September 25th

September 25th, 2011 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on September 25th)

Welcome one and all. It is my pleasure to be your guide today around the Gallery of Vidogame Blogging and Criticism from this week.  We have a bevy of word-pieces for you, so if you’ll just follow me through the gallery…

We start our tour at that weekly goldmine that is the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog. From last week we have Sean Brady who goes back to take a look at Chrono Trigger, explaining the importance of historical context when looking at a work. And from this week we have Kris Ligman looking at the concept of virtual patience in video games and Scott Juster’s look at Catherine‘s characters and messages, finding they hit a little too close to home.

Meanwhile on your right you’ll see Juster’s partner in crime Jorge Albor at the Experience Points blog  looking at the discussion coming out of Games for Change (G4C) and their “focus on “serious” and social impact games.” The discussion at present is around ‘What kind of change are we talking about here?

Now if you will look over here in the next room, we can see the great work that came out of Kill Screen this past week. James Dilks looks at the names of video games and what they convey about what is within, particularly the unusual case of VVVVVV. Brendan Keogh is behind a barrier of his own making as he realizes that, like Red from The Shawshank Redemption, he too has been institutionalized.  And Lana Polansky reviews indie game Rock of Ages and its tumultuous journey through time and Western art history.

In the ‘contemporary art corner’ over here are the submissions from the Bitmob writers collective. Sumo Attuqayefio has a short, but heartfelt piece on how Shadow of the Colossus helped him emotionally deal with his daughter’s cancer; Kate Cox asks ‘Why does the fear of death continue to be gaming’s greatest motivator?‘; and Rus McLaughlin says, ‘Games don’t have to be fun.’ It has, to my mind, a conclusion that perfectly sums up the argument:

Even if you didn’t exactly enjoy yourself at the time, you’ll probably look back and consider it a fun experience. Not because you enjoyed playing it…but because you enjoyed the result.

On the feature wall to your left we are proud to present two new pieces from our very own David Carlton at the Malvasia Bianca blog. Continuing on from last week’s puzzle talks, he focuses on Catherine here in ‘Rearranging mental blocks‘, and addresses the game more holistically in the aptly titled ‘Catherine.’

We are also most happy to present to you a brand new work in three parts from The Artist Formerly Known as L.B. Jeffries – Mr. Kirk Battle Esq. himself. The creator of these workds calls them the ‘MMO Judiciary‘ cycle, focusing on the upcoming legal complications as real money enters the MMO sphere and what companies can do going into the future.

If you will follow me into the next antechamber you can see two pieces of worthwhile news. To your left, Tracey Lien has a real piece of investigative journalism at Kotaku Australia, exploring the consequences  of ‘What Happens To Developers When A Studio Closes‘, counterpointed nicely by the challenging political overtones of GamePolitics’ ‘How a 14 Year-Old Girl Changed NHL 12.’ I believe this title speaks for itself.

Keep up, everyone, please keep up. We are now entering the Hall of Theory.

Here you will see Kate Cox’s piece ‘Win, Lost, or Fail,’ from the Your Critic is in Another Castle blog, about what video games are and what winning or losing has to do with it. Alongside the aforementioned work is a piece by a new artist on the scene – one ‘hellfire’, from the You Must Register blog, in which is discussed the general lacuna the author feels is present in the work of Gonzalo Frasca and Ian Bogost w/r/t more complex games like Planescape: Torment. On the wall opposing is Mike Birkhead writing for Gamasutra, and going into detail of the particulars of ‘What makes combat fun.’ Adjacent to Birkenhead is Critical Missive’s Eric Swartz talking about the annoying trope survival horror games use, which is that their poor controls are actually a feature. As you can see, our gallery is well and truly overflowing with works and the trustees of the gallery are having a fundraising drive to expand the Hall of Theory wing. You kind donations are generously appreciated.

Through this renaissance era archway is a little transitional alcove, installed within which is a piece by Brendan Keogh at his personal blog Critical Damage. He talks about the contemporary treatment and perception of scientists within two iOS games that seem to encapsulate the sentiment:

Personally, I find it all incredibly infuriating when I watch television and see creationism and evolution debated as equal ‘theories’, or when the secret agendas of a climate scientist’s peer-reviewed findings are questioned by an oil company, but that is not an area I’m an expert in or tend to write on. What I find interesting, however, is how this general attitude to the sciences permeates and is reflected in our cultural texts. In particularly, two videogames I’ve played and loved in recent months I think could be seen as emerging from this culture that has become obsessed with discrediting and deriding the sciences.

Now if you will follow me into The Room of Games, where we have a number of interesting pieces on individual games.

Here before us is another piece that was rescued from the archives by a diligent graduate student doing research for us. This week we are proud to present the work of Tom Bissell and his thoughts on Dead Island for Grantland. We are very fortunate indeed this piece has been spared the indignity of languishing undisplayed in the basement.

On the left wall are Randy Smith and Theoron Jacobs getting into a dialogue on what makes Sword & Sworcery so ‘awesomely cool‘, and it is brought to us by a generous grant from the Edge Foundation.

Tom Chick on the Quarter-to-Three wall describes what is off about Gears of War 3.

Late in Gears of War 3, someone will say, “Bloody hell, they found the UIR! It’s a Gorasni ship!” The line is delivered as if it’s something that matters, but Gears of War 3 hasn’t told me what a UIR is or who the Gorasni are. The line might as well have been “Bloody hell, they found the Boop-i-dee-bop! It’s a Whamble-di-dee ship!” It’s an example of how Gears 3 cares about itself far too much to be arsed to care about me.


Much has been said about the boss fights of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but in an impeccable display of creativity Nick Rudzicz at Newton64 decides to go a step further and fill in the blanks left behind by the developers.

On the far wall behind you, you will find the Erik Hanson Equality Scholarship winner Denis Farr’s roleplaying account of Pokemon: Fire Red as drag diva, made possible by the Gamers With Jobs.

And the centerpiece of the room – by emerging artist Nathan Grayson (so hot right now) – is a piece exploring Bastion‘s multitextuality and how it succeeds where many others fail. Grayson sees Bastion as a game about moving forward while simultaneously looking backwards, but curiously not at the same time.

This concludes the tour… but what? Oh yes. That…piece in the center of the room. Yes, it was a controversial inclusion by the museum director himself: some post-modernish rambling by Tim Robbins or whatever his name is from Action Button on The Sims Social. I really can’t engage with it, but certainly it is here for you if you like that sort of thing.

Now please feel free to browse around, I hope you have enjoyed the tour and we thank you for stopping by the Gallery of Vidogame Blogging and Criticism. Please feel free to direct your comments, suggests and recommendations to the Board of Trustees via twitter or email.

September 18th

September 18th, 2011 | Posted by Ben Abraham in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on September 18th)

Welcome to another instalment of This Week In Videogame Blogging, and what a week it’s been. I can’t remember the last time we’ve had so many great pieces all crammed into the one week. Where do we begin?

Our last entry went out before September 11 really kicked off the remembrance of that fateful day, so perhaps we’ll start with Mitch Krpata’s contribution for Joystick Division in which he explains ‘Why Gears of War is the Quintessential 9/11 Game’:

I’m sure Cliff Bleszinski and company would be the first to argue that Gears has nothing to do with September 11, and that’s their right as creators. But it’s our right as the audience to find our own meaning in the work. Ever since I first played Gears of War almost five years ago, it has struck me as a game that could not have existed without 9/11. Something like it, maybe, but not this game, with its unusual and potent mix of fear, uncertainty, and powerlessness.

Krpata also wrote this week for his own blog Insult Swordfighting about the conditions behind much videogame writing (which is going to affect the kind of writing produced) in a piece titled ‘Working in the sweatshop’.

You’ve heard by now about the phenomenon that is the ‘Horse_ebooks’ twitter account, right? Well using it as an example of cult online communities, Leigh Alexander writing for Gamasutra examines a game-related spin-off of that account in ‘‘Persona_Ebooks’ And Game Community In The Web 2.0 Era’.

Michael Abbott at The Brainy Gamer says ‘Games Aren’t Clocks’, and argues for a more holistic approach to videogames that can account for the affects of their design beyond simply the rules and mechanics.

Brady Nash at the How Curious blog takes some time to respond to G. Christopher Williams’ essay of a few weeks ago, applying reader response theory to videogames.

At the ‘Powered by Hate’ tumblr blog, Jeff Gunzler writes about why Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine is a ‘Most Surprisingly Feminist Game of the Year Contender

In last week’s TWIVGB Kris wrote about Eric Lockaby’s review of Deliverance for 3DS; in her overworked and delirious state (I’m a bad boss), she didn’t realise that, while fiction, the review was meant to be confused as fact. When she found out, she was understandably upset at finding out she’s been fooled, but wondered about what it said about game reviews in general or the nature of games themselves:

That’s the balance to be struck with writing any sort of humor piece–what the hell is too high- or low-profile to be funny anymore? In a TWIVGB full of articles on post-9/11 war games and fetishization, the tone of the game Lockaby was writing about didn’t even seem out of place. Maybe that’s the full scope of the joke David’s getting at: are we so jaded to turning anything–high art, low art, macabre, political, social, psychosexual–into a videogame that parodic descriptions of using a game stylus as a phallus to symbolically molest women seem a bit disgusting but at the end of the day, par for the course?

Chris Johnson at RobotGeek writes about “Why The Deus Ex Narrative Ultimately Fails: A Political Critique”. It’s good stuff, and something I think I was picking up on as I played, but wasn’t able to articulate:

This dystopian future, especially in Human Revolution, may be aesthetically similar to Blade Runner, but it’s obvious a corollary is present day global politics (especially in the United States). Unfortunately, the cause (and thereby the solution) to this web-like problem is never pointed at the source. Rather, in a move that feels very co-opted by the media-power at large, fingers are pointed at shadowy conspiracy theories like the Illuminati rather than at actual, present day, corporate CEOs. It’s almost as if corporate power was enough to buy off the game developers, who went as far as to hint at the problems – enough so that reasonable people could draw a logical conclusion bearing to life – and then deflected and effaced the issues by creating a supernatural god-like cause to explain these events; in other words, pure fiction.

This week Simon Parkin wrote about his experiences with the Call of Duty convention for Eurogamer. It’s top stuff and conveys the very real ‘out of place’ feeling that Parkin had at the conference. Do go read ‘COD XP: The Bug and the Windscreen’:

There are other fan events based around single games, of course; both QuakeCon and BlizzCon command significant attendance. But COD: XP is not an event requested by the fans. Rather, it’s an endlessly lavish production put on for their benefit by a company eager to… to give something back? Eager to humanise themselves? Eager to soften core gamer perception of a company best known for its dead-eyed annual franchise updates, high-price DLC, and the stewardship of arch non-gamer Bobby Kotick, effortlessly the most disliked CEO by gamers thanks to his apparent disdain toward them? COD: XP is, let’s say, a smart way to both give back to the community that makes it wealthy and to counter a series of setbacks and unpopular decisions made in and around Modern Warfare.

And speaking of military-themed shooters, at Slate Michael Thomsen asks ‘Why aren’t there any civilians in military video games?’ (Thanks to Kill Screen for the tip-off):

By removing civilians from the picture, developers like Bach are trying to reap the benefits of a real-life setting without grappling with the reality of collateral damage. In sparing themselves the challenge of making their games deeper and more involving, they’re the ones holding back the medium. While video games have come a long way since Mega Man, Battlefield 3’s sanitized environment suggests that players are still limited to the same two basic actions: running around and shooting.

Scott Juster at Experience Points analyses Soulja Boy’s experience with Braid, and like a good anthropologist takes his Soulja Boy’s experiences quite seriously, uncovering some real insight into how people play

Michelle Young at Kill Screen has a great piece on the videogame representations of the walled city of Kowloon this week.  Being a real place, the depictions of Kowloon varied from reasonable likeness to unrealistic depiction. In this week’s entry to his regular column for the Futurismic blog, Jonathan McCalmont talks about discussions of videogame “realism” and just how much of a specific standard, and absurdly skewed one at that, realism actually is:

The fact that people can meaningfully talk about Crysis being both more authentic than other games and a completely fantastical action romp featuring magical powers suggests that realism is not exactly an unproblematic concept. In fact, this is a column about why we should just stop using that word entirely when other words are far more useful.

The Second Person Shooter blog is one we’ve known and loved for a while here at Critical Distance, so it’s pleasing to see that the crew are back at it – this week Kent Sutherland talks about ‘Playing God’ and the limits of what he was allowed to pick-up-and-play as a child:

When I grew up, some games were off-limits. Diablo was a no, because Satan was right there in the title. Grand Theft Auto was also disallowed when my parents caught me mowing down police officers and lines of Elvis impersonators with a machine gun. Mortal Kombat was banned for obvious reasons—you can rip out a man’s ribs and them stab them through his eyes—but even Golden Eye was mysteriously “lost” one day after a particularly hilarious match of only shooting each other in the knee caps. I can understand the logic behind all of these decisions, but I’ve always been confused about why I wasn’t allowed to play The Sims.

And similarly, blog-mate Laura Michet looks at Portal 2 and ‘The Power of Pettiness’, drawing parallels between the two entries in that series and the first two Alien films:

To me, Portal 1 was very much like these films. Two female characters dueling to the deadly death on terms unlimited by the fact that they are ladyfolk? The antagonist is an inhuman freak? The protagonist strengthened by her humanity (in this case, by the fact that the player identifies very, very closely with her)? Sounds an awful lot like Alien to me.

Portal 2 changes the tone of its central relationship by stripping some of that dignity away. Glados insults Chell constantly in ways intended to be understood as cattily “female”: calling Chell overweight, insulting her appearance, and so on. She seems to believe that gendered insults will be the most effective against this mute, implacable enemy, and tries a variety of them. And even though these jokes are, cheap and awful, they’re fantastic.

Andrew VandenBossche at Mammon Machine entreats us with,‘Spoil Me Rotten’ – making an important point about the difference between the spoiler itself and the thing being spoilt:

To read a spoiler is a nasty experience. It feel like being cheated. Yet spoilers are also a lie—they’re a wikipedia summary at best. And seriously, who would compare the experience of reading something they liked to the experience of reading the summation on the Internet? To have any sense of the value of writing or any artistic craft we’ve got to believe that the way a story is told is infinitely more important that the paragraph that restates the major plot points.

And last, but certainly not least, for this week is Mattie Brice at the Alternate Ending blog making an ‘Apology for RPGs’ in the form of a long meditation on the nature of the genre.

What is and isn’t an RPG is beside the point, it’s how a game appropriates the cultural understanding of what an RPG is. Video games have been using character progression through stats and experience points, a strong sense of story, and tactical strategy to draw what they can from the genre, but the heart isn’t there. What we really have are action games, interactive fiction, and shooters that use the tropes developed from tabletop RPGs. There is very little role-playing to be had; rather, you are given an extremely limited amount of ‘roles’ to ‘choose’ from.

As always, we rely on the charitable donations of good and interesting games writing, blogging, and criticism via twitter and email.

September 11th

September 11th, 2011 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on September 11th)

When the night sky turns to glamor, it’s time for This Week in Videogame Blogging! Good evening– I am your hostess for the week, Kris Ligman, and if you are a member of a certain recent, notorious Freeplay panel then neither this nor last week’s roundup by Katie Williams actually exist. Whoops! For the rest of our readers, welcome and enjoy: this week’s offerings are sure to satisfy.

Let’s begin with Michael Clarkson and the recent relaunch of his blog, now named Ludonarratology. He kicked it off with a post on critical approaches to games, addressing the rival (some would say defunct) schools of game studies referred to in the blog’s name:

To approach videogames solely through the lenses evolved for the criticism of preceding narrative media is to embrace their evolution into content-delivery systems glossed with meaningless interactivity. Yet, to insist that all criticism focus on the cold whirr-click of code and mechanics is to accept — even encourage — the final triumph of commoditization and cultural irrelevance. Neither approach fully appreciates the medium’s unique capacity for creating meaningful individual and group experiences. The comforting warmth of a preferred orthodoxy is, perhaps, sufficient salve for those shortcomings. So be it; these viewpoints are still of great value.

Also recommended from Clarkson’s blog are two relaunch companion pieces: ‘A Tale of Two Chesses and ‘The crying game’.

Going from narrative and emotions within games to heightened emotions surrounding them, this past week has been a… volatile one, to say the least. First was the reveal of the new Mass Effect Liara figure, about which both Go Make Me a Sandwich and The Mary Sue have some strong words. The latter outlet sums up the sentiment quite well in its title: ‘Hey, Bioware: Stop Crowdsourcing Your Gender Politics!’

Then came Dead Island-gate (just for you, Rowan), in which players discovered a misogynist slur against the game’s heroine had been written into the code. Arin Dembo has a good overview over on Gamasutra, while Wundergeek’s commentary in Go Make Me a Sandwich, once more, knocks it out of the park:

If the sorts of “jokes” that happen in game studios can include employees wearing shirts that say ‘dead girls can’t say no’ and women being interrupted during meetings by male employees telling them to make them a sandwich, I don’t see why we should assume that this joke is benign. In an environment where jokes that trivialize sexual harassment, assault, and rape are considered funny, why should we assume that this anonymous coder is an anomaly?

Writing in his Pretension +1 column at Joystick Division, Gus Mastrapa describes games as fetishware:

Games encourage obsession. They draw it out of us or provide a vessel for us to pour it into. And so it makes sense that they’d also be filled with objects of our obsession. Weapons, riches, vehicles, clothing, other people — they’re all things we want because we fill them with our dreams and desires.

Speaking of games, objects and meaning systems, Kieron Gillen does a reading of Deus Ex: Human Revolution which contends the whole thing is about DRM.

Next, a pair of unconventional reviews to spice up your Sunday. The first arrives from Jon Irwin, in a reflection piece on playing Ocarina of Time for the first time on the 3DS. The latter comes to us by way of Eric Lockaby on Nightmare Mode, for the 3DS release Deliverance. Lockaby has cultivated a reputation for his “weird” reviews; but, as Ben Abraham puts it, “I like weird.”

it becomes apparent fairly early on that “stylus” in the case of Deliverance is actually to mean “phallus”…and when you finally realize it, earlier moments in the game—such as the player’s being asked to trace the contours of the young model—suddenly become more potent. A lot of games strive towards “replayability”…Deliverance finds its replayability in continued interpretation.

Roger Travis writes about “immersive learning,” gamification, and Bioshock. And Latoya Peterson at Racialicious comments on the recent Slavery: The Game hoax, remarking that a hoax is still worth discussing.

This week also brought us a point-counter point on the adventure game genre. PC Gamer UK’s Richard Cobbett reckons he knows ‘How to Save Adventure Games’. Tadhg Kelly, meanwhile, argues the genre is already dead and had it coming. The comments on Kelly’s post are also worthwhile.

Last but not least, we venture over to my home stomping ground of PopMatters where senior multimedia editor G. Christopher Williams positions that ‘In Some Games, It’s the Pattern, Not the Plot, That Makes Them Beautiful’. And how better to cap off this week’s roundup than with Scott Juster’s take on the “videogames and art” question: ‘Telling Hamlet What to Do’.

…notions of what constitute art have changed throughout history. Because of this, asking whether art will change to accommodate video games is just as valid as asking whether video games can be art. We would do well to remember that artistic strata are ultimately human constructions and are therefore malleable.

I can’t think of a better note to end on than that! Thanks for joining us, and as always, your contribution to Critical Distance is only a tweet or an email away.

September 4th

September 4th, 2011 | Posted by Katie Williams in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on September 4th)

Hello, and welcome back to This Week in Videogame Blogging. My name’s Katie, and I’m new here – I’m very pleased to be able to bring you this week’s instalment. There’s some good stuff to get through this week!

First up, we have Joel Goodwin with the final entry in his ‘Where We Came From’ series over at Electron Dance, a moving piece about his gaming childhood. He writes:

I was obsessed with video games during the first decade of my life. I remember having many dreams that ended up at a video game arcade; it was a particular place that my dream-self knew well, although it did not exist in the waking world. I never really played much there, as I usually woke up pretty quickly after I grabbed the controls of one of the machines. It was more about the signature of the arcade than its function, a perfect amalgamation of every arcade I’d ever visited.

But, in time, this place eventually slipped out of my dreams and I forgot all about it.

Ben Kuchera, writing for Ars Technica, calls Gears of War 3′s trailer music an ’emotional cheat’, arguing that its song evokes emotions that are not found in the game itself:

I wish we could have trailers that pull from the actual game in order to provoke an emotional reaction, instead of relying on juxtaposition to make the point. I wish there were moments in Gears of War that actually made me feel like these trailers do. It’s not that the games aren’t emotional—I can think of one or two moments off the top of my head that hit hard—but these trailers are painting the picture of a game that doesn’t really exist. It’s a ploy, a shortcut to an emotional connection, and it’s becoming a formula when it comes to sell action games.

And speaking of the Gears of War series, Tom Bissell provides an excerpt of his forthcoming book The Art and Design of Gears of War at Grantland, describing through personal anecdotes and developer commentary how Gears of War‘s design had drawn him so deeply into the game.

Ryan Henson Creighton, blogging at Untold Entertainment Inc., asks, ‘Are We Headed for a Second Video Game Crash?

i’m no economist, but i have heard the phrase “supply and demand” bandied about. What we have now is an oversupply and an under-demand. There are too many people making games, and not enough people to play them – and more importantly, not enough people willing to pay fair market value for them. When the president of Nintendo takes to the stage at GDC 2011 and implores people not to sell their games for a buck, something alarming is happening. And when you get a trend of people reducing the cost of their games from $1 to FREE because $1 was too expensive, it’s time to consider jumping ship. And then setting that ship on fire.

Taylor Cocke at Scoreless is working on some more short vignettes of games (remember his Far Cry 2 stuff?). Now he’s doing Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Line Hollis at Robot Geek discusses what she terms ‘Leaning Games‘. Their choices, as she describes, are also employed in choose-your-own-adventures and AAA titles, to varying effect:

What this style really resembles is the story structure found in mainstream games with a “moral choice system,” like Bioshock, Infamous, or Mass Effect. The dead simplicity of the system in Bioshock is a particularly close match. Each Little Sister offers a chance to lean in one direction or the other. Your decisions to save or harvest the Little Sisters only barely affect the storyline, but they do affect which ending you get.

In a three-part series, Matt Barton of Youtube gaming-focused series Matt Chat conducts a video interview with independent game designer Jonas Kyratzes: parts onetwo, and three.

Over at the blog Insult Swordfighting, as an addendum to his recent article at Joystick Division, Mitch Krpata asks a handful of games writers: ‘Are game reviewers bad at games?‘ He says, “I’ve always found it interesting that game reviewers tend to be modest about their own abilities. They might claim to know a lot about games. They are confident that they can write about games better than the average player. But, when it comes to skillz, it seems to me that most critics are happy to accept their limitations.”

Johannes Koski, blogging for Persona Matters, takes a look at the difference between ‘The Leading Man‘ and what he terms ‘The Second Man’, looking especially at the kinship between Final Fantasy XII‘s protagonist Vaan and secondary character Balthier:

All along while playing Final Fantasy XII, I had the feeling that Vaan was the one in whose place I inserted myself, the one through whom I operated in the game world, the interface if you will, and Balthier was the one I emotionally related to. Balthier, as a character, is a lot more resolved and stern than Vaan. Vaan has the drive and motivation to challenge the Empire, yet Balthier is the one I felt most strongly drawn to. In cut-scenes, Balthier seems to be the one who comments on things, whereas Vaan is used mostly when someone has to say something obvious or funny, or when the occasion clearly calls for the player character to participate in the action. In a sense, Balthier was what I expected from the protagonist of a Final Fantasy game, and Vaan was more of a… I don’t know, a viewpoint?

In the first of two contributions from Pop Matters this week, Jorge Albor examines the way puzzle-platformer The End handles the topic of mortality.

And next, in ‘Thematic Confusion in the Branching Narratives of Video Games‘, Nick Dinicola explores the branching plots of games such as Mass Effect 2, Dead Space: Ignition and Heavy Rain, the latter of which he says:

Maybe David Cage of Quantic Dreams had the right idea when he suggested people play through Heavy Rain one time only. After all, you can’t recognize the inconsistency of branching plots if you only see one of them.

Quinnae at The Border House blogs about the hyperreality of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and Dragon Age: Origins, in particular looking at their treatment of sex workers and transgendered characters:

Much work has already been done on the nature of ‘lenses’ as held and espied through by the powerful. That is what hyperreality is, fundamentally, a lens through which the lived reality of the less-powerful is warped and distorted. What makes this pernicious is that the distortion is then presented as the real. The ‘easter egg’ style gags with the trans sex workers at the Pearl were clearly meant as ‘mature’ jokes for a ‘mature’ audience that could handle this ‘reality.’

At the blog Your Critic, Kate Cox looks at Fable III in ‘Let’s Talk About Sex!‘, examining instances in games in which sex can be used as more than just a story arc:

Still, the real surprise for me with sex in Fable III is not that it exists; sex is implied in plenty of games.  The surprise is that its existence is announced independently.  By adding “sex” to the bed options, and indicating NPC sexual orientation (and flirtatiousness levels) in info boxes, the game is putting out there the idea that sex is a thing your PC might do for any combination of fun, profit, and love, depending on any number of whims, emotions, and circumstances.

Eric Heimburg over at Elder Game writes about the moment he realised that he wasn’t really a game designer, and became one:

That was an important day for me…because I realized I wasn’t a game designer, despite thinking I was. I’d played tons of games, I knew all the mechanics they used. But here I was, unable to defend the simplest concept. It was frustrating.

We’ve previously linked to a Kill Screen interview about the game Smuggle Truck, which Tanner Higgin describes at his personal blog as ‘failed satire’:

Smuggle Truck tries to be Colbert and ends up as South Park. The reason: it’s aim is off. Instead of effectively parodying the inefficient, extended, impossible, and downright racist U.S. immigration system, Smuggle Truck ends up making fun of the border crossing experience, which itself is equal parts harrowing and horrific.

And finally, Andrew of the site Andrew on Everything, discusses what  he calls ‘Overlearning the Game‘. While he doesn’t look at it strictly from a videogaming perspective, he describes a problem that certainly covers gaming ground. He says, “I think this problem, of overlearning the game to a point where you exploit the rules to achieve goals that are far removed, or even opposed, to the original intent of the game, is systemic in human society and permeates almost all aspects of our lives.”

As usual, if you have any good reads to check out, tweet us, or hit us up via email.