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This Week In Video Game Criticism: Autonomy, Game Worlds, When Mechanics Trump Story

This Week In Video Game Criticism: Autonomy, Game Worlds, When Mechanics Trump Story

August 26, 2010 | By Ben Abraham

August 26, 2010 | By Ben Abraham
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[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us Ben Abraham picking out fascinating bloggers on player autonomy, building successful game worlds, and when game elements alter our perception of the game world.]

Just a quick one this week, as my country heads to an election and I spent all day at a polling booth shilling for a grassroots organization unaffiliated with any party. But that's neither here nor there; it's time for This Week In Video Game Criticism.

First up, and right from the very tail end of last week, Ashelia at Hellmode looks at her 'darker competitive side'. A thing I'd like to see more of: writing, analysis, and criticism of multiplayer gaming.

At The Last Metaphor, Benjamin Garratt writes about 'choices, entertainment, Pynchon' in a conversation with a friend. Garratt has an interesting back catalogue of posts you might also like to dip into, like say 'The Metaphysics of the Instance' or 'Spingtime for Helghan: the story of a Killzone clan'.

Featuring at GameSetWatch, Jamie Madigan writes about 'The Psychology of Immersion', a topic which has been getting a bit of a run again over the past few weeks. What sparks this re-interest in immersion?

Elsewhere, Jorge Albor at the Experience Points blog looks at player autonomy, what constitutes autonomy, and what prerequisites exist for making autonomous informed decisions as a player: "Accordingly, choices can be incredibly powerful, but they need not be. Morality systems (with a few exceptions), for example, undermine meaningful choice by offering player autonomy of actions but not over belief systems. What would it mean to offer a choice of various communion wafers to an atheist? More options do not equate to autonomy, and therefore meaning and immersion either."

The pseudonymous author Spitfire at the Game-ism blog writes about 'A Narrative Trumping Mechanic' which returns to the highly regarded Batman: Arkham Asylum and looks at who really is the big bad, and how solving the Riddler's riddles made him feel more like the Caped Crusader.

He notes: "Joker's men (and even Joker himself) were truly nothing more than a nuisance, something for me to backfist while I wasn't even looking in their direction while I had my Bat-Visor turned on looking for Nigma's riddles to solve. That sensation felt like Batman. There's always something else going on in Batman's head; he's a cerebral detective, not just a pugilist who breaks bones but doesn't kill."

From Checkers, to Chess, to Super Mario Bros. and Assassin's Creed Corvus Elrod looks at jumping on his blog the Semionaut's Notebook, looking at "what a few games communicate with the verb jump." And G. Christopher Williams writes for PopMatters about 'Mountains of Men: The Mythology of the Male Body in Video Games' which comes highly recommended.

Chris Dahlen's got a pair of notable posts this week, looking at World Building for Edge Online and elaborating on the issue by looking at Crackdown 2 in particular on his personal blog: "All of this is played out against a large but weirdly empty city. The cool fortified structures and other mission locations from the first game come back, look wrecked, and have nothing to offer you. Hopping through so much disused space can make you blue, for all the wrong reasons: you don't feel like the city is dying, so much as that nobody bothered to bring it to life."

At Bitmob, Pat O'Malley writes about 'How Square made Kingdom Hearts Work' and Isaiah Taylor laments the death of local coop.

Pippin Barr writes for his personal blog 'On the inability to "Stay Frosty"' in Modern Warfare 2: "Modern Warfare 2 actually isn't very realistic at all, but the state of mind this reasoning put me in during that early mission led to a striking experience. As I stood there at the ready on the turret I realized an important fact about myself relative to the dudes in Generation Kill and, by extension in this game and, theoretically, in reality: I had no idea of what I was supposed to be doing."

And Sebastian Wuepper, writing for the Chronoludic blog, explains the German video game ratings system, Germany being notoriously strict about video game violence.

Lastly, Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer blog looks at how Portal got onto the course reading list for all freshmen students at a small liberal arts college.


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