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This Week In Video Game Criticism: Apocalypse When? Zelda Now!

This Week In Video Game Criticism: Apocalypse When? Zelda Now!

June 24, 2010 | By Ben Abraham

June 24, 2010 | By Ben Abraham
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[Gamasutra is partnering with game criticism site Critical Distance to present some of the week's most inspiring writing about the art and design of video games from commentators worldwide. This week, Ben Abraham looks at E3 'surprises', Apocalypse Now game thoughts, and where Zelda went wrong.]

The first piece from this week is Matthew Kaplan’s post on the Game In Mind blog asking ‘Who will stand for us?’ " the ‘us’ in question being a sophisticated audience that Kaplan sees existing for other media, and which he assumes is also present somewhere in gaming. He opines, “...mainstream games are letting down a sophisticated generation of gamers who are increasingly plugged into media that combines entertainment and cultural insight.”

Kyle Orland on his blog ‘The Game Beat’ examines the lies told to make E3 reveals ‘more of a surprise’, and asks whether it’s okay to lie to maintain said surprise. In a post called “David Jaffe is a liar. Do we care?” Orland sums up the issues quite nicely.

Paul Sztajerat at PDYXS wrote about ‘Signalling the intent of the player character’ in which he discusses the character of Shepherd in Mass Effect and what we are supposed to think about him or her. Sztajerat says, “at first, I thought the character was a shell, into which I could pour my conceptions of humanity; and later, I realised that the character was fully-developed, meant to act as a mirror to hold to the light my own ideals and values.”

Eric Swain has an excellent post this week on ‘The Milleu of inFamous’ at The Game Critique. One of my pet peeves is the trend in all quarters of gaming to frenetically move on to the newest and latest games, so I commend Swain for taking the time to examine a slightly older one here. Of the game he notes, “I would place the introduction of inFamous as one of the better opening levels in open world gaming. I say this because it sets the stage to not just for the game, but also more importantly for the milieu.”

Swain follows on with two other posts about the game, focusing on ‘The propaganda of inFamous’ and ‘The morality of inFamous’ respectively.

On the back of rumors about an “Apocalypse Now” game possibly in development, Mike Dunbar at the RRoD blog says “That’s already been done!” and in the following post points to Far Cry 2 as the descendant of that thematic concern. His primary issue with any such new game, however, is that, “...a simple tour of scenes from the movie, or a standard Vietnam shooter with on-rails boating excursions, would be a great disservice to the source material. I don’t want to be told my character is going mad. I don’t want to read it in a journal, or hear Martin Sheen tell me. I want to feel it.”

In the first of a few E3 influenced posts from across the blogosphere, Michael Abbott wrote about the hyperbolic rhetoric often employed in announcements and pronouncements about the future. His post “Keynote Rhetoric” usefully, I think, exposes the transparent efforts and deliberate employment of rhetoric done by the major industry players to keep our focus squarely locked on ‘the future’ and ‘the new’ " which potentially runs contrary to both the best trends in criticism and the long term development of the industry.

Not too dis-similarly, Gus Mastrapa, writing in response to the E3 reveal of a new Zelda game, argues that “Gamers, You Ruined Zelda”. Speaking of the response to the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, he says, “ heathens had to go and ruin everything. You bitched that the game looked too cartoony. You complained that Link was just a kid and that the game was to bright and cheery for your supposedly grown-up sensibilities. To their detriment Nintendo listened to you.”

The latest news out of E3 regarding motion controls also has Matt West of Armchair Diplomat feeling like, “My inner child is calling me a casual.” And speaking of motion controls, British News Parody service NewsArse reports on a similar trend from E3 with the following headline; ‘When will there be a controller I can have sex with, ask gamers’.

Rick Dakan, writing at the PopMatters' Moving Pixels blog, examines ‘Character flaws in Red Dead Redemption’: "The problem with making a well executed, likable character is that, when you’re forced to do things that you don’t like or that don’t match what you’ve come to expect from Marston, the game can raise hackles. He may not suffer from the pure psychopathy of other Rockstar leading men, but Marston does play the Grand Theft Auto role of “guy who does whatever people suggest” pretty well."

Richard Clark’s relatively new Game Set Watch column ‘The Gaming Doctrine’ examines how to go about “Reviewing with Values in Mind”. It’s certainly an important issue for many people, and one that the formal reviewing of games hasn’t really addressed, busy as it is with measuring frame rates and sound quality. As Clark notes, “...when we look at the most foundational form of games writing in the industry, the game review, we see almost no reflection whatsoever of any such understanding.”

In perhaps the most interesting, and certainly most thought provoking piece I read all week, guest poster ‘m’ writes about ‘The Valve Ideology’ for the Scrawled in Wax blog. ‘m’ takes the premise that game design reflects ideology, and does a bit of a thought experiment about what Valve games are teaching us: "I think Portal is perhaps the most perfect expression of contemporary ideology. Why? Because when you break the frame in Portal, when you escape the game world, it keeps on going. Yes, I know that you can do odd things and break the structure in Portal as well, but in this particular game the resistance is written right into the narrative."

Matthew Wasteland writes about the art of dialogue in games, noting some of the inherent difficulties in writing, recording, and performing dialogue for the plethora of emotional and geographical permutations that a typical modern game can find itself faced with.

Michael Clarkson is giving the rest of us a bad name by being so ridiculously prolific. In a post on his Discount Thoughts blog, Clarkson looks at the mini-games within Red Dead Redemption praising them for their appropriateness. “The principal virtue of Red Dead Redemption's minigames is that they fit the context. They're not just a bunch of gambling games shoehorned into the world so that the player has an occasional diversion. Rather, they generally seem to have been chosen to fit in with our ideas of the west and positioned in places that make sense.”

Brinstar at the Acid for Blood blog shot an amusing and entertaining photo-essay on Playstation Home and a certain, shall we say, extraterrestrial avatar costume. She also documented Sony’s attempts at recreating E3 within the virtual space of Home.

And lastly, I couldn’t resist linking to this week’s instalment of the Destructoid video series ‘Hey Ash whatchya playing?’ as it features Far Cry 2 and a certain peculiar attraction to the game.

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