Zine Review: It’s Just A Game

ZINES_It's-Just-a-GameZine, Elizabeth Simins, Volume One, [email protected], itsjustagamezine.tumblr.com, $8

It’s no secret that video games can mean so much to us that they breed both supportive and destructive culture. Issues of conscience in gaming culture and reac- tions to criticism have flared beyond the confines of certain corners of the internet, where gaming thrives. Elizabeth Simins and company explore the lay of the gaming land in the first volume of It’s Just A Game.

The full-size zine contains pieces by 13 individual contributors, ranging from essays, to conceptual pieces to comics. Each contributor brings an original perspective to video gaming by way of some thrill or criticism of particular games or some aspect of gaming culture. It’s clear that the whole group involved is dedicated to transcending 1) the oppressive elements of gaming culture (namely, against women), and 2) the relegation of gaming to frivolity. Important critical issues have been raised in recent years, like those that received attention in the Gamergate controversy. Perspectives here are in line with those that came under misogynist attack in Gamergate when the controversy flared up back in 2013.

Stand-out pieces include William Harlow’s hard-hitting satirical promo, “Achievements for Her”, advertising unlockable gaming achievements such as: “Skin Deep: Get called ugly in online play” and “Bone Collector: Receive 10 unsolicited, explicit selfies.” Also, Abi Johnson’s “Let’s Talk about Gears of War” is a brief but eyebrow-raising review of the Gears of War series as experienced through gameplay with Abi’s circle of friends. Differences in reactions to male and female characters are telling of biases built into the game design but also those of co-players. There are thousands of stories like this on the web, but Abi’s is particularly well-done.

If the zine has any shortcomings, it’s the brevity of individual pieces. Many of the issues raised deserve deeper, more long-form treatments. For example, I would’ve liked a few more pages of Coleoptera-Kinbote’s “If We Play Along with the Ever-Generous Assumption That Games Matter…” an examination of evolving academic study of games and gaming. But even if some pieces just scratch the surface, editor Elizabeth Simins gets credit for bringing together such a sharp crew of contributors. Everyone here has something unique and important to say. (Josh- ua Barton)