[Gamasutra is partnering with game criticism site Critical Distance to present some of the week's most inspiring writing about the art and design of video games from commentators worldwide. This week, Ben Abraham looks in on discussions regarding Cursed Mountain, Neopets, and humorous riffs on Uncharted 2.]
Let's start this week with Michael Clarkson, who talked about a Wii game that no one else seems to have even heard about, let alone given the same level of thoughtful critique. In ‘Touch The Void
’ Clarkson discusses Cursed Mountain
"In its best moments…Cursed Mountain truly inhabits the persona of a man whose entire existence relies on his understanding of space and distance, whose whole world is the howling wind and the biting cold and the lonely rock of a mountain that must be ascended, even if it means brushing up against the realm of the dead."
If there were a “blog of the year” award, I’d be putting forward Robin Burkinshaw’s ‘Alice and Kev’ for it. The story of two homeless Sims in The Sims 3 finished up this week
and, while the story on the blog is done, you can download that character of Alice and continue it on for yourself. A fitting way to end and one that embraces the potential multiplicity of stories in video games.
The Experience Points blog posted a sequel to an earlier post about game endings with ‘Dead Ends Part 2
Chris Dahlen’s Edge column turned to the topic of Modern Warfare 2’s Capital Wasteland-esque setting
, as revealed in one of the more recent videos of the game. Quoth Dahlen; “this summer, small clutches of angry Americans fantasized about shooting up the city for real” and they should have just played Fallout 3
or waited for MW2
. Talk like this always reminds me of this song by The Herd
. Dahlen also wrote about the Sonic The Hedgehog comic book in a more recent, delightfully-tangential-to-gaming column
Do you fancy an interview with some of independent gaming’s best composers? This GameSetWatch interview is for you
Lewis Denby talked about ‘How possibly to do good games journalism maybe
’, and I read his four part article. Which was good. In it, Denby seems to suggest that games journalists’ opt out of “reviews” for more in-depth features and while it’s not a new suggestion, he certainly makes a better case for it here than I’ve seen elsewhere.
Michael Clarkson talks about the experience of writing the recent Critical Compilation for GTA IV
, and goes into some detail about the process. You might not think it, but applying organisation and classification to even something as seemingly straightforward as video game articles is fraught with danger. It’s all too easy to have one’s efforts seen as a colonizing incursion or read as an attempt to form ‘the last word’ on a subject. Clearly, we’re still learning and missteps will be made, but I for one value Clarkson’s efforts in this area regardless, as well as our readers' patience and assistance.
In what is my pick for this week's (or rather, last week's) must read
, David Carlton thinks about why games categorize genre according to technical issues such as ‘first person’ or ‘third person’
, whereas most other media use a content approach – i.e. sci-fi is often about exploring the themes of technology, humanity, and fear of the unknown. He uses Justin Keverne’s comments in the Brainy Gamer Summer Confab volume 3
as a springboard. The money quote comes when he looks at The Beatles: Rock Band
as a non-fiction
"The picture that I’m getting from this is a game that, on a non-mechanics genre level, is profoundly different from the vast majority of video games. At its core, the Beatles game is a non-fiction game in the sense that most video games are fiction games"
I find his suggestion terribly exciting, and the prototype of a whole new way of thinking about games entirely. Like I said, must read.
A good friend of mine is in the middle of a final year university project, and she’s writing about the online game / sim / casual game Neopets
. Her thesis is that many people of her generation (that is, roughly 18-25 year olds) got their first experience with online worlds and online gaming via titles like Neopets
, and I think she might be right. She talks about the Neopets ‘Battledome’ in an early post
, and more recently about “The Gambling Controversy
” that erupted in the Australian media in the early 00’s about a certain feature of Neopets
. Mary’s a fantastically good writer too, so even if you never played or heard about Neopets
, it’s worth a look.
Inspired by this rather insipid article from IGN Australia
, Tracey Lien offers some much better tips on how to encourage girls to be more interested in video games
. Her biggest and best Pro Tip: “Stop being so patronizing”.
Ian Bogost talked about Kickstarter’s relationship with art as a commodity
. It’s a bit tangential, but it’s entertaining and insightful and I’ve wondered since its inception if it will be able to sustain its donation/support model for the long haul. Incidentally, if you’re interested, Borut Pfeifer talks about some of the stats for projects that succeed on Kickstarter
. Since we’re on a bit of bender for articles about the website, let’s also mention that Deirdra Kiai has started a project for her new indie game ‘Life Flashes By’
Next up, Jason Nelson released a new weird art game
that looks and plays exactly like all his other weird games the other week. It’s a bit of a pity really, as once is genius, twice is prodigious, but three near-identical works is stretching the bounds. Or that’s how I kind of feel about the new game, anyway.
Elsewhere, Jesper Juul talks about ‘objectionable content
’ in games, saying:
"…video games are still being hampered by the strange idea that they, somehow, should be the only clean and non-objectionable art form in existence. This shows up in Apple’s rejections. It shows up in the fact that the platform holders continue to decide what is published. It shows up in the fact that Australia does not have a mature rating for video games.
And yes, I do think it is holding video games back, as an art form."
This is something I’ve tried to raise before in recent columns, but was misunderstood about at the time. I’m just glad that someone has gotten the point out there eventually.
An article by Steven Totilo on Kotaku investigates the Xbox massage toys that are predictable cash-cows of the XBLA Indie Games
. It’s like a case study in backlash.
Matthew Kaplan wrote this week about what he sees as Namco’s ’irresponsible marketing
‘ of the latest Tekken
"What IS rather dangerous about the ad…is that it places just as much emphasis on those real-life fighters who, with brutal honesty, declare that their draw to fighting has to do with being a “bully” and the pleasures of destroying another human being as they do those who have seemingly honorable intentions…"
Which, having not seen the advertisement in question makes me go, ‘Hmm’.
I have this theory that in a production environment where a team is big enough not to know everyone’s name, the end product will probably only ever be as good as the lowest common denominator. I mention this because a feature on the Lesbian Gamers site picks up on the juvenile depiction of Commander Dare in Halo 3: ODST
. Some of the examples they highlight are enough to make me cringe. In summary:
"Commander Dare might as well be Doris Day from pretty much any Doris Day movie. Slap Helfer in a gingham apron, lipstick and have her waiting on her man Buck with dinner and a smile at 6pm. That’s about all the power Dare has in game, so why dress her up in armor and pretend this is anything other than what it is, a ploy and a bad one at that."
Someone linked to this short story on the UK’s The Register website
, and I found it highly entertaining. The connection to gaming? Well, it’s in there somewhere.
This week, Lyndon Warren expresses that he thinks “Atton might be gay
”. He is talking about Knights Of The Old Republic II
, of course, and how a fan-made reconstruction of some of the content omitted from the retail version of the game adds some very real evidence that he may be right.
Lastly, Hardcasual skewers the “Nice guy who murders people” trope in their piece on Uncharted 2
. Seriously – why do games still do this?
[Critical Distance (RSS/Twitter) was set up in April 2009 "to serve the burgeoning field of games criticism by highlighting the excellent writing being produced by video game bloggers and journalists".]