 2020, at the start of lockdown, I released a mini-series in which I interviewed five of my friends about Animal Crossing: New Horizons within the game itself. I’m currently recording the next series, and the conversations I’ve had so far have buoyed my 2020-depleted spirits.

I’m especially grateful that BBC Radio 4 has given me space to have more interesting conversations about video games. I’ve been reviewing video games on Front Row for years, and have even been able to bring games to the table when I’ve presented Saturday Review. And my recent Radio 4 documentary, Playing with the Dead, explores memorialisation in games—whether by accident or design—and what it’s like for people to come across the digital traces their lost loved ones have left behind, an experience one interviewee described as “sacred”.

(image from - That Dragon, Cancer)

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One reason I like writing and talking about games is that they continue to surprise us, perhaps in part because of those preconceptions people have. Despite the cyclical nature of some conversations, there’s so much more to say that hasn’t already been said. I see a lot of people who seem to get into writing about games because they want to make them someday, but I don’t really have that desire myself. I’m happy to let other people do interesting creative work that I can then go and tell the world about.

(Develop — Jordan Erica Webber / Jade Raymond)

Jordan Erica Webber is a writer and presenter. She has been the resident gaming expert on The Gadget Show (Channel 5) since 2017. On BBC Radio 4, she presents documentaries and guest presents shows like Saturday Review. She hosts multiple podcasts, including Wild Wild Tech (Spoke Media) and her interview show Talking Simulator. Most of her writing about games can be found in the Guardian, and she has also co-authored (with Dan Griliopoulos) a book called Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us. In her spare time, she bakes, sews, and performs in local musical theatre productions in Leamington Spa.

(all images, except That Dragon, Cancer, are shared with kind permission from Jordan Erica Webber)

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What We Are Reading…

How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design

by Katherine Isbister

An engaging examination of how video game design can create strong, positive emotional experiences for players. Isbister's analysis shows us a new way to think about games, helping us appreciate them as an innovative and powerful medium for doing what film, literature, and other creative media do: helping us to understand ourselves and what it means to be human.

“…By exploring how games can play a ‘positive role’ in developing empathy and other ‘positive emotional experiences’, Isbister makes a compelling case for how the gaming industry should be considered a well-established cultural medium on the same plane as film, TV, and literature…” (Sophie McAvoy, Bustle)

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What We Are Playing…

Journey

by thatgamecompany

Journey takes you soaring above ruins and glide across sands as you explore the secrets of a forgotten civilization. Featuring stunning visuals, haunting music, and unique online gameplay.

thatgamecompany was founded by Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago in 2006. As a studio, it is dedicated to creating timeless interactive entertainment that inspires human connection worldwide.

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That’s all for this month! but please, come by and visit the #WildWomanGamer project online.

#WildWomanGamer is curated by Victoria Bennett & published by Wild Women Press.