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September 20th

September 20th, 2009 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging:

Some days, I even do some of the work myself!By the time you're reading this we brave few involved should have recorded a new CDC podcast for your listening pleasure (in six to eight weeks’ time). Until then, how would you feel about taking a stroll about the blogosphere with This Week in Videogame Blogging? It's coming up on that time of year wherein new games all start releasing together in crowds to alleviate their inherent embarrasment at new social situations and as such the blogging tempo is picking up. If you don't believe me, just check out the ever increasing length of these posts: I have a feeling this week is one of the longest ever.

Ian Bogost's DiGRA 2009 Keynote is worthy of attention if only for its interesting discussion of the Ludology/Narratology debate and the kinds of foregone conclusions that debate presupposed. Towards the final third of the piece it goes a bit metaphysical and seems to be arguing a point that I would have thought most people have already agreed on by now out of sheer common sense. Still, quite worth a read.

One I didn't catch in time for last week: Denis at Vorpal Bunny Ranch critiques the presentation of an ostensibly gay character in Phoenix Wright. As one commenter on the article points out, a fair amount of this, I'd hazard a guess, boils down to cultural differences between east and west and perhaps unfamiliarity with non-stereotypical representations of gay characters in Eastern media. As Denis says,

…this is what I would expect of a gay representation from film and television in the 80s. Even though almost all bit players in the series are couched in foibles and comedy, I found myself extremely uncomfortable when the game wanted me to laugh at Jean

In 'Unexpectedly Serious Games' Scott Juster argues that the blogosphere is laying the groundwork for a critical game analysis and drawing out social commentary from games in unexpected ways. Yep.

Michael Abbott played The Sims 3 and had as the most heart-rending and engaging story since Alice and Kev.

Plato and Aristotle discuss Grand Theft Auto. 'Nuff said,

'Where are the War Games?' asks Eric Swain in the context of talking about the experience of playing Battlefield 1943. Yes, it's ostensibly a 'war' game and yet it bears next to no similarity to the real experience of war.

Regardless of a few fleeting moments it ends up being a game of checkers and wack-a-mole. In fact I think I can extend that to any game that purports to be about war. As noted over at Experience Points, and Hit Self-Destruct there is an absence in civilians that would engender certain consideration on a real battlefield.

Hardcasual get the scoop on the richer topsoil present in Dirt 2. As the grandson of a true-blue Aussie farmer I know the value of good quality top soil. “Just wait till you see the colluvium deposits!”

Steven Totilo talks to lead designer Patrice Desilets of Assassins Creed II-fame about the conversation he is aiming to have with the gamer through the game. I'm terribly excited for not only the game itself, but the implications for the industry by designers and developers employing this kind of language and approach.

Touché Bitches has been mentioned here before and they've recently undergone a bit of a refresh. They've started doing shorter, more editorializing link posts – hey, guys, that was our schtick! (just kidding). Head on over for some interesting linking, editorialising and the occasional long form post.

Simon Ferrarri on EA's marketing department's creativity: which itself shows more potential and cleverness than the game it's ostensibly marketing: and the journalistic issues that it has given rise to.

RPS does a Retro feature on Typing of the Dead in which they compare the game to a cat. No really!

Sometimes when my cat is licking herself clean, something I can't see or hear will distract her. A rustle. An insect. Someone belching 18 miles away. The ghost of Michael Jackson. Y'know, whatever it is that their tiny animal brains mysteriously fixate on without warning. So she'll stop cleaning herself, close her mouth and stare unblinkingly at whatever it is. Once a while, though, she'll close the mouth but forget to put her tongue away first. So she sits there with her little pink tongue sticking out, sometimes for ten or fifteen straight minutes, looking charmingly, ludicrously foolish. She doesn't seem even slightly aware that she's doing it, or of how ridiculous, how hilarious she looks. And that only makes this absurd image all the more delightful.

And that, right there, is The Typing Of The Dead.

Speaking of the slack jawed; the thousand pixel stare of the concentrating videogame player is examined by Dan Kline.

The Runner has a new episode in its interesting, and always pretty, criticism-slash-diary style posting. One of the weird things about reading game diaries for a game you've never played is you kind of have no idea what's going on at times. Also, spoilers. At least you can always look at the pretty pictures.

Chris Lepine of The Artful Gamer discusses the changing preferences and play-styles of young people contrasted with his own experiences. I left a rather lengthy comment because I felt he was doing a bit of a Bogost in writing off rather than trying to understand the differing values and experiences of a younger generation of gamer, and was labelling them not as virtuous as his nostalgia-tinted remembrances of gaming past. I.E. games these days are too easy, geddoffmylawn. Maybe you'll get a bit more out of it?

Gerard Delaney writes about achievements on his blog 'Binary Swan', talking about how he often finds their breaking of the fourth wall intrusive. I'd never thought of them in that way before, but really that's what they are, and when thought about like that they seem quite out of place in any Triple-A title aiming for immersion. Silly then to remind the player they're playing a game by including pop-up achievements.

Lyndon Warren is yet-another Aussie game blogger and critic, and I wonder why I haven't stumbled across his excellent blog before. No matter, there's always time to correct that. For example, in his most recent post discussing what we mean when we talk about non-linearity in games, he has this to say:

…for example in Far Cry 2 when I come across a guard post I have a number of options, I can play it stealthily and eliminate them one by one up close with a silenced pistol or at long range with a sniper rifle or guns blazing or by saying fuck it and running away. I have not only options but those options lead to different play styles as well, guns blazing is aggressive, sniping defensive, stealth Machiavellian. The result being that the many rinse and repeat gun fights in Far Cry 2 are a lot more interesting than they have any right to be.

He makes quite a useful break-down that I've been thinking about myself for a while  – describing the different levels that non-linearity can happen as 'micro', 'macro', 'structural' and 'meta'. I think this is a seriously fantastic discussion and it's this week's must read. I should add that I discovered Lyndon's blog via his pacifist play-through of the original Fallout. It's also an engaging read.

Michel McBride does a really nice analysis of the character and role of The Riddler in Batman: Arkham Asylum and how the old spectre of Ludonarrative dissonance comes back to haunt.

When the hand-to-hand combat and use of gadgets and atmosphere all come together the game shines and we think “I am Batman”. I wonder, when crawling through a dead-end vent for the thirteenth time in search of a trophy is Batman thinking “I am a gamer”?

Okay, so before I wrap it up for the week I wanted to make a small announcement: it's becoming clear to me that even with the near-infinite amount of free time that I possess to read videogames blogs, the Pokémon catch phrase was an overly idealistic lie and I can't catch 'em all. So I need and want the readers help in compiling the best of videogame blogging for the week. If you read a really great article during the week, I want you to send a tweet to the critdistance twitter account and I'll check them out before writing TWIVGB. As always, thanks for reading.

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