September 30th

September 30th, 2012 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on September 30th)

Wake me up when September ends… Oh! Wait, that’s today! Well then, it must be time for This Week in Videogame Blogging!

We’re starting out the gate with a couple tales on the theme of growing up gaming, and I warn you in advance, they are both heavy hitters. The first comes to us from Unwinnable’s Jenn Frank, on grappling with the loss of a parent, and the games of spaceflight she grew up with. The second from The Rumpus’s Molly McArdle relates to us what it’s like growing up in and out of hospitals, and inside the world of Baldur’s Gate:

Even in this alternate world, one shaped by desire, I was not the hardiest of characters. Strength was frequently my lowest ability score, my constitution not much better. (I poured all my points into intelligence, wisdom, and charisma.) I was able to make do because there, in that world, I had magic, and when you have magic, you barely need a body.

Over on Culture Ramp, Luke Rhodes wraps up his Ludorenaissance series by recapitulating the themes of his interviews and suggesting an emerging methodology for games criticism. In case you missed his previous interviews, here they are again: Jamin Warren, the Editor, Jenn Frank, the Critic, and Kris Ligman, the Curator. (I hope that’s also my superhero name.)

On the subject of curation, this week also featured a number of valuable history lessons. First is Edge’s very readable feature on the making of PlayDead’s Limbo. Next, the Gameological Society’s Anthony John Agnello sketches out some ruminations on control, and asks where lies the fine edge between standardization and freedom of expression in control setups.

Meanwhile, Kevin Impellizeri has begun a two-part series hearkening back to some earlier hardware startups, as a little reminder that the much-discussed OUYA console is hardly the first of its kind.

Yannick LeJacq turned up on the Wall Street Journal again this week to offer a second opinion on Borderlands 2. It’s a not-so-subtle pointed rebuke of the review by Adam Najberg the Journal ran last week, but it’s also a valuable bit of FPS retrospective. Have a taste:

To reconcile the discrepancy between its androcentric cultural aesthetic as a manshooter and its “nerdy” internal mechanisms as an RPG, Borderlands 2 bridges the gap the same way it does everything: in the loudest, most blatant way possible. Whenever you shoot an enemy, numbers pop out of their bleeding carcass instead of fluid and organs. It stops just short of having the Gunzerker get down on all fours and eat the same numbers with his bare hands to become stronger.

Is this a sign of manshooter’s inevitable decline, or the maturation of an industry and art form that’s finally learned to embrace irony? “In some ways we know that we’re reaching a level of sophistication with games because we are able to play them ironically,” Ian Bogost, a Professor of Interactive Computing and Distinguished Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology, tells me in a phone interview.

Most importantly, Bogost explains, this is nothing new to video games themselves. “I mean, we’ve been through this kind of post-modern, self-referential experiment with different art forms many decades ago—with writing, with film, with art. When you see creators and viewers able to rise above the experience to understand the form to then comment upon it, then you realize that that requires a kind of literacy.”

Speaking of Yannick LeJacq, he’s been quite busy as usual. Here, courtesy of LeJacq, is the weirdest interview you’re likely to read all week, with Gamer Grub inventor Keith Mullin.

Over on GameChurch, Drew Dixon has been playing DayZ. I wouldn’t presume to reach as far as to suggest it gave him a crisis of faith, but it certainly didn’t place his fellow man in the best possible light for him. In a similar tone but from the opposite side of the play spectrum, Matthew Kim reflects on just how lonely Dark Souls feels. And AWESOMEoutof10’s David Chandler (who wins best blog name for the week) has a few thoughts on how Deus Ex: Human Revolution fails to deliver on its themes of modification in part because we’re already cyborgs.

PopMatters’ Nick Dinicola has a new column up on how Asura’s Wrath disrupts (and then, I would argue, reasserts) Judeo-Christian theological assumptions. And Bomb the Stacks’ Daniel Korn draws some interesting parallels between Mass Effect 3 and Botanicula— including a provocative claim about which one is darker than the other.

I have a couple more for you here on the subject of writing and, especially, the eye of the beholder. Firstly, writing for Unwinnable, Brendan Keogh discusses the strength of subjectivity in Spec Ops: The Line and Mark of the Ninja. Meanwhile, Bit Creature’s Aaron Matteson proposes that a Bad Dude by any other name might well come from the quill of the Bard. This comes filed under “humor,” but the central point it makes is worthy of some discussion, I think: stripped of its verse, are Shakespeare’s plays the same potboiler fiction as that found in many videogames?

That’s all the games criticism, commentary, analysis and rumination that’s fit to print for this week! Remember to submit your recommendations –including your own work, now, don’t be shy– via email or Twitter. Otherwise it will just lie there, depressed and un-CD’d, forever. That doesn’t sound too pleasant, does it?

Oh, and– you probably have at least a few more hours till Alan Williamson closes up shop on this month’s Blogs of the Round Table! Quick like a fox, now, get!

Great. Who let the Ericbot out? Do you have any idea the kind of damage he does to the carpet?

Ahem… Well, now that your TWIVGB overlord is again in the captain’s chair, let’s set off for parts unknown with the best and brightest of games criticism, commentary and investigation. It’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Let’s start off with a world view. Jordan Magnuson has put together a downloadable omnibus wrapping up the series of games inspired by his world travels. Next, Simon Parkin delivers an investigative report on recent internet cafe gaming deaths.

(The next section bears a trigger warning for discussion of rape, sexual assault and objectification.)

1UP’s Jeremy Parish takes aim at Western media’s coverage of “weird Japan” and a so-called fixation adult games:

Make no mistake, the fact that Rapelay entered the American conscious right around the time that gaming blogs began to supplement their 24-hour news cycle with “scandalous” content is no coincidence. What might have been a minor blip a few years prior became a widely reported new story as bloggers licked their lips at the prospect of the traffic a sex scandal could bring. In the fine tradition of the media, little effort was made to balance discussion of the game or promote a wider understanding of the context surrounding it.

And make no mistake: The context surrounding RapeLay was hardly accepting. Simply because the game was legal to sell in Japan doesn’t mean the Japanese public took delight in it. On the contrary, the otaku community is often regarded as an unfortunate blight on the Japanese culture by the Japanese themselves. Akihabara could be regarded less a promised land and more a quarantine zone.

(End trigger warning section.)

Dan Thurot takes us through a five part tour of the story and themes of Metro 2033. And on the subject of post-apocalypses, Unwinnable’s Stu Horvath muses on what makes it such an entertaining setting:

Our romance with the apocalypse is a celebration of misanthropy. The point of Last Stop, Apocalypse – and the apocalypse itself, for that matter – is to judge people.

Eschatology (the study of heaven and hell, death and judgment) used to be found only within the domain of theology – Judgment Day and Ragnarok and on and on through religions new and old – but now there is a whole branch of popular culture devoted to the end times. Mad Max, In the Mouth of Madness, Fallout, Mass Effect, I Am Legend, Dawn of the Dead; all our genre stories seem increasingly concerned with Armageddon.

[After the apocalypse] it will be quiet. A man, his dog and his shotgun, living off the land. It may not be safe and it may not be easy, but at least I saw you all burn first, right? I survived. The math of everyday living is easier without you. Now it’s my world to mess up or save, as I want.

Other bloggers this week were more concerned with a current, more persistent kind of doomsday. Scripted Sequence’s Spencer treats us to the devolution of Super Mario Bros’ currency into worthlessness:

Playing New Super Mario Bros. 2 over the last week, a few things struck me. Is Nintendo, a once mighty company brought to its knees in the last year by the 3DS omnishambles, making some kind of sick joke at its own expense? Has it created a game-length meditation on the financial bubble and its aftermath? Or is it just a gaming dinosaur recycling old tricks in a desperate attempt to recapture past glories?

Meanwhile, Cameron Kunzelman looks back to Final Fantasy VII and how one of its worst design moments (the plate climbing scene) functions as a metaphor for class:

One of the ways that poverty is entrenched structurally is through information control. There are forms to be filled out. There are tax documents to wade through. There are services that are never communicated to the people who need them because realistically servicing an entire population is prohibitively expensive. Poverty exists in loops–you never see a way out because you’re too busy making ends meet, or no one shows you, or no one tells you that you need to apply for scholarships by a deadline. To not be homeless, you need a job; to get a job, you need a permanent address. Infinite loop.


So this section of Final Fantasy 7 is a translation of that real-world issue into the mechanics of the game. Instead of navigating structural or informational architecture, the player is literally forced to navigate a space that is mysterious and unclear. This gets achieved in a couple ways, all of which are really interesting. The game chooses this moment to begin navigation vertically rather than horizontally–so far, the player has been navigating horizontal planes and entering them from the left and the right. The move to pure verticality is a subtle way to suggest the difficulty of the actual movement (we’re climbing up a tiny pipe) and the difficulty of the mission at hand (invading the heart of power in the world; going into the lion’s den). Additionally, the player moves in and out of different z-planes. It is literally impossible to navigate in a purely visual manner. Instead, the player has to exhaust all of her potential spatial movement to even get the barest hint of the pathway that she is supposed to take.

Sean Sands laments the pains of parenting a second-generation gamer while Chris Bateman outlines the four regimes of play.

Over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Robert Yang offers up a three part counter-history arguing for a more holistic look at the influences which shaped the first person genre: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 are all highly recommended reads.

Responding to Richard Clark’s “Exegesis” piece, GameChurch colleague Jordan Ekeroth takes the position that human subjectivity will always prevent us from perfectly interpreting a game’s meaning:

If Super Hexagon is an outworking of Nietzsche’s ideals, then it is also a demonstration of his shortcomings. He spoke of man as improving and as you play Super Hexagon, you will eventually improve. But he also spoke of man as becoming something more than man, transcending the weakness of man’s nature by force of will, and this is a more tenuous proposition. This is a proposition that has led to holocaust and genocide. As mankind evolves and improves, we do not become something other than man, we merely increase the boundaries of man. Harsh lines of demarcation may be drawn to segregate people across all sorts of social levels, but they cannot divide us from a common heritage.

Super Hexagon illustrates this perfectly. You can go from level to level. Line. Triangle. Square. You can strive to last longer and longer. But you cannot beat this game. It is like approaching light speed, where the closer you get to the barrier, the more difficult acceleration becomes, and yet even more impossible than this feasibly breakable barrier, because there literally is no point at which the walls stop coming.

Exegesis creates the same difficulty. We should make every effort to determine a creator’s intentions. But we should not make the mistake of ever thinking that we can know them perfectly.

Luke Rhodes is continuing his series of interviews with some big figures of the ludodecahedron (and me, for some odd reason). The latest in the interview chair is industry vet, current Unwinnable regular contributor Jenn Frank, and it’s definitely a must-read.

Next, a couple pieces that defy easy categorization. First, Richard Cobbett has kicked off his series of articles on what is, as far as I’m concerned, the only right way to play Skyrim. And did you know thecatemites has a new website? It’s glorious. “If you see something that looks like a videogame but isn’t, you should notify the Police.”

Lastly, some signal boosting. Kim has rebooted the Boycott Atlus blog as an all-purpose tumblr calling out sexism, homophobia, transphobia and other gross behaviors in games and their adjacent marketing. I give you Fuck No Videogames. (Naturally, a trigger warning figures for all of the above.)

That’s it for this week. If you’re up for some more Sunday reading material, dear Jim Rossignol has you covered. And, please, if the Ericbot gets out again, just pull his plug, will you?

Remember that you can (and definitely should) send us your recommendations for great acts of videogame blogging via Twitter or email. We can’t stress enough the importance of this! Also be sure to check out Alan Williamson’s Blogs of the Round Table while there is still time for his end-of-September roundup. Stay safe and write on!

Searching…searching…searching…file found. Accessing…now initiating TWIVGB #172.

Begin. If you liked last week’s interview with our own Kris Ligman, L. Rhodes of Culture Ramp continues his series of interviews on the coming-of-age of video game journalism (also known as the Ludorenaissance) with Kill Screen founder Jamin Warren.

Initializing – Vander Caballero’s Papo y Yo

First up, Yannick LeJacq’s review of the game on Kill Screen looking at the nature of addiction explored in the game. Then at Medium Difficulty, Kyle Carpenter sees Papo y Yo not as a function of escapism, but a game about escapism. And finally Denis Farr, writing for Gameranx, takes a different approach and looks beyond the personal story to see it as a post-colonial narrative.

Export – Discussion of Violence

Having been asked for a quote in a Kotaku piece Robert Yang realized he wrote too much in response to their question. As a result he felt his position was not accurately represented, so he posted his full response to “Do you think shooters take themselves too seriously?

Marjorie Jenson at Unwinnable, find the lack of critical thinking towards violence rather than the violence itself keeping her and her students from becoming gamers.

My gamer-adjacent students could love games – even become gamers – if videogames taught them how to think critically about violence.

My students argue that excessive, realistic death and torture will desensitize gamers. While the link between desensitization and mimicry is tenuous at best, I do believe that media affects people. Well-crafted books, films and television shows change how people think and feel. The thoughts and feelings elicited by media alter how people treat one another.

Jeff Wheeldon writes about “The Myth of Redemptive Violence” at Push Select Magazine by looking at our need for heroes who solve their problems through violence, from the Babylonian creation myth to Christianity through modern video games.

Jordan Rivas explores growing up in a post-9/11 world and how the media embraced the narrative set by the politicians, in particular the Splinter Cell series. A stunning piece of New Games Journalism as he describes the connection the games had on his view of the real world of the war on terror.

Samuel Sattin, using a recent experience with a friend’s child and Uncharted 2, explores the possible necessity of violence in our make believe, saying:

I saw the glee in Charlie’s eyes that day.  He’d begun to detach himself from the discord surrounding him in his daily life, disappearing into a less concrete world. Sometimes I just worry that if children can’t decide on the boundaries between reality and fantasy for themselves once in a while, they’ll become convinced that dark urges are only fit for real life, where the realm of make-believe is rarely welcome. And that would be truly frightening in my opinion. A genuine cause for concern.

Then Jim Ralph invokes the Bard, at the Ontological Geek, in his description of a game he hasn’t yet played, but has read about (Spec Ops: The Line) and wonders if that isn’t the reaction that the developers wanted from their player base.

Finally, a Video Game Morality Play by Andrew Vanden Bossche in choose your own adventure style.

Trigger warnings in next section’s pieces for discussions of rape, sexism and harassment.

Marc Price calls the upcoming Feminist Frequency video series, “Anita Sarkessian’s Joan of Arc Moment.” Which may be a little myopic, but I fear is a bit too accurate.

Published in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media this week is Anastasia Salter & Bridget Blodgett’s piece entitled “Hypermasculinity & Dickwolves: The Contentious Role of Women in the New Gaming Public.” It is a retread of last year’s debacle with a good dose of academic analysis thrown in.

Trigger warning end.


Kyle Carpenter looks into why Cards Against Humanity works.

Essentially, CAH offers “offensive play,” a chance to indulge in exposing those aspects of Western culture which have been made hidden, taboo, offensive – and, consequently, made funny – without fear of damage. To play Cards Against Humanity is to enter an instant community based on ridicule, where everyone involved has agreed to participate and everyone is in on the joke. In a sense, these are racist and sexist jokes with the benefit of a safe word, the agreement that nothing on the cards is meant seriously and that no-one will carry the game forward into their day-to-day lives.

Jackson W. Ryan calls “Malaria the Invisible Wall of Far Cry 2,” lamenting that Ubisoft made up a disease with a ready treatment rather than gone full on with malaria.

Chris of Scripted Sequences asks, “Is a Scary Game Scarier If You Don’t Know How to Play?” He says that lacking experience with WASD controls only serves to make a game like Amnesia: The Dark Decent even scarier.

Emily Payton explores her inner Lynch in looking at the dream like qualities of Deadly Premonition.

Input Satire

Michael “brainy gamer” Abbott skewers general complaints about service from gamers by entering the rhetoric into real life shops.

Error Error

Stu Horvath at Unwinnable has “Sympathy for the Universe” where he writes about giving life to fictional characters, avatars, Adam and God himself.


Damien McFerran’s Crippled by Nostalgia: The Fraud of Retro Gaming. He asks if it’s the gameplay that makes hardcore gamers go back to vintage games or something else? Hint: He posits it might be something else.

Carol Borden’s The Plague of the White Knight. After playing Max Payne 3, Bioshock 2 and Halo 3 she is tired of the trope of the “White Knight Savior” and the “Save The Cheerleader, Save The World” goal of storytelling so prevalent in games.

Zolani Stewart’s An Exploration of “Whore of The Orient.” “Context is everything,” he begins as he goes on to weigh the good and bad of the title and surmises that it will fall to the final product. Here’s hoping.

Access – “And now for something completely different”

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal had a rather disturbing reading of Pac-Man this week. Saying, “It’s like Kafka wrote a Lovecraft story.” Visuals are included.

Initiate self-destruct. 5…4…

Please send any and all recommendations of links you have written or stumbled across to our Twitter or our email. Also, September isn’t over yet and there is still time to write for Blogs of the Round Table. Thank you for…

One hour. That’s how much time elapsed between the BoRT Returns post and the first submission. It took me two hours to write that introductory post! I’m getting too old for this. If you haven’t submitted an entry for BoRT yet, you’ve got until the end of September. Get writing! Email me your submissions or tweet @critdistance or @AGBear.

Amanda Lange argues that new genres rely on new means of interaction i.e. new input devices, and that gamers need to be developed with those new inputs in mind- something that will become apparent when the Wii U is released. By the way, does anyone want to buy my Kinect?

Nate Andrews talks about how games should include troughs of banality to complement the peaks of action, referring to how a future open-world Hitman game could play out. Although I’m not sure if I want to play as Agent 47 cleaning his bathroom and buying groceries, there are some obvious parallels with Léon here, which is never a bad thing.

Mike Schiller says that instead of looking for a Citizen Kane of gaming, we should be looking for its Taxi Driver instead. I think we need a new word instead of ‘game’. How about we call them ‘digics’ or something? Can I make up a word just like that?

Peter Shafer also wants new methods of input and feedback to make games (digics) less of a “one-sided conversation”. He argues that while digics are good at communicating, they’re not great at listening. They are that blustering guy in the pub.

Cha Holland favours “pulling the wings off fairies”, demystifying the digic development process and humanising digic creators. She also calls for a wider range of niche perspectives in criticism and development- you could perhaps call it ‘The Anthropy Principle’.

Trent Shaw uses the prevalence of violence in the modern digic as a springboard for talking about how mechanical limitations and character relationships that only occur relative to the player limit the possibilities for sincere connections.

Thanks to all of our participants so far: I’ll be updating this post later in the month with more entries. I also promise I’ll stop using the word ‘digic’. Special thanks to Darius Kazemi, whose BoRT Linkomatic 5000 can be added to your blog to link to the other entries. Just embed the following code on your blog’s page:

<iframe type="text/html" width="600" height="20" src="" frameborder="0"></iframe>

And you’ll get this:

If you have trouble embedding the Linkomatic 5000, let me know on Twitter and I’ll try my best to help.

September 9th

September 9th, 2012 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on September 9th)

It’s a quiet Sunday morning here at Critical Distance HQ. Ian is snoring on the couch. Ben is hooking up another espresso machine. Katie is having a bowl of muesli. And Eric is… probably off playing Driver: San Francisco again, if I know him.

As for me? I have some delicious new links for you, fresh from the oven. It’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!

First up, one of the big news stories for the week came from Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s John Walker, who brought us an exclusive interview with Ubisoft reps about the publisher’s decision to back away from always-on DRM. The interview is a worthy read all on its own, of course, but I would further recommend Walker’s post-interview reflections on the interview and why Ubisoft have gone the route they have.

On the subject of design I have a great twofer here for you from TWIVGB regulars Josh Bycer and Eric Schwarz. Bycer this week traces the practice of “negative game mechanics” –“mechanics whose purpose is to stop […] play”– from the arcades to the current social game boom. Meanwhile, Eric Schwarz traces the history of regenerating health in the first person shooter genre, and in doing so weighs the mechanic’s pros and cons:

I don’t think regenerating health is enough to “ruin” any game, and I don’t think that using it in the manner that is currently popular is a bad thing in every single instance, especially when your goal in designing a game is to create something for as wide an audience as possible. At the same time, health management is one of the most fundamental components of videogame design, and casting away the long-term component of it also saps a lot of interesting gameplay potential, not to mention also tends to sap the brand identity behind gameplay.

Max Lieberman talks about theology as system and game system as theology on the subject of The Binding of Isaac. On a more secular (and musical) note, Joshua Dennison writes about why he likens Proteus to free jazz.

More personally: Scott Juster, touching upon Michael Abbott’s “Why We JRPG“, reflects on his own return to the genre:

When faced with the slick AI director in Left 4 Dead, the accessible upgrade system in Diablo 3, or the emergent chaos in Far Cry 2, it’s easy to start to think about games as black boxes that export outcomes through a quasi-mystical process. The beauty of a good JRPG lies in its ability illustrate the direct consequences of your actions. Ambiguities are exchanged for clear statistics, dexterity traded for tactical thinking. Of course, it helps that Abbott uses Xenoblade: Chronicles as an example when praising the JRPG. As he and a growing number of writers argue, the game’s world and the characters in it are an extended metaphor for the central conflict. The once strong division between story and gameplay in JRPGs has become porous.

But if you really want to get personal, I cannot recommend highly enough this most recent piece by the wonderful Patricia Hernandez, who writes this week for Bit Creature on games and desire: “More and more, games embody eros, for they never let you arrive. They count on you wanting having to go farther and farther, on wanting to push yourself harder. Desire then easily becomes addiction.”

Also writing for Bit Creature, Drew Dixon criticizes the failure of game reviewers to look beyond the rubric:

It seems like game critics have been claiming for a long time now that games are not the best medium to tell stories and yet developers keep telling stories in their games and game critics keep pointing out when game narratives contradict their mechanics. And now with Papo & Yo, we have a game whose systems coincide with and add depth to its narrative structure and we can’t stop complaining about how it’s too easy.

Along those lines, we hear a lot about how to “fix” games journalism and criticism but VG Revolution’s Marc Price does us one better. He offers up some specifics which go beyond simply the journalists themselves:

The change starts with you [readers]. If you want to “fix” the games press, demand more. Promote the articles, people, and sites you like, and work hard to engage members of the press in a way that is constructive and rewarding for both parties. If you disagree with a review score, say why in a mature way. The process of reviewing a game doesn’t end when the review comes out and there is an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other. Don’t engage in “all-or-nothing” or “us versus them” arguments, and don’t give your time to articles that pander to you in an obvious attempt to get your eyes on them. If the audience moves, the incentive will, too.

Grayson Davis puts the brakes on to remind us that despite our aspirations, most games are not as smart or mature as we might wish they were (warning for ableist language):

Here we must be honest with ourselves. We must dispense with our kneejerk reactions and practiced arguments. There is no doubt that many smart and talented people make video games, and there is no doubt that many smart and talented people play video games. But there is a great deal of doubt in video games as a creative medium, even among great lovers of that medium. We can be diplomatic and say that video games have yet to reach their potential, whatever that might be. […] But we can also be more straightforward, and say that video games are often dumb, or at least juvenile, clutching awkwardly at some higher form.

Another subject of which we hear a great deal is sexism in gaming, both industrially and among players. Now Emily Matthew gives us sexism in gaming by the numbers, because I don’t know about you, but stats make me very happy. Or, well, depressed in this case, but moving on.

Unfortunately, the issue of sexism and the lived experience on the receiving end of it is not simply a topic to be swept under the rug, even if we might want to. Lana Polansky shares her thoughts on getting tired of holding her breath waiting for things to improve: “That may seem like an attack. This whole post might be seen as a passive-aggressive dig. But it’s not; it’s simply an account of my overgrown impatience.”

Meanwhile, writing lucidly for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Cara Ellison relates a tale of playing Heroes of Newerth and getting buried under its own terrible community:

It’s a shame: S2 built this super-nice, really economical war machine […] just to have people come on and shout abuse at each other, hate on each other, and kick people until they never load up the game again and go and cry in the bath and tell themselves they are fat and unloveable and will never get a boyfriend because her skills are just not good enough in HoN. Pass the wine. I must have the wine! My life from now on will be a failure!

[…] [In] the history of the world, I have never heard a developer say that they want to make a gamer disconnect from the game as part of the experience, perhaps unless it was a horror game, but I think possibly 90% of the people who start this game actually disconnect fairly quickly and go and watch Morecambe and Wise for an hour to grow back their sense of humanity. I lie back and think of Scotland whilst people are lobbing around insults, but there are getting to be more and more people who are migrating to an online space that is heavily community moderated […] if you want to expand your player base, you make them feel comfortable, rewarded, and like you belong.

Scott Madin goes even bigger, addressing not simply games or incidents of sexual assaults at game devs’ parties but reminding us that sexism does not occur in a vacuum, nor does it end there, at PAX or anywhere else:

Ky’s assailant is the only case from that party, that we know of, where someone decided he was entitled not only to sexual gratification but to enforce his claim to that gratification with violence — and make no mistake, all sexual assault is violence — and that makes him a relatively egregious example. But that doesn’t make him an isolated, unconnected, free-floating Bad Person whose worldview, impulses, and actions come from nowhere and cannot be interrogated. His attitudes came from somewhere, and for every person like him who physically sexually assaults someone, there are dozens or hundreds who hold basically the same views, absorbed from basically the same sources, who “only” harass and intimidate and make gamer culture hostile to everyone who isn’t heterosexual, cisgender, white, able-bodied, and male.

Finally, here’s the kicker. If past incidents in gamer culture are any indicator […] there will be no lasting consequences. A few more people will be alienated from gamer culture, but the majority of gamers will brush it off, and continue to support the institutions that promote these attitudes. The gaming press — even the smart, progressive gaming press — will write about Penny Arcade and PAX and Gearbox and Mojang to talk about their press releases and upcoming games, and will not mention the kinds of things that happen under their various auspices. No lasting opprobrium will attach to any of their names, and the culture will not change. People, even smart, thoughtful, progressive people who understand rape culture and how it works, and work tirelessly to break down race, gender, and sexuality barriers in gamer culture, will keep attending PAX and buying games produced by developers with toxic, misogynist studio cultures. The overwhelming sense will be that yeah, that stuff was bad, but that’s all in the past.

On the subject of PAX Prime (and I apologize for the weak transition), I have just come across Robert Rath’s recommended reading roster for his recent Beyond Borders: Global Game Controversies panel held at the convention. There are some great reads in there.

I would be neglectful in my role as Senior TWIVGBer to fail to mention one of the other big news pieces of the week, which is Valve’s decision to implement a $100 application fee for their Steam Greenlight service. To say that this has led to some outcry among independent game developers would be a hell of an understatement. I refer you first and foremost to Jonas Kyratzes’s blog where he registers his outrage, not at Valve, but at the discussion among developers and bloggers which he says falls explicitly along class lines:

Some of us are poor. Poor isn’t like when you spent $100 at a bar last night and you decide to only spend $50 next time you go drinking. Poor isn’t when you can only afford to go to one convention this year instead of three. Poor isn’t when you can’t afford to get the newest iPad because you’ve been investing in your business. Poor is when you don’t know how you’ll pay the rent. Poor is when you stand in the supermarket trying not to have a nervous breakdown because all you can afford is the same shitty pasta you had yesterday and the day before. Poor is when you’ve got crushing debt because your parents never had the money to help you, because they worked their whole lives and got nothing for it.

Poor is when every cent you earn goes to buying you another day under a roof, not to a gamble disguised as an investment. Why don’t we have a hundred dollars from selling ten games? Because we need to live.

It is particularly offensive when this is seen as some kind of insufficient desire to struggle – or even as entitlement. We struggle more than you can imagine just to be here. That we have, despite our poverty, managed to make these games, is a fucking miracle. We started with less than nothing, and we have the entire system sitting on our backs. “Oh, do you think I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth?” comes the response. Yes. Yes you were. Compared to some of us, to many of us in fact. And it’s OK, everyone should live like you do, or even better. I don’t want you to feel guilty. But at least be aware of it.

This, meanwhile, is an even rawer, but still very worthwhile personal story I would also highly recommend.

Aiming for a middle ground, Ben of Ebony Fortress offers up a pretty even-handed assessment of the $100 fee and what some alternatives might be. Valve has stated that the Greenlight service is still being improved, so we’ll see what the future brings.

Before I send you on your way this week, a bit of worthy signal-boosting is in order.

First, the Game Accessibility Guidelines website: it’s great to see a subject like accessibility gaining the amount of traction that it has as of late, and while this website positions itself as a resource for developers, it’s also a very welcomed tool for talking about ability in the context of game design and discourse.

Next, lead narrative designer and writer at Lionhead Studios, Mark Llabres Hill, whose credits include the Fable series, helpfully wrote in letting us know he has a blog writing on the fields of his expertise. Which is a really, really cool thing to suddenly get in one’s inbox, I have to say. Do follow it.

Lastly and most egocentrically, Luke Rhodes of the up-and-coming Culture Ramp blog interviewed yours truly this week on the subject of game criticism, curation, and, of course, Critical Distance. For those of you who are interested in some insight into how these roundups get written each week, or just want to see me spew more than my regular weekly quota of words, this is the interview for you!

Ah, but the sun is getting high in the sky now, so I’ll send you all on your way till next week. Remember, we welcome any and all link recommendations by Twitter and email, and yes, we love shameless self promotion. As I’ve noted before, we rely profoundly on the submissions sent into us each week. So don’t wait to get discovered; contact us!

And remember that there is still time to participate in Alan Williamson’s Blogs of the Round Table as well!

September 2nd

September 2nd, 2012 | Posted by Kris Ligman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off on September 2nd)

I made you an elaborate intro, but the cat ate it. So, let’s just get right into it. It’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!

On Gamasutra, Douglas Lynn draws a line between the “game” and the “game experience,” citing the latter as a more all-encompassing, multisensory interaction. Over on Video Game Tourism, Eron Rauch delineates the four major types of In-Game Photography.

Meanwhile, Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez boldly (and many would say, correctly) asserts that there is no such thing as a game without politics:

Think, for instance, of player creation in any game. Look at the options. Are there women? What race or gender does the creation screen default to? How many options are there for people of color—be it skin tone, or hair type? What kind of dialects are available in the voicing options? Do the choices have race-specific abilities that make some characters innately better than others at certain things?

Depending on what’s included or shown, we can glean the developer’s stances about race and gender, amongst other things. Maybe they don’t feel a race or gender is important enough to include, for example—typically, there will be excuses surrounding time and tech, but these are flimsy when you take a look at the superfluous things a developer does decide to include instead. Or maybe there’s the uncomfortable implication that Caucasians are, as far as the game is concerned, actually more important than other races—and that’s why there’s more options for them.

On the subject of games and agendas, here’s a piece on Spec Ops: The Line straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were: a feature from narrative designer Richard Pearsey on the narrative objectives and process of the game.

Over on my old stomping grounds of PopMatters Moving Pixels, Jorge Albor offers us a profile on Molleindustria’s Unmanned, in which players take on the role of a remote combat drone pilot:

Unmanned also takes the opportunity to chastise the mainstream games industry as a whole. In his blog on Gamasutra, Grek Costikyan is right to point out the game is boring and for a reason. Molleindustria divides Unmanned from games that beautify warfare through game design. Boredom serves a dual purpose of conveying the actual tedium of modern warfare (artfully portrayed in Sam Mendes’s Jarhead) and expressing how “fun” can become a tool by which we again divide ourselves from the world around us.

Over at the Gameological Society, Steve Heisler takes us through the latest installment of his “Decadent” column with two examples of the escort adventure, ICO and Amy, noting the difference in player affect between the two. In a similar vein, Gamers With Jobs’ Julian Murdoch wonders why more games don’t address their older audiences:

I’m not a tabula rasa any more. I’m a grown-ass man. I have baggage. I’ve changed the diapers and sat through the meetings. I’ve made the grown-up choices to not buy the electric guitar, not upset the boss, not take off on a vacation I can’t afford. I’ve made the all-too-adult choices to pay the mortgage, do the job, console the snot-nosed, feverish child and roll the garbage can down the driveway in the darkness of a frozen February morning.

These choices may not be noble, but they’re at least, I hope, the quiet, subtle choices that separate me from the true assholes of the world. And they are, always, my starting point for any character I’m going to explore.

How can they not be?

I’m not suggesting that I long to actually play as Charles Bukowski or Tom Waits or Walter Mitty in a game. I don’t want to play at being bitter and angry, grizzled by the world and its realities. What I want is a path. What I’m asking for is an actual answer. Where are the characters that take who I am today toward something more righteous? For every 12 year old inspired by Luke Skywalker to be better than they think they can be, there’s a 45 year old middle-class father of two wondering where it all goes from here, wondering if there was more than a little nobility in Lando’s loyalty to Cloud City, in Walt’s descent into the dark.

As though in answer, Unwinnable’s Steve Haske looked into the abyss of Animal Crossing and found a lot about consumer culture malaise there. That or he’s wound up in a Todd Haynes film; it’s difficult to tell.

Socks Make People Sexy (which is in the running for best blog title featured this week) offers up a long and rewarding essay on What makes Super Mother— errr, Mother 2 so super. And over at one of my favorite little blogs, Persona Matters, Johannes Koski takes us through the streets of Shibuya while extrapolating on concepts from Isaac Lenhart, and what it all has to do with The World Ends With You.

As a matter of fact, this was a good week for JRPG commentary all around, as Pixels or Death’s Adam Harshberger reveals that he liked Xenoblade Chronicles enough to confide a few dark secrets in us. And GameInformer’s Kimberley Wallace explores several design lessons we can still learn the grand old genre.

Josh Bycer writes of the plot holes of Diablo 3. Meanwhile, Unwinnable’s Sam Machkovech swaps out plot holes for manholes (see that seamless transition there?) in lamenting poor Seattle’s lot as a center of the game industry with surprisingly few game locations to its name:

Upon booting [Deadlight], the developer’s name flashes: Tequila Works. Who is that, who is that, who is that… oh. A video game developer in Spain. Spain? Microsoft works down the block, yet they couldn’t even bother to pitch this Seattle-zombie game to a local.


What a blown opportunity for cool game design–Seattle actually has an underground city, destroyed in a massive fire over a century ago. Modern downtown Seattle is built on top of it; look down in sewer grates while walking around town, and you’ll see little red lights that light the underground way for paid tours and enterprising junkies.

Instead of capitalizing on a weird bit of Seattle history, Tequila Works copy+pastes a bunch of pipes and figuratively shouts, “Hey, low-rent Ninja Turtles!”

A couple of Kickstarter pieces to end off this roundup (ohoho! I’m on a roll!). The first is an interview with GaymerCon founder Matt Conn on his successful fundraising. The second is this unmissable feature on Gamasutra on a Kickstarter which didn’t succeed:

Crawford hoped to raise money to create Balance of the Planet, a serious environmental simulator that would teach players about sustainable energy, pollution, and other world issues. With his funding, he planned to make the game available for free on the web, and Crawford suspects that’s one of the main reasons why his campaign went down in flames. After all, why would backers pledge money for a product that’ll eventually be free?

“As it turns out, my model was only right for what Kickstarter used to be,” said Crawford. “That is, Kickstarter used to be a semi-charitable operation in which people could assist worthy creative projects that might not make it commercially, but still ought to be done. But in the area of games and comics, this is no longer the case.”

I think I better wrap this TWIVGB up before the catbeast chews through any more wires. Have a pleasant week, all of you out there in Readerland, and be sure to tweet and email us your submissions. Oh, and if you haven’t yet, check out Alan Williamson’s revival of the Blogs of the Round Table! And yes, you can submit the same article for BoRT and TWIVGB, so you have no excuses, really.