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This Week in Video Game Criticism:  Flappy Bird Saga
This Week in Video Game Criticism: Flappy Bird Saga
February 14, 2014 | By Stephen Beirne

February 14, 2014 | By Stephen Beirne
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More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Design

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Stephen Beirne on topics including Candy Jam and the flight of Flappy Bird.

Culture and Industry

Given the occasion of BioShock Infiniteís Burial At Sea DLC, Anjin Anhut shone a light on artist Tamara De Lempicka for her influences on Raptureís Art Deco aesthetic. While weíre here, Anhut also wrote a piece clarifying what concept art actually entails so as to disassemble the high expectations brought on by mislabelled promotional art.

Amanda Cosmos wrote a nice introductory account on the history and spread of the Otome genre. Elsewhere, Julian Murdoch spoke with Hato Mao, creator of Hatoful Boyfriend, and glimpsed into the incredible wealth offered by the pigeon-centric Otome.

Over on Pop Matters, Scott Juster thinks Wario could save the WiiU. Mary Hamilton objected to the language used by many publications to demonize Dungeon Keeper, recognizing it as a cultural gating tactic. Meanwhile, Shaenon K. Garrity highlighted in comic format the backwards thinking of much sexist modern wisdom.

Fighting the Good Fight

If youíre looking to see what came of value from the recent Candy Jam, a collage of defiance and grassroots activism, Lana Polansky had this to say of its value as a rhetorical event:

I donít know by what measure we would call Candy Jam a success. But to me, itís served at least three powerful and necessary purposes. First of all, it helped crystallize the absurdity of IP laws as they currently exist and the need for reform to prevent large companies from using trademarks as a cudgel to bully smaller ones. Secondly, it served as a creative and satirical outlet that, for once, punched up instead of down. Videogames have a checkered, regrettable relationship with the concept of satire. Candy Jam, of all things, stands as a largely positive example of how to execute satire effectively in games. Finally, it illustrated the power of communicative openness over reactionary, cynical protectionism.

On Rock, Paper, Shotgun, John Walker elaborated on his opinions on games entering the public domain at a much younger age than is currently the case. It stirred quite a bit of discussion, notably this counterpoint from Fullbrightís Steve Gaynor centring on the economy of work above its culture. David Carlton rejoins that the hard nature of videogames doesnít lend itself well to Gaynorís music industry analogy.

Amanda Lange briefly outlines the four factors megahits like Flappy Bird have in common. In a delightfully cheeky vein, Peter Norberg from Hellhound Interactive reviewed the services provided by sites exchanging in paid reviews, ďto let you know what you get for your hard-earned cash,Ē in his words.

Making Sense

For The Atlantic, Ian Bogost references the stoic chaos of Flappy Bird as evidence of games as grotesqueries at which we flail in existential pursuit of order and beauty. Having reveled in the deaths of billions in Plague Inc., Nick Dinicola reflected on how terrifying the nature of puzzles can be, for the delight of intellectual stimulation and sense of overcoming a challenge so easily masks the horror of oneís actions.

Alex Duncan discussed metafiction and The Stanley Parable. Gaines Hubbell addressed a subject Iím very keen on myself Ė the use of dialogue as merely a means to an end. Hubbell focuses his attention on the benefits of strong rhetoric for adding character to whatís otherwise a deadened exchange of information in the case of Mass Effect 3. Problem Machine wrote a nice wee thing on the tensions between design verbosity and concision, with examples from the adventure genre.

Many Different Videogames

Soul James uses Papers, Please to muse on the strengths of the medium. Peter Christiansen wrote about the mechanics of ideology in Civilization V. Mark Filipowich turned his attention towards emergent narratives in RPGs as revealed by some savefile-swapping metagames.

Speaking of player-made stories, Robert Rath argues that, in truth, sports games donít lack for internal drama through emergent and player-projected narratives. Octodad: Dadliest Catch released last week, inspiring Janine Hawkins to write of the slapstick joy of its clumsy gameplay. Evan Conley found value in playing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons as two-player game. Becky Chambers examined the common narrative failings of the use of brothels in games, and how The Wolf Among Us avoids these pitfalls. (Spoilers for The Wolf Among Us, Episode 2.)

Ye Olden Times

Line Hollis chronicled her playthrough of Police Quest, a game she describes as agony:
In Police QuestĎs driving minigame, walking into walls means death. Not stopping fast enough on approaching a red light means death. Turning into the wrong row of pixels means death. That little bit of disorientation with the movement scheme is occasionally annoying when Iím walking. When Iím driving, it means death. Lots and lots of death. The screenshot above shows me crashing into the side of the police station parking lot in literally the first second I was introduced to the driving controls.

Michael Rousseau shared a tale of the two white whales of his youth, Dr. Chaos and Double Dragon. Jason Rice sang the praises of Alis Landale, protagonist of the original Phantasy Star. Even if Street Fighter 2 isnít your thing, Matt Leone has put together a fascinating feature collaborating the memories and anecdotes of a host of people involved in its production.


Zach Alexander is curating a tumblr you might like on all the delicious foods that appear in videogames. And sadly, the curtain has fallen on Push Select, but you can nurse your grief with their final magazine corralling the best of the publication.

Thatís it for this week, folks. I hope you found something here you enjoyed, but if not, thereís always next week. Please spare us a thought in the meantime and send us your submissions via Twitter or email to include next time.

Have a good weekend, and thank you for reading.

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