This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Magic to Dragon's Crown
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Johannes Koeller on topics including the character designs of Dragon's Crown, how magic is modeled in games, and more.
The sexualization of female characters in games became this week's most prominent topic when George Kamitani, president of Japanese developer Vanillaware and artist for their upcoming game Dragon's Crown
decided to respond to Jason Schreier's concerns with their art design by questioning his sexual orientation
While some saw fit to defend the game's "visionary art
", Jason Schreier
of Kotaku and Ben Kuchera
of The Penny Arcade Report both quickly explained that the actual issue here is, of course, not sexualized imagery in itself, but its predominance in our industry and the problematic power relations in maintaining this kind of imagery solely for the spectacle of male, heterosexual audiences.
Christian Nutt and Christian Walters have expanded on the silliness of making homosexuality the punchline over on Gamasutra
and Gay Gamer
On Unwinnable, Jenn Frank notes how frequently such discussions of sexualized design and male gaze vilify the female body
When we talk about character design, we might even use words like distorted, exaggerated, fantastical, grotesque, fetishism, comical parody, somebody please cover her up. Abnormal. Unnatural. And “distracting” – that’s a major one. God, her breasts are so distracting.
The Ontological Geek deals with religion and theology this month, and Ethan Gach wrote an interesting piece about themes of messianism in Earthbound
and their parallels in its cult following.
Robert Rath of The Escapist wrote about magic in games
and how its role as a simple, mundane tool fails to connect to our deeply-rooted understanding of the divine.
On a tangentially related note, G. Christopher Williams wrote about suffering in games
for Pop Matters.
In response to Raph Koster's letter to Leigh Alexander
and its view of interactivity as a form of dialogue, Andrew Vanden Bossche wrote about "The Tyranny of Choice
" for Gameranx, arguing that "[c]onsciously or unconsciously, we can't help but limit the terms of dialogue as designers because we create them."
Raph Koster responded, in turn, by examining choice architectures
in games and other media. This, in turn, has led Dan Cox to consider the limits of performativity
Can Journalism be Games?
Interestingly, this week saw several contributions in the form of Twine games. Darius Kazemi responded to Raph Koster's aforementioned letter in style
, Raymond Neilson lets you explore religious themes in games
and Cara Ellison made a brilliant game about heterosexual relationships
, or in her words:
[...] I wanted to make it about the heart stopping drudgery of being heterosexual in a world where heterosexuals are conditioned not to talk to each other, or listen to each other, or really have any idea what they are doing.
Sydney Fussell wrote about the shortcomings of games when it comes to dealing with race and racism
over on Gamasutra, while Samantha Allen chronicled her experiences using Halo
to teach about oppression and feminism
on The Border House.
Jennifer Finelli has got a nifty article about using sound as the basis for gameplay
up on Insert Quarterly, and Cameron Kunzelman mused on his out-of-body experience
playing Mirror's Edge.
In my corner of the world Dennis Kogel is still
not done getting all his GDC stuff out, here he is interviewing Quynh Nguyen and Richard E. Flanagan
, makers of FRACT OSC
. Don't let the beginning fool you, the interview is in English. Plus there's an audio version, for if you want to listen to it.
Also on Superlevel, Christian Schiffer wrote about political ideologies and commentary
coded into the systems of games such as Cities XL
See you next week!