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Hello and welcome to another sumptuous and satisfying edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging. Ben Abraham is stepping out again this week and Eric Swain is busy with the Critical Distance podcast so it is left to me, your newcomer editor Kris Ligman, to provide your links this week. Yes, I know, I’m excited too. So without further ado, let’s dig in.

We start off this week with an ode to Monster Tale from the ever-erudite Michael Abbott.

How do I ignore thee, Monster Tale?
Let me count the ways.
I overlook thy most generic of generic names.
I scorn thy tedious kids-save-the-world conceit.
I disdain thy prosaic box art.
I yawn at thy derivative anime stylings.
I scoff at thy clinging to 2004 technology.

These truths evident, Monster Tale, tell me why
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach. Or at least as much as Castlevania.

Another piece by Michael Abbott from his Brainy Gamer blog looks at styles of abstraction in art and design represented in recent indie successes, “Driven to abstraction”: “We bemoan the derivative nature of games, and we’re fed a steady stream of imitative designs that prove the point. But focusing on threadbare tropes and overused mechanics may cause us to overlook the astonishingly creative work being produced by game designers experimenting with form, representation, and abstraction.”

In a similar vein, John Walker over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun takes aim at development-stifling genre conventions and argues there is one place where “genre crossing” is thriving: “Do you know? It’s casual games.”

Raptured Reality’s Steven O’Dell laments the quick turnover of commercial titles like Super Mario Galaxy:

Nobody seems to care that Super Mario Galaxy, a game that released in 2007, still has a lot to say about the status of the platformer genre, or where Mario as a franchise currently sits. In some respects, why should they? That game has a sequel and practically everything else does these days too. But that attitude, that approach to the medium where only the current — which gets forgotten about once the next big thing arrives — and future matter, is dangerous and is one I wish would change.

And you’ve all seen the anti-smoking ad of a mocked-up Breakout styled game with a set of lungs and a cigarette, yes? Bothered by this analogy, Chris DeLeon at Georgia Tech’s Newsgames blog went and made a functional game based on the image.

Over on Electron Dance, Joel Goodwin has an in-depth analysis into the role of privacy (and voyeurism) in Christine Love’s new visual novel, don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story. Writes Goodwin,

The students make me think of people who don’t use their vote, forgetting how hard people have fought for that vote throughout history and how some people are still fighting for it right now. These are people typically subjected to indiscriminate surveillance without checks and balances.

If not everybody signs up for the glass society, those who remain behind walls will hold all of our lives hostage. I hope DTIP scared you as much as it scared me.

Moving on, Mitu Khandaker’s new GameSetWatch column “Gambrian Explosion” continues this week with a piece called “Games, Randomness, and the Problem with Being Human”. And over at the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog, Jorge Albor treats us to a musing on the semiotics and relational aesthetics of Brenda Brathwaite’s Train and One Falls for Each of Us, quoting Brathwaite’s GDC talk when he says: “Wherever there is human-on-human tragedy, there is also a system.”

Speaking of reflections on the most recent Game Developers Conference, Jason VandenBerghe over on Gamasutra has a candid reply to Brian Moriarty’s now-infamous speech in defense of Roger Ebert, saying in sum: “The game itself is not Sublime Art. Without players, it doesn’t exist. However, I will counter Brian’s argument with the following enhancement: -play itself- can be Sublime Art.”

Finally, we have a trio of articles from Critical Distance’s own which are worth your attention. First off, regular irregular editor Eric Swain, writing in his own blog The Game Critique, looks at the scoring models and perceived biases of various gaming publications and concludes:

The score is the thesis in a way and the text is the support for that thesis. If you think a game is a 9.0 then your writing has to support that, just as if you called a game a 1.0, the writing must support that. But most of all raise your expectations to reality.

The second comes from yours truly at my new Dire Critic blog, which… Well, don’t look at me, Eric submitted it. For my part, the article does serve as a direct response to Eric Swain’s “Manifesto” post, arguing for reviewers to embrace their subjectivity and regard games as relational objects, a point not so coincidentally raised in Albor’s post at PopMatters as well.

Last but certainly not least we have a piece from David Carlton, talking about achievements in Tiny Wings: “I’m glad I followed that nudge and did so. It added texture to my experience: without these varying goals, I would have just been touching the screen over and over trying to get as far as possible, and I would have gotten bored and frustrated fairly soon. But with the different goals given by the objectives, I had to think differently about my approach to the game.”

That’s all for this w– Oh, wait, I take that back. Before I forget, have you been keeping up with Kirk Hamilton and Leigh Alexander’s Final Fantasy VII letters over at Paste? Because they’re up to Part 7, including Alexander’s ruminations over the game’s major plot twist leading into the final act.

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