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This Week In Video Game Criticism: It's A Me, Your Father, Luke

This Week In Video Game Criticism: It's A Me, Your Father, Luke

October 11, 2010 | By Ben Abraham

October 11, 2010 | By Ben Abraham
More: Console/PC

[Compiled by Ben Abraham, this week's clutch of links from the world of game blogging and criticism includes a look back at Super Mario 64, spoilers on game mechanics and the need for gaming rockstars.]

Welcome to another fine week of video game blogging and criticism -- lets start at the beginning and see where it takes us. Firstly, Sean Beanland writes on his blog Alethiometry about the original Diablo this week, in a post titled Clicking In A Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Evan Stubbs of RedKingsDream is making his kids play games. Why? Because Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer found his class of college students struggled to play some classic games and Stubbs doesnt want those skills lost:

To me, their reactions are a sad indictment on how games have been progressively moving from an intellectual challenge to what my parents were always concerned they were a timewaster. Growing up with these games taught me stuff, damn it; games were more than mere mechanics, they were personal and social challenges.

Robert Yang covers a bunch of bed-rock western philosophical concepts and how theyre embodied or represented in game design for The Escapist. I enjoyed this feature immensely and cant wait for more.

This has been a sad few days for those of us who have consistently enjoyed the work of Kieron Gillen. He has largely left his position at Rock Paper Shotgun, and thus, his foot is almost entirely out-the-door of video game journalism, depriving the rest of us of his unique talents.

How better to go out than by looking at a few things he wrote this week: first, Mechanic Spoilers: Beyond I Am Your Father which looks at potentially messing up the impact of mechanics in games by revealing their tricks.

Not covered is the issue of whether or not reading about a mechanic can substitute for actually encountering it, but thats probably beyond the scope of the piece. And in the week that Planescape Torment became available again for purchase, Gillen re-published a retrospective of Planescape Torment. An appropriate note to leave on.

Elsewhere, Spanish language blogger Rass, responsible for the video game blog Boton B has a piece called Cadaveres y poligonos (or in English bodies and polygons) which seems interesting. Heres a Google translation to pick up the gist of it.

Matthew Burns at Magical Wasteland does not review Kane and Lynch, revealing instead: The only reason I played it all the way through recently is because someone once told me he thought the anger and annoyance that this game evokes in you, the player, was a respectable achievement because thats, like, the whole point of the story that these men are angry and annoyed and ultimately impotent in the face of the world even though they kill a lot of people.

Michael Abbott at The Brainy Gamer revisits Super Mario 64: Even today, fourteen years and five flagship Super Mario games later, when Mario springs out of that green pipe and shouts "Wahoo!" I still get a little chill up my spine.

Speaking of Super Mario 64, David Carlton also talks about that game in addition to Mario Galaxy 2, beginning like this:
More and more, Im valuing video games for their density; to that end, might I not get more out of my (quite limited) gaming time if I were to make my way fairly directly through games, or even not to finish them, bailing out once Ive gotten most of their novelty? Or, alternatively, maybe I should dive into video games in more depth, really trying to plumb their depths, to master them?

A trio of pieces from Melbourne FreePlay games festival director Paul Callaghan this week, the first about Flower and the old canard of games that make you cry: My answer to the question of will a game ever make you cry? was when do we see characters in games cry? In other mediums, the reason they affect us so strongly is because we feel a connection to their journey, to the earned emotional context or to the specific emotions they are going through. Flower manages to capture that emotional arc, despite the barrier of no human characters to easily identify with.

In the second, about games and The Need for Rockstars, Callaghan says that The business case is easily made, and has been made repeatedly in the past, but to really capture the eye of government and balance the arguments of established cultural crusaders, we need more than the business case we need rockstars of our own. The third is about the impact of the Global Financial Crisis of 08 and how it severely impacted the Australian games industry.

Another trio of posts, this time at community site Bitmob: Jon Porter looks at Heavy Rain and the destruction of traditional game design which is a catchy title if ever I saw one; Richard Moss writes about The Sound of Falling Tetronimoes; and Rob Savillo brings us Two Stories of Conquest and Catastrophe in Civilization 5.

At Pop Matters, Jorge Albor writes about Photo Opportunities in Videogames, suggesting that rather than detracting from player engagement, viewing a game world through an in-game lens can contrarily serve to draw us in further. And David Tracy at GamerMelodico takes us back with Valkyria Chronicles and X-Com. Always good to see games outside this months releases getting another look.

Nels Anderson at Above49 muses on collectibles, using the oft-pilloried Alan Wake collectible thermos to explain why we should First, Do No Harm: But why are "bad" collectibles bad? If some people don't like them, they can just ignore them, right? The problem is poorly designed collectibles can have subtle but dramatic impact on the game's pacing...

Steven ODell at Raptured Reality is doing a kind of live-blog of a whole season of Codemasters' F1 2010, calling it Living the Life. This kind of crossover between criticism and creative writing is a rich and interesting area that is cropping up all over the place.

At Gamasutra, Andrew Vanden Bossche writes about Skippable Cut-Scenes And How Words Work In Games, suggesting two rules for the use of all words, written or spoken, in a video game: 1. Words must never interrupt the game. 2. Words must never be skippable, and still at Gamasutra, Simon Parkin does some analysis of Uncharted 2 One Year On. And at GameSetWatch, Emily Shorts Homer in Silicon column is about The Only Way To Win this week.

At Gamers With Jobs, Alex Martinez talks about Halo: Reach, noting: As much as I hate to acknowledge it, as much as it pains me to commit to electronic paper, my takeaway from Reach is a sense of epic grandeur. But its something that has little to do with anything pressed onto the silicon disc that faithfully sits in my living room: its a sense of epic camaraderie.

Penultimately, Jonathan Stickles at Preparing for the Apocalypse tries to nail down the elements of the games he finds stick with him the most: Civilization, Starcraft, Team Fortress.

Finally this week, I have the pleasure of pointing you towards a very promising blog entitled Think Feel Play by Shoshannah Tekofsky. She uses her computer science and psychology background to full effect check out You Are Who You Play You Are, which looks at the current state of MMO research. Mostly she calls for more research please, which is always A Good Thing.

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