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This Week in Video Game Criticism: The  Citizen Flappy Bird  of Games
This Week in Video Game Criticism: The Citizen Flappy Bird of Games
February 20, 2014 | By Kris Ligman

February 20, 2014 | By Kris Ligman
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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 Kris Ligman on topics including the classist and racist underpinnings to the Flappy Bird controversy -- and whether the game industry itself is our Citizen Kane.

Teachabilly

On Normally Rascal, Stephen Beirne contrasts a mob scene in Bioshock Infinite to a similar moment in Spec Ops: The Line:

It is forever the failing of the medium that Decisions must be made with a capital-D, structured for presentation of both sides, as if both sides are equally opportune, fuelling the fairy tales we tell ourselves about concepts of free will [...] It is my experience that the only choices that can have meaning are the choice that agonizes, and no choice at all, for in the latter I can point back to afterwards and see a ghost of myself living in it.

Meanwhile, on Play the Past, educator Angela R Cox posts the first article in a series of primers on teaching games in the classroom. In a similar vein, over on Videogames of the Oppressed, Mike Joffe shares some valuable musings on the role of play and games (and how those two do not necessarily always intersect) in the animal kingdom.

Elsewhere, Paul Reid proffers up an interesting (but only preliminary) analysis into the correlation between genres of gameplay and the politics of players who enjoy them. And on Paste, Cara "Best Bunkmate" Ellison wonders at the disparity in gender representation that exists across media, and how games such as L.A. Noire seem to actually be regressive compared to the historical reality.

Our Mobile Lives

UK-based writer Leigh Harrison suggests that microtransactions can, themselves, be a game mechanic: "I'd like to posit that, instead of implementing the looming shadow of microtransactions to gouge players of cash, developers are simply using the threat of having to pay for something as a means of heightening tension within their otherwise risk-free games."

Aesthetes are We

On Exeunt Magazine, A.E. Dobson explores interactivity and the returned gaze. Meanwhile, at Game Manifesto, Joel Jordon posits that like as not, the aesthetics of triple-A games have defined games' history. The question becomes: what do we do with it now?

At Higher Level Gamer, Jason Coley lays out the first article in a series on the virtues of persistent world play experiences, drawing upon popular reception to Dean Hall's DayZ.

Critical Distance contributor Cameron Kunzelman continues his analysis on Assassin's Creed, this time focusing on its micro and macro time scales.

And on The Escapist, regular columnist Robert Rath brings us this whammy of an article, arguing that while videogames may not have a Citizen Kane, games as an industry very much provides a parallel to citizen Charles Foster Kane, the character:

Then there are games - even successful ones - that get pushed out the door unready. Games that still carry the scars from the industry's policy to release now and patch later. It's a strategy that amounts to throwing the devs over the cliff and ordering them to build a parachute on the way down, so of course games ship broken. Take Battlefield 4, for instance, which still has systemic problems three months after launch. By all accounts it's a well-made and financially successful game, but rushing it to market marred what could've been a successful launch.

Except according to EA leadership, the launch was successful, and don't tell them otherwise. Like Kane, they're sitting in their opera box, doggedly clapping to drown out the lukewarm applause.

A Flap in a Pan

The Flappy Bird debacle continues, drawing a wealth of incisive responses from around the web.

Developer and educator Robert Yang notes the racist undertones to the internet's reception of Flappy Bird and its Southeast Asian developer. Elsewhere, Mattie Brice criticizes the game's negative backlash as necessarily holding up a capitalist status quo:

Capitalism is informing what creations are considered good and of value, and what are bad form and derivative. Gamers and others see quality in games that show high production value, and defame games that seem to be a waste of money in this model, EVEN IF THEY ARE FREE GAMES.

Stephen Beirne turns back up again to expound upon Brice's remarks adding that there is an important colonialist/'in-crowd' layer being overlooked in this discussion -- particularly with respect to the reactive Flappy Jam.

Where Candy Jam was activism against corporate greed, with a very clear line drawn between something King.com wanted to stamp down on and a clear expression of resistance through celebration of that thing, it's unclear how Flappy Jam offers moral support by opposing criticism of derivativeness and difficulty [...] Perhaps the idea is to show how it's actually acceptable to make a derivative game if it's made by the right people, to highlight the double-standard of the gaming press and community against 'outsider' developers.

On Unwinnable Brendan "Steam Tag" Keogh delves into a substantial analysis of what actually makes the game a compelling play, noting much of the negative responses boils down to cultural elitism:

It's a lowbrow/highbrow false divide not dissimilar to the one that tries to privilege 'literature' over genre fiction. Innovation is only important if a game is trying to be innovative. I am far more interested in how well a game does what it is trying to do [...] Flappy Bird realizes what it set out to accomplish. It is not the greatest game ever made, and it should go without saying that you don't have to like it. But it is a good game, and its popularity is a testament to its quality.

On The Daily Beast, Leigh Alexander likens the rise and backlash of Flappy Bird to the 1990s grunge scene. Lana Polansky sees the game as earnest if it is anything at all. And Aevee Bee believes the situation says more about games journalism than it does about Flappy Bird's developer.

Dispatches from Vienna

German language correspondent Joe Koller shares the latest happenings from the German games blogosphere.

On Spiegel Online, Dennis Kogel discusses streaming and Binding of Isaac League Racing in particular. Elsewhere, Sarah Geser talks about browser-based music game The Silver Gymnasium and the history of games inspired by specific bands.

On Superlevel, Nina Kiel looks into Fort McMoney, a German-language "docu-game." Meanwhile, for the same publication, Peter Klement interviews Cay Kellinghusen and Cyrill Etter about the Game Science Center, a "permanent independent exhibition space" in Berlin.

At Videogame Tourism, Christof Zurschmitten closes off his series of interviews on procedural generation, one with Pwnee Studios, creators of Cloudberry Kingdom and one with Michael Cook, creator of Angelina, the AI that designs games. Both of these interviews are in English.

Pleasure of Systems

On PopMatters Moving Pixels, Jorge Albor takes a peek at the politics lying under the hood of popular card game Netrunner. And on Stay Classy, MIT post-doc Todd Harper looks to Saints Row IV as exemplifying a particular way in which players both resist and submit to a game's system at the same time.

Lastly, just for fun: Leigh Alexander collects colloquialisms from around the world for regional ways players say they "finish" a game. The parallels, more than the differences, will surprise you.

Thanks, as always, for reading! We deeply appreciate all of your submissions sent in via email or as mentions on Twitter.

See you next time!


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Jeanne Burch
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I love this feature. It always sends me to thought-provoking articles I'd never find on my own!


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