[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham, from imaginary Pac-Man anniversaries through Super Meat Boy and Kirby's Epic Yarn analysis.
This week we have a plethora of interesting writing, gathered from the furthest ends of the video game blogosphere. Let’s start with the stuff that got lost in the editors' inbox for a few weeks:
Matthew Gallant writes in to suggest we take a look at Nav Alang’s piece at his blog Scrawled in Wax. ‘A date with the Taliban
’: Dating Sim, meet contemporary global conflict, you’ll be fast friends.
Erik Germani at Weapons-Grade Ennui also looked at Medal of Honor
a few weeks back, synthesizing quotes and positions from many of the people who wrote about the furore at the time.
Elsewhere, Benjamin Garratt wrote in recently to let us know about his blog-mate Erik Lockaby’s excerpts from his novel ‘Kickaround Nixon’ which Lockaby describes as “…a fictional account of the 1983 U.S. National Video Game Tournament, with a focus on a few members of the team and their attempts to pass the 256th screen of Pac-Man.”
It’s weird and intriguing stuff, consisting of largely assembled quotes about Pac-Man
. Here’s part 1 of Kickaround Nixon
and there’s a part 2 here
but I’m not sure what (if anything) the latter has to do with video games.
Jamey Stevenson lets us know that he’s written about Hidden Agenda
, which by the sounds of it is a game well worth playing, and with friends: "From a design perspective, it is notable for providing a complex and nuanced political simulation that expertly leverages the inherent strengths of interactive systems to engage players in a deep exploration of its subject matter.
Radek Koncewicz of the Significant Bits blog has been playing Final Fantasy IV
and has found that its design has held up well over the years: “FFIV is a relatively simple RPG by today’s standards, but its overall structure still holds up. In fact, I prefer its setup to most current entries in the genre
And Zachary Alexander at the Hailing from the Edge blog has been playing Super Meat Boy
(along with the rest of the world apparently) and writes this week about ‘Super Meat Boy and Signalling
Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer blog continues the SMB love-fest by riffing on the idea of the platformer as video games' own version of Jazz
– something original, based on standards, and performable in a myriad number of ways. And speaking of platformers, Sara M. Grimes at the Gamine Expedition blog looks at the Arts & Crafts aesthetic
in Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Adam Ruch at Flickering Colours talks about ‘The Great Undiscovered of Minecraft
’, dissecting the appeal of the game by breaking it down into two primary feelings: The first ‘is akin to being a small God in a simple universe
’ and the second is ‘a strong feeling of presence. Tele-presence one might call it in the parlance of the late 90s game scholarship.
’ I do love me some late 90’s game scholarship.
Alex at Batrock explains ‘Mass Effect: The Road to Shepardition
’ and why a Mass Effect
film would miss the point: “That every Shepard belongs to the player means that there is no single Mass Effect canon. Different Shepards created different universes, and to watch a movie that asserts that something you know in your heart is blatantly wrong is to bring pain upon oneself. The movie removes power and agency from the hands of those most dedicated to the subject matter: the players.
Michael Clarkson at Discount Thoughts believes we’re witnessing the emergence of a new videogame genre, and documents the ‘Values and Characteristics of the Cinematic Action Game
’. The CAG could catch on, I reckon.
Ben Medler at Tread Digital looks at ‘Why Mirror’s Edge is Modernist and Assassin’s Creed is Postmodernist
’. I’m not entirely sold on this idea, as modernism/postmodernism are both more pernicious ideas than the article seems to portray; that said, it’s certainly well worth a read. Plus, remember Chris Green’s post at Chronoludic about Demon’s Souls
as Epic Poetry last week? Well, here’s the follow-up
For GameSetWatch, Andrew Vanden Bossche opines: ‘The Games as Art Debate is Dead, Long Live the Games as Art Debate
’, which is about how I feel. And this week Kotaku thought they might look at the state of PC gaming, and in this video Mike Fahey examines at the ‘Many, many deaths of PC gaming
’. I think the general rule of thumb is, whenever anyone says something is ‘dead’ we can in all likelihood say it’s actually alive and well.
Robert Yang completes his fourth-and-final part on The Philosophy of Game Design
for The Escapist magazine. This has been one of the must-read series in recent memory, in my opinion. Catch up on parts one
Point-Counterpoint: still at The Escapist, the Extra Credits video series looks at ‘Symbolism’ and horror
for Halloween. While at the Seeking Avalon blog, the author of a post looking at the Extra Credits video is suitably horrified
(har har) at the video own lack of self-awareness or criticality about its own
use of Symbolism: “…in choosing symbolism, they talk about horror symbolism and 'The Self', 'The Uncanny' and 'The Other' and apparently no one involved thought about the symbolism and unconscious message in the episode's art.
Case in point: “There's no little stick people of colour in this episode, not even when they bring up the concept of 'bigotry'. So when they're talking about 'expectations of the self' and 'things that are just a little bit off', there's no darker than pale-beige image associated with what's right and normal.”
At PopMatters, G Christopher Williams examines ‘Fallout: the scrounging simulator
’, for what its teaching kids and adults alike about the benefits of frugality in these tough economic times. Staying with the PopMatters crew for the moment, and Fallout: New Vegas
, Rick Dakan looks at ‘Sex Workers and Sex Slavery in Fallout: New Vegas
’: “For all its bugginess and slightly outdated graphics and stiff animations, this is the area where Fallout: New Vegas shines most brightly, presenting you with compelling moral quandaries and letting you make decisions.
And then to round off the PopMatters trio, here’s Nick Dinicola talking about (what else for the week of Halloween) the sadistic horror of the kids in survival horror game Rule of the Rose
At The Border House blog, Quinnae Moongazer has a very lengthy post examining a Pen and Paper RPG called Eclipse Phase
. Here’s its brilliant and intriguing introduction: “When we’re children we’re often taught that great ideas are the product of great minds; blessed ideas that spring forth from the creator’s cranium like Athena from Zeus, fully formed and miraculous. But the truth is that ideas of the most compelling sort have no one source, and can come from the most intriguing of places assembled from seemingly dissociated bits and pieces.
At Bitmob this week, Adam Corando looks at the sexist visual imagery in Test Drive Unlimited
and concludes that ‘Sexism in Games Is More than Skin Deep
’. I’m just going to quote the editor's note in full: “Portrayals of women in this medium need serious examination. While some defensive gamers like to tout traditional gender constructs of men as evidence that we don't have a problem, this dismissive attitude fails to recognize the inherent differences between the stereotypes in question. We wonder why so few women seem interested in games development; the industry has embraced a "boys club" mentality for far too long, and Adam makes the case that Test Drive Unlimited is a prime example.
Whether inspired by Corando’s piece or just the result of a happy accident, Darry Huskey writes that for ‘Women in Games: It's About Strength, Not Sex
’ which views the issue through the lens of Miranda from Mass Effect 2
And that’s it for the week. Thanks also to Eric Swain doing much of the hard work in collecting all these links.