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This week in Video Game Criticism: Blizzard's moral psychopathy, narrative as a mechanic
This week in Video Game Criticism: Blizzard's moral psychopathy, narrative as a mechanic
February 7, 2012 | By Eric Swain

February 7, 2012 | By Eric Swain
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More: Console/PC, Design



[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Eric Swain on topics including whether narrative is a game mechanic, the moral psychopathy that Blizzard has continually displayed, and more.]

I can't think of a clever intro. It's This Week In Video Game Criticism.

The recently released Katawa Shoujo has garnered a lot of attention for how it came into existence and for it being a quality experience, something no one could have seen coming. Our own Kris Ligman says that Katawa Shoujo could be accused of many things, but cynicism is not one of them. And given where it came from, that is something. Know Your Meme, meanwhile, is heading off comments about the people saying "I'll never meet a girl like that" countering with "You're doing it wrong."

Michael Peterson at Project Ballad writes extensively on Persona 3 and how the game presents the concept of free will.

Richard Clark writes a response at Christ and Pop Culture about one person's reaction to Settlers of Catan who said the game is "fundamentally antithetical to Christian vision and existence." Clark responds: "Perhaps the #1 rule of approaching a game rightly is as follows: take it seriously, but keep your perspective."

Lana Polansky writes a review of Oiche Mhaith for KillScreen -- it's an indie game about a girl in an abusive home, and how it conveys the utter destruction of a little girl.

Matthew Schanuel, the Ontological Geek, examines Deus Ex: Human Revolution from the perspective of its mythic roots, borrowing from both the story of Icarus and Genesis.

Matthew Armstrong at The Misanthropic Gamer has just finished Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. He writes about how the game has granted him "a new appreciation for Castlevania's current state of affairs in today's gaming landscape." He thinks the fact it does not stick to formula should not be held against it.

Petros of Sparta at A Blog of Random Things, writes "What I would have changed: Twilight Princess." Going over what was fundamentally off about the game and how it could have been great and innovative instead of the stagnant entry of the series.

Eric Schwarz of the Critical Missive blog is back again, this time writing about Rage and multiple design missteps it takes.

Rowan Kaiser in his weekly Joystiq column on role-playing games turns his eye to the two most recent Fallout entries, comparing the different rhythms to the quest structures in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The former is based on free form explorations whereas the latter was more stringent in its hub based structure. Meanwhile, at Insult Swordfighting, Mitch Krpata types out a series of "Rejected Endings to Fallout: New Vegas."

Guest blogger Apple Cider Mage posts "Let's get rid of 'slut plate' forever" at The Border House. It isn't about the skimpy armor of World or Warcraft, but the term itself.

Speaking of World of Warcraft, John Brindle of the Brindle Brothers talks about the moral psychopathy that Blizzard has continually displayed. They know they have a moral obligation to their community, but don't seem quite capable or knowledgeable on how to execute their intentions.

From one company to another, Benjamin Jackson writes a piece entitled "The Zynga Abyss" for the Atlantic about games that treat players like rats in the Skinner Box, requiring little creativity. In a similar vein we have Jamin Warren at KillScreen focusing on Zynga's practice of cloning games and the multiple factors that allow people to get away with it. Finally, Ian Bogost weighs in at Gamasutra comparing the Tiny Tower/Dream Tower cloning scandal to the myth of Bellerophon and Pegasus. Unpacking that essay could require an essay itself.

Shifting away from the specific toward more overarching themes, we have Pippin Barr giving a talk on what games are, how the boundaries are limiting and thankfully how they are now being pushed against. For some reason though, the video goes dark 17 minutes in.

At The Wall Street Journal, Conor Dougherty published a piece on the way some players are changing the way they experience games with pacifist runs. And Eric Lockaby talks about how critics and gamers are "Pretentious as Shit" when it comes to their snootiness towards difficulty and accessibility in games. Though I agree with the sentiment, I think 'pretentious' is the wrong word. Replace each instance with 'jackass' and it's much more on the mark.

Joel Jordon from The Game Manifesto believes games are like music. He extols the inherent rhythm to a game's actions, and sees similar qualities present in games from Dance Dance Revolution to Resident Evil 4 and Rayman Origins.

Alan Williamson of the SplitScreen blog looks at a quick history of cheating in games from the early cheatcode to modern hacking, to the publishers cheating gamers out of legitimately purchased content. To quote Williamson: "It's hard for the modern gamer to be a cheater, but easy for them to feel cheated."

On a similar subject, John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun muses on the question of "Do we own our Steam games?" and discusses the issues around digital ownership that have yet to legally be answered.

We end with a few more responses to Raph Koster's post "Narrative is not a mechanic": Chuck Jordan questions whether Koster's assertions are based in the fundamentals of what narrative and games are, or merely how it's been done so far. And Mattie Brice in her PopMatters column outright contradicts him saying "Narrative Is a Game Mechanic."

Witty closing remark. Hyperlinks to email and Twitter for submissions. Warm farewell!


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