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This month’s Blogs of the Round Table received the biggest response ever: a cavalcade of contributions so intimidating, I can feel my wrists hurting in mere anticipation of the impending writeup. “Don’t do it Alan”, the sentient tendons whisper, but that would be a disservice to all of the writers who took part. Also, I’ve already written this paragraph and so may as well finish. Here we go.

January’s theme was Challenge:

“The past few years have seen a resurgence of challenging games: Dark Souls, Spelunky, FTL: Faster Than Light, XCOM: Enemy Unknown to name but a few. Do you think videogames have more value in providing a stern challenge for the player to overcome, or does difficulty serve to alienate and deter potential players, impeding their potential for inclusiveness?

Alternatively, write about the greatest challenge you have overcome in a game (this can be a personal or emotional challenge rather than one of dexterity).”


Gods and Demons

Jeremy Voss isn’t a fan of challenging games, instead praising the ‘God mode’ offered by older shooters like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D as a way to explore these worlds without fear of death. The problem I’ve always had with God mode, noclip and friends is that they allow you to reach places you were never meant to visit, find those places empty or unfinished, breaking the illusion of the game’s world.

Brett Douville looks back on his fifteen years in the games industry, the challenges of the past and the prospects of the future. It’s interesting to read about the difficulties of programming games rather than playing the finished products, also detailed in an interview with Brett on the Bethesda Blog.

Daniel Lipson totally cheated at Final Fantasy VII by letting someone else defeat the Demon Wall. It’s alright though, because he can beat it himself now. In the age of YouTube, it’s possible to watch incredible feats of skill (apparently some people can actually complete Ninja Gaiden!) but nothing can match watching a friend beat a challenge in person.

Oscar Strik argues that the endless reloading and fruitless interactions of videogames are our own Groundhog Day. Interactions and battles become puzzles with finite solutions to be discovered by repetition, and “if the real world doesn’t work this way, why then should games?”. But who wouldn’t want to be Bill Murray in that film, freezing time for forty years so he could save lives and learn French with the torturous cost of hearing Sonny and Cher every single morning?

Give Me Challenge or Give Me Death

Donald Conrad has bucked the trend by playing Demon’s Souls rather than Dark Souls, offering a good explanation of why the Souls games are appealing if you’ve not played one yet. Since I spend a lot of time on Twitter, I just assume everyone is constantly playing Dark Souls.

Nate Paolasso draws a distinction between the deliberate trial-and-error pacing of Dark Souls and the lightning reactions of Super Meat Boy. Are all these blogs going to be about Dark Souls? Is every blog about Dark Souls? Is this the game that launched a thousand Tumblrs? Paolasso states games “that lack challenge are simply not worth playing”, but it’s just not true people! Ever played Rez?

Tom Battey is sick of meaningless death in games like Far Cry 3, and I know how he feels. I recently finished Uncharted, a game with worse checkpoints than Berlin in the 1960s, and they really do detract from your enjoyment. I disagree with Battey’s assertion that “games that aren’t challenging are dull”, though. Ever played Journey?

Sinclair Target is also a proponent of the “challenge is fun” school of games philosophy. To be honest, a piece containing the sentence “Dear Esther isn’t really a game” and using the anti-description ‘gameplay’ is a good way to troll your humble curator, but I can acknowledge the argument that challenge is a useful way to analyse mechanics- separating Bayonetta from Barbie, if you will.

Ben Hallett thinks the consequences of failure in XCOM and Dark Souls separate them from the inconsequential Civilization V and Arkham Asylum, for example; these consequences give them more in common with difficult online games like Counterstrike.

Let’s Talk About Games That Aren’t Dark Souls

Jackson Lango makes the compelling argument that The Walking Dead has moral difficulty, where the pressure comes in justifying our decisions, but without excluding players in the way mechanical challenges do. There’s also the traditional pressure of having to kill zombies before they eat you, of course, but Walking Dead has the tension of consequence where the situations in Oscar Strik’s aforementioned blog piece do not.

Nick Degens reaches a similar conclusion: that challenge can also rely on the affective state of the player, such as in horror games or the ‘psychological shooter’ Spec Ops: The Line. Some of the difficulty in Mass Effect comes from the torture of choice (or “die Qual der Wahl” as I heard it in high school), even when the consequences of choice are obvious.

Mark Filipowich sees difficulty as a glue that holds narratives together, whether it’s Luke piloting an X-Wing down the Death Star trench or Link snagging Ganon in the groin with a hookshot. Winning does feel good, and beating a hard challenge feels better for some, but I still don’t see why the existence of ‘Hard’ mode precludes the existence of ‘Easy’ mode as well.

Also, since when did Medium Difficulty look so snazzy? Great job with the redesign.

Mark Filipowich… wait a minute, he’s written two blog posts! In the second, he talks about the virtues of persevering with the weaker character Agnes in Final Fantasy Tactics. Investing time and effort into a character also increases our emotional investment with them.

Joseph Miller also talks about Final Fantasy Tactics, but calls difficulty “a limited expressive tool”, at least in the context of the games he wants to make which are about other feelings than “fiero” and “grip” (those are going into my lexicon).

Christopher Floyd has completed PGR3 on Platinum: we mere mortals should remain humble in the presence of a true thumb warrior. Even if PGR3 was utterly lacking in personality, its courses still had character – none more so than the Nordschleife.

Psepho wrote about the ‘accessible challenge’ of Super Hexagon, the magic of muscle memory and when the word “begin” becomes “again” through repetition. Have we all played Super Hexagon by now? You really should. It’s ace.

Peter Shafer challenges himself to be a pacifist in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, living with the consequences of his augmentation choices.

Taking It Easy-ish

Cha Holland confronts the all-too-real challenges of Dinner Date, a bizarre role-playing game where you play the subconscious of a man being stood up. I watched the trailer for the game since I’d never heard of it before. Is that what the inside of a person’s head really sounds like?

Jordan Erica Webber plays games on Easy, without shame. I’m glad someone took the bait on the topic of inclusion: challenging games are exclusive and elitist by necessity, and I’m not sure that’s what the medium needs right now.

Last but not least, some guy compared the ‘Nintendo Hard’ Jet Set Radio to its easier sequel. Difficulty isn’t enough to ensure satisfaction: games need a sense of reward to match, and it’s not just hard games that can be truly rewarding.


Wow, what a month. Massive thanks to everyone who submitted a piece for BoRT this month, especially our new contributors.

If you’ve participated, don’t forget to add the BoRT Linkomatic 5000 to your blog. Just embed the following code on your blog’s page:

<iframe type=“text/html” width=“600” height=“22” src=“http://www.tinysubversions.com/bort.html?month=January13” 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.

Editor’s note: This compilation has remained unscheduled in Critical Distance’s backlogs for going on three years and is no doubt out of date. We’ve elected to publish it so as to not let Sparky’s hard work to go to waste but we definitely welcome any further contributions by our email submissions form. (As for why it’s so late in the first place, it’s best not to ask really…) -KL

The decision to completely reinvent the Prince of Persia universe, following the (mostly) widely-praised Sands of Time trilogy may have come as a surprise to many fans. Removing the time-manipulation mechanic, discarding the character of the Prince, and adopting a dreamlike, cel-shaded look all seemed like significant and perhaps inexplicable departures. Duncan Fyfe has suggested, in “Time after Time”, that the franchise needs to keep rebooting itself because the simplistic core of its story and gameplay is at odds with the need to extend its stories into trilogies and series. Perhaps it was this, perhaps Ubisoft simply felt that it was time to go in a new direction. Given the great affection of many gamers and critics for Sands of Time, it was perhaps inevitable that Prince of Persia would be scrutinized extensively. Perhaps it was held to too high a standard, as Scott Juster thinks, but fairly or not several of the decisions in the new game’s design have proven widely divisive.

A gentle journey upstream

Among hardcore gamers there is little doubt that Prince of Persia is easy to play, but a debate rages over whether it is too easy, whatever that might mean. The game is devoid of punishing “Game Over” screens or unforgiving platforming puzzles in the mold of Sands of Time‘s Tower of Dawn. The Prince’s companion Elika has streamlined the experience of “death” in the game, as Richard Naik and others have pointed out. In addition, Joe Tortuga has identified an equivalence of action for the face buttons in different modes that is likely to make the control experience more sensible for the newcomer. Moreover, as a consequence of the open-world design, the difficulty curve is rather flat, as Corvus Elrod has pointed out.

The upshot of all of this is a game in a hardcore mold that reaches out to more casual players. Michael Abbott, in “Prince of Noobs”, relates that the striking visuals of the game attracted the attention of new players in his family, while the toned-down difficulty and simplified mechanics got out of the way of their enjoyment. Scott Juster believes that this approach fits with a new era of gaming, in which major titles primarily aspire to be accessible, rather than challenging. On the other hand, Jorge Albor and GSG have argued that Prince of Persia may be a bridge intended to stimulate the casual player’s further interest in games. In this respect, Ubisoft may be recapitulating Nintendo’s upstreaming strategy.

Gameplay as characterization

The idea that the challenge was stripped from a game in order to make room for casual players is not one that will make the hardcore crowd happy. Other writers have suggested, however, that the simplification of gameplay has aims beyond merely appealing to the pick-up-and-play crowd. Rather, the platforming and interactions with the world are designed to make the player feel a particular way. The compelling interactions with the game world grab the player’s attention, according to Spitfire, while Angelo asserts that the platforming segments and interactions with Elika develop into a kind of motion poetry. Greg Tannahill argues that the fun of the game comes from experiencing the platforming, rather than overcoming it. For Thomas Cross, the exuberant movements of the Prince draw the player into his world. I go even farther to argue that the emotions the player feels while platforming are a way of characterizing the Prince himself. If these things are true, then analyzing the game as a puzzle-platformer is inappropriate because that’s simply not the kind of game it is. Iroquois Pliskin understands it as more of a rhythm game than a character action title. For him, the physicality of the platforming gave rise to the romance of the story.

Haptic interactions between Elika and the Prince are an important component of the storytelling in the game. The way they touch each other while moving through the world makes the player feel like he’s in control of an actual person interacting with another actual person. As Jorge Albor says, touch deepens their relationship in a way comparable to Ico. Because Elika streamlines some aspects of the game and slows down others, David Zhong views interactions with her as a mixed blessing in terms of the gameplay. In “Wait for Me!” he ponders whether this ambivalence makes her more real. For Allen Cook, her relentless helpfulness actually made Elika seem at once passive-aggressive and boring. Although Joe Tortuga liked them, he felt that the haptic interactions interrupted the flow of play to the game’s detriment.

Because the feelings elicited by gameplay to a large extent depended on the flowing nature of the platforming, just about anything that brought that to a halt was viewed as a negative. Even the optional conversations, which were praised in some quarters, were criticized along these lines by Nels Anderson. Although he liked that these segments were optional, he detested the way they broke up the game and the fact that they were visually boring. I felt the combat fell flat for similar reasons. For me, the slow, halting nature of the combat was completely at odds with the rest of the gameplay, and also didn’t really fit the character of the Prince himself.

An interactive storybook?

Despite all of this, the difficulty level remains the elephant in the room, repeatedly brought to mind by the more ludicrous “Achievements” the game offers. David Zhong, for instance, characterizes the game as practically playing itself. In a pair of essays, Sinan Kubba argues that the lack of challenge in the game goes beyond the simplicity of execution and actually descends to the level of removing meaningful player input. In his view, Prince of Persia becomes something of an extended quicktime event, more akin to an interactive story than an actual game.

Is there something to this? The game seems to fiddle with player agency in interesting ways, especially at the end. The Prince’s decision to cut down the trees was at odds with the desires of many players. As discussed at Tangletown Games, this fact emphasizes the division between the Prince, as a character, and the player as an agent, and forces the player to examine his own values. David Zhong felt that the optional dialogue gave rise to a disconnect between the player and the Prince. His informal survey suggests that many people saw the Prince, rather than themselves, as the agent in the closing scenes. In general we think of games as being about player agency (even if it is only the weak agency of “continue or end”). Could the reaction to the game’s difficulty result from a feeling that the game in its story and mechanics removes agency from the player, despite its open story structure?

The Prince or the Princess?

The choice to invest so much in the Prince seems odd in retrospect because few critics were impressed with him. Always a good point man on character matters, Michael Abbott brings two essays to this line of inquiry. In “Prince of Promises” he identifies an uneasy tension between the light-hearted wisecracking of the Prince and the depressing destruction of the world; he feels the game might be telling the wrong story. The Prince’s character artlessly reaches for Han Solo territory, as Michael details in “Prince of Nada”, which makes him much less interesting than Elika.

So, why not make the game Princess of Persia? In his essay, “Caring about the Prince” Tom Cross acknowledged that Elika is the real emotional core of the story, and this is a thread that you can find in many of these essays. In his consideration of Elika, Ben Fritz pointed out that she’s so powerful one wonders why she needs the Prince at all. Yet the game’s story works against Elika, and its narrative conforms to patriarchal values, as Scott Juster explains in his excellent “Prince of Patriarchy”. In the game, nature and women are subjugated to the desires of men, and the King (at the beginning) and the Prince (at the end) undermine whatever agency Elika has.

Does Prince of Persia earn its ending?

The ending of the game puts all the decision-making power in the hands of the Prince, taking it away from Elika, and even from the player. Even people who agree about the difficulty seem to be sharply divided by the game’s conclusion. Steve Amodio thought that Elika was clearly worth saving and the cold, dead world of the Ahura was not. As mtvernon points out, the feeling of freedom in the gameplay depends entirely on Elika; her absence in the closing segment of the game makes the player feel uncertain and wary during the platforming. Spitfire felt that the ending worked in part because the Prince was a dynamic character, and in part because the gameplay incubated affection for Elika in the heart of the player. When the Prince slapped the bier, Spitfire got excited because he was united with the Prince in not wanting the experience to end.

Voices from the other side of the spectrum were just as loud. Sean Beanland felt that the game actually didn’t do enough to convince the player that the Prince would choose to save Elika. In Corvus Elrod’s opinion, the flat difficulty curve was matched by flat character arcs that never once managed to convince him that the Prince valued Elika. Eric Swain thought that the structure of the Prince of Persia‘s story worked against the development of the relationship because it prevented it from following any real trajectory (he also proposes a particular arc in an interesting piece). Although the vignettes with the various corrupted successfully create a vision of what Ahriman is and what can be accomplished through him, Swain wonders why the Prince doesn’t learn anything from their hollow victories. In fact the Prince reveals on at least one occasion that he understands Ahriman’s duplicity. In my own view, the game never does enough to build up the relationship between the Prince and Elika, or convince the player he’s foolish enough to make this choice. Moreover, by destroying the player’s time investment the ending makes him feel like a sucker.

The player’s time investment comes up in Game-Boy’s wide-ranging discussion of the game. He feels that Prince of Persia goes out of its way with mechanics like Elika’s life-saving to respect the player’s investment of time. As a result, he’s confused by the choice to devalue that investment at the end. Joe Tortuga identified a different kind of tension at this point, in that the game has a very free and open structure up until the final battle, but at that point doesn’t allow you any alternatives.

Or does it? The early credit scroll led to some extended discussion of whether turning the game off early was a valid approach. Joe didn’t think stopping early was a legitimate response, and as a consequence he felt the ending ruined the game. In contrast, Michael Abbott chose to walk away from the game rather than submit to its epilogue. As Greg Tannahill notes in his equivocal piece “Closing the Book”, turning off a game early can improve the experience, but the question remains whether you are gutting the intentions of the creator. At the same time, as I mentioned earlier, games are about creating a feeling of player agency. In a game like Prince of Persia, is turning it off the only relevant contribution a player can make?

Happy reading, everyone. Special thanks to Michael Abbott for setting up some cross-blogging about the game’s finale. That link collection was a good starting point for the rest of this. As always, point me to anything you think I overlooked using the comments, twitter, or e-mail.

Last updated: 5/9/09

It’s Sunday! Let’s jam with some This Week in Videogame Blogging!

IT’S THE ECONOMY

On Tech Crunch, Tadhg Kelly has an interesting article on the inward-facing practices of “casual” games, and how their approach –focusing on metrics– is actually very familiar to us:

Obsessed with measuring everything and therefore defining all of their problems in numerical terms, social game makers have come to believe that those numbers are all there is, and this is why they cannot permit themselves to invent. Like TV people, they are effectively in search of that one number that will explain fun to them. There must, they reason, be some combination of LTV and ARPU and DAU and so on that captures fun, like hunting for the Higgs boson. It must be out there somewhere.

Independent developer Jake Birkett showed up on Gamasutra’s Expert Blogs this week with this provocatively titled article, in which he datamines the revenue of some of his recent games and draws some conclusions about the state of mobile gaming.

On Tap Repeatedly, AJ Lange asks what the real market pressures are for something like Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

Tangentially on the subject of economics, you know that game Monopoly? Of course you do. But do you know about Onopo, a version of the game which asks: what happens when you take Monopoly‘s gameplay and strip out all its themes and representationalism?

TALK TO HIM

Gamasutra’s Mike Rose sits down for an interview with Richard Hofmeier, developer of 2011 indie sleeper hit Cart Life.

On Rock, Paper, Shotgun, resident American Nathan Grayson interviews Jake Elliott, Cardboard Computer co-founder and half the driving force behind Kentucky Route Zero.

Also on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, David Valjalo tracks down the musical talents behind 2012 indie game sensations Hotline Miami and FTL.

ANALYSES

On Gamasutra, Jordane Thiboust takes aim at the tall task of nailing down the various subgenres within the Role Playing Game.

On PopMatters Moving Pixels, G. Christopher Williams observes how Assassin’s Creed III protagonist Connor isn’t just flat as a character, he doesn’t even seem to be from this planet:

This assassin is on a years long mission for vengeance (and I realize that that might take up a lot of your time), but for God’s sake, he does have to think about something else once in a while. Again, this seems like what the Homestead missions are intended to do, yet, Connor’s basic inability to grasp any kind of common emotional response or behavior in the sorts of people that might allow us to see that he is more than a slow talking, stoic killer distances him further as a character rather than provides the player with any insight about him or any reason to give a damn about him.

On his personal blog, Tom Jubert draws some parallels between Little Inferno and Plato’s allegory of the Cave. Likewise, Ontological Geek’s Jackson Wagner has a few words about the game on the theme of entropy.

And Leigh Alexander and Quintin Smith turned up on Polygon this week for a good old fashioned letter series, this time on the subject of the hotly-debated Far Cry 3.

MEMORY LANE

At Nintendo World Report, Nate Andrews tells the fascinating tale of three game dev brothers: Tim, Geoff and Mike Follin.

And a new article online at Edge takes us along for the ride on the trail of Japan’s first RPG.

USE AS DIRECTED

This is great: on using Proteus in the classroom.

Elsewhere, Beefjack’s Michael Johnson discusses falling into the subculture of Persistent World Roleplaying through Neverwinter Nights’ DM Client:

Roleplaying is kind of the ugly step-child of acting, something that is routinely mocked and locked in the basement of disdain. From the outsider perspective, it’s seen as a way for people to live out their fantasies – you get to be Conan the Barbarian cleaving heads with a gigantic sword, or Elvina the sexy sorceress, handy with a spell and rocking that skimpy robe.

The thing is, when you spend over 4 hours a day roleplaying the same character in a world filled with other sentient entities, you need to be more than that.

[…]

I spoke with Troy, admin and creator of the Persistent World ‘Legacy: Dark Age of Britain’, and he puts it like this: “My goal as a player is to, as much as possible, play and understand the ‘role’ of the character, and understand what it must be like to live in the world he’s living. How his motivations, morality, fears, faith, etc. are different from my own given the circumstances he’s in and what actions should he take and what goals would he have based on those factors.”

DESIGN MATTERS

On his Radiator blog, Robert Yang asks how we might approach game narrative algorithmically: “We have physics engines or texture libraries, so why don’t we think of narrative as a modular “asset” or “engine” or “library” to be swapped around as well? Why can’t narrative be more “mechanical.” Where’s all the narrative middleware?”

Back on Gamasutra, Keith Burgun encourages his fellow developers to consider alternatives to Achievements: “What’s so bad about achievements? The mother-problem with any “achievement” system can be stated like this: at their best, they do nothing at all. At their worst, they influence player behavior.”

Meanwhile, at Critical Gaming, Richard Terrell has posted the first and second parts of a three-part series containing some well-rounded advice on design space.

MAKE A GAME

This week Gamespot’s Carolyn Petit brought her readers a very nice introduction on the widespread appeal of accessible game design software Twine. Meanwhile, to put words into practice, Ontological Geek’s Bill Coberly has written up a fantastic review of Porpentine’s Twine game howling dogs, itself written in Twine.

SWING LOW SWEET CHARIOT

This week saw the demise of veteran games publisher THQ. Richard Moss takes us through a history of its logos and branding.

GAMES AND ACTIVISM

Here’s an interesting game of political vandalism you can play at your own risk: Camover.

#OBJECTIFY

This week also saw the announcement Objectify a Man in Tech Day, set for February 1st. Event founder Leigh Alexander offers an overview on New Statesman, as well as an FAQ on her personal blog and these helpful tips for keeping the event positive and non-phobic.

Elsewhere, Stephen Beirne lays down in pretty direct language the purpose of the event:

Gendered compliments are of that type of benevolent sexism that generally flies under the social radar. Getting praise is lovely, right? Surely it raises self-esteem and spreads good will to all the boys and girls.

The problem is that benevolent sexism goes hand-in-hand with the more obvious hostile kind (your torsos and your booth babes) and reinforces the subconscious values hidden therein. In essence, it’s the friendly face to those overtly harmful practices and behaviours, making it far more insidious in nature. Unwelcomed and irrelevant compliments on a woman’s appearance can also elicit emotions of self-objectification and shame. By subtly endorsing appearance as a top priority for women, they boost socially ingrained values of superficiality and unrealistic beauty standards.

Like individuals, videogames don’t exist in bubbles isolated away from society. The subconscious values of game makers manifest in industry practices and game design, such as the belief that men will foremost want to protect their female protagonist, or the idea that girlfriends are lovely and all but simply dreadful when it comes to the pew pew. I wonder how many developers have passed on the notion of having a female protagonist on the basis that girls are too dainty for all that running about. The effects of media representation on audiences is something we should always bear in mind.

While the proposed event has drawn criticism from several corners, I would definitely recommend reading the above links before drawing conclusions.

Edit: Leigh Alexander has called off the event.

THIS IS AMAZING

You’ve seen that video of Hotline Miami‘s ultra violent mask protagonist invading other games, right? No? Better fix that.

IT’S THAT TIME ONCE AGAIN

There are still a few days to squeeze in an entry for January’s Blogs of the Round Table topic!

And as always, we encourage our readers to submit your own recommendations for these roundups via our email contact form or by @ing us on Twitter. Your submissions make all the difference each week, so please keep sending them in!

If I had to describe Critical Distance with the title of a game, it’d be Infinite Undiscovery. Except I heard that game wasn’t too good. Oh well. Moving on: its’ time once again for This Week in Videogame Blogging, the web’s premier weekly collection of the most interesting games writing, criticism and commentary!

DESIGN

We start at The Border House, where Michelle Ealey writes of the minimalist ambiguity of Kairo. Elsewhere on TBH, Prunescholar takes a look at three games’ fantastical treatment of capitalist greed and exploitation.

Martin of Oh No! Video Games! has some video and textual commentary on The Walking Dead’s representation of totalitarianism. Meanwhile at Push Select, Jeff Wheeldon criticizes what he perceives as a pervasive yet shallow oversaturation of religious and mythical iconography in games.

On Nightmare Mode, language scholar Oscar Strik takes a look at several gestural and symbolic forms of online communication which crop up in several games, including Tale of Tales’ latest, Bientot l’ete.

C-D alum David Carlton writes on his own blog Malvasia Bianca about guitar learning with Rock Band and Rocksmith.

Dyad lead Shawn McGrath showed up on Kotaku this week with some deep meditations on the source code of Doom 3.

On Unwinnable, Brendan Keogh has a few words on how exactly Far Cry 3 fails to discomfort the player:

It is exactly how the game fails to deliver the message that [lead writer Jeffrey] Yohalem thinks he delivers: the game gives me permission to not think about what I am doing. The game gives me a safe space to be comfortable and to just have fun. I don’t need to think about what Jason is doing or how he is evolving. I don’t even need to think about my own survival for the greater part of the game. Mostly, I don’t have to think at all.

Lastly on the topic of design, this isn’t an article really, but have you visited Wikipedia’s entry on games with hidden rules?

BUILDING UP THE GIRL

Back on The Border House, Kaitlin Tremblay writes of the construction of masculinity as machine in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

On The Phoenix, Maddy Myers shares her ambivalence toward the romance of Cortana and Master Chief:

After all, she “picked” him, she’s the smart one, the dominant one who tells him what to do. He may argue, but eventually, he’ll agree that Cortana is right. She’s always right.

But this subversion doesn’t make me feel good about Cortana and Master Chief’s relationship. If anything, it makes me question the logistical reality, let alone the romance, of a human dating a much smarter AI being. Cortana’s smarter than the Chief, and not even just a little bit smarter – she’s way more chock full of knowledge than the most brilliant human being could ever dream to be. In other words, she’s not human. So why would we want her to date a human, let alone this one?

The reason is obvious: because this human is Master Chief, and we are Master Chief. We want Cortana to love us, because we love her. We don’t see his face, ever, because his face is supposed to seem like it could be our face. We aren’t supposed to see Master Chief as an alienating Peter Pan manchild, like I do – we’re supposed to see him as us.

HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET

This week saw the announcement of an expansion for BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, which includes a much-promised update to allow players to pursue same-gender romances. However, by setting the content behind a paywall (in addition to some other problems with its execution), the announcement has drawn some ire from various outlets.

On Gameranx, Denis Farr decries SWTOR’s choice to sequester these same-sex relationships to a single location as too like the real discrimination faced by LGBTIQ people:

The first is to wonder if perhaps you’re trying to give everyone a history lesson. By putting these NPC same-gender romances on Makeb, a planet that is part of paid content and available to higher level characters only, you are systemically placing the same romance options others have already experienced and continue to have access to out of easy reach. Pay money for equal rights. Feel what it is like to have to confine yourself to a single area to express love for someone of the same gender, because no other community will have you.

[But] for those of us who’ve lived that history? Perhaps those of us who grew up wanting to learn about who we were and why we were ostracised, and read up on how neighborhoods formed, but bars were raided? Maybe it even mirrors the political fight right now, where queer people who want the expected life that they were promised, including marriage and children, but must fight for the systemic right to do so? It’s a bit too on the nose.

On The Escapist, Robert Rath reasons that BioWare are probably trying their hardest, but that doesn’t make the end product any easier to swallow:

In many ways, it’s understandable why BioWare Austin took this approach. A great deal of things have happened in the year since the game launched, including a massive fall off in subscriptions that forced the game into its free-to-play model. Staff layoffs after the game’s release no doubt compounded the difficulty of this changeover, meaning that Hickman’s claim that the team is swamped seems plausible in context. Moreover, we must remember that BioWare doesn’t own the IP for Star Wars, and I’m guessing that convincing LucasArts/Disney – both of whom are notoriously protective of their brands – to allow gay relationships in their ostensibly family-friendly galaxy was a lengthy process in itself. Given all this, plus BioWare’s history of designing SGRs into both Dragon Age and Mass Effect, I feel comfortable saying that the SWTOR team was making a sincere gesture with the SGR options in Makeb.

Unfortunately, that gesture is too little, too late for a player base that’s rapidly losing its patience. And that loss of patience is understandable when you consider that in the real world, waiting for recognition and settling for poor stopgap measures is practically a way of life for the LGBT community.

PCGamesN’s Steve Hogarty contends that it should not have been an “expansion” to begin with:

Adding gay NPCs to Makeb is a bizarre half-measure then, a jarring stop-gap that only serves as testament to an existing in-game sexual inequality. At worst, it suggests that BioWare don’t understand the concerns of those fans who want to play the game according to their own identities, that they see “SGR” [same gender romance] as additional or surplus to the regular game rather than something that should sit quietly and seamlessly alongside heterosexual dialogue options from the outset. SGR shouldn’t be a feature. It shouldn’t be a dirty fling on a remote planet. It shouldn’t be an acronym. It should just be.

Meanwhile at the International Business Times, Edward Smith posts worriedly that the choice to focus “SGR” at a single in-game location will provide an opening for in-game bullying and other harassment.

One other thing to come out of this whole debacle, however, was this charmingly camp Twine game by anna anthropy: “Hunt for the Gay Planet“.

TORSO WEEK

Warning: Most of this section’s articles feature graphic images.

“Oh, Torso Week,” Experience Points writer Jorge Albor wrote to me over Twitter. “It’s like Shark Week – just as bloody but way less entertaining.”

A matter of days ago, Deep Silver announced a UK and Australia exclusive Dead Island statuette titled “Zombie Bait,” which features a dismembered female torso presented to prospective buyers as a “conversation piece” for one’s desk. Many writers and outlets took issue with the design, especially in light of Dead Island‘s troubled history.

On Gameranx, Jenn “Tweets About Torsos” Frank reminds readers that the statuette follows on the heels of a long history of depersonalizing the sexualization of women’s bodies:

Stop right there. Stop in your tracks. No. Wrong. No, we would never do this to a male torso. Maybe some of us would like George Clooney to shut up and be pretty, but that is no mainstream fantasy. The rest of us actually do like him with a head and arms. We expect him to be heroic and masterly in movies, and we pay him for it.

Meanwhile, we define femininity by quiet neediness.

On Culture Ramp, friend of the blog Luke Rhodes looks at a number of ways to look at the statuette’s unveiling, none of them terribly optimistic:

This year, it’s a woman’s torso. Last year, it was Medal of Honor-branded assault rifles. In 2009, it was a contest promoting Dante’s Inferno by offering what sounded suspiciously like a night with two call girls in a limousine.

Those are just the missteps, though—drops, really, in an ocean of swag. Very few triple-A games are released without some sort of branded, collectable promotion. Publishers commission those pieces because they know the game industry is serviced by an enthusiast press that can be relied upon to report on swag.

[…] They make it because swag in general works, and we’re not usually so discerning. The only way to discourage bad swag is to remove the source of temptation by swearing off swag altogether, the good along with the bad.

Game Church’s Richard Clark concurs, arguing that all gamers are in some way culpable for creating and sustaining the culture that fosters something like the Dead Island torso:

We, all of us, are the ones who sustained an industry whose product is made up primarily of different creative ways of killing. We are the ones who told ourselves it was good clean fun, while simultaneously upping the violent ante in every way possible. We are the one who paused Mortal Kombat to look up the fatalities, who try and come up with all the different ways to kill people in Bulletstorm, who praise Call of Duty for the ways it makes killing feel exciting and rewarding. We are the ones who bought, and clamored for, games in which women are sexy nuns that we are then able to systematically eliminated.

It was us – all of us. It was me. We are all, every one of us, totally depraved. None is righteous. No, not one. It’s a system we are invested and take part in.

I’ll give the final word to the matter to the Gameological Society’s John Teti, who suggests the statuette belongs in a museum as a reminder to us all: “You’ve heard of outsider art? This is insider art, crafted by forces deep within the beast.”

SEXISM IN THE INDUSTRY? NAWWWW

On Forbes, Gabrielle Toledano suggests that sexism is not the big issue affecting games- it’s that too few women are entering games development.

On her own blog, Foz Meadows offers up a critique of Toledano’s conclusions:

[What] Toledano fails to comprehend is that gaming, like everything else, is an ecosystem – and right now, at every single level of participation, women are feeling the effects of sexism. Female gamers are sexualised, demeaned and assumed to be fakes by their male counterparts; those who go into STEM fields despite this abuse frequently find themselves stifled by the sexist assumptions of professors and fellow students alike; they must then enter an industry whose creative output is overwhelmingly populated with hypersexualised depictions of women and male-dominant narratives, and where the entrenched popularity of these tropes means their own efforts to counteract the prevailing culture will likely put them at odds with not only their colleagues, but also the business models of the companies and projects for which they work; as the #1reasonwhy discussion showed, many will experience sexism in the workplace – hardly surprising, given the academic correlation between the acceptance of misogyny in humour and culture and real-world tolerance for sexism and rape culture – while others will be excluded from it completely. All this being so, therefore, if a single progressive HR manager at a comparatively progressive company looks around and finds, despite her very best intentions that, there are few or no women to hire for a particular position, then the problem is not with women for failing to take advantage of a single company’s benevolent practices, but with the industry as a whole for failing to create a culture in which women are welcome, and where they might therefore be reasonably expected to abound.

Elsewhere, on Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Alex Layne reaches a similar conclusion: by blaming sexism in the industry on a few unsavory elements, it ignores the larger institutions that facilitate it in the first place.

And I can’t but return to anna anthropy for this one, with her very timely illustrated version of Cara Ellison’s and Jenn Frank’s poem Romero’s Wives“. (Trigger warning for images of assault and misogynistic violence.)

CORRELATION AND CAUSATION

Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, reacting to the Obama administration’s recent move to finance a study on gaming’s influence on violence, looks to past studies on the subject and what conclusion(s) they’ve drawn.

On Cracked (is this the first time we’ve featured them here?), Robert Brockway argues that citing studies isn’t going to help our case:

[We] as gamers have only one recourse: We stop denying our role in the larger problem of gun violence altogether. Nobody’s buying it anyway. You can spout studies and statistics all you want, and your debate partner will turn around and see a 10-year-old in his living room mowing down a village full of Arabs with a technically accurate machine gun, proudly rattling off the virtues of its fire rate and reload times. Gamers look ridiculous when we flail about, trying to deny that a fourth grader who understands the benefits of burst fire and knows to hold his breath while sniping is a bit disconcerting. Just like movie-goers look ridiculous if they say James Bond movies portray a pistol as anything other than an excellent solution to the problem of people who are in James Bond’s fucking way. Just like music fans look ridiculous when they insist that all the gang violence glorified in giant, flashy colors in every other rap video has no effect on the children watching them.

Our collective response, as gamers, to the accusation that video games have some connection to real violence should not be: “Nuh uh!”

In a similar vein, Michael “Brainy Gamer” Abbott argues that we need to take responsibility for our public image and be better advocates for games:

[This] isn’t just about kids and parenting. It’s also about civility and stewardship of a society. It’s about fostering a culture that values peace. And it’s about a real and growing concern that a bellicose nation, numb to the consequences of violence, breeds ever more fear, hostility, and hate. These concerns extend far beyond games and guns. But both are implicated, regardless of the rhetoric or data thrown at them.

That’s why we who love games need to talk to anyone willing to listen. We need to tell our stories. The defining qualities of games – beautiful systems that engage us like no other medium – are not self-evident, especially when they’re buried inside iterative formulations of shooters, RPGs and other well-worn genres. […] It’s a moment for us to bring forward our best stories about games – not as a collective “God, I love this game,” or “This game made me cry,” but as careful observers of the deep and vivid experiences games can provide. We must put our faces and reputations behind the games we admire and explain to a skeptical public why violent games like Bioshock, Metro 2033, and The Walking Dead really are about more than plugging baddies with bullets and ray-guns.

SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE VIDEOGAMES

On Nightmare Mode, Mattie Brice writes about how many AAA games, for instance Spec Ops: The Line, seem a world away from the kinds of violence she faces every day.

Posting on his home site, indie developer Jonas Kyratzes writes a lengthy critique of his interpretation of Brice’s article, on the value of war narratives in games and a kind of criticism not based in identity politics.

On his Electron Dance, Joel Goodwin also remarks on what he terms “confessional writing,” or journalism and criticism that relates a personal experience of the writer. In doing so, Goodwin shares a certain amount of ambivalence toward the practice and what he perceives as its predominance over games blogging.

Liz Ryerson also responds to Goodwin (and, though not by name, Kyratzes), arguing in defense of games blogging through a personal lens:

i cannot and will not devalue the emotional experiences other people have with videogames, or try to say it’s not genuine or valid to write about them, because that misses the point entirely. it’s increasingly impossible to ignore the culture that games have arisen from, and the sort of stranglehold that culture has on all the discourse that occurs. […] videogames represent spaces and experiences separate from our bodies that we can form our own associations with, free from pressures of social identity, while still participating in an activity deemed “socially acceptable” for those categorized as males. games are rife for emotional projection of whatever kind of role you wish to occupy onto them.

And as a case in point, here Samantha Allen shares her experience using games to help her explore gender identity and transition.

HOW WE GAME

Writing for The Verge, Laura June offers up an excellent long-form feature on the rise and decline of the American arcade.

Elsewhere on VG Revolution, Marc Price speculates on five reasons Valve’s recently announced Steam Box console might fail.

SIGNAL BOOSTING

As like with other gamer-oriented support resources like the Take This Project, we at Critical Distance are proud to signal-boosting what we believe are worthy online support networks for those struggling with depression or harassment. This week, we’re pleased to link to Beyond the Final Boss, a blog for and by game developers on overcoming childhood bullying and abuse.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

First up and as always, please submit your recommendations for This Week in Videogame Blogging to us via our email submissions form or by @ing us on Twitter. Remember, we welcome and encourage submitting your own work as well as that of others.

Secondly, there is still a bit of time to participate in this month’s Blogs of the Round Table! Get on that, bloggers.

Thirdly, I try to keep personal appeals to a minimum here on Critical Distance but as in previous years where we addressed the Critical Distance readership about sending a member of the critical community to GDC, this year, I have a funding drive of my own. Though we’ve already made the initial goals toward funding the trip, additional money raised from here on goes toward better participation at the conference as well as setting money aside for Critical Distance itself. If you’ve enjoyed our roundups here, consider visiting my GoFundMe page and kicking a few dollars CD’s way. There are cat pictures involved, just FYI.

That’s it for this week! Join us next Sunday where, if we’re lucky, all torsos will remain intact and unharmed. Until then, cheers.

Hello C-D readers, this is your Captain speaking. I am back in the chair as is right and proper with the universe and we are ready to engage. Let’s get This Week in Videogame Blogging going!

#1Reason

Kim Swift, a developer who should require no introduction, has a new blog up and running with a few inspiring words and reflections on the #1reasonwhy trend:

If you want diversity in gaming subjects:

If you want a more fair, unbiased workplace:

If you want the industry to just plain grow up:

Then we need to change the makeup of our industry, because games are a reflection of their creators.

So I see the solution to this problem coming not a year from now, not five years from now, but twenty. When this current generation of kids sees the good example that we should be setting now. And though we may not be able to tell it completely like it is just yet, there’s still plenty we can do to help future generations of game developers.

Addressing the hashtag phenomenon with a different approach, Emily Gera has this brilliant little text game you should definitely try on: “Congratulations, You Are Now a Kotaku Commenter“.

HERE COMES EVERYONE

Media studies big-fish (and former professor of this humble editor yours) Henry Jenkins handed over blog space this week to USC PhD student Micha Cardenas, on the subject on indie games LIM and dys4ia.

Also in that vein, dys4ia creatrix anna anthropy has finally posted the the full text and slides of her IndieCade panel from this past October, titled “Now We Have Voices: Queering Games.”

Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez calls for an end to the bald space marine default character. Meanwhile, though it’s not specific to games, trellism offers up this salient critique of the tokenism behind the “strong female character.”

Speaking of tokens, Kate Cox turned up on her personal blog again this week reflecting on how board games (namely Monopoly) seem to treat the idea of the avatar, as opposed to videogames:

Everyone seems to understand, instinctively, that it’s okay to have strong feelings about your Monopoly piece. From a young age, we got passionate about the dog, or the car, or the shoe (but never the iron), and that was all right. So why does similar passion about digital avatars create such a hue and cry? If you say you are tired of the slate of straight white men, you are a whiner. You do not understand that “sex sells.” You are a troublemaker. You are a “feminist bitch” and worse.

YES, EVERYONE

Problem Machine lays down the issue of the sorts of physical proficiency that games privilege, to such a degree that they become impenetrable for a great number of prospective users:

Basically, by pseudo-Darwinistic processes, we’ve created a development culture that a) has, as common perspective/capability, above average dexterity, and b) has come to expect that games, almost by definition, will challenge that ability.

[…]

I think it’s important to frame this discourse in terms of diversity, I think it’s important to recognize some of the same understandings that underpin that discussion also apply here. Primarily, I want it to be understood that I’m not claiming that the games that exist are bad, or even necessarily worse than they could be, because of this: I’m just stating that the total scope they encompass, that our understanding of what a game can be, is smaller because of it.

Dylan Holmes, whose first book on games, A Mind Forever Voyaging, is alas still sitting by my desk awaiting review (sorry, Dylan!), relates how he uses Dear Esther to help get some of his fellow academics into games.

Meanwhile, in light of Endgame: Syria‘s rejection from the Apple App Store, Jorge Albor criticizes the ability for a small, private, governing body to censor political games.

CLOSE READS

As always some of the week’s best pieces come in the form of taking a magnifying glass to a particular game or franchise. Let’s dig in.

Zach Alexander outlines for us the strata of realities in the Assassin’s Creed series of systems.

On Unwinnable, Joseph Leray takes a retrospective look at Machinarium‘s depictions of class and slavery.

Also on the subject of class, Robert Rath proposes that it may be worthwhile to view Dishonored in the context of what ‘honor’ meant to the 18th and 19th century British culture which inspired its setting. Meanwhile, Rob Zacny takes to using Dishonored‘s Heart mechanic to guide moral actions in the game.

On the subject of Far Cry 3, Michael Clarkson has a particular beef with its treatment of the “rape revenge” trope. (Clarkson’s article indeed contains its own trigger warning on exactly this subject, so read with care.)

HISTORY!

We catch back up with Robert Rath for another memorable column, this time on how we can tap into historical games not just for their visually interesting settings, but also their zeitgeist.

Elsewhere, Cabel Maxfield Sasser performs a different kind history lesson: a wonderful little time capsule of Easter Eggs in early videogames.

MR. BOGOST GOES TO WASHINGTON (NOT REALLY)

On The Atlantic, Ian Bogost has some coolly-delivered words about US Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun violence landing the games industry in a Catch-22:

The truth is, the games industry lost as soon as a meeting was conceived about stopping gun violence with games as a participating voice. It was a trap, and the only possible response to it is to expose it as such. Unfortunately, the result is already done: Once more, public opinion has been infected with the idea that video games have some predominant and necessary relationship to gun violence, rather than being a diverse and robust mass medium that is used for many different purposes, from leisure to exercise to business to education.

Game industry responses to this latest political affront have again worsened matters by accepting the opposition’s terms.

On another tack over on Gamasutra, Jared Lorince suggests that games offer accessible ways to tackle complex problems of probability, which obviously has far-reaching implications of the register Bogost has written about as well.

ACCORDING TO DESIGN

Much has been written in favor of surprise hit Crusader Kings II. Rowan Kaiser shows up on Gamasutra this week with a new feature on its design schema and an interview with its project lead Henrik Fåhraeus.

On the topic of excellent Gamasutra features, Christian Nutt has a great one up as well on Virtue’s Last Reward and its director, Kotaro Uchikoshi.

Touching off on a 2011 piece by Kirk Battle about content degradation, Joseph Leray suggests RPGs’ narratives have a unique staying power because, rather than being completely dissonant from their mechanics, their story universes are meaningfully interwoven with them.

Most of [the Final Fantasy franchise’s] systems are diagetic: the Materia system of Final Fantasy VII occurs in a world in which materia is a real, physical item. Common townspeople have a few pieces of it, and it can be bought and sold in shops. It’s not relegated or written off as a game-y necessity. The game takes its own systems seriously.

Junctioning a Guardian Force in Final Fantasy VIII; summoning a sky-dragon in IX and X; buying a license from a government-approved vendor in XII’s Ivalice — all of these complex, Byzantine systems are pinned into their respective game’s plots, taken as literal parts of their worlds. These mechanics are only possible in the context created by each game’s narrative foundation. The content — the story, the characters, the setpieces — serve as the foundation on which the systems are built.

In other words, the content in, say, most Final Fantasy games doesn’t degrade quickly. Even in the midst of a boss fight, when the game is almost purely mechanical, players are dealing with tiny pieces of the plot and gameworld. When content is inescapable, it remains relevant.

Writing for Digital Spirit Guide, Saul Alexander reminds us that the most seamless systems aren’t always the most memorable. And on Electron Dance, the ever-meditative Joel Goodwin suggests that the author is dead, but context (often) (sometimes) matters.

And over on his Critical Missive blog, Eric Schwarz snaps on a pair of rubber gloves to start rescusitating broken in-game economies.

TAPPING THE FISHBOWL

Returning from an Internet sabbatical where he mostly interacted with people who played, you know, those other games, Michael Abbott broaches a few interesting topics on the state of gaming we seem unwilling to address.

DUDE… WHAT?

I don’t know what Cara Ellison is high on, but despite Stephen Lavelle’s newest game being titled Slave of God, I don’t think it’s Jesus.

Craig Wilson thinks his bold new approach to games criticism is too hot for Critical Distance, does he? We’ll show him! We’re edgy, damn it! We’re cool with the kids! And I did tell him slideshow criticism was a pretty interesting new schtick.

And one last one for you, but it’s a twofer. I’m more into house music so I have no idea what’s going on in here but I bet these two pieces by Gus Mastrapa will be the best XCOM fanfiction you read all week.

THE REGULAR BUSINESS

If you’re craving a bit more, pop on over to Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Sunday Papers for a spot of tea.

That’s all the links that’s fit to print for this week! Join us again next Sunday for more of blogging’s best writing about games. In the meantime, be sure to send us your recommendations by email or by @ing us on Twitter, and drop by this month’s Blogs of the Round Table prompt as well!

You’re reading this week’s edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging, which is kind of the whole purpose of Critical Distance. I’ll be taking over curation duties from Kris Ligman this week to bring you another fresh pile of good reads for you to peruse during your commute or from the comfort of wherever it is you like to read profound, and well-written articles about videogames.

Firing off the edition is an article by Jonathan McCalmont on Arcadian Rhythms, who writes about the stylistic differences between the original UFO: Enemy Unknown by Microprose and XCOM: Enemy Unknown from Firaxis.

Next up is an article by John Brindle on Gameranx who probes the sexual politics of the Hitman franchise and its latest execution, Hitman Absolution. The article “reveals the secret sexual urges of the bald penis-head assassin,” said Brindle in his e-mail to us.

Also on Gameranx is Phil Owen, who takes a closer look at the narrative structure and storytelling of Treyarch’s latest foray into the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops 2.

Concluding the trio of entries from Gameranx this week is an article by Declan Skews, who tried to get his mother into gaming with Journey.

Communicating the passion, the beauty; the romance of games to non-gamers is a task that can oftentimes seem impossible. How do you explain the draw of sneaking down a corridor, slowly losing your sanity, in Amnesia? What’s so appealing about repeatedly dying and becoming frustrated with Dark Souls? Why bother to learn new and confusing button configurations to play Uncharted, when you could just pop Indiana Jones into the DVD player? How do you explain to someone why it’s fun to massacre wave upon wave of seemingly helpless bad guys?

Elsewhere on the blogosphere, Brett Douville reflects upon his fifteenth anniversary of the day he joined the games industry and made programming his livelihood. It’s an insightful read from one of the minds behind Skyrim and Fallout 3.

Claire Hosking shares her thoughts on Halo 4‘s Cortana, who in contrast with other bloggers, believes that it’s unfair to judge the character based on the size of her breasts. She writes about the ‘fun/worthiness’ dichotomy that’s often invoked against women characters with certain body types, as if attractiveness is an indicator of downmarket design.

The ever prolific Maddy Myers writes about harassment in nerd spaces, and how she wants to encourage more people to talk seriously about their experiences in the gaming community and other male-dominated spaces.

On First Person Scholar, Steve Wilcox in his essay titled “Ludic Topology” criticizes the linearity of videogames, in relation to Far Cry 3—a game, which in itself, is an attempt to criticize the very mechanics of linear gameplay.

At the Radiator Design Blog, Robert Yang writes about the queer feminist agenda for games in 2013. He lays out the problems faced by the new progressive movement with some suggestions on how apathy—even from those who face constant persecution—needs to be overcome.

And last but not least is an article by Hamish Todd, who delves deep into a modern classic and praises the brilliance of Half-Life‘s barnacles.

The barnacle can do horror, action, and even comedy. It can assist you and puzzle you. To do all that, an object needs to have some pretty fundamental stuff in its design.

That’s it for this week. Remember to send in your submissions via our email contact form or by @ing us on Twitter.

It’s 2013! A new year and a time for resolutions, and I’m not talking about ‘1080p’ here. New Year’s Resolutions can be fun and inspiring, but there’s a balance between setting a formidable challenge and an unrealistic goal. Videogame players are no strangers to challenge of course, and that’s the theme of this month’s Blogs of the Round TableChallenge.

"The past few years have seen a resurgence of challenging games: Dark Souls, Spelunky, FTL: Faster Than Light, XCOM: Enemy Unknown to name but a few. Do you think videogames have more value in providing a stern challenge for the player to overcome, or does difficulty serve to alienate and deter potential players, impeding their potential for inclusiveness?

Alternatively, write about the greatest challenge you have overcome in a game (this can be a personal or emotional challenge rather than one of dexterity)."

Please email us your submissions or tweet them to @critdistance with the #BoRT hashtag, or tweet me @agbear. Don’t forget the Rules of the Round Table:

  • If your work contains potentially disturbing content, please include a trigger warning at the start of the essay. Obviously, no hate speech etc. Use your common sense.
  • Your article does have to be connected to the topic. We’ll let you know if we think it’s too tenuous.
  • You can submit as many articles as you like throughout the month, and it doesn’t matter if they are commercially published or available for free. Write early and often!

Happy New Year! Whatever your resolutions are, make sure one of them is to write for Blogs of the Round Table!