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Another week, another selection of the most interesting piece of games writing from around the blogipelago. Let’s see what the cat dragged in…

First must-read (or must see, in this case) this week is Greg J. Smith at Serial Consign looking at a series of videos analysing the spatial geography of the sets in Kubrik’s The Shining and how they ‘cheat’ the real world. The relevance to games should be reasonably obvious, and the video opens with a discussion of a game-rendered version of the Overlook Hotel. Smith says,

Leave it to the FPS-modding community to have discovered anomalies in the production design of film from 1980. What would you call porting the Overlook Hotel into gamespace anyway, fictional spatial archeology?

Next up is Eric Lockaby writing for Nightmare Mode with a brief history of pressing start: “The title screen, on a deep structural level, represents the threshold between our world and the gameworld. It can’t just simply stop meaning, can it? And if so, what could have caused such a fracture? Boredom? Apathy?”

At the Whim Syllables blog, Robin V responds to a series of posts from across the blogosphere from a few months back, discussing why he thinks “It all comes down to the meaning”.

Simon Ferrari has an excellent essay on BBC Channel 4’s game Sweatshop, examining how the procedural rhetoric evolves over the course of the game:

Essentially, the game begins as a cartoon sketch of factory labor. You don’t need to worry about worker fatigue, safety and morale. But Littleloud gradually “bakes in” more and more of this real-world content. By the end, you need to keep the floor stocked with water coolers, repairmen and fire marshals to keep your workforce alive.

And then, if you’re taking the game seriously, you really start to hold it against them. You cut corners, gambling on the low odds that one or two workers outside the repairman’s safety zone might harm themselves. Instead of blaming yourself for demanding too much from them, or for not planning ahead in your support item infrastructure, you get angry at your sim-workers for getting tired at the most inopportune times. It is this reduction of human beings to numbers, pesky weak flesh in the way of the profit, that is Sweatshop’s frightening strength.

Turning to Destructiod now, and an interesting pair of pieces: the first from Knutaf’s blog comparing the themes of Limbo with Cormack McCarthy’s The Road:

Each place in Limbo clearly has some old story, some lost purpose. The waterworks, the aqueduct, the broken hotel, the strange, clanking, steaming machinery, a lone boat left on a shore… for whom? Their forgotten purposes echo in the same way as some things in The Road, like the abandoned train engine or sailboat they encounter.

And the blogger known only as ‘Insert Catchy Logo Here’ writes about ‘motion control’ and how realism in motion controls is probably a mistake. The example of motion controlled sword fighting is a case in point:

The main problem is that while the virtual sword may follow the movements of your hand, the reverse is not true, if your in-game sword stops on something (such as someone else’s sword, which is kind of a common thing in a swordfight) your real arm keeps going, which can cause problems since the synchronization of sword and controller is now messed up, not to mention what would happen if your in-game sword is forcefully pushed in a separate direction than your real hand (parrying, another basic part of a swordfight, does this). In addition to being unable to perform some of the most basic elements of combat, the hyper-immersive nature of 1:1 motion control means that any deviance from what the player is expecting to happen will completely destroy the immersion and fundamentally alter how the swordplay works.

At Joystick Division, Dennis Scimeca reckons ‘Social Games Give You Nothing For Nothing’:

I finally understand Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker Facebook satire, and what he said at GDC this year about social games turning human beings into high fructose corn syrup. Clicking things is not a game mechanic. It’s a potential lawsuit for repetitive motion disorder. Watching a screen and waiting for the opportunity to click on things is not a game mechanic. It’s an impediment specifically designed to frustrate like an itch you want to scratch. With money.

Writing at Bitmob, Louis Garcia informs us he once won a spelling bee in middle-school because videogames exposed him to some words otherwise well above his reading level, a phenomenon many a precocious child might be familiar with (for me it was fantasy novels before it was videogames).

Writing in her monthly Kotaku column this week Leigh Alexander believes strongly that ‘Sexual Video Games Are Good For Us’, and I think she’s quite right:

For a long time in my teens, my favorite thing about video games-–the weirder and more obscure the better-–was that there were so many rare, precious off moments, like when the sisters in Fatal Frame 2 look just a little bit too comfortable with each other, or when Silent Hill 2‘s convoluted symbolism pointed to male sexual frustration and resentment.

At the Flash of Steel blog, Troy Goodfellow adds to his The National Character series a discussion of ‘The Indian National Character’ as discovered by observing that nation’s portrayal in strategy games:

It’s no wonder that game designers want to think of India as a single culture and entity. Even though it was very rarely unified in its history, there is an assumption that the peninsula makes sense as one civilization and not, say, five. The reference points, then, become almost exclusively modern. What do we mean by India? We mean whatever the British said was India, and that is close enough for game design work. Religious divisions between north and south, east and west, old and new become blurry and we see an unbroken chain of custody from Asoka down to Nehru, even though the Mughals had only mixed success in the south, the Punjab was always restive and the British showed up to an India where they could play prince against prince.

Kyle Orland writing for The Escapist this week explores the appeal of the Atari 2600 in an experiment that sounds like slightly more trouble than it’s worth in ‘Retro Colored Glasses’.

And lucky last, At the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog Mark Filipowich writes about ‘Unplugging the Player from the Protagonist’ in LA Noire:

There is a critical moment in L.A. Noire that seems to divide those that enjoyed the game and those that hated it. At the end of the second chapter, when Cole Phelps is promoted from traffic to homicide, Roy Earle—a sleazy vice detective—takes Phelps out for a congratulatory drink. At this point the player knows that Phelps is a stickler for the rules and that he is an effective and dedicated police officer. His morals are agreeable and his methods are efficient—he is who a player would want to be. But when Earle pushes around and berates a black maitre d’, walks into a drug nest, and assaults a woman, Phelps does nothing.

Thanks to everyone who sent in recommendations this week. If you want to suggest something for TWIVGB get in touch via twitter or email.

Welcome to another instalment of This Week in Videogame Blogging with me, your host, and and all your favourite pieces of videogame blogging and criticism from around the web.

Okay, so everyone’s read this piece by now, yeah? Jonah Weiner at the New York Times profiles the Adams brothers, Zach and Tarn, behind the cult classic craze Dwarf Fortress. It’s a revealing look at the reclusive pair that leaves one with the distinct impression of a genius that may come at some expense to its creators. Well worth the time to read this lengthy profile.

And getting the other big online magazine pieces out of the way, Ethan Gilsdorf at Salon talk ‘My summer of Dungeons & Dragons’, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention my single favourite piece from this week which was Colson Whitehead’s dispatches from the World Series of Poker for Grantland. Hey, there are videogame versions of Poker, it counts.

Back down to earth and hanging with us mere mortals, Kirk Hamilton wrote in to alert us to his latest Kotaku piece ‘Why Videogames with Silent Heroes had the Best Soundtracks’.

He also sent us a link to Tom Chick’s ‘Of Hydralisks & Phalanxes #1: Yes, Strategy Games Are Awesome’ for Gamespy, so Thanks Kirk. Thirk.

At The Border House this week, Quinnae has a piece about ‘Dragon Age’s Queen Anora’, one that looks at her character and why she elicits such strong responses from the community:

Anora, it must be said, embodies several nightmares for particular kinds of men (at least, the particular kinds who predominate in gaming communities, whose fears I’ve discussed elsewhere). She is a woman who does not wish to bear children, she is a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it, she is a woman who is cable of manipulation and skilful manoeuvring, and thus as a result is a woman who does not prostrate herself before the wills of others, least of all men. She is neither pliable nor biddable, and she is also not in the game as a sex object. Unable to fulfil the masculinist fantasy of a bobbleheaded fawning yes-woman and sex toy, she immediately becomes the target of their rage, and the rage of women eager to impress men and prove to them that they aren’t “like that.”

At the ‘Blogossus’ blog, Nathan Hardisty has been working up a sweat in the deserts of Fallout: New Vegas and directs our attention to an older post on ‘The Story of Boone’. It takes a while to wind up to it, but here’s where it gets good:

From the first instance we talked I knew something interesting was going to happen. Not just from the fact he asked me to help him shoot someone in the head, but the fact he looked so disclosed. I prodded him about his history and interesting back-story, I got nothing out of him at this point, choosing to accept this quest. He started talking about how he and his wife settled down here, that they were happy and finally ready to move on from a live of hardship. Boone was in the NCR, a 1st Recon Sniper in fact, who still carried a hunting rifle.

JP Grant writes about ‘Taylor’s Tower’ at the blog Infinite Lag, and for my money it’s probably the most interesting thing I’ve seen anyone squeeze out of the tiny, much maligned game:

What strikes me most about Tiny Tower is how transparently and, well, efficiently it compels the player to adopt a Taylorist philosophy. Taylor believed there was One Best Way to perform any kind of job, a sort of miracle cure for what ailed the worker, the manager, and industry as a whole. In Tiny Tower, it becomes clear after a few hours—once you are invested enough to start caring about your burgeoning building—that maximizing efficiency, not employing creative strategies, is the objective here. Just as in manufacturing, the work never ends in Tiny Tower; there is no defined end point at which the goal is achieved. There is only more building, more production. There is little incentive to do anything else than figure out the most cost-effective and time-saving way to keep doing what you’re doing. Even the “strategy guides” for this game read like Taylorist propaganda. This one explicitly bills itself not as a guide, but as “tips and tricks for maximizing efficiency.”

Rowan Kaiser has dusted off his blog Renaissance Gamer and posted a short meditative essay on Far Cry 2:

There is a famous quote, attributed to Gillo Pontecorvo, director of The Battle of Algiers, that no film can depict war without glorifying it. This may be the case with film. Yet, while Far Cry 2 may revel in the glories of personal combat, it also frustrates my conventional gaming desires to heroically succeed through proper application of violence. I am not simply watching characters fight in this futile war. I am a participant – I am the most important participant in this idiotic war. And I cannot help but be unhappy at seeing what horrors my killing wreaks. My friends are all dead – many by my hand. My allies, who helped me out of many a jam and perhaps deserve my loyalty, are just as dead – many by my hand. Far Cry 2’s glorification of war and violence becomes something more thanks to its commitment to amorality. It becomes tragic.

Our very own Kris Ligman writing for Pop Matters this week about Stephen King’s Dark Tower and the fourth wall says that,

…given two integral statements about gaming—that “immersion” of some manner occurs and that the player always holds himself separate from the character—then the trick isn’t to erase the boundary between player and character but highlight this interplay. Not to make characters who are shells for the player to fill but to create creatures and individuals worth caring about.

Pat Holleman at The Game Design Forum has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when he compares Free to Play Games… to dating.

Zach Hiwiller shares with readers of his personal blog this week an extract from his forthcoming book ‘Practical Tools for Game Design Students’, all about Design Documents:

Oh, the Game Design Document! It is one of the most useful tools in a designer’s toolbox for communication, but also one of the most misunderstood. Nearly every professional designer deals with game design documents (or GDDs). But what are they? Why are they so ubiquitous?

Kenny Young from Media Molecule has a blog all about sound (predominantly voice) in games. Here he is talking about ‘The use of voice in Portal 2’.

LB Jeffries writing for the always excellent blog Banana Pepper Martinis discusses ‘The Systems of Chrono Trigger’, and the piece is ‘…meant to give a very specific example of one way a video game can communicate the idea of system to a person.’ Here’s how that example works:

The game is about observing the various stages of a system, putting together the causes and effects, becoming empowered by that knowledge and then moving to correct the problem. In systems thinking the individual never totally understands what’s going on because of the limitations in feedback. Sometimes it can take years or decades for the consequences of your actions to play out. By then it is too late to change anything. The same is true for the issues one is currently facing: the causes have already happened and the relationship between the event and the feedback is not always clear. Uncertainty is always present for those working with systems in real life. Chrono Trigger, as a story about time travel, is about the unique chance to understand a system as it spans over thousands of years.

At the Futurismic blog, Jonathan McCalmont writes about ‘Last Tuesday: How to Make an Art House Videogame’. I hear you protesting already, “But wait, there are art house games – indie games are art house, right?” Not quite. Quoth McCalmont:

Normally, when commentators ask these sorts of questions either they are writing either out of ignorance of the real commercial and cultural differences between the film and game industries, or they are writing out of ignorance of the stream of innovative titles produced by the indie gaming scene. It is not my intention to fall into either of these traps. Instead, I propose to tackle the question by outlining what gives a film an ‘art house’ rather than a ‘mainstream’ aesthetic and then consider how these aesthetics might present themselves in the context of a video game.

So! Read it? Now take your new-found knowledge and apply it to Jason Nelson’s latest game Scrape Scraperteeth commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Is it art-house? One of McCalmont’s points is that art-house involves ‘strategies of interpretation’ and I think Nelson’s game benefits from the same. My interpretation? It’s a teaser, or possible entry-point to his other more daring stuff like ‘game, game, game and again game’ and his strange ‘poecube’ piece.

Almost because it’s an art-ouevre-entry-point I suspect a whole lot of you are not going to enjoy it a whole lot, as by the standards of any modern ‘game’ it’s a pretty poor one. It’s more Art than Game, and Brian Stefans at the SFMoMA blog wrote about Nelson’s piece, which is worth reading:

Nelson’s is a decidedly “messy” aesthetic; nothing of the economy in classically “good” graphic or interface design is present in his work. His visual arts heritage might be in the work of Rauschenberg or Basquiat, or the Assemblage artists such as George Herms, Bruce Conner, and Edward Kienholz. There is always a tension between the act of creation — or programming, making something clean and operational — and defacing — throwing a lot of junk at the interface to keep it lively, not to mention pump it full of content. The works always seem on the verge of breaking, and were these pieces not to have been created in Flash, which has remained stable since its introduction over a decade ago, they might very well have become casualties of the changing conventions of the web, which have made some of the earliest Java and Javascript works unplayable now.

Phew! If you’ve survived the onslaught, that’s your art-game/art-house game education for the week complete, and also This Week in Videogame Blogging. As always, please make use of the ability to get in touch to spruik your own or others work, be it bloggerly, writerly or critical. Get in touch via twitter or email.

Hello dear readers! Did you miss me? The UK treated me just fine so I’m back and alive and raring to go. I got to meet at least one Critical Distance reader while in the UK too. Hey Dimitrios, always happy to be nestled in warm and snugly in your RSS reader every week.

First! Some slightly older things I missed while away – Chris Dahlen at Save The Robot has a ‘History of an Average Gamer’, and he really is the epitome of the ‘average gamer’ so his gaming history is like a small slice of gaming history.

LB Jeffries at Banana Pepper Martinis posts his essay on ‘Gamification and Law, part 3’: “The goal of this post is to discuss the potential benefits that come with a society who is accustomed to playing video games beyond marketing techniques.” Okay then.

And I almost can’t believe this, we’ve never linked to anything on the incredible indie programming-puzzler Space Chem! But now I can point you towards Matthew Gallant of The Quixotic Engineer and his post ‘Programming in Space Chem’:

If grabbed molecules are like data in registers, then molecules left on the grid are cached. The cache is a larger, cheaper form of memory, but it is slower to read and write. Data must be written from the cache to a register in order to be manipulated directly by the CPU. The amount of memory in SpaceChem’s “cache” is governed by the area of the grid (8 x 10). Each coordinate on the grid can therefore be considered a unique memory address. This analogy is enforced mechanically: a factory “crashes” if two atoms collide on the grid, since you can’t store two values in the same memory address.

So with the catch-up hopefully now out of the way, onto this week’s blogging. Firstly, Michael Abbott at The Brainy Gamer has a pair of posts – ‘Tiny Tower: FAIL’ which deploys Tom Francis’s criteria for ‘What makes a game fun’ and grades Tiny Tower accordingly. Secondly, Abbott writes about the digital/interactive book ‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’ for the iPad, which he experiences with his young daughter:

She’s engaged in a kind of reading that encourages her to think about why the books talk, and why it’s important to help them find their way home. This is far more compelling than the “touch the monkey to make him jump” routine that passes for interactivity in most of the e-books I’ve seen.

Destructoid blogger ‘Wolfey-Boey’ looks at De Blob 2 in ‘Freedom: A 7 Year Old’s Perspective’:

…the game makes no attempt to be subtle about the themes it’s trying to tackle. It’s quite obvious that the game deals with freedom of expression, censorship and urbanisation culture. Many may even see its analysis on these topics as juvenile and maybe even short sighted, but honestly that’s why I find De Blobs handling of the subject so intriguing.

Robert Yang returns with Part 4 of this ‘Dark Past’ series on the future of the immersive sim, this time looking at ‘Randy Smith’s “valence theory” of level design’. It’s about the delicious in-between state in Thief games where you are neither completely succeeding (sneaking around completely unnoticed) nor completely losing (being killed and restarting), and the importance of the in-between space is highlighted by the questions it asks of the player:

Imagine a guard searching for you, slowly closing-in on your small island of shadow. You have to creep away, quietly, staying out of sight. How far is far enough? When will the guard give up? How noisy are the floors? Is there a door or room I can duck into? These questions are much more urgent and interesting than “Why did I die?” (the question powerlessly asked upon complete failure).

And as if a completely lucid and comprehensible break-down of how stealth level design encourages player behaviours wasn’t enough, he also throws out the following gem, talking about how architecture communicates cultural expectations:

… In contrast, a truly “alien” architecture almost transcends cultural frames. Do the Covenant have a notion of public and private? Do you remember the amazing first glimpses of Xen and your inability to distinguish between built environment and landscape, or the disappointing Xen factory levels with what were clearly assembly lines? It’s not enough for an alien level to be fleshy purple with leaky sphincters: it must also subvert our personal logic and understanding of architectures.

At the Misanthropic Gamer blog SnakeLinkSonic spools up his ridiculousness critique of Pokémon (this is part 4), wherein he says:

The experience of playing through any of the Pokémon titles often naturally leads to a place of extreme player-entitlement. …The world that players are meant to inhabit is so skewed narratively and mechanically, that nearly no illusions are present in which they aren’t ‘the special one’ (i.e. the game doesn’t even try to pretend you’re just another trainer rising to prominence).

Craig Wilson at the Split-Screen blog does more Metacritic drilling-down, looking at ‘The Console Wars’ and gussies up some nice infographics from the results. One choice quote: “Of all the games I’ve bought on steam, 53% of them I’ve yet to install and play”. I guess that says something about how willing we are to pay to ensure the availability of games in the future. Or something.

At the Game Design Forum, Patrick Holleman has a two part essay on ‘Acceleration Flow’ (with part 2 here). It starts by asking the question ‘Why is it fun to level up?’ which is a good question to ask.

Leigh Alexander writing for Gamasutra this week looks at ‘What’s Special About Little Lovable Link’:

…the recent 3DS remake of Ocarina brings into sharp focus just how unusual it is to be playing a little pointy-eared “fairy boy,” as some call him, in an era where the phrase “video game hero” tends to conjure images of a soot-smudged, buzz-headed tower of man scowling grimly against a landscape torn by something or other.

In a talk at something called ‘Q ideas’ KillScreen co-founder and all-around smooth dude Jamin Brophy-Warren talks about ‘The Art and Culture of Videogames’. Part autobiographical, part apologetic for games cultural ascendency, this 17 minute video is well worth watching.

At the Gamamoto blog Pietro Polsinelli post-mortem deconstructs his work on the, er, ‘Social Browser game Adslife’. What in the world is a social browser game?

The idea is to use the web itself not only as an environment where to play, but also as topic within the game. Given that a considerable part of the real world has a counterpart on the web, why not play with it?

Joel Jordon at Game Manifesto revisits the Uncanny Valley of Uncharted. In a similar vein, Mike Schiller at Unlimited Lives looks at how Child of Eden manages to avoid the Uncanny Valley while breaking the fourth wall.

At The Border House blog this week, Gunthera writes about the character ‘Aveline’ from Dragon Age 2 as another example of a character done right.

Not strictly videogames, but ‘Shut Up & Sit Down’ is a new blog and web TV show by friend of Critical Distance Quintin Smith (and also some other guy Paul Dean) all about board games. You like board games, yes? So go watch Shut Up & Sit Down then, or read their tumblr for more goings on.

And lastly, Chris Bateman of the iHobo blog writes about the conference he and I both attended this week (along with a great many other excellent games people), and here he digests the highlights. Hey Chris, read Prince of Networks already! I’ve been getting stuck into Bateman’s forthcoming (or is it out already?) book Imaginary Games and it’s well and truly worth reading. Apparently you can purchase a copy from the Zero Books website, which I recommend.

Welcome once again to This Week in Video Game Blogging, the best of the best of games journalism, criticism, and commentary from across the web! Let’s get started.

With the rerelease of Ocarina of Time for the 3DS, we start out tonight with a couple of commentary pieces about ol’ Hyrule. First up is Mitch Krpata writing in his Insult Swordfighting column at Joystick Division, in which he contends that the whole game is vastly overrated. Just an opinion in a sea of them, but Krpata follows up this statement with a strong critique of the classic game’s attributes:

Nothing afflicts open-world games these days more than design that forces you to traverse the map over and over for no real reason. Travel to one side of the map to learn your objective, and then backtrack to accomplish it. Hyrule Field was impressive the first time you saw it, less so the next time, and then by the six hundredth time you trudged through it, just seemed like the endless, black void where Sarah Palin’s heart is supposed to be.

Brady Nash at how curious also has some strong words for the series, arguing that the franchise has lost some of its splendor:

I’ll always respect Nintendo for their insistence on going against the tide, on going it alone with at least some semblance of philosophical conviction. No matter how corporate and annoying many of their practices may be, in comparison to most mega-companies, they ooze originality. […] However, I can’t help but feel that maybe Nintendo’s consoles are no longer the place for the types of experiences that I’m most excited about: ones that other-worldy, exploratory, mysterious and, dare I say, magical.

Next up, our friends at PopMatters’ Moving Pixels blog have been busy again this week. First from senior editor G. Christopher Williams is an analysis of performance of masculinity and chivalry in Shadows of the Damned, kicking off with the observation that the game’s damsel in distress is a clear nod to Donkey Kong. Our second Moving Pixels piece comes to us from Jorge Albor, writing on the dubious ethics of Tiny Tower.

In this same vein of ethics and morality, we venture over to GameSetWatch where contributor Andrew Vanden Bossche writes about engaging players’ emotions while making moral choices, using AAA title Mass Effect and indie title don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story as his touchstones:

Fiction starts at zero interest and has to fight for every inch of relevance. I believe that, too often, there is an assumption that players will see themselves as an extension of Shepard or Cole McGarth and feel the impact as if it was really happening to them. But players can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

Making morality matter means making it matter to players. […] It’s one thing to make players kill polygons in the shape of little girls, but it’s another to make players feel that those girls are human.

Keeping the focus on players, J.P. Grant at Infinite Lag likens the Call of Duty franchise to Saw as a form of death porn. Taking this obsession with violence a step further, a recent feature at Edge explores its pervasiveness in games and tackles some of the conventionally held wisdom.

Keeping with the same publication but switching gears from players to designers, Clint Hocking has a new column up at Edge in which he contends that the “Viking” culture of game development needs desperate modification. Over at The Border House, meanwhile, Alex Raymond ripostes that the scatological humor of the culture isn’t the problem: “it’s the sexism that needs to be eradicated, not necessarily the crudeness. To conflate the two avoids the issue and perpetuates the sexist stereotype that women are sensitive flowers and men need to walk on eggshells around us.”

Sparky “Silver Lining” Clarkson of Discount Thoughts asks us to revisit Final Fantasy XIII and think about the good parts–namely, the underrated battle system.

Finally, we end tonight with a look to the future, with what Eric Lockaby promises is a different take on the videogame “preview.” In his essay on Journey at Nightmare Mode, Lockaby writes:

The world of Journey exists in the remnants of communication. Venturing beyond the silent deserts we cross as if into a peristylium—each canyon houses within it a garden of History; each footfall is a Great Listening. And yet our listening alone will not repair this world: the language that failed it will fail us too. Journey asks us to build something stronger.

That’s all for this week! As a reminder, you can send us your links through email or Twitter. We are always on the look-out for new, excellent content, so don’t keep it all to yourself!

This has been a big week for gaming in the U.S., with the Supreme Court ruling 7-2 to strike down the California law censoring the sale of violent video games to minors. You can read the opinions here. Michael “Brainy Gamer” Abbott discusses both the good and bad of the ruling. Dan Apczynski at Gamer Melodico riffs on the writing itself by making poetry out of it. And the last piece we’ll link to is Adam Sessler’s video explaining in detail some of the implications of the case.

Two pieces from PopMatters this week. G. Christopher Williams looks at auteur Suda 51’s newest work Shadows of the Damned and the relation to his punk like aesthetic. And Nick Dinicola explores the effect of the many different genres Nier incorporates.

We also have two pieces on Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s newest game Child of Eden. The first, from Brendan Keogh at Critical Damage, compares the themes contained in it and its spiritual predecessor Rez. The other, from our own Kris Ligman at her blog Dire Critic, discusses how she sees the game as a spiritual experience.

Two more pieces from Kate Cox at Your Critic is in Another Castle, finishing up her series on the Gamer Gaze: part 2 and part 3.

And two pieces at the German blog Titel. The first has Christof Zurschmitten writing that the comedy genre best fitted for games is slapstick comedy. It’s also about Octodad, Sumotori Dreams and Minotaur China Shop. And Dennis Kogel looks at a new type of critic that has become more prominent recently, the “Troll critic.”

Darius Kazemi on his blog Tiny Subversions writes “How not to write a college essay about videogames.”

Tadhg Kelly at What Games Are weighs in on the concept of perpetual crunch at game studios. He explains why it doesn’t work as a method, and claims that studios that resort to it generally have a failure in leadership. He concludes with:

Some developers regard their time spent crunching as a badge of honour, but it’s not. All it is is abuse tolerance. Exist in the bunker mentality that crunch brings for long enough and you will only be able to think defensively.

At Play the Past, Katy Meyers looks at “The Adventuring Archaeologist Trope” and how it supports outdated thinking in its drive to create adventure.

Adam Ruch writes about Saboteur and how the world failed to convey the story it wanted to tell. He ruminates on a few encounters and how they were or at least could have been more meaningful than the story missions.

Perhaps if Pandemic, and other studios with similar designs, were to trust their worlds rather than their narratives, I would have saved those civilians. I would have, if I thought that it would matter.

Vanya at split/screen co-op, when discussing on war games and the effect it has on our thinking rather than our actions, says “It’s all fun and games until someone plays it for real“.

Matthew Weise continues his podcast/interview series with former Looking Glass studios members. This week he sits down to talk with Ken Levine.

Emily Short writes about the protagonist in Don’t Take it Seriously Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story, and thinks that protagonist may be why it feels incomplete.

Brain Taylor opens his new column, Paratext, at Joystick Division by explaining why it is called that and what is to come.

Tevis Thompson looks at Portal 2 as a game about point of view and how the game literally makes you see things from a different one by thinking with portals.

Finishing us off this week, the Extra Credits crew at the Escapist have returned to their inclusively series by looking at Race in Games, presenting L. A. Noire as an example that used the theme well.