This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including female protagonists, minigame montages, interactive fiction, and more.
Welcome to another sunny Sunday filled with top-tier criticism and commentary from the world of gaming! Contrary to previous reports, I, your senior editor, will be taking the reins again this week, while Mattie Brice rounds off the last two weekends of March. Consider me the necessary middle-woman.
But enough talk. It's time for This Week in Videogame Blogging!
Elsewhere, GA Tech instructor Celia Pearce has updated her course blog, Game Design as Cultural Practice, with a host of this semester's student work. This essay by Mary Macheski Preston in particular stands out as a lucid analysis of Pokemon Black/White’s treatment of race, gender and sexuality.
I won’t deny that playing an over-the-top hero can be an awful lot of fun, but for a story to really grab me by the heartstrings, it’s got to appeal to my humanity. The typical heroic message of “don’t be scared” can bolster my resolve for a little while, but “be scared and do stuff anyway” is far more resonant.
I know what you may be thinking. They’re trying to make it more realistic and, sadly, rape often used as method of terror against women.
But until I can get shot numerous times, hide behind a barrel, and after a few moments emerge back into fray at full health, video games will not be reality and while Tomb Raider is more realistic is it not realism. Still, the developers felt in necessary to include this scene. Why couldn’t the man have simply threatened to kill her? Pull a knife to her neck? Put a gun to her head? Why did he have to objectify and sexualize her? Bring to life a very real fear for millions of women all over the world?
[…] If you think I’m being a little too sensitive about this, I’ll ask you to picture one of the games I mentioned above – Uncharted, Far Cry, or Dishonored – and image one of those male leads being threatened with rape. Seems silly and out of place, doesn’t it?
What’s interesting is the way games that simulate life slot into our real lives. They give us a sense of control over the uncontrollable, they flex the part of our brain that make us feel like skilled managers of growth. Within the context of a system, elements feel manageable.
They call some large-scale simulations “god games” because you play god – but maybe they take a role in our lives like religion, a repetitive ritual that makes us feel less afraid, like success is always attainable because the system is fair.
Critical Distance doesn't feature only critics– we're also interested in the experiences and observations of designers from all aspects of development.
On her personal blog, interactive fiction legend Emily Short has posted some valuable design notes on why her new IF engine, Versu, is designed around Jane Austen’s world of “precisely defined manners.”
Social and social/mobile companies are trapped. Faced with an aggressive marketplace and skyrocketing costs, jobs and even whole companies are at stake. It's hard to justify turning your back on a proven model. To do that, you have to take risks. You have to look beyond data and understand its emotional context. You have to be in the game for the long haul and not for whatever increases tomorrow's profit. You have to see players as your allies instead of test subjects.
You have to stop thinking like GLaDOS and start thinking more like Stephen Jay Gould.