March 28th

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

Another week, another Week In Videogame Blogging.

This week, Tim Rogers published a multi-part Gonzo style documentary of GDC wherein he spends a week with Bob of ‘Bobs Game’ fame. Your mileage may vary, but there were some interesting sections and it’s certainly a unique take on the GDC experience.

Another big long piece with Tom Bissell’s Observer piece on Videogames, Cocaine and addiction, which is simply stunning. One of my PhD supervisors actually emailed me to ask if I’d read it, so know that it’s certainly making the rounds, and with good reason.

Trent Polack writes on his blog Polycat about ‘The caged destruction of Bad Company 2’. It’s a game I’ve been enjoying this past week as well.

Jorge Albor writes about ‘Controlling emotions in Heavy Rain on the Experience Points blog, and elsewhere Steven O’Dell continues his ‘Origami Collection’ series he started last week with the newest entry ‘Mundane Magic’.

Chris Breault at the Post-Hype blog writes about ‘Starcraft 2’s Biggest Flaw’, and it’s not that the Protoss are overpowered.

For Ada Lovelace Day this week, the Border House ran a huge selection of essays on and interviews with women involved with games and the games industry.

CT Hutt at Press Pause to Reflect talks about how games manage the players level of mental engagement in ‘Playing with your brain’.

Frank Lantz wrote at Game Design Advance about, to quote his tweet, “Jon Blow, Sid Meier, Rob Pardo and truth in game design”, which is to say he skilfully wove a couple of threads together from GDC.

LB Jeffries looks at ‘The Literary Merits of Dante’s Inferno’ for PopMatters.

Michael Abbott at The Brainy Gamer, in a slight departure from his regular writing about videogames, relates a short experiment he conducted with McDonald’s toys for boys and girls, his daughter and finding out which one is more ‘fun’.

March 21st

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

Well, I’m back from my GDC sojourn and I know Eric’s kept you in good stead while I was away. What has the critical games blogosphere been writing about this week?

Alec Meer writes about playing games as a lefty in ‘Southpaw Tales’. A left handed friend of mine once surprised me by, gasp, actually using his left hand on the mouse, and it was somewhat of a revelation at the time. Those of us relatively un-impacted by the right-ist hegemony would do well to pay attention to Meer’s tale.

Annie Wright at Gamer Melodico writes about ‘The Zelda Method Revisited’ which is essentially applying a game-like imaginary goal structure to your day.

James Dilks at No Added Sugar says that Dante’s Inferno is actually a good example of how to do a game-adaption of a literary work.

The author of the Interactive Illuminatus blog has words about the Jesse Schell DICE lecture. It’s the talk that keeps on talking.

CT Hutt at Press Pause to Reflect says, ‘It’s the war economy stupid’ in a discussion of Metal Gear Solid 4. Hutt says,

The current military state of play is a very real game of which all of us are a part, whether we want to be or not. The true kicker is that there is no button to press, virus to upload, or final boss to defeat that is going to make the unpleasant facts just go away.

Also at Press Pause to Reflect, Daniel Bullard-Bates writes ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ which is actually not about the game Beyond Good and Evil but is instead about moral choices.

Chris Green writes has a response to a short piece I wrote this week about roguelike Permadeath’s relative suitability (or lack thereof) for certain games.

At Gamasutra this week Dan Merrill writes on his blog about ‘The Philosophy of Wind Waker’ and Chris Remo analyses System Shock 2 for Structure and Spoilers. David Hayward also writes up GDC’s Farmville future, an impression that I also got from the conference. Incidentally, we’re in the middle of collecting and preparing a Critical Compilation of GDC stories and write-ups. If you attended and wrote anything about this year’s GDC please get in touch so we can include it in the piece.

G. Christopher Williams for PopMatters  writes about ‘The Elegance of the Shotgun’.

Jason McIntosh at The Gameshelf writes about the similarities in market positioning and IP between present-day developer Valve and 1960’s era Marvel Comics. Weird connection I know, but it’s there.

Matthew Kaplan at the Game in Mind blog responds to some link-bait forum post we’re not going to link to here and comes up with an examination of what the hell game studies is actually good for. There’s also a great back-and-forth between Simon Ferrari and Kaplan in the comments that illuminates the discussion from the perspective of someone well and truly on the inside of the games studies institution.

Steven O’Dell at the Raptured Reality blog reflects on his time with Heavy Rain in ‘The Origami Collection: Heavy Hitter’.

This week Lake Desire blogging for The Border House continues a previous series of posts about “Characters Done Right” in games, this particular post being about ‘Midna the Twilight Princess’.

Michael Abbott writes about the GDC panel about character diversity in “What colour is your Hero”. This was a panel I also attended and got a lot out of. Highly recommended reading for any and everyone involved however tangentially in the games industry – this is an issue that has the potential to either doom or super-charge the games industry in the coming decade. To paraphrase Manveer Heir’s comments from the panel, “If the games industry is at the same place it is today in ten years time, we’re fucked.”

You’ll have to forgive me as I was at GDC so I missed this last week, but Quintin Smith has an excellent discussion about the worth in studying Tim Rogers’ games writing and his strange (and oft criticised) style.

On the Games Aren’t Numbers blog John Jackson says ‘Don’t blame me – blame society’ looking at the old standby issue of games acceptance as a cultural form.

March 13th

March 14th, 2010 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on March 13th)

As GDC wraps up and Ben heads on home, the reigns of TWIVGB will return to their rightful hands next week. Of course despite most of the big guns focus being firmly on GDC, there was still plenty to go around.

But, before we get into this week I have a few leftovers I missed from last week. Yes, even after the biggest TWIVGB yet, there’s still more. Chris Breault at post-hype gives his detailed critique of the problems of Jesse Schell’s talk and Scott Juster follows up his partner at Experience Points on gaming as a directorial/actor medium.

The Border House was on fire this week. Starting with Alex responding to Bad Company 2‘s developer on why there are no women in their version of the military. (Hint: next time, developers, the answer is, “We screwed up.”) Then guest contributor Katherine O’Kelly looks at ‘Intersex Characters in Digital Devil Saga.’ And Alex came back to finish the week off with ‘Feminism and Video Games 101: Shooting Female Enemies Isn’t Icky.’

It seems you can’t keep the big ones down as multiple critics come back to take another look around Rapture. Justin Keverne looks at Rapture’s villains as partial entities of SHODAN, because one can never read enough on System Shock 2. Paul at Little bo Beep, a site I just heard about, asks if Bioshock really is a good critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. And Josh Harmon at Quarter Down calls Bioshock 2‘s multiplayer “an Avant-Garde Masterpiece” in a great work of satire that I think may be more on the mark than he’s willing to admit.

In a way, BioShock 2 merely takes the multiplayer shooter to its logical conclusion.  What is a n00b if not a societal leech, attempting to profit from the skill of others without bothering to succeed of his own accord?  What is teabagging if not the Randian artistic ideal, your dominance made manifest in physical, objective form?

Mass Effect 2 also proves its staying power. Chris Breault talks about the ‘Best Story in Mass Effect 2.’ While David Carlton takes a wider look at the game and then at the end does our job by linking to over a dozen posts about it.

The Artful Gamer has a double header this week, first talking about the problems with Heavy Rain as interactive storytelling, then asking the question, ‘When do you call a game a Game?

Roger Travis thinks we should first understand our tabletop relatives before confining our thoughts to the digital screen.

Michael Clarkson explores the concept of ‘Camp‘ in video games.

This week’s Big Red Potion is an in-depth talk taking apart Heavy Rain to its core. Warning: it is over two hours.

Nick of Before Game Design, the day after last week’s TWIVGB, comes back with an even more in-depth explanation of globalization and Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Cruise Elroy looks at the most famous video game theme of all time: Super Mario Brothers.

L.B. Jeffries, instead of just writing the series off, actually plays and figures out Ubisoft’s Imagine series… and then writes it off, with ample supporting evidence.

Eurogamer takes a look into the past at David Cage’s first game and the sheer amount of ideas it contains.

Matthew Kaplan calls Dante’s Infernothe Sincerest Form of Flattery.’

Jorge Albor writes a response to last week’s ‘The Psychology of Video Games.’

And finally, Tales of a Scorched Earth writes a first-rate review of Ghostbusters that contends that too much of it was based on nostalgia rather than any concepts of its own.

Seeya everybody. It’s been a blast.

March 7th

March 7th, 2010 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on March 7th)

Ben is currently away, jetlagged and getting ready for GDC. Hello, my name is Eric and I will be you waiter tonight at This Week in Video Game Blogging. Here are the specials:

For starters we have a few new responses to Jesse Schell’s presentation that popped up this week, most notably Jim Rossignol from Rock, Paper Shotgun and duo Annie Wright/Kirk Hamilton from Gamer Melodico.

By far the most talked about game this week was Heavy Rain. Opinions are all over the place and we can only be thankful that it hasn’t gotten bloody. Michael-the Brainy Gamer-Abbott summed up the major conversation points. Brad Gallaway explains the effect spoilers have on the experience. Shoinan from the You Have Lost! blog explores the dichotomies existent in Heavy Rain: the Player vs. Director aspect of the action and the Win or Choose design setup regarding play. Denis Farr of the Vorpal Bunny Ranch explores the major theme of fathers in the game on his own blog and the extraneous character of Madison at The Border House. Kirk Hamilton rages at the game’s faults that irked him to no end, including the controls, while Mitch Krpata defends them in ‘What’s wrong with Heavy Rain’s controls?’ I think, however, I will give the last word to Julian Murdoch from the Gamers with Jobs who states:

A year from now, when the initial bloom is off the rose of this game, and we poke holes at its flaws, I believe designers will look back at these three things and say, “Those were craftsman at the top of their game.”

Two bloggers dust off Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for examination. Amanda Lange looks at the different design elements and how they are entertaining. Harry Milonas looks to an iconic tune of the courtroom.

Several bloggers advocate looking at video games through a different medium’s critical lens. None of them advocate movies, at least not this week. Lyndon of Digital Kicks looks at game narrative as one would look at narrative in a painterly medium and Jorge Albor examines certain games through the lens of a performance medium. Kirk Hamilton (once again) writes an extension of Chris Dahlen’s proposition of looking at games as if they were music. He ends his post with:

When addressing a medium as immature and constantly fluctuating as games, we would be foolish to focus on any single yardstick. We need a multitude! Music, literature, design, architecture, storytelling, dramatic performance, and yes, cinema – all of those forms have been in existence for far longer than what we now think of as “games.” We simply can’t view games in terms of any one pre-existing form, nor can we pretend that gaming is mature enough to be criticized entirely on its own terms.

Before charting off, our own Ben Abraham posted about the use of postmodern-style unreliability in narrator and narrative in games.

And in a switch Ben sends me a post by Robert Yang on the expressive potential of Half-Life 2 character models and the importance of bridging more than just the visual uncanny valley.

Last week L.B. Jeffries went back to analyzing multiplayer and took a look at the map structure in Modern Warfare 2 while this week he turned his critical eye to video game review ideology.

Jonathan McCalmont from looks at racial essentialism as an out of date sci-fi genre trope and its use in Mass Effect 2.

Troy Goodfellow takes a gander at some of the literary adaptations video games have tried.

James Madigan over at Gamasutra gives the most thorough and scientific reasoning why it’s best to stick to your friend’s list.

The boys over at the Experience Points podcast discuss the use of examining the history of video game design as lessons for the future.

G. Christopher William over at Popmatters says, “Sorry Dante, but your princess is in another castle.”

Nick from Before Game Design examines Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and explains its view of globalization.

Daniel Bullard Bates from Press Pause to Reflect writes on what type of foundation the inevitable Bioshock 3 will have to stand on based on the efforts of the first two.

Gunthera1 looks at ‘Game difficulty settings.’ This is a post where the discussion in the comments really shines, so check them out.

Grayson Davis looks at Tropico 3 and other management games effect his emotions via the ‘humanizing power of numbers.’

At Vector Poem they look at ‘Lessons from Doom‘.

And finally, in a post that slipped under the radar from a few weeks ago, Spencer Greenwood came back out of the aether, proving he’s still got the writing chops and using them to prove the disingenuous arguments of “an irrelevant reactionary”.

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.