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This week in Video Game Criticism: From misogyny to exploiting gamers

This week in Video Game Criticism: From misogyny to exploiting gamers

February 28, 2012 | By Kris Ligman

February 28, 2012 | By Kris Ligman
More: Console/PC, Design

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the exploitation of gamers with downloadable content, misogyny in the gaming industry and community, and more.]

We've been holding out for a hero, and we're not gonna take it anymore. It's time for This Week in Video Game Criticism!

Love is a battlefield, and we keep paying for map packs. Paul Tassi, writing for Forbes says we create our own problem by continuing to buy into the DLC schemes we decry:
"It just isn't correct to call these companies evil for attempting to extract more money from their industry. It may be eye rolling or exasperating, but it's sort of like getting upset that auto companies charge extra for GPS, when really, all cars should come standard with it. The "exploitation" of gamers that I allude to in my title is really all in the control of the gamers themselves. Yet we all either fail to realize it, or simply don't care."

One of the more toxic news items of the week was when the weeks-long campaign against Bioware developer Jennifer Hepler came to a crescendo. Many bloggers rallied to the writer's defense, and several also pointed to the larger issues at work. Alan Williamson advocates for a change, saying "Passivity solves nothing." Alex Layne, writing in Not Your Mama's Gamer, wrote explicitly about the misogyny pervasive in the attacks against women in the industry and community:
"We are called bitches, fat, whores, sluts, ugly; we are threatened with rape, beatings, and death; we are regularly hit on; we are told to get back in the kitchen, to cook some dinner, to shut our fucking mouths; and when we stand up for ourselves, we are blacklisted. Those in the industry continue to make games with all male protagonists, reinforcing the idea that gaming is for men; or they make female avatars with such enormous breasts and so little clothing that they become fan-fic porn stars; they hire men for the technical jobs, and leave women to women's work. While game companies may not be casting stones, they are the ones bringing dumptrucks full of rocks and dumping them in front of an angry mob."
Two posts took a closer look at some of the remarks taken out of context in the 2006 interview with Hepler and contended history would prove her right. Tom Auxier of Nightmare Mode argued that some of the best ideas for games derive from unpopular opinions. And Jeremy Klemm of The Pause Button declares Hepler "the Galileo of gaming," writing:
"[She's] ahead of her time, and she's being punished for it. I don't want to make too big a deal of this, but let me be clear on one thing: not only is Hepler right about her opinion, but I believe that history will prove it. Ten years from now, the option to skip (or automate) gameplay will be such a standard feature that no one will think twice about it, and this incident will be little more than an interesting footnote for everyone but Hepler."
The recent release of thechineseroom's Dear Esther on Steam has also generated some (certainly less charged) commentary. The first, from Michael Abbott, suggests the unusual game's influences should include Soviet montage. Jordan Ekeroth, meanwhile, dives headfirst into the psychological and spiritual crisis of the experience, writing:
"In the end (and beginning, and all in between) Dear Esther is about being alone, and that can be a temporarily beautiful thing, but ultimately maddening."
Over on Play the Past, Roger Travis suggests that oral and bardic traditions were to be "played" with in much the same manner as modern games:
"[In] each case, our play is bounded by a ruleset that controls the choices we make and the effect those choices have on the state of the performance in which we are currently engaged. Moreover, I want to suggest, those rulesets may be read comparatively in the way they specifically allow the player to play a mythic past."
Meanwhile, The Game Design Forum is in the midst of a very long and meaty deconstruction of Final Fantasy VI. On the leaner side, Patrick Garratt writes about how Far Cry 2 lends a sense of immersive plausibility he can't seem to glean from its sequel.

Lest you thought we could go one week without getting into a meta-discussion on game blogging, Douglas Stewart suggests that game journalism is not the place for game criticism:
"Writers for sites from IGN to 1up are video game journalists, performing the filtering and distribution function of a chain that starts with a publisher, lands with the consumer and ends in accounting. They serve to categorize, describe and quantify in their own terms the subjective worth of a game to potential consumers who are trying to make informed decisions of purchase. They're also fans and gamers themselves, lest we forget. While I don't envy game journalists, who have to deal with rabid fanboi's, restrictive NDA's and juggling authenticity with publishers demands, in the system I described there is no room for them for wholesale videogame criticism."
Wake me up before you go, go. But between now and then, how about a nightcap? Lewis Denby interviews Alexander Shcherbakov, the developer behind the lost cult game Stalin vs Martians.

That's all for this week! Remember that you can submit your links via Twitter and email. Without your reader submissions, it'd be the end of the world as we know it.

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