Before we get into the meat of this week’s post, a big hello to our favourite Kotaku intern, Lauren, who we know is a huge fan. Hi Lauren!
Denis Farr at the Vorpal Bunny Ranch wrote this week about an experience he had on a commuter train. I‘ll bet many readers will have had a similar experience with someone looking down their nose at gaming. It’s somewhat less usual, however, to have been told that instead of gaming on the train, they should perhaps consider gardening.
Michael Abbott at the Brainy Gamer wrote this week about the appropriately Seinfeldian ‘Slow Loader’ that is ModNationRacers. Abbott has also been at the Games Learning and Society Conference in Madison, Wisconsin that ran this week, meeting lots of teachers and professionals interested in games, many of whom wouldn’t classify themselves as “gamers”. It sounds like a very productive and positive mix.
If you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage of the GLS Conference however, look no further than David Carlton’s posts on Malvasia Bianca, chronicling his three days at the conference. There’s a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday post, each devoted to the sessions he attended on the day.
Kirk Hamilton looks at physical intimacy in games for Gamer Melodico, picking a handful of examples from recent titles and looking at which ones succeed and why. In the same week, Hamilton also returned to Red Dead Redemption for some more in-depth thoughts on ‘The flawed ballad of John Marston’.
The prolific Michael Clarkson also wrote more about Red Dead Redemption for his blog Discount Thoughts this week. First with ‘The Gringos who saved Mexico’, in which Clarkson expresses disappointment in the narrative trope of outside interlopers intervening to save helpless Mexicans, and in the second, ‘The “real” John Marston’, he attempts to explain the character’s ‘bundle of contradictory messages’
Paul Sztajerat at the hard to pronounce PDYXS blog has been playing Mass Effect and writing about it in a lengthy, in-depth critical style. Here’s what he says about the ongoing project,
I want to look at the deeper thematic ideas of the game while examining the density of ideas. So I’m going to treat Mass Effect more like a TV show, as an episodic (and probably highly serialised) experience that’s split by its missions.
The videogame link with this next piece is… tenuous but I’m going to include it anyway. LB Jeffries talks to the creator of the “Michael Bublé being stalked by a velociraptor” meme. It relates tangentially to videogames however as Jeffries locates the quirky tumblr feed in the same tradition as the “hidden object” genre of games, which are themselves under-served by critical appraisal, in spite of their considerable popularity.
Kieron Gillen at Rock Paper Shotgun looks at a piece of news reported in the UK’s Telegraph, reporting that Russia wants to spend a bit over $10m on “patriotic” videogames to counter anti-Russian sentiment. On the surface, it’s propaganda plain and simple, and yet:
On the other hand, they’ve kind of got a point. To paraphrase Grant Morrison’s line, America is the first Empire to rule the world with light. I’d argue that by far the largest proportion of real-world-set games have a firm pro-American slant. And if it has a pro-American slant, it looks for its enemies where it can find it, and tends towards demonising or ridiculing them. Hence, Russia’s treatment.
Also at RPS, John Walker takes an in-depth look at a rather credible study that examines the issue of whether a predisposition in a person affects whether they will be adversely affected by violent videogames. Walker’s conclusion seems solid,
It’s important to pay serious attention to the findings of the many studies over the decades that have demonstrated, as shown in this latest paper, that violent games do leave those with a predisposition to violence more likely to commit violence. However, it’s equally important to understand that the violent games do not create violent pathologies in their players, as is repeatedly claimed by many attempting to denounce gaming.
That same study is part of a larger special issue of the journal ‘Review of General Psychology’, entirely devoted to videogames and psychology.
This week, Deirdra Kiai wrote for the Border House blog that, ‘We need more women in Indie Games’. As an independent developer herself, she’s certainly in a better position than most to assess the issue and look at some of the reasons for the striking gender imbalance.
Charles J Pratt gave a short talk at a different New York games conference to the aforementioned one, being instead the Games for Change festival of a few weeks back. He posted the text of it online this week, in which he describes playing Shadow Complex in IronMan mode as the most fun he has with the game. Pratt has a couple of interesting points, the most salient being just how personal the method of play can be, noting that:
My experience with this game seemed so different at the time from the one that most people were having that it became clear to me that to say we were playing the same game was really a disservice to everyone.
And lastly for the week, Gian Mancuso at the Systems of Play blog posted his lengthy essay on the subject of ‘A common framework for storytelling in games’. It contains such promising and provocative headings as: “Experiencing Story through Play”, “But What about Characters?”, “Agency” and “Conflicts and Coherence in Dynamic Plot”. (You might have also seen the post on the Game Carer Guide website.)