This Week in Video Game Criticism: Do You Really Need Game Jams?
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Lana Polansky on topics ranging from Destiny's one critical design flaw to a rejection of game jams.
Play it Again, Sam
Kicking us off, Jennifer Culp invites us to take another look at the badassery of one Dr. Karin Chakwas
, Mass Effect's
Chief Medical Officer. Culp sings the doctor's praises while also observing the dearth of visible--let alone active and interesting--older women in videogames,
In a medium in which women are often fridged early on in order to provide narrative development for male characters, in a real world where a distressingly large segment of the population seems to consider women obsolete once we pass mid-life, it’s refreshing to encounter an older woman upon first boarding the Normandy.
At Videodame, Jeremy Voss reconsiders
his negative reaction to the GTA V
boycott. Contemplating the paltry inventory of female characters he's played in games, Voss wonders if the most subversive thing Rockstar's attempt at social satire could do would be to provide a playable and well-written female character.
At Paste, Maddy Myers admonishes game designers
to take another look at Metroid
if they intend to make Metroidvanias
. It's not enough, she argues, to borrow mechanical tropes and conventions, or even to feature a playable woman protagonist in your winding space platformers without also acknowledging the "aesthetic and tonal success" of Metroid's
's universes respectively. (Content warning:
discussion of rape.)
Show, Don't Tell
Katherine Cross challenges
the hostile anxiety surrounding criticism in videogames, calling it a cultural "terror dream" that games are going to be censored or taken away by nagging parents and moralistic lobbyists. Or just as well, perverted so much by the inclusion of different audiences that the traditional design focus of games as havens for straight. white cis male power fantasies will disappear. (Oh, the humanity.
On Infinite Lives, Jenn Frank uses the lack of a pause button in Destiny
as a jumping-off point to discuss her feelings of guilt, frustration and resentment of being made into a "Game Widow," and talks about how design choices in games can put real strain on personal relationships depending on how they influence the player to manage their time and attention,
Later, Ted tells me there is no “pause,” not in the sense where games often have a “pause.” He isn’t even playing multiplayer; he is on a solo mission. “I can’t put the game down,” he explains to me, helplessly.
This, I do understand.
I am not angry with Ted. I am furious with Destiny, however. Due to a design flaw -- in this case, the flaw is with a game that cannot be paused -- I am finally experiencing true relationship strife.
At Eurogamer, Christian Donlan compares
two unfinished, procedurally-generated horror games, Monstrum
, looking at the various ways they succeed and fall short at designing truly horrific experiences. Donlan looks at how they both handle pacing, mise en scene, perspective and even UI to suggest horror through design, and where those design styles might actually obstruct feelings of horror by making the player too comfortable.
Casey Brooks recaptures
the spirit of GTA V
's extensive gaming photography subculture with this artful photoseries, which uses the game as context to tell its own stories through the static medium.
I'll Take "Business Ethics" for 200, Alex
At Twenty Sided, Unrest's
lead writer, Adam "Rutskarn" DeCamp, speaks frankly
on the energy, labour and resources required to manage an indie game studio when Kickstarting a game, why game companies might fail to deliver on promises or fall apart under strain, and why asking for thousands of dollars from patrons isn't absurd or obscene.
Finally, on Gamasutra Blogs, Folmer Kelly explains his decision
to quit participating in game jams, saying,
And I couldn't help but wonder- "are we perpetuating the idea that game jams make games happen rather than people make games happen?" And that thought fucked me up! I started feeling like game jams have become a forced frame for creativity, a required activity for those interested in making games. It's like we collectively started saying "You wanna make games? Do jams."
Instead of focusing on jams as sites for game creation to happen, he argues, we have to instead holistically support the people who are coming to these jams to make games.
That's All She Wrote This Week, Everyone
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See you next week!