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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Magic to Dragon's Crown
This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Magic to Dragon's Crown
April 29, 2013 | By Johannes Köller

April 29, 2013 | By Johannes Köller
More: Console/PC, Indie, Art, Design

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.

Mammary Quandary

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 respectively.

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.

Formalism: Revengeance

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 in games.

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.

Everything Else

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!

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