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Posted by: Em | FEB-21-2021

List 1 - List of overly prescriptive videogame aesthetics
Points of Aesthetic Pleasure in Videogaming:

Visual                Tactile             Audible             Intellectual
1. Spatial movement
                                                              2. Mystery
           3. Broken Geometry
           4. Chunkiness
                                                              5. Arbitrariness
                      6. Ease 
                                          7. The correct cursor sound
8. Multiplicity       
           9. Miniaturization
                          10. Atmosphere

2+5. Surprise | 2+6. Cheat codes | 2+8+5. Gashapon | 6+5. Clumsiness

Points of Aesthetic Displeasure in Videogaming:

1. Orchestral music
2. Checklist
3. Quest Markers
4. Skill Tree
5. Steam/EGS/App Store
6. Floridness
7. Connecting...
8. 99% CPU
9. Lack of visual interest
10. The incorrect cursor sound


By which I mean, like, these are the things that often feel bad to me, feel excessive, feel contrived, make me feel like I don't want to do it any more. The things where I close out, or if I'm still playing, I check out. It almost feels easier to wrestle with what grates on me aesthetically in other mediums, and then I can articulate exactly what's bad about it in the language of the form. I watch "Netflix Originals," masochistically finish Sally Rooney novels, and look at all sorts of visual art I find stupid or dull, and I have tons to say; the experience is ultimately valuable. But sticking with a videogame that doesn't seem to offer me anything seems overly demanding, and for what? I always feel like aesthetic vocabulary around videogames reduces to the boring discussions of design and mechanics that are precisely what put me off a lot of games, what makes them competent but uninspiring, which is probably my least favorite kind of art.

Two theses on prescriptive videogame aesthetics

~As it is involved in so many of the aesthetically pleasurable aspects of videogames, I have to conclude that "mystery" is the highest value of the form.~
~As it is involved in so many of the aesthetically displeasing aspects of videogames, I have to conclude that "information" is the greatest blight of the form.~


And this design orientation of how we discuss game aesthetics is soo annoying, too, because it seems like these discussions get mired in a back-and-forth between inflexible, shallow "rules" or buzzwords that don't meet the particular experience of a videogame, or, god, even the technology or context of reception for videogames in the first place. How this manifests in practice are tonally condescending didactic pieces that speak to a hypothetical reader who is assumed to be overly impressionable, that they may be under the mistaken belief that one thing is good when the other thing is what is really good. This sort of implies that the reader's actual experience with or interest in videogames is irrelevant. So what I mean here, to close-read my own joke, is that ridiculously broad, bullshit, authoritative design statements are as close as we get to discussing videogames aesthetically a majority of the time. These statements are not only demonstrably driven by industry trends, not by any actual artistic or conceptual commitments, and therefore, against themselves, always shifting and arbitrary; they also completely fail to address what I find aesthetically interesting about videogames. So yeah, if I wanted to play their game, this is what I'd say, to roars of disgust, even if I don't fully believe it. I also spend a lot of my time playing arguably "information-heavy" games, time that ranges from genuine to slightly dysfunctional enjoyment.

The Most Aesthetically Pleasing Videogames


1. Sim Copter
2. LSD Dream Emulator
3. Yume Nikki
4. The 25th Ward
5. Catacombs of Solaris
6. Sluggish Morss
7. Deity Driving
8. Chulip
9. Wario Ware: Twisted!
10. hand-editing HTML


There's an expectation here that I'll put forth some objective, explained, hierarchical listing which all the previous details can be systematically applied to... They become, self-evidently, "the most!" But at this point I don't really care about that, nor, do I think, even in a hypothetical scenario where I had experienced every "videogame" such a list would even be "real" "total" "meaningful" in the sense of its title. Instead, these are simply the games that provoke the strongest sense of aesthetic appreciation in me, that inspire me, stick with me, in essence prevent me from definitively "checking out" of videogames, to still believe they have some potential, even if it sometimes seems completely counter to the "potential" associated with the form. I guess my compulsion to write about videogames is to find and refine the language to talk about this in the first place.

List 2 - A list which creates a game

I like how a list can alter your relationship to something. When you have the guide for the RPG that lists all the enemies and places and items you play it differently than when you're going in blind. This is kind of obvious. Anyways, this list is a game for appreciating the linked video better. Please tell me if it's good.

Types of Guy Appearing in the YouTube Video "Sonic Youth - I Wanna Be Your Dog (1989)" in the order in which they attracted my attention

1. Wild-haired Saxophonist
2. Kim Gordon
3. Sunglasses Indoors Guitarist
4. Sunglasses Indoors Guitarist 2
5. Thurston Moore
6. Sunglasses Indoors Keytarist
7. Guy with a Flute and Trench Coat, also Wearing Sunglasses Indoors
8. Woman in Dungarees with a Single Maraca
9. Guy with a Tambourine
10. Just the drummer
11. The bassist, who has been in the background the entire time, actually

Created for List Jam 2021