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A taxonomy of Left 4 Dead, as rendered in tapestryAs if to make up for the slightly lighter post last week, the videogame blogosphere seems to have redoubled its efforts and produced an absolute ton of great reads This Week in Videogame Blogging.

The first thing I spotted was David Wildgoose’s editorial about a Leigh Alexander & Daniel Floyd co-authored video about Girl Gamers. Specifically, it’s about why girls aren’t interested in Videogames. I’m glad David took the time to comment on it because the whole time I spent watching it I was feeling… well… uncomfortable. The presenter’s tone is far from neutral, and while he seems to be advocating a more inclusive videogame industry, he still uses phrases like

…Looking at our industry from its humble beginnings to now, we’ve always had this image of being kind of a boys club… [emphasis mine].

Whether this was intentional or not, the presenter has erected a barrier between “us” and the subject of the presentation (in this case “girl gamers”), and with his discourse he is reinforcing a distinction that seems counter-productive. David Wildgoose adds his own critique of the video, saying that

Implicit is the notion that these “hardcore” games are superior and that gamers who play them are not only operating at a higher level but that it is worth aspiring to such a level. Hey girls, enjoy your make-up and cooking games, but really you’ve only made it as a gamer when you’ve learned to headshot and become one of the boys… Why does it need to be this way? How is your mum’s Peggle addiction any less legitimate a gaming experience as your Call of Duty 4 addiction? Aren’t we just talking about different gaming experiences?

While we’re on the subject including women in videogaming, Tom Chick of Fidgit says this week that,

…if I were pressed to come up with one issue that I find most troubling — the #1 Worst Thing about Videogaming, if you will — it would be the way we exclude women…. we partition women into their own separate category.

Which is why, when reading the latest NPD stats, he was encouraged to find that women are being increasingly represented among console gamers.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s John Walker wrote this week about how much he’d be willing to pay to have his gaming preferences realised. For example, he says “I would pay… £3 a month for all tutorials to not explain how to move the mouse, but rather explain key aspects unique to their game.” He then goes on to list a number of other things he’d like to see removed from games and how much he’d be willing to pay to see it happen.

Over at Touché Bitches (a blog with a kindred spirit to Critical Distance in its focus on videogame criticism) pseudonymous writer Touche_Bitch has a bit of a think about whether Bioshock should be, or could be, classified as a FPS or an RPG. He then follows that train of thought and examines the underlying differences between FPS games like Halo and Goldeneye and typical RPG’s. And to Touche_Bitch him (or her) self – we’re more than willing to take the rap for inspiring others to replay a fantastic game like Bioshock.

While we’re doing the rounds, Press Pause To Reflect is another relatively new blog dedicated to videogame criticism, and this week Josh Raisher writes about how Left 4 Dead‘s tendency to respawn your teammates waters down the horror element. Here he is writing in the first person about an experience with the game -

I made it out of the train yard before I turned around. There were a few dozen of the bastards closing in on Louis from the north, plus another twenty he hasn’t seen yet pouring into the tunnel from the east. He’s doing a fair job keeping ‘em off Zoey, but she’s done for and he has to know it. I can’t help but think that -

What the fuck? Ok, Francis is back, I guess. Uh, I think he got better from being, you know, turned into paste. Maybe he had a med pack? Or…pills? Can pills do that?

It’s a valid criticism but I think it reads Left 4 Dead too much as a horror game and less as a game about making ‘Dangerous Mistakes in the Company of Friends‘, as we saw just a few weeks ago. A good read nevertheless.

Speaking of Left 4 Dead, Justin Keverne of Groping the Elephant makes up The Taxonomy of Left 4 Dead Players which creatively applies Richard Bartle’s famous Taxonomy of MUD players to the four lead characters. I’m a Louis. Which one are you?

Leigh Alexander had one of those “Wow, the Internet really does make weird and wonderful things happen” moments this week when she received a reply to an open letter she wrote to one of the gaming heroes of her childhood.

Here’s an interesting idea – Benj Edwards in an opinion piece for Gamasutra wonders “Can Games Become Virtual Murder?” This is going to be a very important issue for the industry and they currently seem reticent to having it – somewhat understandable given the historic demonization of videogames in the media. However, if those of us that want to claim videogames have the potential to affect people emotionally (and otherwise) we’re going to need to have that conversation about good vs. bad affect, otherwise we’re just trying to have our cake and eat it too.

Okay, time for some lighter fare – Hard Casual gets the scoops again this week, reporting that Pro Gamer Fatal1ty has tested positive for Dew. His message: “Kids, don’t do the dew.” Apt.

Jason Rohrer was interviewed by Edge Magazine about his move into the ad world this week, and he makes clear some of the more troublesome issues about working with an ad firm. It looks like Tool are more of a talent and branding agency than your typical flash-banner ad creators and Rohrer says that,

It seems Tool are quite sensitive: they’re not going to ask me to do an ad for the new Hummer. It makes sense for me to be doing things that resonate with me.

Jason Morin is a colleague of CLINT HOCKING and a Lead Game designer at Ubisoft Montreal. He has also started a new game design journal called ‘Design Cave‘ which, if he can remember to blog regularly, looks to be quite promising. In his introductory post discussing Plato’s Cave as a metaphor for game design, he says

The frustration generated from [the] inability to share thoughts based on radical differences in perception is beautifully illustrated and I think is a very accurate image of what game designers have to face every day. I feel it is essential for creators of any kind to be in peace with the fact that others perception cannot be controlled. At least, I always feel better facing a design problem when I remind myself of that.

Go and give him a reason to keep posting, won’t you readers?

Evan Narcisse of The Crispy Gamer has got 15 years on me and I still found myself nodding along in agreement with his notes on certain videogame tropes that he’s getting too old for. Using the Lethal Weapon catchphrase “I’m getting too old for this shit”, he picks a few things that he’s too old for, the first being,

I’m too old to be playing as a plucky young lad — with a unique destiny — who sets out from his small village in search of adventure.

In my choice for must read of the week, Alan Jack writes on his blog about ‘Sam Fisher’s design revolution’. He makes a great point about the shift from cumbersome control schemes that require a lot of skill and finesse, to a more ‘experience based’ mode of play that translates player input into more high-level actions:

In previous games, we weren’t really being Sam Fisher. Instead, we took control of his body, with the capability to be like him, and were tasked by the game to learn how to behave in the fashion he might…When it worked – when we pulled off a move that Sam might have performed without our intervention, the game was on form, but all those little moments where the Sam on the screen didn’t move like the super-spy he was supposed to be made the game feel … well, like a game.

Indie Gaming Web TV Show Bytejacker is great and their Birthday anniversary show is no exception. Also, I think it’s pretty crazy when an Indie game can create this level of hype (the good kind of crazy).

PS – I found a font that’s inspired by the Bayeux tapestry: King Harold!

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