Getting Some Play: Express Yourself

Welcome to Getting Some Play — the spiritual successor to Sarah Warn’s excellent Good Game column — where we’ll take a look at the latest releases, news and developments in the world of video games.

It’s not every day you read a piece on gender performance in a mainstream videogame, particularly on a mainstream news site (not Borderhouse, Gaygamer, or, well, this column). Just last week, Gamasutra posted a fantastic article about that very subject in the context of the Dance Central series, informed by an interview with the games’ openly queer project director Matt Boch.

Not only does the article serve as a spotlight for Boch and his ideas about gender performance and how that informs dance – and more specifically, how the games were designed with that very much in mind – but it also highlights just how inclusive Harmonix is in their design philosophy. From the post:

In the early days of prototyping Dance Central, Boch noticed some players hesitating on dance moves that felt "sexy" or "hip-focused", or traditionally feminine — not only male players, but female participants who seemed to feel uncomfortable expressing themselves in that particular way. The design challenge was to find a way to allow players to perform the dance moves without requiring them to undertake certain subtleties that might be at odds with a person’s sense of self.

A Harvard-educated artist, Boch has long believed that gender is performance. "I myself consider myself a queer man, and I was not about to sit by… in a situation where only these characters can play those songs, or — god forbid — have male-female designations for each piece of content," he explains.

As if I needed another reason to love this game (beyond the fact that it’s incredibly fun and my girlfriend is obsessed with it) – it also happens to come from seriously progressive and talented folks. Good on you, Harmonix and Boch – keep fighting the good fight, one shimmy at a time.

Incoming

Scarygirl may have arrived on Xbox Live last week, but she’s making an appearance on PlayStation Network tomorrow (January 24), and well worth your time if you fancy yourself a cute, stylish platformer with a girl-power streak.

On January 31, NeverDead arrives on the PS3 and 360. IGN’s description is certainly interesting:

NeverDead is a third-person action game set in a fantasy and horror-influenced universe where supernatural battles between humans and extraordinary creatures blanket a vast city landscape. Gamers wield a butterfly design-inspired sword and an arsenal of guns to decimate waves of ungodly enemies in the not-too-distant future.”

Also on January 31, the latest in the increasingly wild Soulcalibur series, Soulcalibur V, arrives on the PS3 and 360. Expect character designs straight out of a fetish site and top-notch fighting mechanics. Adding to the mini-list of big-name Japanese-developed games coming out on January 31 for the two HD consoles is Final Fantasy XIII-2.

The First week of February should bring some interesting things to the table, with Happy Action Theater (a Kinect party game developed by the creative minds at Double Fine Studios) landing on February 1, and a whole month’s worth of big name titles dropping on February 7, including The Darkness II, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and Resident Evil: Revelations. We’ll get to those in the next edition of Getting Some Play, so hang in there, players – the drought is nearly over.

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