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This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Mark of the Ninja to Spec Ops
This Week In Video Game Criticism: From  Mark of the Ninja  to  Spec Ops
October 2, 2012 | By Kris Ligman

October 2, 2012 | By Kris Ligman
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This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the strength of subjectivity in Spec Ops: The Line and Mark of the Ninja.

We're starting out the gate with a couple of tales on the theme of growing up gaming, and I warn you in advance, they are both heavy hitters.

The first comes to us from Unwinnable's Jenn Frank, on grappling with the loss of a parent, and the games of spaceflight she grew up with. The second from The Rumpus's Molly McArdle relates to us what it's like growing up in and out of hospitals, and inside the world of Baldur's Gate:
"Even in this alternate world, one shaped by desire, I was not the hardiest of characters. Strength was frequently my lowest ability score, my constitution not much better. (I poured all my points into intelligence, wisdom, and charisma.) I was able to make do because there, in that world, I had magic, and when you have magic, you barely need a body."
Over on Culture Ramp, Luke Rhodes wraps up his Ludorenaissance series by recapitulating the themes of his interviews and suggesting an emerging methodology for games criticism. In case you missed his previous interviews, here they are again: Jamin Warren, the Editor, Jenn Frank, the Critic, and Kris Ligman, the Curator. (I hope that's also my superhero name.)

On the subject of curation, this week also featured a number of valuable history lessons. First is Edge's very readable feature on the making of PlayDead's Limbo. Next, the Gameological Society's Anthony John Agnello sketches out some ruminations on control, and asks where lies the fine edge between standardization and freedom of expression in control setups.

Meanwhile, Kevin Impellizeri has begun a two-part series hearkening back to some earlier hardware startups, as a little reminder that the much-discussed OUYA console is hardly the first of its kind.

Yannick LeJacq turned up on the Wall Street Journal again this week to offer a second opinion on Borderlands 2. It's a not-so-subtle pointed rebuke of the review by Adam Najberg the Journal ran last week, but it's also a valuable bit of FPS retrospective. Have a taste:
"To reconcile the discrepancy between its androcentric cultural aesthetic as a manshooter and its "nerdy" internal mechanisms as an RPG, Borderlands 2 bridges the gap the same way it does everything: in the loudest, most blatant way possible. Whenever you shoot an enemy, numbers pop out of their bleeding carcass instead of fluid and organs. It stops just short of having the Gunzerker get down on all fours and eat the same numbers with his bare hands to become stronger.

Is this a sign of manshooter's inevitable decline, or the maturation of an industry and art form that's finally learned to embrace irony? "In some ways we know that we're reaching a level of sophistication with games because we are able to play them ironically," Ian Bogost, a Professor of Interactive Computing and Distinguished Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology, tells me in a phone interview.

Most importantly, Bogost explains, this is nothing new to video games themselves. "I mean, we've been through this kind of post-modern, self-referential experiment with different art forms many decades ago—with writing, with film, with art. When you see creators and viewers able to rise above the experience to understand the form to then comment upon it, then you realize that that requires a kind of literacy.""
Speaking of Yannick LeJacq, he's been quite busy as usual. Here, courtesy of LeJacq, is the weirdest interview you're likely to read all week, with Gamer Grub inventor Keith Mullin.

Over on GameChurch, Drew Dixon has been playing DayZ. I wouldn't presume to reach as far as to suggest it gave him a crisis of faith, but it certainly didn't place his fellow man in the best possible light for him.

In a similar tone but from the opposite side of the play spectrum, Matthew Kim reflects on just how lonely Dark Souls feels. And AWESOMEoutof10's David Chandler (who wins best blog name for the week) has a few thoughts on how Deus Ex: Human Revolution fails to deliver on its themes of modification in part because we're already cyborgs.

PopMatters' Nick Dinicola has a new column up on how Asura's Wrath disrupts (and then, I would argue, reasserts) Judeo-Christian theological assumptions. And Bomb the Stacks' Daniel Korn draws some interesting parallels between Mass Effect 3 and Botanicula– including a provocative claim about which one is darker than the other.

I have a couple more for you here on the subject of writing and, especially, the eye of the beholder. Firstly, writing for Unwinnable, Brendan Keogh discusses the strength of subjectivity in Spec Ops: The Line and Mark of the Ninja.

Meanwhile, Bit Creature's Aaron Matteson proposes that a Bad Dude by any other name might well come from the quill of the Bard. This comes filed under "humor," but the central point it makes is worthy of some discussion, I think: stripped of its verse, are Shakespeare's plays the same potboiler fiction as that found in many video games?

That's all the games criticism, commentary, analysis and rumination that's fit to print for this week! Remember to submit your recommendations –including your own work, now, don't be shy– via email or Twitter. Otherwise it will just lie there, depressed and un-CD'd, forever. That doesn't sound too pleasant, does it?

Oh, and– you probably have at least a few more hours till Alan Williamson closes up shop on this month's Blogs of the Round Table! Quick like a fox, now, get!


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