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This Week In Video Game Criticism: From endless war to weapon sponsors
This Week In Video Game Criticism: From endless war to weapon sponsors
August 21, 2012 | By Eric Swain

August 21, 2012 | By Eric Swain
More: Console/PC, Design

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Eric Swain on topics including Medal of Honor's weapon sponsorships, to how games contribute to the idea that endless war is normal.

Welcome back. Kris is on break this weekend so I'm here to fill your TWIVGC needs in the meantime.

The Extra Credits crew finishes up a two-parter talking about mechanics as metaphor using the flash game Loneliness to weld to discussion together.

CNN has done a number of in-depth articles on several subjects with how games are intersecting with real life in interesting ways; from South Korea's Pro Gaming/Game Addiction dichotomy to gamifying the prison system to great success.

This week the community blew up in response to Borderlands 2 lead developer calling a skill tree in his game 'girlfriend mode.' Our own Eric Swain says a few words on various aspects of the whole situation before creating a list of all the responses he could find.

That wasn't the only controversy this week. EA recently launched its Medal of Honor Warfighter official website with links to weapons manufacturer sponsors where you can buy the real life counterparts to the weapons in game. Ryan Smith of Gameological brought attention to it. He ended his piece by saying,
"I can't say for certain whether or not my nephew would have brought a gun to school without the role of military video games, nor can I say if gun sales will increase because of Medal Of Honor: Warfighter. But if we want the vicarious thrills of violent video games to remain morally justifiable, we need to protect the fourth wall between the first-person shooter and real life. EA's willingness to make a connection between a video game gun and an actual firearm is the strongest evidence yet that we've already let the wall crumble too much."
Violence in video game, particularly war games was a major theme this week. Patricia Hernandez criticized the current military themed games for contributing to the idea that endless war is normal. "War is routinized, war is a spectacle, war is sanitized, war is surveillance."

Tadhg Kelly compares video games to porn and the lessons it can learn from it when bigger/better/faster/harder is no longer enough. Zoya writing for The Border House asks, "Should game developers avoid triggering players' PTSD?"

Meanwhile, Kyle Carpenter, at Medium Difficulty, talks about the real price of game violence and how we talk about them matters, "not because they dictate how is going to go on a rampage, but because they're a part of a larger cultural mechanism which dictates how we view both military and private violence."

Denis Farr on the same site turns his eye towards Christine Love's Analogue: A Hate Story and the meaning of the experience by the game forcing your responses through a filter to match each AI's world view.

Bit Creature had a pair of great posts this week. Drew Paryer's piece on the game that only lets you play one time in the face of the end of the world, One Chance. And Richard Clark on Happy Street and what it has to say about happiness.

Skyler at Nightmare Mode wrote about the early DS game Contact and what is has to say about free will. Alan Williamson, meanwhile, bring up the topic of writing for free on the internet and how it devalues everyone else's work.

At PopMatters, Jorge Albor talks about "The Extremes of Human Systems." Looking at John Krakaer's book Into Thin Air, Albor looks at how games fail to combine their human systems with their game ones. G. Christopher Williams talks about game difficulty in "The Pleasures of Playing in an Economy of Pain." He explores the change in focus of games over the decades and why we would play difficult games.

Jim Ralph considers the same subject over at Ontological Geek.

Michael "brainygamer" Abbott asks, "Why we JRPG."

Michael "sparky" Clarkson says you can't lampshade camp, because camp has to be some part sincere.

Line Hollis writes on the characters of the Dragon Age series and how they are defined by the role they are given. No matter who their master is, their role remains the same. They cannot escape it.

Adrian Forest decides to write for his blog, Three Parts Theory, again on the changing nature of city space from above and from the ground and the transition between the two as exemplified in the Prototype games.

Jamie Dalzell at Pondering the Pixels blog, decided that 'Journey is a Game About Fear.'

Rob Parker writes a personal account that ends up talking about Tribes: Ascension, but there is more to it.

And finally I'm closing out on something fun. Two somethings in fact. A short movie by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo on what our future looks like with the new "iPhone." And some ukiyo-e woodblock prints of video game characters.

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Ardney Carter
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Could we at least quote Mr. Hemingway accurately? His words were "girlfriend skill tree", not "girlfriend mode", someone else came up with the latter and despite often containing the actual quote it seems most articles (including the one on Gamasutra) run with the non-dev version in the headline.

It may seem like nit-picking but when you consider that modes and skill trees are entirely separate things its worth being accurate. Couple this with the observation of comment threads springing from said articles where invariably people make remarks about how 'this all could have been avoided if they just stuck to the easy/normal/hard mode naming conventions' and its clear the nuance is being lost to people who can't even be bothered to read the articles.

Regardless your feelings on what the man said, at least have the decency to quote him accurately.

Freek Hoekstra
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lets also be honest, the gu was just trying to illustrate a point, why is everyone so very much offended by this? msot of the people playing borderlands tend to be male, and it wouldbe great to have less experienced gamers be able to give this type of game a try,

and commonly women tend to be less trained in shooters as women tend to prefer less violent games. and thus the comment was made, he never suggested anything bad with the remark he just wanted to illustrate an example of the target audience.

also my best friend (a woman) is hooked on borderlands and I cna;t play the game to save my life so I'm looking forward to the mode too, and I'm not offended that he reffered to "me" as a girlfriadn, but I dare anyone to come up with a more clear example of the target audience that is not convoluted in nature.

this has been taken way out of context imho.

J Spartan
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I think the big story in all that is from this piece:

EA sells/links to real arms sellers in MoH Warfighter, that helps explain where much of the funding for all the hyper violent FPS games comes from, and is more than a little disturbing.

Terry Matthes
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That makes me sad.

J Spartan
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And another good article on the subject:

I agree Terry, it is sad, sad for our kids, sad for human progress, sad for gaming and sad for EA that they feel they can justify this act by linking it to a charity. Not only is the whole practise sick but it really damages the way games are viewed by many of the parents that buy games for their kids. As the first article shows it IS kids that play these kind of games the most, the age limit stickers do not stop kids playing them.

So you are in effect marketing your game for kids (as is quite clear in all game marketing you care to look at). What's next? Cigarettes? Alchol? Sex trade stuff? where is the line you can't cross?

Terry Matthes
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I very very much agree with the article you posted and I myself have felt that way for a long time. It blows my mind that people can go to work every day at EA and perpetuate this kind of thinking. They should be ashamed of themselves, especially those with families.