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This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Journalistic Drama To Your Brain On Violence
This Week In Video Game Criticism: From Journalistic Drama To Your Brain On Violence
March 3, 2011 | By Eric Swain

March 3, 2011 | By Eric Swain
More: Console/PC

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Eric Swain, on topics including Bulletstorm drama, disturbing imagery in Dead Space 2, and how our brains understand violent game mechanics.]

Last year, I took over the reins of TWIVGB when Ben went gallivanting off to GDC; now a year later (holy shit itís been a year), Iím doing the same. So hereís This Week in Videogame Blogging.

Before leaving us, Ben Abraham wrote a post entitled "Cahiers du multijoueur," a pun on the famous French film criticism magazine, where he talks about the lack of multiplayer criticism, why that is, and how he believes he can rectify that fact.

Later in the week he gave us his first attempt to try and convey the experience of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Rock Paper Shotgun continues its ongoing battle with Fox News over a piece that contends that Bulletstorm will lead to a rise in rapes, when Fox News fires back at Rock, Paper Shotgun, calling their attempts "so-called journalism."

Then Jerry Weichman, the one person other than the Fox News reporter that RPS hadnít been able to reach, contacted them to clarify his position regarding his quote.

Scott Juster talks in PopMatters about his frustration with the recent multiplayer Nintendo platforms and the intent of their designers. Here are a few more thoughts from Scott on his own blog Experience Points.

Also over at PopMatters, Nick Dinicola looks at the most recent Medal of Honor as an apolitical, slice of life game, where the slice of life happens to be of a soldier. He concludes, "There arenít many games that can relate a theme without a story, but the campaign in Medal of Honor pulls it off."

"Itís strange to say that it succeeds because it lacks so many staples of a normal narrative, but itís true. Itís just a slice of wartime life and thatís a refreshing change of pace from all the other bombastic, macho, over the top shooters

Meanwhile, G. Christopher Williams again looks at Dead Space 2 and how he misses the details of the game, because of the game itself. His wife, as a spectator, sees the disturbing imagery all too well: "For some performances to work, for some aesthetics to be appreciated, the player does need to shift into the role of spectator, at times."

"Maybe I should know that Iím playing a game full of copious amounts of monstrous vaginas. Maybe that actually means something or maybe it would mean something to my sense of what Dead Space really concerns itself with if I just had a moment to look
," he writes.

George Collazo at Unwinnable decided to follow Tea Party doctrine in Civilization V and see if he could survive. See how it went in two parts. Monica Potts at The American Prospect wrote "Moral Combat: Why do liberals play computer games like conservatives?" It is an interesting piece that talks about the inherent authorial nature of rule systems in simulation games. Though not in those terms, because most people donít know them.

Adam Ruch at his blog flickeringcolours v2 goes over a number of words whose use in Game Studies has become so broad and undefined they lose meaning and their descriptive power to inform another person. Tadhg Kelly at What Games Are writes about the difference in purpose and execution between simulations and simulacra.

Jay Barnson, a.k.a. Rampant Coyote, explains to everyone, but especially indie game makers, what a Game Producer/Manager/Leader actually does, and their vital importance to a projectís success. Johnathan Holmes at Destructoid looks at the portrayal of women in games using the old dichotomy of the whore/evil girl and nun/good girl with Bayonetta and Peach as the examples.

At Gamers with Jobs, Colleen Hannon describes an average evening of gaming at her house to explain to a friend how she is able to enjoy what to many are dull and overwrought games. Most importantly it introduces a way others may experience their games in a manner that differs from what is considered the standard by designers and players:

"He made me think. Iím not sure Iím ready to draw any conclusions from this. But I do know a lot of people who play games his way-mono-focused and in the mancave-and I do wonder about the barrier created by game design, or even criticism, that only considers his way of playing."

Courtney Stanton at her blog Hereís a Thing, decides to answer the question designers keep asking, Ďwhat women want in games,í with the novel idea of asking them. Jason Killingsworth examines relationships and their portrayal in Ico and Enslaved. Mike Dunbar at Chronoludic writes his interpretation of the videogame version of The Prisoner and the play space known as the Village.

Zach Alexander pauses to discuss "a moment of violence." He writes, "Again, this post isnít a conversation about right/wrong/good/bad. As a rule, performative violence-the not-so-subtle idea that violence can be metaphorical[1]-is a concept our brains can probably handle quite comfortably in games, movies, TV, and everyday language...itís probably a part of us at the basest level, and we embrace the performance while simultaneously denying its literalness. We pretend that shooting people in the face and carving up Necromorphs is just a mechanic."

Max Lieberman at Boom Culture writes down his first impressions of Alan Wake, which is more like a close reading of the first few hours without any knowledge of what comes later. Jonathan Gourlay writes "Fear and Gaming: Being and Nothingness and ĎMinecraftí: an existentialist account of loss, loneliness, and life all through the eyes of a minecrafter and a father. Tiffany Nevin goes undercover at GameCrush for Gaming Angels and finds out what its pay-to-play service is all about.

Maggie Greene is back. On her own blog she explains videogame piracy in China, how it revolves around the concept of "price is still king," the translations issue, and why the result is worthy of study.

And finally the people at Extra Credits made "An Open Letter to EA Marketing." The video has gotten some serious legs this week, passing around the game community with a determined effort (and succeeding last I heard) to get it to the executives at EA.

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Brandon Davis
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Anything that resembles 'journalism' on Fox News is a delusion. We need to do some real research on how much violence is caused by the Fox sociopaths of the air.