What the heck– you’ve waited enough. Let’s get right to it with this week’s best and brightest of the Ludodecahedron. It’s time for This Week in Videogame Blogging!
Tumblr-er Flutiebear starts us off with this excellent two part series applying Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s Heroine’s Journey to Disney’s Tangled and Bioware’s Dragon Age 2. These analyses come highly recommended.
From there, we pay a visit to GayGamer where newest writer EccentricTomboy writes on seeing sexism in competitive gaming from two sides:
See, back before transition I would have been that guy: amused by the girl trying to play a man’s game and trying to give her a good experience. It’s the same reflex that prompts my friends to introduce me as a female gamer who is “actually really good at games,” as if this is something that just isn’t possible in our normal gaming life.
Meanwhile, The Mary Sue’s Becky Chambers sits down with Rachel Weil, founder of FEMICOM, “a collection of twentieth century games for girls”:
[I]nstead of passing the site by, my eyes lingered over that tagline: The feminine computer museum. “All right, FEMICOM,” I thought, clicking through the links. “Just how are you defining ‘feminine’? Feminine according to who?”
As it turns out, this is exactly the question that FEMICOM wants you to be asking. Failing to explore this site would have been a big mistake on my part. Not only did it lead to one of the most thought-provoking conversations I’ve had about gender roles in games, but it made me put my own gaming preferences under the microscope.
On the subject of curation, Venturebeat’s Jeff DiOrio has a fantastic interview up with Jon-Paul Dyson, director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games.
Speaking of history, this week Split-Screen’s Alan Williamson poked fun at developers’ creating a false impression of it through those infamous “Game of the Year” repackagings. As Williamson observes, “Special editions aren’t about specialty. They are mere upselling.”
Quality was also on the mind of Sean Sands at Gamers With Jobs this week, as he reminds readers that all these successfully funded Kickstarter games are still hypothetical:
What if the new Wasteland game is released and it’s just kind of crappy?
I feel like there is a lot of pressure on these first rounds of high-profile Kickstarted games to actually do well in release and in the public eye. It’s great that there’s been so much enthusiasm for giving money directly to creators of content, but now the onus is on them to deliver on some of these very big promises they’ve made. To be honest, I think the future of Kickstarter itself actually lies with them.
GUS MASTRAPA, whose name I occasionally write in all-caps just for emphasis, had two articles of note this week. First is his repost of his Kill Screen piece on games and heavy metal. Next, the latest in his Pretension +1 column for Unwinnable is a (rather charming and empathetic, in Mastrapa’s usual fashion) reflection on how games will be the death of him:
Part of my problem is that I let myself get derailed. I’ll make some good habits and frequent the gym for a month or two. And then something like E3 will come up and throw me off. I’ll come back exhausted and start the spiral again. For a while I tried to use videogames as a carrot, but my World of Warcraft workout was short-lived. When I made exercise a requirement for playing the game, I just wound up playing less. That was the path of least resistance. For a while I used Foursquare to kind of gamify gym attendance, but that didn’t work either. Some asshole named Pierre kept snaking me for the mayor prize. I was sure he was cheating somehow.
Josh Bycer has a list of five ways to bring the survival horror genre back from the dead. And Nightmare Mode’s Dylan Holmes appears to find games fatal in another way– namely, the unlock strategies of certain multiplayer games, and how these break the game.
Further on the subject of first-person shooters, Dan Nosowitz expresses his concerns for Sniper Elite V2‘s hyperrealistic “KillCam”. Thirdly, and a chief contender for article of the week, is Paolo Pedercini’s editorial for Kotaku on how franchises such as Call of Duty: Black Ops valorize a particularly frightening kind of warfare:
In the Ramboesque universe of Call of Duty, black ops are presented as an elite force type of operations, carried out in secrecy by modern ninjas. But in reality, what makes certain operations “black” is not that they go undetected by enemy forces—after all, most of military engagements are meant to surprise or deceive the opponent. The peculiarity of black operations is of being untraceable and deniable by the very institutions which finance and conduct them. This secrecy is desirable whenever the operations, if done overtly, would cause popular uproar, diplomatic crisis or legal troubles. It allows the perpetrators to bypass public scrutiny, democratic oversight and the Laws of War, a complex system of liability under which the “proper” military must operate.
Real-world black operations are often indistinguishable from terrorism.
Also at Kotaku this week, Mark Serrels takes aim at Ubisoft’s advertising practices and asks “Why are we so willing to become conduits for marketing?” Taking the longer view, Simon Parkin posts his interview with Ubisoft Toronto’s Jade Raymond and the nuances entering into Raymond’s particular high profile in the industry.
From AAA to smaller development, Dennis of Superlevel attempts to put a finer point on the definition of “indie game.” Meanwhile, Unwinnable’s Tim Mucci offers tabletop gamemasters (but really, all game developers) some tips for writing better NPCs.
Another recurring theme this week was the role of difficulty in design practices. First up, and perhaps most controversially among the dev readership, Taekwan Kim takes the position that costing users time through user-unfriendly design is about equivalent with paid unlocking schemes:
Let’s be blunt. Time costs are real. So isn’t it just as manipulative to exploit the fact that the more time you spend, the more expensive and valuable the object necessarily becomes? Is a game that refrains from selling “I win” consumables any less dubious if it forces players to spend inflationary amounts of time? And what else can you call no respec, permadeath, etc. but devices that inflate time costs? More troublesomely, is that actually even a bad thing?
On the player side of the equation, Chris Waldron writes favorably of player-developed, voluntary hardcore challenges in their ability to change the experience of play:
Take, for example, the ‘Nuzlocke Challenge’ of the Pokemon RPGs. In the standard game, Pokemon faint once their hit points are depleted; in a Nuzlocke run, they die, and therefore must be instantly released, never to be seen again; if your whole team falls then I’m afraid it’s game over. [...] the Poke-universe takes on a whole new air of morbidity. It stands to reason that if your Pokemon die upon fainting then, surely, so do your opponent’s. Therefore, hundreds of Pokemon must die in order for yours to prosper, adding a layer of moral ambiguity to an otherwise light-hearted game.
Marcus Pettersson is likewise in favor of more punishing gameplay experiences, though here he argues for harder games on the design level– or in his words, developers need to “design games like a bastard“.
As a little nightcap for you all, several of our readers wrote in this week with some fantastic new/obscure blogs for your perusal: Charlie Wheeler’s The Rules on the Field, focusing on sports and game design, and Pathologistics, a blog dedicated to mapping Russian cult game Pathologic. Both are recommended, although perhaps not the latter if you’re just about to go to bed.