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This Week in Video Game Criticism: Politics of Control
This Week in Video Game Criticism: Politics of Control
January 23, 2014 | By Zach Alexander

January 23, 2014 | By Zach Alexander
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More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Indie, Design



This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Zach Alexander on topics including the reported sexual assault in Metal Gear Solid 5 and how Papers, Please serves as propaganda.

First off: The Arcade Review is highly recommended. Pay a few bucks for more great games criticism!

From The Definitely-Not-A-Cylon Dept

Over at Gamechurch as part of their “Discomfort” week, Mark Filipowich discusses how bodies - filthy human organics! - are portrayed in games.

On Kill Screen, Paul King examines body horror. And over at IndieStatik, Chris Priestman examines a war game where injuries aren’t healed by hiding behind a corner.

In other news about Bodies, Dave Cook examines the working conditions under which commercial games are often produced. Meanwhile at Kotaku, an anonymous developer talks about the overwhelming negative feedback from fans. And Mary Hamilton talks about play and compulsion.

In the “almost certainly a Cylon, how are people so good at video games?” department, Polygon talks about e-sports and Super Metroid speedruns. (Kotaku has a link to a video of the event under discussion).

Via the Organization of Humans Are People, Too

Lexi Alexander talks about a subject that resonates with the games world - the difficulty behind employing women in Hollywood and how it's structural.

A video interview with Christine Love continues a discussion of why representation is important in games. John Polson wants to include historically accurate attitudes to sexuality in his game. Kat Bailey examines Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2:

In the current climate, in which allusions to rape and sexual assault in video game culture have sparked extremely contentious debate, Lords of Shadow 2 manages to come off as both insensitive and more than a little tone deaf.

This sparked a predictable backlash, part of which was rebutted in this Storify.

Samantha Blackmon puts Metal Gear Solid 5 on blast for its inevitable depiction of sexual assault. Meanwhile, Nick Dinicola realizes how much he has in common with the new protagonist of The Walking Dead.

Back on GameChurch, M. Joshua Cauller talks about forgiveness in Metro: Last Light.

The Unchanging Empire of Wargamers, Wars, Gamewars, and Console Wars Bureau

Empire Down by Sam Kriss examines Age of Empires and the logic of its wars. "What’s really going on has very little to do with combat, and everything to do with resources."

Robert Beckhusen asks, do 1,600-year-old Viking war games cause violence? The game in question is one of asymmetrical warfare, possibly meant to teach a common language of tactics much like we use sports metaphors today. Christian Nutt mulls on the toys we played with as kids and did the influence they had on us.

Owen Vince talks about Skyrim and “living by the sword”. And Zolani Stewart does a critical Let’s Play of an older FPS: Perfect Dark.

Tony Wilson dares to imagine Gone Home with guns. Amsel von Spreckelsen talks about portrayals of “psychopaths” in games. And at The Escapist, Rob Rath on Job, The Outsider and Dishonored.

The Universal Omnisociety of Structural Analysis Weekly Update

Raph Koster talks about how he analyzes a game. Of course, his way is far from the only way. Filipe Salgado talks about the structure of the Fjordsss and the SHARECART.

On PopMatters, Jorge Albor talks about Systems and Activism in Papers, Please. Elsewhere, Rui Craveirinha points out that Papers, Please is a great piece of propaganda but never turns its critical gaze away from Soviet-style aesthetics towards, for instance, American immigration practices, which are often just as bizarre and restrictive.

Writing for Polygon, Chris Dahlen reminds us that you can’t save everyone. As for other lessons we can take from the structure of games: learning is FUN-Damental! Back with Polygon, Ben Kuchera agrees by extension.

On The AV Club, Anthony John Agnello talks about the Ghostbusters game, and humor: "Since a game like this relies on repetition until you get things right, the lack of improvisation is comedy killer."

James Lantz talks about score streaking in 868-Hack, but also about the difficulty of tracking player score in games that are defined by randomness and luck. Darran Jamieson goes deep into the role of luck in game design

The Expert Society of Non-Human Subject Report

Edge Online hosts an examination of the mythology behind the iconic hadoken. At Eurogamer, Christian Donlan examines authorship, artificial intelligence, and game jams. And at Wired, Tom Chatfield says difficulty in games is the point, not the problem.

The Actual, Literal, Not-Made-Up-For-A-Joke Foreign Correspondence Dept


Via German Correspondent Joe Koller.

Video games made the cover of print magazine Der Spiegel in an overall positive take on the subject, and nobody seems quite sure whether that's a good thing or not. Anjin Anhut is quite certain that it's not (English source), Christian Huberts details the cultural elitism of such praise from above. Meanwhile Markus Grundmann, criticizes the pedantry of videogame bloggers picking apart a general introduction in a general interest publication.

In other news: Jan Fischer wrote about the intersection of games and theater. Daniel Ziegener provides some thoughts on Master Reboot. Rainer Sigl and Christof Zurschmitten engage in some intellectual discussion about the roguelike genre.

Christof Zurschmitten again, this time with a review of Ken Baumann's Earthbound book. Nina Kiel reports from the Next Level Conference.

And that's all we have for you this time. Thanks for reading! As always we value your submissions via Twitter mention and email.


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Comments


Luis Guimaraes
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"The video game industry is dominated by introverts — creative, passionate people who might struggle with depression due to the nature of their jobs, the long hours, the harsh criticism, and the harsher fans. One comment that seems insignificant to you might cut a developer's mind like a razor blade."

Really? Who said that? I don't think any of my friends in the games industry fit that description. Sounds more lika a geographical thing than anything directly related to video-games. But most of the issues often heard about the "games industry" fall on the same situation.

Anyway that whole article makes me think if the current trend of "don't upset the player", "everybody is a winner", are related to some form of subcounscious need from the developers for positive reinforcement and praise, achievement hunt, "fairness"...

When making "art" ("craft" by guts feeling) these things leak through, and it's easy to leap from making a video-game that you think feels nice to play, and making a game that reflects what you feel life should be like, and then assume your audience feels the same way you do (in fact that's always true anyway, just sometimes the real audience is not the one you think it is).


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