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.