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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Man Caves to Tropes vs Women
This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Man Caves to Tropes vs Women
June 3, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including core player "Man Caves" to reactions to Anita Sarkeesian's most recent Tropes vs Women in Video Games installment.


No less than Janet Murray herself has weighed in on the conclusion of Peter Molyneux's Curiosity, with a few ideas on why it was such a draw anyway.

Porpentine and Merritt Kopas come together in a tangle of radical game dev limbs with a co-written essay toward an erotics of videogames, and play as political, subversive act. (Content warning: abstract nude figures, sexual subject matter.)

I desire living play:

Play that collaborates across artforms, across bodies.

Play intended to "provoke admiration" of other humans.

Play for human, not for capitalist death machine.

The goal isn't to replace one corrupted form of play with some recovered, true one. Instead: exploration, acknowledgment of difference. Explosion of the lie that there are right/wrong ways to touch, to fuck, to create, to play.


It's unusual for something like NeoGAF to feature on these roundups, but this reply from faceless007 in a discussion on Xbox One’s potential effects on the used game market is a whammy.

If this industry can't find a way to make money off the primary market -- even with DLC and exclusive pre-order content and HD re-releases and map packs and online passes and annualized sequels and "expanding the audience" and AAA advertising and forced multiplayer -- then, if I may be so blunt, fuck it. It doesn't deserve our money in the first place. If an entire industry has its head so far up its ass, is so focused on short-term gains, and has embraced such a catastrophically stupid blockbuster business model in the pursuit of a stagnant market of hardcore 18-34 dudebros that it thinks it has no choice but to take away our first-sale rights as its last chance of maybe, finally, creating a sustainable stream of profits, then it can go to hell.

On PopMatters Moving Pixels, Scott Juster opines that the Xbox One addresses the living situation of only a global privileged minority-- a "first world problem," as the kids call it (note: don't call it that).

Meanwhile, on Kotaku, Leigh Alexander presents us with a satirical take on the Xbone's dead paradigm.


On the original and still very best Brainy Gamer, Michael Abbott offers some much-needed perspective on the so-called creatively limiting trappings of genre. Specifically, that genre can also be a format by which to creatively flourish.

The second Tropes vs Women in Games video is out, continuing Anita Sarkeesian's analysis of the Damsel in Distress trope. On Medium, Jenn Frank expounds on Sarkeesian's statement that we can still enjoy problematic media, talking schlocky games, slasher films, and still being a feminist.

And over on Gamasutra's member blogs, JJ Wang throws in their own two cents about the Tropes vs Women in Games series, to whit: even if you totally, utterly disagree with Sarkeesian's charges of sexism, these tropes are still lazy and a sign of bad writing.

Jordan Rivas has been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic and noted some unfortunate implications with shortcuts taken in the worldbuilding:

On multiple planets in the game, across varying class storylines, both Republic and Imperial characters are asked to occasionally kill enemies labeled "anarchist". Finally, on a planet called Belsavis […] I was continually asked to kill anarchists simply because they were in prison and trying to get out.


It made me pause. Why is being an anarchist a crime? Is that their only crime? What else could they have done, besides adhering to a political philosophy, that caused them to be imprisoned. […] [D]oes the Republic jail political dissidents?

On GameInformer, Liz Lanier takes a look back at Grandia's End of the World.

Responding to the Mises Institute article we linked last week, Craig Bamford maintains that often enough, game economies like Diablo 3 aren't meant to function like real-world economies:

Even if real-world economies behaved that way, games arent supposed to be completely free and open in the first place. Games are systems of rules and restrictions. The economies of games are about those rules and restrictions and the enjoyment that the player gets from operating within that space. The whole reason why Diablo 3's economy was a miserable failure, and why the PS3/PS4 version of the game won’t have an auction house at all, is because Blizzard forgot that.

Problem Machine answers the question: what's the difference between rules and mechanics? And UnSubject offers up a bit of chartporn analysis on how Metacritic’s weighted metascore differs from unweighted averages.


Back on Gamasutra's blogs, developer Jen Whitson points to one way in which developers continually select for a particular kind of work culture (read: bro culture).

Also in the Gama blogs, I Get This Call Every Day dev David Gallant argues for a more inclusive independent scene as well.


On Videogametourism, Robert Glashuttner takes a look at erratic horror.

And Sebastian Standke and Christian Huberts have put out a bilingual (German/English) call for interviews on the subject of atmospheric games.


David Surman has put together a collection of work from one of Christian McCrea's classes, showing off conceptual hard case covers for thatgamecompany's Journey.

I don't often list my own work here, but this is one subject I can get pretty passionate about: on Let's Plays, their history, and why they're worth preserving.

I've saved the best for last, of course, and this roundup's sign-off goes to David Sirlin, who has announced his exciting new game, Chess 2!

Thanks for reading! We heartily encourage you to continue sending your submissions in by email and Twitter.

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Ramin Shokrizade
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Wow, I could be replying to this all day (groans clearly audible from the audience...)! I'll be brief, I promise!

I have to agree with faceless007 that there seems an ever increasing disconnect between what consumers want and what we are providing them. Our games don't match the purchasing demographics at all. With all the focus on analytics, maybe we should just stop and survey players? Even the most basic metrics analysis should show we have huge groups of gamers that are under served (children and women expecially). Making our products cheaper and cheaper with the intent of "tricking" consumers into spending is getting old really fast. Multiple generations of gamers are quickly being alienated.

On the subject of game economies (which is, of course, my favorite topic), I get the sense that now that IM companies have discovered that this is an important part of game design, they are including economies "because it's the in thing to do". Yea, EVE has one, so let's have one too! Um, guys, don't put economies in your games until you know *why* you are putting it in there. What's it's purpose? Who does it benefit? How does it affect the existing game design, conversion, retention, and immersion? Just because the left side of the equation is balanced with the right side of the equation (hard enough to do), that does not mean your economy is providing you or your customers any benefit.