February 27th

February 27th, 2011 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 27th)

Last year I took over the reins of TWIVGB when Ben went gallivanting off to GDC; now a year later (holy shit it’s been a year), I’m doing the same. So here’s This Week in Videogame Blogging.

Before leaving us Ben Abraham wrote a post entitled “Cahiers du multijoueur,” a pun on the famous French film criticism magazine, where he talks about the lack of multiplayer criticism, why that is, and how he believes he can rectify that fact. Later in the week he gave us his first attempt to try and convey the experience of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Rock Paper Shotgun continues its ongoing battle with Fox News over a piece that contends that Bulletstorm will lead to a rise in rapes, when Fox News fires back at Rock, Paper Shotgun, calling their attempts “so-called journalism.” Then Jerry Weichman, the one person other than the Fox News reporter that RPS hadn’t been able to reach, contacted them to clarify his position regarding his quote.

Scott Juster talks in PopMatters about his frustration with the recent multiplayer Nintendo platforms and the intent of their designers. Here are a few more thoughts from Scott on his own blog Experience Points.

Also over at PopMatters, Nick Dinicola looks at the most recent Medal of Honor as an apolitical, slice of life game, where the slice of life happens to be of a soldier. He concludes,

There aren’t many games that can relate a theme without a story, but the campaign in Medal of Honor pulls it off. It’s strange to say that it succeeds because it lacks so many staples of a normal narrative, but it’s true. It’s just a slice of wartime life and that’s a refreshing change of pace from all the other bombastic, macho, over the top shooters.

Meanwhile, G. Christopher Williams again looks at Dead Space 2 and how he misses the details of the game, because of the game itself. His wife, as a spectator, sees the disturbing imagery all too well.

For some performances to work, for some aesthetics to be appreciated, the player does need to shift into the role of spectator, at times.  Maybe I should know that I’m playing a game full of copious amounts of monstrous vaginas. Maybe that actually means something or maybe it would mean something to my sense of what Dead Space really concerns itself with if I just had a moment to look.

George Collazo at Unwinnable decided to follow Tea Party doctrine in Civilization V and see if he could survive. See how it went in two parts.

Monica Potts at The American Prospect wrote “Moral Combat: Why do liberals play computer games like conservatives?” It is an interesting piece that talks about the inherent authorial nature of rule systems in simulation games. Though not in those terms, because most people don’t know them.

Adam Ruch at his blog flickeringcolours v2 goes over a number of words whose use in Game Studies has become so broad and undefined they lose meaning and their descriptive power to inform another person.

Tadhg Kelly at What Games Are writes about the difference in purpose and execution between simulations and simulacra.

Jay Barnson, a.k.a. Rampant Coyote, explains to everyone, but especially indie game makes, what a Game Producer/Manager/Leader actually does, and their vital importance to a project’s success.

Johnathan Holmes at Destructoid looks at the portrayal of women in games using the old dichotomy of the whore/evil girl and nun/good girl with Bayonetta and Peach as the examples.

At Gamers with Jobs, Colleen Hannon describes an average evening of gaming at her house to explain to a friend how she is able to enjoy what to many are dull and overwrought games. Most importantly it introduces a way others may experience their games in a manner that differs from what is considered the standard by designers and players.

He made me think. I’m not sure I’m ready to draw any conclusions from this. But I do know a lot of people who play games his way-mono-focused and in the mancave-and I do wonder about the barrier created by game design, or even criticism, that only considers his way of playing.

Courtney Stanton at her blog Here’s a Thing, decides to answer the question designers keep asking, ‘what women want in games,’ with the novel idea of asking them.

Jason Killingsworth examines relationships and their portrayal in Ico and Enslaved.

Mike Dunbar at Chronoludic writes his interpretation of the videogame version of The Prisoner and the play space known as the Village.

Zach Alexander pauses to discuss “a moment of violence.

Again, this post isn’t a conversation about right/wrong/good/bad. As a rule, performative violence-the not-so-subtle idea that violence can be metaphorical[1]-is a concept our brains can probably handle quite comfortably in games, movies, TV, and everyday language…it’s probably a part of us at the basest level, and we embrace the performance while simultaneously denying its literalness. We pretend that shooting people in the face and carving up Necromorphs is just a mechanic.

Max Lieberman at Boom Culture writes down his first impressions of Alan Wake, which is more like a close reading of the first few hours without any knowledge of what comes later.

Jonathan Gourlay writes “Fear and Gaming: Being and Nothingness and ‘Minecraft’: an existentialist account of loss, loneliness, and life all through the eyes of a minecrafter and a father.

Tiffany Nevin goes undercover at GameCrush for Gaming Angels and finds out what they pay-to-play service is all about.

Maggie Greene is back. On her own blog she explains videogame piracy in China, how it revolves around the concept of “price is still king,” the translations issue, and why the result is worthy of study.

And finally the people at Extra Credits made “An Open Letter to EA Marketing.” The video has gotten some serious legs this week, passing around the game community with a determined effort (and succeeding last I heard) to get it to the executives at EA.

February 20th

February 20th, 2011 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 20th)

It’s that time again – time to fight the urge to crawl under a rock to escape death rays from the sun while compiling a list of the more interesting pieces of writing, blogging and criticism from around the web. It could only ever be This Week In Videogame Blogging.

This calendar week, blogger Ashelia wrote on her personal tumblr some stinging criticisms of the characters of Left 4 Dead 2 in “Axe me a question”. It’s some criticisms I share, personally, and it makes me all the more excited to hear the news of the original Fab Four’s imminent arrival to the sequel. Ashelia’s criticism begins with the character of Rochelle, but expands outwards to encompass the rest of the quartet. It’s criticism from a place of love though, truly.

Mitu Khandaker announced her arrival at Game Set Watch this week with a first post in a new series called ‘Gambrian Explosion’ – more a statement of intent at this introductory stage, but well worth reading to get excited about where she’s going with it.

Max Lieberman of the Boom Culture blog tried to spark a conversation about the ‘gamification of learning’ – employing so-called ‘gamification’ tactics such as points, rewards, badges, etc in the classroom. It’s a piece called ‘Narrative in Games-Based Learning’.

The best thing I read all week was an exchange of letters between author Tom Bissell and academic/critic Simon Ferrari, hosted by Paste Magazine. It covers a lot of ground but the locus it moves around is game narrative, writing and response. Strong stuff.

Eric Lockaby at The Last Metaphor, who we’ve linked to before, has kept up the steady trickle of excerpts from his novel ‘Kickaround Nixon’ and is now up to the 6th part. Here’s the synopsis of events so far:

Hunted by a murderous virgin bride…haunted by the American Dream…semi-dead househusband Nick Sunder escapes into the 1983 U.S. National Video Game Tournament, where he stumbles upon a bizarre and perilous Cold War plot.

Oh yes, it was Valentine’s Day this week, and Gay Gamer’s blogger Super Swede posted ‘A valentine from Andrew Ryan’ delivered in typical Randian fashion:

One of your writers recently asked my opinion of the celebration of February the fourteenth, a holiday that uses the Christian superstition of “Saint” Valentine as a vehicle for the expression of our most despicable urges: doting upon those with whom we find ourselves in the pitiful waltz we call “love.”

Russia Today has an interview up with Navid Khonsari of Grand Theft Auto fame. Here’s the video’s description from YouTube:

Games are really a reflection of the real world and it does not really make a difference what somebody says is good or bad — it is a matter of perspective. That is according to director, producer and writer of documentaries and videogames Navid Khonsari, the man behind the Grand Theft Auto series. He spoke to RT about his new project dealing with American-Iranian relations some three decades ago – a new game about the takeover of American embassy in Tehran called “1979: The Game”.

The SteelRiverSavior blog is another cool little blog I’ve only just heard about. ‘Ludens Is a Cough Drop’ from this week is a great read:

In the first few pages of “Beyond Good and Evil”, Nietzsche taught me the most important lesson of my life.  Everything that has ever been written was written by a person with their own mind, their own thoughts and prejudices, their own opinions.  This colors everything, almost always unintentionally. This is why I hate people who reject the notion that games can be art.

Pippin Barr writing for his personal blog about the opposite of permadeath in games has been playing Half-Life 2 in god-mode, which I remember doing with the first game when I was younger. He informs us that surprisingly:

…there was much less of the “this is meaningless” experience in my playing than I’d anticipated. Instead, the overriding emotional tone of the game became, for me, that of being a kind of immortal psychopathic hero.

At the Vorpal Bunny Ranch blog Denis Farr writes about a family history of gaming, and reflects in particular upon his mother’s engagement with games, in ‘Trade Wars to Facebook Games’:

At this point, my mother has been playing MMOs and online games longer than most people I’ve met. Rather than continue to suffer the toll of being a female gamer in an environment that still seeks to estrange a veteran, I can hardly blame her for creating her own games with their appropriate boundaries out of what’s available.

For the online blog portion of KillScreen Magazine, J. Nicholas Geist wrote about ‘Violence remembered and forgotten’.

Auntie Pixelante posted on her blog the words and slides from a talk she gave this week about her game Mighty Jill Off :

in 2008 i made a game called MIGHTY JILL OFF. it’s inspired by a 1987 nintendo game called mighty bomb jack – a difficult game – and it’s about the masochistic impulses that players of challenging games have. they want to be challenged, they want to prove themselves, they want to be allowed to advance through the game’s challenges – but only once they’ve earned it. as in all consensual masochism, though, there is the everpresent issue of trust.

M. Suliman newly of the blog Mending the Wall, formerly of Bergsonian Critique, wrote this week about ‘The Two Voices of Isaac Clarke’:

when Visceral Games decided to give the mechanical engineer Isaac Clarke a voice in Dead Space 2, who has remained practically mute in the original Dead Space, they also had to give him a new personality to go along with it. Because, as it turns out, it is inevitably difficult to tell a story like the one in Dead Space 2—a story that refocuses its tension on the monsters occupying the human psyche rather than those on the outside—without having its leading character utters a grievance or a closer examination on what is truly going on. In other words (and pun is desperately intended here) what has resulted from this voice transplant is two Isaac Clarkes: one whose psychology is the same as the player, and one who is diagnostically different.

The author of the Go Make Me A Sandwich blog takes an unapologetic look at the character of Yuna from Final Fantasy X-2:

Yuna manages to be a strong, well-rounded character who never loses sight of herself or her ideals. And maybe best of all, she manages to save the day and rescue the prince instead of being the damsel in distress.

The Critical Missive blog turns its critical eye to the Smithsonian’s “Art of Videogames” exhibition in ‘Close, but not 1-UP’.

While the efforts of the Smithsonian are undoubtedly appreciated by gamers worldwide (and I am certainly one such gamer), after a closer look at the arrangement of the exhibit and the selection process for inaugurating new games, I found myself increasingly sceptical as to the validity of the exhibit.

Almost as if in answer to some of Critical Missive’s concerns, the Rock Paper Shotgun team have spent the past week working on ‘The Very Important List of PC Games’, in 6 out of 5 parts. It’s limiting its scope to just PC Games, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more exhaustive list, or one that included so much detail about why these are important games.

We haven’t heard from the Fabula Ex-Machina blog for a while, what’ve they been up to? Paul Sztajer writes in to let us know – thinking about ‘stakes’ (aka consequences) and death in games, that’s what.

There’s too much good stuff to go around this week, apologies to anyone who sent stuff in that didn’t get a mention. I’ll leave you with an imposingly long essay by Erik Germani of the blog Weapons Grade Ennui titled ‘Play of the Land’, which purports to be about the use of topography in turn based strategy. I’ve not had a chance to read much past the opener yet, but the start leaves me extremely optimistic:

In videogames, there is deep appeal in leveraging your surroundings. Luckily, games have long encouraged our inner Jason Bournes. You’ve encountered it before, when you shot those combustible barrels carelessly strewn about in every corridor shooter, or when you hurled a car at a henchman in Freedom Force and he flew back three blocks like he was a small marble and the car was a much larger marble made of nitroglycerine. How about uppercutting Scorpion onto a spike bed in Mortal Kombat, grabbing a bat in Double Dragon, or every single game which makes you play matador with a charging boss? But these are diversions, not core gameplay; one genre in particular does more than just weaponize the environment.

Next week I’ll be away and busily attending the Game Developers Conference, but don’t despair – the irrepressible Eric Swain will be filling in.  If you’re attending GDC and spot me either on the street or in the convention halls don’t hesitate to say hello!

February 13th

February 13th, 2011 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 13th)

Another week, and another attempt at corralling the week’s most interesting and engaging writing, blogging and criticism of videogames into one place.

First up: Duncan Fyfe’s ‘Bad Dreams’ at Life Starts Here. In his latest short story, Fyfe touches on the perennial bug-bear topic of developer-journalist relationships, with the main thread of the story revolving around a game PR representative and her interactions with a retiring videogame journalist. His characters are incredibly vivid and multifaceted, dropping the kind of one-liners and quizzical observations one expects from writers of the calibre of Aaron Sorkin. But Fyfe also cleverly places some biting critiques into the mouths of his characters: Mass Effect 2 and Gears of War both receive very pointed examinations, and as these are delivered via specific characters they feel more… attached to a specific perspective than they would if these criticisms appeared in a critical essay. Fyfe’s ‘Bad Dreams’ is one of this week’s must reads.

But wow, this next piece also knocked me off my feet – one of the great things about doing this job is I occasionally get to share amazing gems like the following: the authors of the ‘They Came From The Deep’ blog write about the ideological presentation of war and the battlefield in Advance Wars:

Advance Wars at its simplest is an abstraction, an ‘ideal war’: it is no war you have ever seen, but it is in its own way deeply reminiscent of any modern war. However its almost geometric simplicity and focus on the superiority of attack brings to mind the ‘ideal war’ not of Clausewitz himself—who oft stressed the superiority of defense— but the Clausewitz many late Prussian and early German strategists imagined and assumed to exist.

At The Border House blog, Denis Farr chats with independent game developer Deirdra Kiai about her recently released game ‘Life Flashes By’, talking about a range of issues, including Kiai’s philosophy of character design:

…I never really understood the game design philosophy in which one puts as little “character” in a player character as possible so that players can have an easier time projecting themselves into said character. And that’s a valid stance to have in, say, MMOs, where the players actually shape the system itself; however, in single player games, what you really wind up getting is a character who represents either the game designers or whatever marketing believes the largest demographic for the game in question is going to be.

Aaron Poppleton at PopMatters’ Moving Pixels blog writes on ‘The Cybernetic Conundrum: Posthumanism and ‘Dead Space’’:

…the game’s narrative serves as a caution against the fusion of man and technology, while at the same time finding that very fusion necessary to saving the day. However, the Necromorphs represent a level of posthuman development that extends far further than the protagonist of Dead Space is willing to go—the point at which humanity is erased, allowing for the rise of the posthuman.

Scott Juster talks about ‘Race in Rapture: Black Characters in BioShock 2 and Minerva’s Den‘.

The blog Play The Past has been firing on all cylinders recently, and Mark Sample injects more fuel into the blog-engine this week with a piece on ‘Containing the Past With Virtual Prisons’.

This disappearance of institutional sites of imprisonment and interrogation in videogames, replaced by on-the-spot interrogation is an example of what Ian Bogost calls procedural rhetoric, the implicit or explicit argument a computer model makes. In the case of videogames set in the war on terror, the games model a version of torture-interrogation that eliminates prisons, replacing a bureaucratic, systemic structure of containment and abuse with an individualized, heroic quest for the truth.

William Weir at The Atlantic traces the history of videogame music ‘From the Arcade to the Grammys’.

A long essay from Max at the Boom Culture blog, ‘On inhabiting false realities’, it’s one of those pieces that takes a long and circuitous route to get to it’s point (as it relates to games, anyway) but the scenery is fantastic so you might enjoy the ride:

…this is really the essential difference between news (a worldview) and games (a false world): durability. “I like to build universes which do fall apart,” [Philip K.] Dick confesses. I would argue that most game developers also build fragile universes, although this is usually a function of limited ambition and questionable execution rather than intention.

A pair of posts from The Escapist magazine this week; first is Rob Zacny’s examination of Alan Wake and how it embodies the story of its own creation:

From its opening scenes, Alan Wake is a chronicle of creative frustration and insecurity. The game opens on a dream in which Wake is hunted by a deranged hitchhiker. As the hitchhiker pursues Wake toward a lighthouse, he screams, “It’s not like your stories are any good! It’s not like they have any artistic merit. Cheap thrills and pretentious shit. That’s all you’re good for. Just look at me! Look at your work!” Then, in a line that sets up the rest of the game, he asks, “How does it feel to die at the hands of your own creation?”

The second from The Escapist is Michael Samyn of Tale of Tales, articulating an argument about the wider social relevance of games (or lack thereof) in a post entitled ‘Almost Art’.

…in terms of cultural relevance, social importance and aesthetic impact, videogames still play second fiddle to cinema, literature or music, because underneath their superficial artistic appearance, videogames are bland, unforgiving, meaningless, cold-blooded, rigid systems. These systems offer a context for goal-oriented, rules-based experiences that already have a place in society: next to other games. Since nothing new is happening here, society is not affected.

Pippin Barr writing for his personal blog this week about Minecraft and the allure of the Spawn Point:

Standing out there in the unknown really brought home how important the spawn point is in Minecraft. You could build a house anywhere on the surface of the giant (infinite) planet, but your true home would still be the spawn point. Naturally enough, too, since “from the spawn point we come, and to the spawn point we will return.” The spawn point is very literally the centre of your existence in the world of the game.

Kirk Hamilton, games editor for Paste Magazine, talked about how the phrase ‘Over The Top’ has permeated game marketing, indicating a very specific attitude to maturity, seriousness and content (it’s also an attitude that, when called into question, sees developers react quite defensively about):

Over the past few years, a new marketing buzzphrase has taken hold in the world of gaming: “Over The Top.” Those three words contain a plethora of implications—this game is going to be raunchy and violent, unrealistic and unserious.

And while we’re at Paste, check out Michael Thomsen’s discussion of ‘The Wii Plays’, a series of plays inspired by Nintendo Wii games:

You won’t find a Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, or GoldenEye riff here. Instead the stories derive from games most fans would rather steamroll into oblivion. Alien Monster Bowling LeagueBob the Builder: Festival of FunBurger Island, and Barbie Island Princess. Games like these are directly responsible for the stereotyped shovelware that’s larded the Wii’s game library, forming an apocryphal corpus that only the lowing casual player could be tricked into buying.

At the Second Person Shooter blog, Laura Michet talks about the lessons she took away from running an ARG game called ‘Humans vs. Zombies’. It comes in two parts.

And lastly, at the Up Up Dn Dn blog Jason Killingsworth gazes longingly out the windows of Dead Space 2 in ‘Gloom with a View’. And yet,

…the gorgeous views of space provided by these window panels could be read in a far more sinister way. They’re a monumental tease, for one thing, providing glimpses of heaven from inside The Sprawl’s apocalyptic hell. Like golden sunlight filtering through a barred prison window, illuminating a world from which you are irreparably divorced.

That’s it for the week – don’t forget you can always send in your own recommendations via twitter or email.

It’s time for another episode of the Critical Distance Confab. Before we get into it, a little background information. Right around the last podcast a debate sprung up over Ben’s refusal to allow comments on his personal blog, finding them not worth worth the time and effort. This had been his policy since starting his new blog, but after reading his post Rhetorical Questions many wanted to engage with the post and found they couldn’t. The discussion/argument moved to twitter, as it often does, and became one about the nature and usefulness of comments.

This episode sees the two sides come head to head to tackle this point in person. (Okay, not quite in person, but you know what I mean.) Do we live in a post comment world or a post-comment world?

A note: the audio sounds strange at certain points (aka every time I try to say something) because of a recording error. All other audio was unaffected and I managed to get most of what I said unwarped and pieced back together. I left an untouched segment of my voice after the closing music to give you a taste of what I fixed.


Eric Swain: The Game Critique

Ben Abraham: i am Ben Abraham

Ian Miles Cheong: Stillgray

Adrian Forest: Three Parts Theory


Rhetorical Questions

Why Daring Fireball is Comment Free

Derek Powazek on Comments

Rock, Paper, Shotgun, And Why We Need To Make Publications Into Homes OR Maybe Just Local Pubs

Direct Download

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

February 6th

February 6th, 2011 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on February 6th)

Another week, another agglomeration of the week’s best blogging, writing and criticism of videogame from around the blogosphere.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the week’s big story, so I’ll get it out of the way first, and boy does it have legs – the Penny Arcade ‘Dickwolves’ saga seems to have spread its tendrils to the four corners of the interwebs, and sparking up a million discussions all over the place. Without taking away from any of the other responses, I’m only going to link to Leigh Alexander’s excellent treatment of the issue in her post at Sexyvideogame Land, ‘Love means sometimes having to say you’re sorry’.

A duo from Denis Farr – first at GayGamer writing about a Global Game Jam 11 game ‘HIV Extinctinction 1981’:

The game itself? Not particularly long. Not particularly flashy. In fact, not incredibly engaging in terms of its gameplay. The message it has? Much more intrigued by such–especially as it treats someone who could have HIV as a person, rather than some diseased leper we must ignore.

The second, at his blog ‘The Vorpal Bunny Ranch’ continues his series looking at Half-Life 2 characters, this time about the taciturn Gordon Freeman and the tension present while playing a silent protagonist character who we know has some character of his own.

Farr is not the only one to write about silent protagonists this week, as Lauren Wainwright at the ‘Daily Girl Attack Panic Super HD Remix’ blog (surely a candidate for best blog title in the world) wrote about the formerly silent protagonist that is Dead Space’s Isaac Clark. For Wainwright, ‘Silence is Golden’:

It’s such a strange thing when you think about it because it wasn’t until I was nearing the end of the original Dead Space that I realised Isaac hadn’t uttered a single word. It wasn’t essential for him to say anything and it was his silence that did more for Dead Space than an overly dramatic script could have ever achieved. The feeling was already there and layering over any more theatrics would have killed it.

Wired’s Jonah Lehrer digs up one of the most interesting game-related stories in recent memory – ‘Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code’ may not strictly be about a video­game, but it’s not far off and is well worth reading.

At Waxy.org Andy Baio has begun cataloguing all the ‘Games about Games’, or any game with some kind of meta-function, meta-message, or met-mechanic. Meta! And since first posting it’s already been updated with a game I was going to suggest adding to the list, so it looks like this should end up being pretty comprehensive.

Clint Hocking at his Click Nothing blog has posted Part 6 of his ongoing, always provocative series ‘Convergence Culture’, which is essentially just an interesting rationale for episodic content and games as content platforms. But interesting, nonetheless.

At the excellent Play The Past blog, Roger Travis talks about ‘Emergent gameplay, bardic style’.

And at Gamasutra, Simon Parkin looks back on Dante’s Inferno one year from release.

At the new blog ‘The Gwumps’, Richard Dillio has realised that he’s growing old, primarily because it’s been ten years since Baldurs Gate 2 came out. I have some seriously fond memories of that game, and it’s one with some really clever features to boot. Here’s Dillio:

…the set-up here is pretty clever: the game has just made side-quests an integral part of moving forward, by attaching the mundane but ever important problem of financing to your lofty goal of killing the bad guy.  Normally, this kind of stuff is meta-gamed into the process.  Items cost money, so go out, kill some monsters and come back when you’re not a broke chump.  In this instance, however, the game itself is demanding the money from you.  The side-quests are no longer some half-assed walk into the woods, but a way to earn dough, to literally move the plot forward.

According to Matthew Breit, the ever growing list of ‘People Who Were A Game Designer Include Harold Ramis’. I’ll admit it, I had to Google who Harold Ramis was and now I feel stupid. In hindsight, Groundhog Day really is the greatest game never made.

At The Ludologist, Jesper Juul has a fascinating discussion about play strategies for Bejeweled Blitz – that time limited variation on the Match-3 classic which has gained such popularity on Facebook. Juul:

It was only when I saw the status updates from my high-scoring Facebook friends that I began to search seriously for deeper strategies in the game. There is competition with the other players, of course, but simply knowing that the game has depth fundamentally alters the way I play.

Okay, I’m really only linking to this next piece – ‘Pokémon trainers are disturbed and depraved’ – because it’s an homage/pastiche of this piece by Hunter S Thompson. Any excuse’ll do. I’m not sure this… re-imagining, lets call it, quite captures the tone or possess the same level of wit, nor HST’s powers of observation, but then again who does? Oh and it comes in two parts.

While we’re talking Pokémon, Brendan Keogh has been playing the games, and now he’s written about ‘Thieves, Poachers, Pokemon, and Me’.

Sebastien Wuepper wrote a most vitriolic screed about Demons’ Souls this week, saying anyone who likes the game is bluffing, because it’s just so damn hard:

So why do people like it? They don’t. They pretend to. Oh it’s so good and gratifyingly hard. No it’s not. It’s just bullshit. You don’t like it. You just say you do so that maybe people will look up to you for being such a badass hardcore motherfucker to endure an experience like this.

Tireless contributor Eric Swain sent in a trio of video interviews with Interplay’s Brian Fargo as part of the YouTube video series ‘Matt Chat’. The first, episode 89, is about the classic games Bard’s Tale and Wizardry. I say classic because that’s what I’ve been told, not because I actually know or anything. Episode 90 deals with Wasteland and Fallout (the latter of which I do know is a classic), and Episode 91 is about ‘The Fall of Interplay’. I haven’t had time to watch them all yet, but could someone tell me if they ever mention my favourite Interplay game, Starfleet Academy? That’s another game I have extremely fond memories of.

At Spectacle Rock, Chris Klimas writes this week about ‘Secrets and Intentionality’.

Ben Kuchera at Ars Technica this week builds a convincing case that Dead Space 2’s fictional religion ‘Unitology’ is actually a sustained and pointed critique of a similar sounding real-world religion. No points for guessing which one.

At the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog, Kris Ligman looks LittleBigPlanet 2 and how the game treats gender in a post titled ‘Sackpersonhood: Constructing a Rhetoric of Player Identification’:

These games are meant as Western child-rearing in a nutshell, deliberately multicultural and gender-inclusive, actively encouraging self discovery and mutable identification. There’s just the little problem of its execution. Or rather, how it sets up and fails to deliver where it counts.

And Ligman’s blogmate at PopMatters, G. Christopher Williams, wrote ‘Namelessness, Thy Name Is Monkey’ about the game Enslaved, discussing the significance of Monkiey’s lack of a better name.

At the Border House blog Quinnae looks at another character done right in games – Kreia of Knights of the Old Republic 2, who really was an interesting character, wasn’t she?

And lastly, for the week, Jonathan McCalmont writes about ‘Heavy Rain: Free Will and Quick Time Events’. Here’s a taste:

Quick time events not only have a questionable heritage as a mechanic, they also feel like a betrayal of the tacit social contract between developers and gamers. People play video games in order to control the action on screen, but quick time events reduce the level of this control to particular buttons at particular times. This reduced level of interactivity makes gamers feel deprived of agency, like passive members of the audience. It is not what they are used to. Given these expectations, Heavy Rain’s reliance upon quick time events is not only brave; it is nothing short of revolutionary.