We’re late. We know. Needless to say, the hamsters had to work overtime to get this late edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging to the printers. If you’ll excuse our tardiness, you’re in store for a great deal of reading ahead of you, so get comfortable and press on.
We’ll kick off this edition with a profile on Kaos Studios by Gamasutra’s Leigh Alexander, a studio whose last title—Homefront—sealed their demise.
In relation to the decline and fall of so many studios as of late, Keith Stuart has penned a piece for Guardian which compares the current atmosphere (or at-most-fear-of-losing-your-job) in the games industry with the 1983 market crash that saw the death of Atari.
Even the attempt to harness new information infrastructures echoes back to this period. The Atari Gameline and Intellivision Playcable both sought to bring downloadable gaming and linear content services to consoles. Even then, there was an understanding that digital consumption of varied content was the future.
Emily Rogers’ piece for Not Enough Shaders points out the differences in game development budgets and Hollywood budgets—facts which, when added up, explain the current state of the industry.
In less depressing news, Neils Clark writes about how “fun is boring” for Gamasutra, and how it’s a process rather than some ethereal, nebulous concept. I take what I said about “less depressing” back.
Jonas Kyratzes has a similar piece on how if games are art, they certainly don’t act like it.
Veteran game designer Raph Koster responds to both those pieces in his own piece called “Two Cultures and Games.” He does not agree with what they’ve written, and offers a good number of counterpoints to their arguments.
Elsewhere on the internet, Daniel Cook of Lost Garden has written a detailed breakdown of feedback cues for play systems. If you consider yourself a game designer, or even a game reviewer who wants a deeper insight into how games offer feedback, Cook’s article is something you must read.
Troy Goodfellow has written an insightful reading of how Civilization 5 models religion in its latest expansion pack for Flash of Steel. I call my religion in the game “Rationalism” for the sake of irony.
Civ V‘s approach to religion is similar to its approach to society building. As you recall, the Civ social policy trees are a series of perks you choose to improve your empire. Open a tree, choose the perks and if you fill the tree, you get a bonus perk. (Fill five trees and build Utopia project, you win.) There are no negative policies, no trade-offs for choosing a policy. Everything you pick will help you, so you decide what kind of help you need and how quickly you can get it.
Chris Bateman shares his insights on how explicit rewards in games tend to reduce intrinsic motivations to do things.
John Brindle of the Brindle Brothers Blog writes about the representation of hacking in games and literature, a subject which—strangely enough—fails to be realistically depicted most of the time.
Han Cilliers’ piece on Watch Dogs and its “ubiquitous computing” makes for a great companion piece to Brindle’s article.
On Gameranx, the ever prolific Brendan Keogh delves into the narrative and design layers of Driver San Francisco and offers his insights into how the game’s protagonist is a game designer.
But what’s just as fascinating as how Driver SF shows how videogames are dreamlike, is how it shows how dreams are gamelike. Tanner dreams up goals and obstacles. He dreams up a game. In his sleep, he becomes a game designer.
Also on Gameranx, the inexhaustible Seb Wuepper stirs things up by saying—straight up—that console controllers are better than keyboards and mice because they were designed for games. They weren’t intended to be office equipment.
The pseudonymous GamesThatExist writes about establishing a communication between a game’s subsystem to arrive at meaning in a piece titled “The Videogame Intertext”. The article should prove especially interesting to literature buffs.
More on the subject of game systems, William Hughes has an essay on when game systems themselves—and not the characters within the game—lie to the player.
Moving on to the subject of morality and ethics, the ever readable Richard Cobbett gets on the Eurogamer soapbox to write about the games which get players to feel implicated in the actions of their characters even when the choice isn’t theirs. He has some interesting thoughts about the morally grey shooter, Spec Ops: The Line.
Kill Screen’s Yannick LeJacq also shares his views on the aforementioned game, extrapolating on the themes from Cobbett’s piece rather well.
There would be little point in ethics or morality if we didn’t stop to question our culture and the direction in which its headed every so often. It goes without saying that videogaming is currently facing a crisis of sexism, which has managed to permeate its way through almost every aspect of our culture—from the games themselves to the communities surrounding them.
We question the popular narrative that “videogames are for boys only” and that women have no place in games. Anita Sarkeesian has been a voice in dissent of this narrative, and she launched a campaign to examine popular female tropes in videogames, which have a tendency to depict women as caricatures rather than provide them with actual character.
Sarkeesian’s proposal to work on the subject has prompted a barrage of angry rebuttals that range from simple visual and verbal threats to a flash game promoting physical violence against her. She has charted the hate she’s received for the subject on Feminist Frequency (Trigger warning: rape, violence).
No less crucial is Jen Shaffer’s response on Gameranx to the unbridled and uncalled-for sexism geek actress Felicia Day received on Twitter for the simple crime of being somewhat famous. “Felicia Day is significant,” writes Jen Shaffer, who puts up a good rebuttal of the attacks Day constantly faces.
Videogames often invite us to reach outside our comfort zones, so why is it that some gamers feel so uncomfortable to share their hobby? Unwinnable’s Gus Mastrapa has the word on Spelunky as a game that encourages us to try new things.
I’ll leave you with two interesting curios to wrap up this edition of TWIVGB.
First up is Adam Ruch’s kidnapping adventure in DayZ, which is a game you should be playing if you aren’t already.
And last, but not least, is You Chose Wrong, a tumblr blog about the bad ends in the Choose Your Own Adventure stories.