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This Week In Video Game Criticism: From older audiences to games without politics
This Week In Video Game Criticism: From older audiences to games without politics
September 4, 2012 | By Kris Ligman

September 4, 2012 | By Kris Ligman
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More: Console/PC, Design



This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including games for older audiences, why there's no such thing as a game without politics, and more.

I made you an elaborate intro, but the cat ate it. So, let's just get right into it. It's This Week in Video Game Criticism

On Gamasutra, Douglas Lynn draws a line between the "game" and the "game experience," citing the latter as a more all-encompassing, multisensory interaction. Over on Video Game Tourism, Eron Rauch delineates the four major types of In-Game Photography.

Meanwhile, Kotaku's Patricia Hernandez boldly (and many would say, correctly) asserts that there is no such thing as a game without politics:
"Think, for instance, of player creation in any game. Look at the options. Are there women? What race or gender does the creation screen default to? How many options are there for people of color—be it skin tone, or hair type? What kind of dialects are available in the voicing options? Do the choices have race-specific abilities that make some characters innately better than others at certain things?

Depending on what's included or shown, we can glean the developer's stances about race and gender, amongst other things. Maybe they don't feel a race or gender is important enough to include, for example—typically, there will be excuses surrounding time and tech, but these are flimsy when you take a look at the superfluous things a developer does decide to include instead. Or maybe there's the uncomfortable implication that Caucasians are, as far as the game is concerned, actually more important than other races—and that's why there's more options for them."
On the subject of games and agendas, here's a piece on Spec Ops: The Line straight from the horse's mouth, as it were: a feature from narrative designer Richard Pearsey on the narrative objectives and process of the game.

Over on my old stomping grounds of PopMatters Moving Pixels, Jorge Albor offers us a profile on Molleindustria's Unmanned, in which players take on the role of a remote combat drone pilot:
"Unmanned also takes the opportunity to chastise the mainstream games industry as a whole. In his blog on Gamasutra, Grek Costikyan is right to point out the game is boring and for a reason. Molleindustria divides Unmanned from games that beautify warfare through game design. Boredom serves a dual purpose of conveying the actual tedium of modern warfare (artfully portrayed in Sam Mendes's Jarhead) and expressing how "fun" can become a tool by which we again divide ourselves from the world around us."
Over at the Gameological Society, Steve Heisler takes us through the latest installment of his "Decadent" column with two examples of the escort adventure, ICO and Amy, noting the difference in player affect between the two. In a similar vein, Gamers With Jobs' Julian Murdoch wonders why more games don't address their older audiences:
"I'm not a tabula rasa any more. I'm a grown-ass man. I have baggage. I've changed the diapers and sat through the meetings. I've made the grown-up choices to not buy the electric guitar, not upset the boss, not take off on a vacation I can't afford. I've made the all-too-adult choices to pay the mortgage, do the job, console the snot-nosed, feverish child and roll the garbage can down the driveway in the darkness of a frozen February morning.

These choices may not be noble, but they're at least, I hope, the quiet, subtle choices that separate me from the true assholes of the world. And they are, always, my starting point for any character I'm going to explore.

How can they not be?

I'm not suggesting that I long to actually play as Charles Bukowski or Tom Waits or Walter Mitty in a game. I don't want to play at being bitter and angry, grizzled by the world and its realities. What I want is a path. What I'm asking for is an actual answer. Where are the characters that take who I am today toward something more righteous? For every 12 year old inspired by Luke Skywalker to be better than they think they can be, there's a 45-year-old middle-class father of two wondering where it all goes from here, wondering if there was more than a little nobility in Lando's loyalty to Cloud City, in Walt's descent into the dark."
As though in answer, Unwinnable's Steve Haske looked into the abyss of Animal Crossing and found a lot about consumer culture malaise there. That or he's wound up in a Todd Haynes film; it's difficult to tell.

Socks Make People Sexy (which is in the running for best blog title featured this week) offers up a long and rewarding essay on What makes Super Mother -- errr, Mother 2 so super. And over at one of my favorite little blogs, Persona Matters, Johannes Koski takes us through the streets of Shibuya while extrapolating on concepts from Isaac Lenhart, and what it all has to do with The World Ends With You.

As a matter of fact, this was a good week for JRPG commentary all around, as Pixels or Death's Adam Harshberger reveals that he liked Xenoblade Chronicles enough to confide a few dark secrets in us. And Game Informer's Kimberley Wallace explores several design lessons we can still learn the grand old genre.

Josh Bycer writes of the plot holes of Diablo 3. Meanwhile, Unwinnable's Sam Machkovech swaps out plot holes for manholes (see that seamless transition there?) in lamenting poor Seattle's lot as a center of the game industry with surprisingly few game locations to its name:
"Upon booting [Deadlight], the developer's name flashes: Tequila Works. Who is that, who is that, who is that… oh. A video game developer in Spain. Spain? Microsoft works down the block, yet they couldn't even bother to pitch this Seattle-zombie game to a local.

[...]

What a blown opportunity for cool game design -- Seattle actually has an underground city, destroyed in a massive fire over a century ago. Modern downtown Seattle is built on top of it; look down in sewer grates while walking around town, and you'll see little red lights that light the underground way for paid tours and enterprising junkies.

Instead of capitalizing on a weird bit of Seattle history, Tequila Works copy+pastes a bunch of pipes and figuratively shouts, 'Hey, low-rent Ninja Turtles!'"
A couple of Kickstarter pieces to end off this roundup (ohoho! I'm on a roll!). The first is an interview with GaymerCon founder Matt Conn on his successful fundraising. The second is this unmissable feature on Gamasutra on a Kickstarter which didn't succeed:
"Crawford hoped to raise money to create Balance of the Planet, a serious environmental simulator that would teach players about sustainable energy, pollution, and other world issues. With his funding, he planned to make the game available for free on the web, and Crawford suspects that's one of the main reasons why his campaign went down in flames. After all, why would backers pledge money for a product that'll eventually be free?

'As it turns out, my model was only right for what Kickstarter used to be,' said Crawford. 'That is, Kickstarter used to be a semi-charitable operation in which people could assist worthy creative projects that might not make it commercially, but still ought to be done. But in the area of games and comics, this is no longer the case.'"
I think I better wrap this TWIVGC up before the catbeast chews through any more wires. Have a pleasant week, all of you out there in Readerland, and be sure to tweet and email us your submissions. Oh, and if you haven't yet, check out Alan Williamson's revival of the Blogs of the Round Table! And yes, you can submit the same article for BoRT and TWIVGB, so you have no excuses, really.


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