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January 10th

January 10th, 2010 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging:

And we’re back, with the first instalment of This Week In Videogame Blogging for 2010. Straight to it as there’s a lot to get through, having been off-air for some time, and quite a bit of it has been sent in by readers. It is much appreciated.

Grayson Davis has two good reads from the past week-plus-change; the first on ‘The Players Role’ and the second on ‘Time and Games’ which looks like quite a thorough treatment of that particular aspect of game design. Here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

I think it’s fair to say that games are disproportionately concerned with time compared to other media, and we should consider why that is and why games are uniquely suited to talk about time.

Zach Whalen is back to (sporadically) blogging at Gameology.org, and he wrote recently about the issue of videogame canonization, suggesting on the way a few more titles that could be added to the ‘existing canon’. Wait, you didn’t know there was a canon? As Whalen notes, in 2007 “a committee of game scholars, developers and journalists” picked ten rather foundational videogames for preservation by the IGDA game preservation special interest group. His own piece, however, seems interested in the inherent value of making lists, and he puts forward a few more games for inclusion in a gaming ‘canon’. Says Whalen;

Anyone familiar with the discourse of literary studies over the past few decades will be well aware of the intellectual and political stakes in canon-formation, but a simple look through Digg or Cracked.com reveals how much appeal a top-ten list can have. More importantly, the kinds of questions a game canon raises are useful pedagogical ones…

The Escapist ran a piece by Erin Hoffman this week that briefly summarised the Riot Grrrl movement in music that arose in the 90s, and suggests that the games industry is in desperate need of something similarly empowering to female gamers. Not being particularly familiar with the movement in question (I was busy growing up in the 90s) I nevertheless found it a fascinating read. Developers – take note!

Jonathan McCalmont wrote in to let us know about the writing he’s been doing at the website Futurismic and his most recent piece about Dragon Age: Origins (looks like the pool is still going). Addressing Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas about Cultural and Social Capital, McCalmont goes on to suggest that DA:O is doing something akin to World of Warcraft minus all the other players. He doesn’t take this to heart however, as he postulates that:

The end of human civilisation is millions of World of Warcraft servers with only one human player on each of them. Dragon Age: Origins seems to bring that day one step closer.

This one was sent in by Matt Gallant, who links us to Nick Rudzicz’s post critiquing some of the “science” in Modern Warfare 2. I liked the part about the size of the earth being all wrong, and how a certain shockwave that plays a major role in the plot would actually fail to propagate through the vast vacuum of space. The above quotes are there for a reason.

Jim Rossignol at Rock Paper Shotgun looks at some recent gaming-related scientific research and summarises the results. It’s quite an intriguing read, for instance, playing Tetris can help with post-traumatic stress related flashbacks.

Alex Raymond wrote this week about why she writes about games, namely because,

…talking about pop culture is a great way to reach out to people. Not every feminist-minded individual is going to take a women’s studies course or pick up a bell hooks book from their library, but plenty of folks love discussing games, television, movies and so on on the internet. Looking at these things from a feminist perspective can introduce these concepts to people who may hold feminist ideals and just don’t know it yet.

The TigSource forums reveal some of the less-than-useful feedback some entrants received from their IGF judges and… hey, that feedback looks a shoe-in for almost any first-timer’s videogame review. They do seem to say, however, that on balance the judges were generally good.

Ian Barczewski responds to an article in the Orange County Register called, quite hyperbolically, ‘Video games were invented by the devil’. Which seems odd to me as I always thought it was William Higinbotham that invented gaming with Tennis for Two for the vintage 1958 oscilloscope. Barczewski opens his critique of the offending column with this statement that made me sit up and pay attention:

When I was only three years old, I taught myself to read. That’s right. Guess how I did it? Video games.

One of my favourite reads this week was ‘The Videogame Store is Decadent and Depraved’ by Quintin Smith. He got the title wrong on his own blog the poor man, but after an experience with a game shop like this, who can blame him?

LB Jeffries took time out this week to write about the license to print money (for Valve at any rate) that is Steam online sales, as well as other time-limited discounts on digital delivery platforms in general.

Brenda Brathwaite did some research about Daikatana recently (the game everyone knows sucked) and she came up with this interesting observation,

In researching a game that it seems most haven’t played, I’ve now counted 100 negative comments in a row, not a one of which resulted from actual play.

To which I reply, ‘So you’ve been reading Gamestop user submitted previews then?’ Seriously though, audience reception and perception of games they’ve never even played is an issue that is well worth addressing, and I’m glad Brenda’s doing so here.

A reminder that for all TWIVGB posts on Critical Distance comments are turned off by default to encourage discussion on the original entries, and we can always be reached via the contact page.

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