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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From  This War of Mine  to highlights from GDC

This Week in Video Game Criticism: From This War of Mine to highlights from GDC

March 10, 2015 | By Cameron Kunzelman

March 10, 2015 | By Cameron Kunzelman
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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 Cameron Kunzelman on topics ranging from This War of Mine to highlights from this year's Game Developers Conference.

Design Time (That's A Rhyme)

Meg Jayanth shared some insights into 8o Days' narrative design at this past week's Game Developers Conference, focusing on ways to make players uncertain about their decisions and how good or bad those decisions might be.

Erin Robinson, creator of Gravity Ghost, also spoke at GDC and shared some of the starts and stops in the development of that game.

Also at GDC, This War of Mine head writer Pawel Micechowski spoke about designing new kinds of "survival" in the face of players who are trained to think of characters as resources to be used.

Mohini Dutta writes about designing for the Other at First Person Scholar, calling into question the ways that designers think of themselves in position to players and parsing out the ethical ramifications of that split.

Anna Anthropy focuses on Fire Emblem as a case study for understanding how to design a player-centered experience from the ground up.

Emotions?! IN MY GAMES?! Oh, ok, cool.

Kent Sheely hones in on some contemporary games and the way that they can be thought of as machines to foster self-care.

Kate Cox presents us with a life spent playing games and the emotional resonances that those games had then and now in her "Life, Love, and Labyrinths: Why I Play Videogames."

In a slightly different direction, Melody Meows works through the thought process about how one enjoys something that is "problematic."

Games Culture and...the Horse It Rode In On? I Don't Know.

Maddy Myers takes a deep personal dive into the image and concept of the "cool gamer girlfriend" and the cultural expectations surrounding her. She writes:

There is no narrative about a girl who shows up to play games and turns out to be kind of okay at them, and then she makes platonic friends who see her as a person, and then she goes home alone. My mediocrity became a huge disappointment for men that I didn't know in gaming spaces. It was a disappointment for me, too, and it still makes me extra-nervous. Every time I show up and play games in public somewhere, in some male-dominated space, there is some stupid part of me that wants to win beyond all my wildest dreams ... even though it's impossible, especially when people are staring at you. I do okay, sometimes. That's the most I've ever been able to hope to achieve: being okay at games, sometimes.

Wendi Sierra thinks through the very concept of gamer culture itself, understanding it not as a broad culture but rather as a strange confederation of many different communities.

The #1ReasonToBe panel at this week's GDC was a powerful recounting of women's experiences working on the game industry and this writeup is excellent.

Katie Chironis writes about her experiences developing Elsinore and continually answering questions about why a character is black. Her answer is simple: why shouldn't she be?

Looking Really Close At Games I Mean Getting SO Close Up

Alex Pieschel provides an extensive and amazing piece on Final Fantasy 7's debug room.

Heather Alexandra writes about her personal experiences with Dragonball Z and Xenoverse's character creator.

Carolyn Petit explains the finitude and pain of time built into Majora's Mask and Jake Muncy reads Wind Waker as a response to the Zelda franchise itself.

Reid McCarter finds République to be an uncanny diagnosis of our particular time and place.

Jess Joho plays Stasis and finds the game's portrayal of street harassment to be uncannily accurate in a number of ways.

Other Stuff I Thought Was Great This Week

Joe Donnelly writes about addiction as a tone-setting concept in various games.

Brian Crimmins thinks we should probably quit worrying about hour counts and just play games on their own terms.

Jason Scott spoke at GDC about how we need to preserve games history in the present rather than years after the fact.

A panel of developers at GDC pointed out the ageism of the game development industry and offered several ways to address it from both sides of the relation.

The End of the Show

If you see a piece of writing you love (and it is about videogames), be sure to submit it to us to us on Twitter or by email. On Twitter, please tag any links for the Blogs of the Round Table or This Month in Let’s Plays with #BoRT or #LetsPlayCD respectively. German or French submissions are in high demand as well.

Critical Distance is funded completely by its readership! If you like what you see and want to support what we do, consider pledging to our Patreon.



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