April 7th

Oh my glob, you guys. This is only going to be, like, the biggest This Week in Videogame Blogging ever. Aren’t you so totally floored?

BIOSHOCK INFINITE

(General content warning: most of these involve some manner of spoilers.)

This game came out recently, you might have heard about it. Something to do with shocking infinity and women in too-tight corsets. Our very own Cameron Kunzelman has drafted a preliminary critical compilation for some of the early critical response.

That’s not to say we’re off the hook, though. Here are some extra articles not included in Cammy’s roundup.

On Edge, Adrien Chmielarz takes issue with the design of the game’s opening as a gamey mess. On io9, guest poster Kyle Hill asks: if the city of Columbia really ran on helium (not that it does), could it?

Kieron Gillen, whose description of Infinite‘s floating city as “the 1893 Chicago world fair takes off and becomes an American Exceptionalism Death Star” will hopefully live forever into posterity, posts some “assorted thoughts” on the game including what it could possibly be saying about parenthood.

Rab Florence, reacting to other journalists’ criticisms of Infinite‘s violence, invokes the term “gaming cringe” to describe a sort of hyper self-criticism:

If there is any game that can justify its violence, it is Bioshock Infinite. It is a story about a violent man, and about the violence within society. It’s a story about extreme beauty, and extreme ugliness. It’s also saying a lot about videogames, and as it delivers its story and themes, it does it through patterns and behavioural codes that we all understand. The violence isn’t only justified by character, story or themes. It’s justified by the language of game mechanics that the game is using.

What games can’t justify their use of extreme violence? Almost everything else. And yet I haven’t seen commentators call all those other games out. Why wasn’t Gears of War widely taken to task for gruesome violence? Why wasn’t Modern Warfare 2? Was it because those games didn’t aspire to be anything other than silly old videogames? Was it because those games knew their place?

On PopMatters Moving Pixels, Scott Juster praises the “Strong Pictures and Subtle Themes” of the game. Meanwhile, SnakeLinkSonic is more critical, saying, “There’s Subtlety, Then There’s Cowardice.

Not so much a critical article, but Andy Kelly offers up a good explication of some of the funkier bits of the game’s plot. Elsewhere, on Kill Screen, Yannick LeJacq interviews a terribly exhausted Ken Levine.

Lastly, an article auf Deutsch via our German-language correspondent Johannes Köller, Marcus Dittmar of 99leben describes how his on-and-off relationship with motion sickness prevents him from playing the game.

AFTER –SHOCK

But wait! There’s more. On Eurogamer, Richard Cobbett paints a fond retrospective look at that other BioShock sequel, BioShock 2. Elsewhere, Daniel Weissenberger digs even deeper into some thematic roots and cousins with a retro review of System Shock 2.

TOMB RAIDER

The other AAA name on everyone’s fingertips these last few weeks remains Crystal Dynamics’ and Rhianna Pratchett’s Tomb Raider reboot.

Back on Moving Pixels, Nick Dinicola comments on the “desperate” feeling of Tomb Raider’s combat. Meanwhile, on The Border House, ACLU worker Daniel Bullard-Bates explores its treatment of bravery.

On Groping the Elephant, Justin Keverne discusses Tomb Raider‘s “identity bubble.” And on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the shamelessly female Cara Ellison sits down for a memorable interview with lead writer Rhianna Pratchett, surely undermining the entire internet in the process.

DESIGN MATTERS

Straddling the two games above, Paul Tassi of Forbes wonders if we aren’t oversaturating games with ultraviolence: “I have nothing against killing in games. It’s just that as video games continue to evolve as storytelling vehicles, this idea that the main protagonist has to kill HUNDREDS of people per game is starting to seem a bit odd.”

On Gamasutra, Leigh Alexander hosts a roundtable with Andrew Plotkin, anna anthropy, Emily Short and others on the building renaissance of interactive fiction.

Leigh Alexander also popped up this week on Polygon with Quintin Smith, bringing us a new letter series on Persona 4.

On GameCritics, I was really gratified to come upon Brad Gallaway’s meticulous breakdown of male- and heterosexual privilege in the newest Fire Emblem.

Since we’re on the subject of JRPGs, Mark Filipowich is putting together something of a series on the role of ensemble casts within the genre. He’s currently continuing the discussion with Breath of Fire 4 on his personal blog.

There seems to be a mini-trend lately on drawing connection points between game design and improv theatre. Following on that, Problem Machine has a few interesting thoughts on the improv precept of “if this is so, then what else is so?”

QUANTUM GAMING

This is pretty dire. Richard Morgan suggests the new SimCity actually collapses the quantum wave-form of multiple realities. Eat your heart out, Rosalind Lutece.

In some other place and in some other time, Jordan Rivas presents us with a touching, if rather unserious, interpretation of Mass Effect 3’s “Citadel” DLC as taking place in the afterlife.

And somewhere in there Kambyero’s Mix Villalon managed to sneak in a well-designed three-part series in defense of bad endings.

FAITH

Two excellent pieces showed up on Medium Difficulty this week, on the subject seeing one’s loss of faith mirrored in games. First, Samantha Allen likens her departure from the Mormon Church with the feeling of isolation experienced in Dead Space. As a companion piece to Allen’s, Kaitlin Tremblay shares her experiences leaving Catholicism for atheism, and seeing that transition paralleled in Starseed Pilgrim.

On Gamasutra, Rob Lockhart approaches the subject from the point of view of a developer, musing on how one might model the transition from theist to atheist through game mechanics.

BUT IS IT ART

John Brindle, busiest of the Brindle clan, has produced a fantastic essay on Pippin Barr’s Art Game.

On Unwinnable, Dan Crabtree returns to the island of Dear Esther with a rumination on the convergence point of ‘understanding’ and ‘salvation.’ Dear Esther is also on Line Hollis’s mind these days, as she compares it with The Stanley Parable and how the two games approach storytelling from opposite directions.

Gamertheories explores horror in tablet gaming with Year Walk. Our own Eric Swain poses an interesting thought experiment on the different visuality of first- and third-person “walker” games.

On VGRevolution, Marc Price calls for more “immersion criticism” in games, “exploring every nook and cranny until there’s no pixel left untouched.” Meanwhile at Uncanny Postcards, Sylvain Lavallée proposes that it can be productive to think of games as possibility spaces.

Touching on the recent ousting of Sweatshop from the Apple Games store, the latest in a series of serious games dropkicked from the outlet as ‘unsuitable,’ Jorge Albor wonders: where is the place for them?

And here’s another German article brought to our attention via Senior German Correspondent, who describes this piece by Magnus Hildebrandt as “the definitive guide to understanding Kentucky Route Zero and its cultural roots, references and relations.”

BUT IS IT WAR

Regulars of Critical Distance know well my fondness for essays on the intersection of military, industry and games. Here is a fabulous piece courtesy of Jeremy Antley on how nascent drone warfare and the recent sequestration has an impact on military war games.

ESPORTS

We don’t feature pieces on eSports near enough on Critical Distance. Here’s an interesting interview with Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime on the recently announced StarCraft 2 World Championship Series.

Commenting on the Museum of Modern Art’s recent acquisition of Dwarf Fortress, Bill Coberly muses how the game might function as spectator sport.

PEOPLE AND PEOPLE AND PEOPLE

I had the distinct pleasure of running into Simon Parkin at GDC, who shared with me some of his secrets to his fabulous life-changing interviews. I believe I called him brainful, to my and his horror. And no, you won’t hear his secrets from me! Here he is, however, profiling the one and only Notch, Markus Persson himself.

Back with Kill Screen, Clayton Purdom brings us a feature on the artists behind “cloud rap,” “the unlikely convergence of JRPGs and indie hip-hop.”

THE LONG VIEW

Courtesy of The Magazine’s Mohammed Taher an elucidating look at the contribution of the MSX to the 1980s Middle Eastern game scene, and where the industry stands now.

And on IndieGames, Robert Fearon reflects on the evolving coverage of indie games.

#1REASON

Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s John Walker has posted a new mission statement on feminist allyship within games writing. “Many women are mistreated and misrepresented within the games industry,” he writes. “It’s not a matter of opinion, a political position, or claim made to reinforce previous bias. It’s the demonstrable, sad truth.”

On The Mary Sue, Jill Pantozzi addresses the recent sexual harassment incident at PAX East, and in doing so touches upon several incidents at other recent events and the endemic problem it represents.

Back on The Border House, guest poster Sarah Argodale challenges the “accepted wisdom” of game advertising’s narrow representation.

GDC CATCH-UP

What’s the big deal with this Game Developers Conference everyone and their dog went to in March, anyway? I couldn’t adequately convey everything which went down but here is a great sampling of posts on the conference (and GDC-adjacent events) which showed up in my feeds these last two weeks.

First, Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Nathan Grayson has a great overview up in which he describes this year’s conference as “a worrisome, hopeful contradiction“:

RPS’s own wayward ronin word master Cara Ellison, during a post-convention victory dinner, put it best: “GDC is where we first hear about all the stuff everyone will be talking about next year.” Maybe it’s a trend-setter, or maybe it’s just a megaphone for gentle tickles of trends that are already in motion, but the point remains: GDC tends to be pretty indicative of where we’re at. People often view E3 in that light, but the fact is, it’s a dinosaur wreathed in fireworks, frilly undergarments, and little else. E3 is a projection. GDC has evolved into its opposite: introspection. We look inward, and then we discuss. And this year – thanks to things like the renewed prominence of PC gaming, a focus on indies, and the #1ReasonToBe talk – I came away quite optimistic.

David Rosen has posted the write-up of his rant from this year’s Indie Soapbox, encouraging independent developers to make not eschew technological advances because of their AAA stigma. The one and only anna anthropy also posted a write-up of her dys4ia post-partum and other talks given at GDC. Elsewhere, Dennis Kogel conducted an interview with anthropy for Superlevel.de.

Bit Creature’s Jason Johnson looks back at some of the indie titles he encountered during the conference. In a similar vein, Jenn Frank played That Dragon, Cancer at the Unwinnable Salon the closing night of GDC, and reflects powerfully on the game’s subject matter.

Responding to recent controversies about hired models at GDC parties, Jason Killingsworth invites us to look at it from a different angle: his sister, a professional model, has attended plenty of similar events, and “there was nothing shady about the practice.” Killingsworth adds, “The way I see it, a little demystification goes a long way.”

On Kotaku, Leigh Alexander, who spoke at this year’s conference, shares why GDC brought out so many emotions for her. Writing for the same, Kirk Hamilton describes this year’s conference as a wake-up call for the videogame industry: “Change is in the air. Change for the better.”

On the German side, Dennis Kogel delivers in spades, with splendid series of write-ups and interviews for Superlevel.de. Here he is interviewing Austrian games journalist Robert Glashüttner. Here, he covers the FTL postmortem, the #1ReasonToBe panel, and the Creatrilogy talk with Andy Hull, James Lantz and Davey Wreden. He also covered the IGF and Developer’s Choice Awards!

LOST LEVELS CATCH-UP (PART 1)

You may have also heard some murmurings on the Twitters about Lost Levels, a GDC “unconference” held across the street from the conference. George Weidman has an excellent write-up of the event. We should have a more thorough collection of video, photos and write-ups from the official site in a few days, in time for next week’s roundup.

And if you read German, Dennis Kogel has you covered there too.

OH MY GLOB WHAT IS IT

Have you heard of Alpaca Niisan? It’s about to give you nightmares. Thanks, Anne Lee. I think.

THE USUAL, PLEASE

The new Blogs of the Round Table topic is up! Go have a gander, for your health.

As always, we are dependent upon our readers for sending in your reading recommendations via Twitter and email. And yes, we welcome self-submissions! Don’t be shy.

Join us next week where we will hopefully have a slightly more manageable list of links for you to dig through. For now, we apologize if we just ruined your Sunday plans. But I think we can all agree it was surely worth it.