February 28th

February 28th, 2010 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 28th)

This will be my last This Week In Videogame Blogging before jetting off to San Francisco and the Game Developers Conference. Taking my place for the next two weeks will be enthusiastic contributor Eric Swain.

First up this week, Michael Clarkson makes a case for Santa Destroy as a valuable and necessary part of the original No More Heroes, and it’s omission from the sequel is all the more regrettable.

Zeke Virant is a new blogger who wrote in to let us know about a piece on ‘Expanding Sound in Videogame Narratives’ which sounds a lot like the sort of thing I was into with my undergrad thesis from 2008.

Justin Keverne writes about Mass Effect 2 this week in ‘living with your mistakes’; Radek Koncewicz also writes about the game, describing it as ‘A few steps forward and a few steps back’.

Kotaku goes in search of the Videogame Auteurs whose existence is still hotly debated.

Brendan Keogh, a Brisbane based blogger writes about the old whipping-horse that is the ludology/narratology debate (or stalemate, as Keogh describes it). He suggests, ‘don’t ask what narrative can do for games, but what games can do for narrative.

Jamie Madigan takes inspiration from Penny Arcade and asks, ‘Why do we love genres so much?

Joana Caldas writing for The Border House on Local vs Online multiplayer has some of the best use of captioning I’ve ever seen.

I’m sure by now most have heard about or watched the DICE talk given by Jesse Schell but David Sirlin had a response, wondering whether external rewards are as unanimously positive as Schell proposes. Following on from both, Dan Lawrence thinks a bit about the psychology of game design, inspired by both Schell and Sirlin’s comments, in a post titled ‘behaviourist game design’. UK based doctoral researcher Mitu Khandaker also has something to add to the commentary/responses to Schell’s talk, extrapolating some of the previous ideas into a series of possible futures for games. Lastly for this particular discussion, Jesper Juul has some thoughts on Schells’ talk with some excellent concrete examples that problematise a future where every action is tied to some kind of external reward. Juul:

A famous 1973 experiment (“Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward“) showed that when nursery school children consistently received external rewards for drawing, they lost interest in drawing and started drawing less.

Also from the recent DICE conference is this piece by Brandon Sheffield covering a panel on racial diversity in games, a talk that will also be given again at GDC in a couple of weeks. It’s a talk that I plan to attend.

The Independent has a take on Heavy Rain comparing it to previous similar efforts in games, such as Facade, and Anthony Burch at Destructoid suggests that, in Heavy Rain’s case at least, Ebert was right.

This week Chris Dahlen made explicit the connections that Leigh Alexander has made previously, namely that games are perhaps more like music than they are like film.

Kirk Hamilton wrote about open world games in ‘When the world changes’.

Coleen Hannon at Gamers With Jobs writes of being ‘Thumbless in Seattle’, which unfortunately involves less Tom Hanks and more disabling injuries.

Lastly, here’s a cool thing and some creative criticism for you – it’s totally possible to use more than just essays to critique games. As ‘Passage in 10 seconds’ shows, you can even use other games.

February 21st

February 21st, 2010 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 21st)

This week, Critical Distance passed the auspicious milestone of one hundred thousand pageviews. So to that one person refreshing the page constantly for a week straight – thank you.

And now, onto more serious matters, and Eric Swain has continued his tireless efforts of scouring the videogame blogosphere for our collective benefit. In a yin-yang pairing, The Game Overthinker proudly proclaims “I heart Bayonetta”, while Gunthera1 writes at The Borderhouse after having played the demo of the game with some friends and concludes that “the game is the perfect visual example of male gaze”.

Eric Swain also had a reaction to the FFVIII “Squall’s Dead” theory, which I encountered for the first time this week, comparing the idea to a similar reading of Mulholland Drive. (Confession time: I’ve never seen Mulholland Drive.) Swain also asked this week, ‘Where is the last 1/3rd of Brutal Legend?

G Christopher Williams brings his best game this week with two pieces at PopMatter’s Moving Pixels blog; “Is Suda 51 the Alfred Hitchcock of Video Games?” as well as ‘How games might challenge the tyranny of authorship

Jim Rossignol had a remarkably busy week, announcing his follow-up book to 2008’s This Gaming Life. I for one can’t wait for the as-yet untitled work. Rossignol also talked about online communities, the site Rock Paper Shotgun as a community, and a bit about how the infamous Sunday Papers regular feature ties into and reinforces the community.

Kirk Hamilton finds out what it would be like “If my games could talk” with important implications for any backlog of games.

With Bioshock 2 and other sequels having now had time to arrive and settle, sequels in general became a hot topic this week with both Mitch Krpata  and Michael Abbott talking about the proclivity of the industry towards game sequels. Krpata’s piece, ‘Why we need sequels’, appeared just hours before Michael Abbott’s ‘Sequel 101’ so you’d be forgiven for thinking they were working from the same playbook. As always, great minds think alike.

In ‘On my shoulder whispering’ Abbott begins with an exploration of the classical roots of modern tales of heroism and conflict, and ends up talking about how Bioshock 2 resonated with him on the themes of fatherhood.

David Carlton has been thinking about the changing dynamic that spoilers have with respect to shorter, independent games.  It made me rethink my own policy, as it is something that I wrote about earlier this week for my own online diary/blog.

Chris Livingston wrote about Stalker: Call of Pripyat this week, recounting an exciting dynamic and emergent story. I actually had a very similar experience at a similar point in the game, having been playing it this week myself (and it is glorious).

Mike Schiller wrote about ‘Videogames & art as inspired by Autechre’.

Jamin Brophy-Warren editor of Killscreen Magazine wrote at Killscreen on Good about how games are one of the worst media industries for accessibility.

I want to know when The Atlantic gained such a stable of excellent bloggers that talk about videogames. This week A. Serwer wrote an entry called ‘Welcome To Rapture’ and Evan Narcisse hit a homerun with “Wrex in Effect, or, Deep Space and the Negro/Injun/Krogan Problem” (thanks to Kate Simpson for the latter article).

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.

February 14th

February 14th, 2010 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 14th)

This week Frank Lantz was at the Art History of Games conference and he reports back to say that, ‘Doom is too Rock ‘n’ Roll to ever be confined to a museum, man’! But not in quite so many words. The AHoG conference was talk of the town this week, and Charles J Pratt wrote up some of the speakers he heard, covering the opening panel and a talk by the above mentioned Mr. Lantz and John Sharp on ‘avoiding the domestication of game art’.

As a response to some of the things that came out of the conference, Corvus Elrod talks about how dictating what games aren’t through manifestos, etc, can only reduce their cultural relevance. But if you’re looking for a more satirical take, you really can’t go past Matthew Burns’ “The new debate on games as ert” (sic). In the same week he also comes back to finish his series for Edge Online about QA testing ‘In the Dungeon’ with parts two, three and four.

Another new blog began its life this week, by one Amanda Cosmos, and her first post talks about the Global Game Jam and her team’s game ‘Quest for Stick’.

Michael Abbott writes about Mass Effect 2 and what it says about the evolving nature of videogame genres. Abbott:

Bioware knows what we who write about games ought to know better. Genre classifications are essentially meaningless, and it’s time to drop them and move on.

It’s a sentiment echoed to some degree by Jim Rossignol in Rock Paper Shotgun’s latest podcast, episode 38, and it includes a great contextualised discussion of game genres throughout history.

Gus Mastrapa at Wired’s GameLife blog says ‘21st-Century Shooters Are No Country for Old Men.’ At a mere 23, I think even I count as old in this scenario.

Via fellow blogosphere overviewer and synthesiser Erik Hanson comes a tale of ‘Myst as mythology of the hyperlink’.

LB Jeffries adds to the previous week’s discussion of No More Heroes 2, picking out some of its problems. Also on NMH2, Chris Dahlen writes for his Edge column that what the sequel is missing is really ‘the loser mechanic’ from the original.

Denis Farr this week examined the rather baffling choice Bioware made with regard to male-male relationships in Mass Effect 2. Farr highlights a quote from executive producer Ray Muzyka in which he explains the choice to limit any and all Male commander Shepard’s to an essentially straight male role. As Farr notes,

This tells me that I can create my Shepard, but he or she isn’t mine, actually.

Grayson Davis uses a discussion of Uncharted 2 to argue quite convincingly that our vocabulary for discussing videogame graphics remains an ephemeral, hard-to-pin-down thing. Davis wonders,

…why can I quote decade-old reviews of a game that’s only distantly comparable to Uncharted 2 and find the exact same statements, almost verbatim, that I find in today’s criticism? These statements aren’t wrong, but they’re shamefully insufficient.

Peter Kirn at CDM runs down the new music based game ‘Chime that I’ve been hearing good things about. The game is also part of a charity based collective that aims to raise funds for children in need.

After a negative gamer piece early in the week explaining how difficult the Bioshock 2 hacking mini-game is for people with colourblindness, Dan Griliopoulos (who is colourblind himself) writes about the issue for Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

And lastly, Nicholas Shurson formerly of the Form8 blog has started The Game Journal, hoping to attract a mature audience interested in reading about and talking about videogames. This week he’s written about the The Beatles: Rock Band in ‘Come Together’, the second post named for a Beatles song we’ve mentioned in as many weeks.

February 7th

February 7th, 2010 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 7th)

Welcome to the first TWIVGB for February. At this rate, the first anniversary of TWIVGB will be upon us before we know it.

This week Evan Stubbs finishes his three part series of musings on online digital distribution for games.

Daniel Bullard-Bates at Press Pause to Reflect discusses the open world genre in ‘If this is an open world why are all the doors closed?’ Its title reminded me of an older post by Alec Meer at Rock Paper Shotgun, his ode to a “Locked Door”.

At a brand new videogame blog called Post-Hype, Chris Breault asserts that the oft applied metaphor for comparisons with Uncharted 2, that is that it’s like a film, is inaccurate. In fact, he says, ‘Don’t call Uncharted 2 a film’ at all.

David Carlton has been thinking about children’s and adolescent literature and comparing/contrasting the features of that genre with videogames aimed at children and teens. Like his previous application of the fiction/non-fiction literary categories to videogames, The Beatles: Rock Band in particualar, I found Carlton’s line of reasoning both illuminating and persuasive.

At the Borderhouse this week, Rho writes about some of the issues you may have never had to worry about when using voice chat in online games, and Alex Horn discusses ‘Racism and Left 4 Dead 2’, accusing it of papering over important post-Katrina issues it should have addressed.

In ‘Proust was… a game designer?’ Mitu Khandaker explains some of her PhD research work on games in the context of a discussion of John Lehrer’s book “Proust was a neuroscientist”, addressing relationships between the arts (humanities) and sciences.

Michael Abbott talked about No More Heroes 2 this week, and resolved that sometimes better is worse. I have a mixed response to this one because he references a post from a few months ago (which he links to in this newest discussion) where he talked up the virtue of iterative design in the context of the Nintendo DS game Mario & Luigi: Bowsers’ Inside Story and states that at the time he was wrong. I think that’s an easy oversimplification and I can’t help but wonder what the real story is, even if Abbott himself can’t explicate it. It seems to me that whenever there’s (apparent) contradiction there’s almost always something interesting going on. On the same subject, Leigh Alexander wondersif we’ve come to associate creativity with visible flaws?” and if so, that would go some ways to explaining Abbott’s response.

Kirk Hamilton wrote in to let readers know about the new blog he’s started recently with some fellow collaborators. It’s called ‘Gamer melodico’ and his post parodying both Mass Effect 2 and hipster memes gained him some serious popularity. I hope some of the newcomers decide to stick around.

Deirdre Kiai talked this week about a hunch she has that the target audiences for her kickstarter-funded indie game project Life Flashes By and the new apple device the iPad overlap somewhat. She says, “In fact, the intended audience for my game is a lot like the intended audience for the iPad in many ways. I’m not really making a game for gamers.”

Matthew Kaplan relates ‘How videogames helped me talk to my father.

Matthew Burns--Wasteland writes about his time in the dungeon of game testing in which various favourable and not-so-favourable metaphors abound.

Alex Raymond explains what it takes for a game to feel “epic” for her, saying “in order to invoke that sought-after “epic” feeling, a game has to work to show me its scope.”

Jorge and Scott from Experience Points talk about the Halo games in ‘Halo Podcast Evolved‘ and Scott, who has been writing about The Beatles: Rock Band for a while now, talks about the game again in ‘Yesterday’. It’s not too far removed from some of the issues raised in David Carlton’s abovementioned post, discussing the historical aspects of the game.

And lastly, At HardCasual, someone named Greg realises his life has tragically been one long side quest all along.