Ay Carumba! The east coast of Australia is suffering through an early-spring heatwave. What does this have to do with This Week In Videogame Blogging? Nothing, but I wanted readers to know the torture I endure to provide you with fresh, tasty reading for the weekend. I'm workin' up a sweat just sitting here.
First up, Carey at the Play Like a Girl blog does a strange and wonderful thing. She talks about Zombie Clowns. Then, filled with revulsion at just the idea of zombie clowns and with a staunch refusal to let them have a post all by themselves she re-tells an unrelated awesome story about a match of Halo 3. My hat is off to her for such a light-speed change of direction: it displays a certain mental agility I fancy, and there's a skill to being able to do it without giving readers whiplash, too.
Steve Gaynor writes about play, being playful and all things filled with playfulness. Okay, I just went for the alliteration, but here's a quote:
As we age, we lose it: 0ur sense of constant wonderment, endless possibility, unfettered, carefree joy. Perhaps in rare moments we get it back. But it’s not what we are anymore.
Matthew Wasteland puts himself inside the mind of… wait, what? A slice of pizza? Pizza speaks:
You can talk all you want about working nine to five and how the long hours are burning people out, but as long as I'm around, I think it's gonna be pretty difficult to change anything. What game developer could possibly turn down the prospect of a fresh, mouth-watering pizza? I mean, seriously.
Time to note and potentially make fun of an emerging trend in games writing: namely, describing a game (or games) as “Punk Rock”. Rolling Stone did a piece that basically conflated Braid's ambiguity with being “Punk”. As Roger Travis put it in a tweet “Oh Look, dude's mystifying-dude must be punk”. Continuing the trend, Rock Paper Shotgun's Kieron Gillen described Indie Game studio Zombie Cow's Lo-Fi adventure games as “punk rock aesthetics”. I guess I'm mostly pointing out this trend because Matthew Gallant wrote a piece on 'Punk and Indie Games' back in May that pulled together a lot of different ideas about punk and games to make some good observations. Always with the self-referencing, am I.
There's a little group of us on Twitter that that noted to each other that we aren't really all that interested in The Beatles or their impending Rock Band debut. I'll admit to enjoying them for a time, but generally speaking my musical taste lies elsewhere. Controversially, Ian Bogost felt somewhat more strongly in the negative than I did. As an aside, I feel he's deliberately veering head-on into cynicism and contrarianism mostly for arguments sake, so read with that in mind. His reasoning is largely a generalisation about the generation of Baby Boomers for whom The Beatles epitomised and he now questions whether;
…[we must] give them their final thrill in the medium we popularized, and which they spent decades not only failing to understand, but also deriding as useless and insolent?
A thought provoking post at the very least, and a whole bunch of smart comments are made by the likes of Iroquois Pliskin, Michael Abbott, Simon Ferrari, Daniel Golding, Erik Hanson, and a host of other just as intelligent commenter's who I'm not personally acquainted with.
Speaking of The Beatles: Rock Band, here's another great story from the Hardcasual stable, a story about one man, his fight with infidelity, and the undeniable attraction of The Beatles: Rock Band. And on top of that, Mike Schiller on his new blog 'Unlimited Lives' has a bit of a crack at 'The Rooftop Concert of Peripheral Based Music Games'.
This just in! A dispatch from the trenches of game development: Dan Bruno has been working on The Beatles: Rock Band for the better part of a year. He adds his own angle to the release of the game with his usual level of adroitness.
I should probably have given out some TWIVGB love for my fellow link-round-up-fiend, Erik Hanson before now, but I've been a bit remiss. Hanson writes a weekly summary for the Videogames and Human Values Initiative and remains A Kindred Spirit of TWIVGB; his offering remains far and away more comprehensive.
LB Jeffries takes a look at some studies of female avatars and how desirable they are to play, by both men and women: with some startling conclusions.
The issue of objectified and hypersexualized women in video games is often glibly dismissed because the target demographic for games is still 18 to 35 year old heterosexual men. That's why the study is really interesting, it disputes the entire notion that this demographic enjoys playing as these hypersexualized avatars.
While I was reading Ian Bogosts aforementioned piece on The Beatles: Rock Band, I noticed a keynote paper Bogost had presented at the recent DiGRA 2009 conference. He raises an interesting point re: videogame studies, examining the tendency in academia of studying the medium itself and overlooking its message. He says:
If we use McLuhan’s own logic on his very thinking, we might say that media ecology reverses into criticism. It treats individual works as important and meaningful, each one possessing its own properties that both combine with and resist those of the medium that encloses it. Perhaps this is a starting point for what game criticism might look like, should look like in the future.
I can't help but think that some of the online pieces being self-published and blogged and discussed on twitter and IRC comes close to Bogost' idealised 'future game criticism'.
N'Gai Croal in his latest Edge Online blog talks about “Off-label Gaming” in the context of achievements, and self imposed game limitations. Look out for a name-dropping of yours truly in said article.
Jim Rossignol writes in his regular Offworld column on games taking their Artists and concept artists work more literally.
Ultimately, I think there needs to be much more mutiny in the art ranks. The concept artists need to fight back and conspire with the graphics programmers to bring about many more revolutions of the kind that started with Borderlands. We’ve heard years of rhetoric about videogame design tools putting power back into the hands of the artists, but clearly it needs to go further. If videogames want to be taken seriously as art, then they need to be art.
It begs the question, for me at least: if the concept art in many games so often gets left behind in the implementation, then why do studios even bother having them around for? Inspiration? Surely you don't need a whole department to inspire your team… just a thought.
Returning to The Beatles: Rock Band Crispy Gamer responds to the New York Times gushing ejaculation that is its review of said game with a biting piece of criticism that leaves the review in tatters. I should probably add that this was the same NYT review that inspired Ian Bogost vitriolic backlash, and in this author's opinion, yes it was more than just a little bit over-the-top. Crispygamer also have a look into how the review trade works, and why some PR firms do and don't give out lots of copies of their game for review. Insightful.
Create Digital Music interviews the creators of trippy indie game Brainpipe, and talk about synaesthesia, integrating music into the design from the beginning, building their own sound engine, and reference some other indie games that use music in a distinctive manner. What's that – you want more game music related reading? Well, how about a 1up feature on the music of Halo 3: ODST. I does like me some Halo music.
Finally, Rock, Paper, Shotgun talk with Ragnar Tornquist, creator of the upcoming The Secret World MMO which is apparently a 'classless' MMO. Speaking of which, Tom Francis has a great piece this week on 'A different way to level up' in online games: he's really getting good at not only pointing out how dumb some default game design elements are, but usefully suggesting not only as-good replacements but genuinely excitingly better ones!
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try avoid heat shock by staying wet.