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ffviiiThis week in videogame blogging we cruise through some videogame music, take a look back at an overlooked classic, pick up a couple of excellent pieces we missed from last week and a Chick gets stood up by Sony. Onwards and upwards!

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised any more when videogame publishers do something like this but I had thought that after last years Gerstmann-gate saga that the industry had learnt a thing or two. I stand thoroughly corrected this week after hearing that Tom Chick was given the cold shoulder by Sony after publishing some “unfavourable” press about Sony’s upcoming inFamous game. He turned up for an interview with a developer only to be told “Sorry, we don’t want to talk to you anymore” after he published a list of “10 stupid things about inFamous” alongside a list of “10 cool things about inFamous“. Apparently “fair and balanced” is not enough for the big ol’ Sony. That or they’re still smarting over his panning of Killzone 2.

Technically from last week, but good enough to warrant inclusion this week is Justin Keverne’s ‘Playing the Sex Card‘, in which he discusses playing as the racist, sexist, misogynistic protagonist in The Witcher. He makes a great point about how, if we are expecting games to evolve and mature, then we are going to have to get used to [edit: mature  content] in them, much like in other media. He says,

If we want mature games in the truest sense of the word then at some point they will need to engage with themes of prejudice and intolerance. It stands to reason that such games will need to feature characters who are sexist, racist or otherwise prejudiced and offensive.

Also technically from last week is this piece by Nick Dinicola about ‘Why you should care about Dom’s wife‘.  Nick suggests that, in Gears of War 2, we are not playing the main character in the story. He says that,

If the story of Gears of War 2 was told in any other medium, Dom would be the main character because he’s the only one with an emotional arc, an arc driven by his lost wife. We only think of Marcus as the main character because he’s our avatar, but he’s a static character with no development over the course of the game.

The idea that we don’t have to play “the main character” in a game is one that I find extremely interesting and a great area for future exploration in games. Come to think of it, it actually reminds me of Tom Armitage’s assertion that in Far Cry 2 the player’s nemesis and target throughout the game, The Jackal, is actually the main character.

This week, Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer is at the ‘Games for Change‘ conference, but before he left he introduced the metaphor of ‘driving your first car through your old neighbourhood‘ for the playing through of old, vintage videogames. There is something immediately familiar about the experience of replaying an old game, but it’s also not the same as it used to be – maybe the clutch sticks a bit more, maybe the windscreen is a bit dirty. It’s a theme that John Walker mentioned as well in the latest Rock, Paper, Shotgun podcast, with his example being the early Ultima Underworld games and how one in particular has become “practically unplayable” in the intervening years.

Leigh Alexander still writes the oddest pieces for the Big K, this week interviewing Brooklyn based ‘Anamanaguchi‘ in ‘The chiptunes band that just might break through‘.

While we’re on the subject of music, Dan Bruno makes a triumphant return to blogging this week at Cruise Elroy with his latest entry in the ‘Irregular Meter’ series of posts. This time he looks at the use of irregular meter in music of the Warcraft series. Previous entries in the series covered irregular meter in Jet Force Gemini, Road Rash 3 and the Penny Arcade game and in Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VIII and IX. A great series for anyone interested in music and games.

This week the pre-eminent game satirists at Hard-Casual invent a situation in Counter-Strike wherein a mysterious player graffities some Dylan Thomas poetry onto a wall near a spawn point, leading to the debilitation of all players as they invariably stop to ponder its meaning.

“I just wish whoever’s tag this is will tell us what the hell is going on,” said Babyduck211. “I would really like to get back to not thinking.”

It reminds me very much of the C-S art-project ‘Velvet-Strike‘ which you should definitely check out if you’ve never heard of it. From the website description, Velvet-Strike is

A collection of spray paints to use as graffiti on the walls, ceiling, and floor of the popular network shooter terrorism game “Counter-Strike“. Velvet-Strike was conceptualized during the beginning of Bush’s “War on Terrorism.” We invite others to submit their own “spray-paints” relating to this theme.

It’s slightly hard for me to recommend this next entry – primarily because I haven’t read it all, but you’ll understand why when I say that it’s apparently 14,000 words long. In the blog post-cum-short-story “Over and Under“, Duncan Fyfe of Hit Self-Destruct writes about… well… it kind of defies encapsulation in 100 words, so you’ll just have to try and wade through it yourself. I certainly plan to as soon as I work up the courage. You can take that as a recommendation of sorts.

This week’s must read piece, and the last one on our list, is an essay on Final Fantasy VIII – the one that most people don’t like. As the piece reveals, however, despite an awkward magic system and questionable English translation, it remains one of the most personal and affecting games of the series. It also suggests that the game presents one of the most convincing, lived in and explorable worlds and cemented Final Fantasy’s visual and architectural style.

Balamb Garden is the epitome of the game’s unique style: a massive, colorful building shaped like a mountain, with an illuminated halo-like structure hovering above it.  It’s a marvel of futuristic design that apes neither the bland sterility of Star Trek or Minority Report, nor the towering, baroque architecture of Blade Runner or Metropolis.  The Garden looks almost organic, something both man-made and a part of the natural environment.

The real take-away, however, is that the game “starts off as an epic adventure and slowly reveals itself to be a character study” and the story is, for the main characters, that

the experience of warfare stole their childhood innocence and is slowly turning them into soldiers who have no purpose except the next battle.  More than that, it’s a commentary on how the responsibilities and pressures of adulthood can cause us to forget who we once were.

An absolute must read, even for those that aren’t fans of the series in general or that entry in particular. I know it opened my eyes to why I personally found it so resonant, all those many years ago.

As always, if you have read a blog post or article that you found particularly excellent and would like to see it included in TWIVGB, feel free to leave a link in the comments or email us at editors@this-website.

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