November 29th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Once again, those of you who indulged in cooked fowl (or fowls within fowls) have hopefully enjoyed a long weekend with loved ones and have already begun making the next week’s worth of leftover sandwiches. As for the rest of us, hopefully the weekend was as outrageous or subdued as you wanted it to be. Geographically sensitive holidays aside, it’s time for our global weekly tradition of bringing you another This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Something Something Fallout 4

Wesley Yin-Poole tells all of Eurogamer that he loves Fallout 4’s skeletons, dang it! Not only do they build atmosphere, but they also convey the series’ characteristic tone caught right between humour and severity.

I wonder if it’s someone’s job at Bethesda to be “boss of skeletons”. This person is in charge of all the silly positions, I imagine, all of the props, the lighting, the scribbled notes and the terminal journal entries that reveal the back-stories to the skeleton vignettes players uncover as they creep about in the dark. Perhaps this person leads a team of environmental artists who specialise in skeletons.

On the subject of environmental storytelling, Robert Yang on his very own Radiator Blog describes and dissects the “Diamond City Blues” quest in Fallout 4. According to Yang, it’s a fascinating bit of design in that it builds the game’s setting while subverting genre tropes:

What I like about this quest is that it’s a “slow quest” that actually does the work of world simulation over the course of several in-game days.

in most RPGs, NPCs accept NPC deaths with supernatural stoicism and everything is instantly resolved. In this quest, stuff keeps happening.

Stephanie Jennings writes a piece for Cyborgology arguing that the lone hero thrust from ordinary to extraordinary trope used in Fallout 4 and so many other AAA games, while shallow, offers her an empowered position reality rarely grants her.

While we could dismiss the hackneyed and overused special-hero structure, condemn it, and call for its absolute eradication from the gaming landscape, I don’t think that this would be an entirely thoughtful approach (although this doesn’t mean that the AAA industry couldn’t cut back on its use). Instead, I think we could reevaluate the potentialities of these experiences for those that occupy marginalized positions.

Yussef Cole counters that the game’s emphasis on its 50’s aesthetic erases the racial politics of the time. Cole argues that as refreshing as it is to have a person of colour take the role of protagonist without constant commentary on their race, Fallout 4 incidentally whitewashes America’s history.

Bethesda’s random racial lottery does much to present traditionally marginalized people as well rounded characters. But it does so by erasing identity rather than adding to it.

Games That Aren’t Fallout 4

Vincent Kinian pens an in-depth review of Athena: Awakening from the Ordinary Life, a Japanese game released in 1999 on the Playstation and more recently digitally re-released on the PSP and Playstation 3. The game, according to Kinian, is both a frustratingly simple anti-science allegory wrapped in a dense and fulfilling character study:

The tension that Athena’s psychic power creates is more ambiguous than the anti-science shpiel was, which is precisely what makes it so interesting. The player finally has a reason to engage with the game: they can ask why Athena makes the choices she does, or how she must feel as she realizes what her sacrifices bring her.

Melody Meows takes a stop at Haywire to write to/about Tomorrow Corporation’s Little Inferno and Human Resource Machine.

Miguel Penabella revisits The Order: 1886 for Thumbsticks and argues that although the game didn’t — couldn’t, really — live up to its expectations, there is still a lot depth to it that many release-day reviewers glossed over. As Penabella summarizes:

To simply inhabit the world of The Order is a pleasure in itself, adorned as it is with a smorgasbord of visual and literary influences that inform our gameplay experience.

Not Your Mama’s Gamer regular, Bianca Batti, analyzes how mother and father figures are presented in games through the lens of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

A Look at the Past

Videogame Tourism has chronicled the extensively researched 8-part article series by Eron Rauch on the history of MOBAs. Happy reading those of you looking for depth.

Writing for the A.V. Club, Annie Zaleski interviews former “play counsellors” for Nintendo America who in the late 80’s and 90’s worked a hotline for struggling gamers.

This Means That

J.H. Grace describes the history and aesthetic of brutalist architecture on his dev blog, noting how games like the Assassin’s Creed series and Kairo communicate with the harshly functional architecture.

Meanwhile, Democracy Now has released a clip and short interview of the documentary Drone, which discusses how the American military targets gamers for recruitment into its unmanned drone program.

Lastly, over at Gamasutra, Katherine Cross argues that videogames more closely resemble opera than film based on 19th century composer Richard Wagner’s vision of the “total work of art” that encapsulates emotion in the synthesis of many art forms. For Cross, play is how games express this idea:

I’m on record as deeply disliking the unspecific nature of the word “gameplay” but in this case its capacious and slippery definition is actually quite helpful: everything that constitutes an interaction with the gaming environment is covered by “gameplay” here so far as I’m concerned. That vastness is our music.

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

That will just about wrap things up for this week. If you’re like me and you just can’t get enough game’s crit, swing by November’s Blogs of the Round Table, where there’s still time to read and submit any work related to the theme of ‘Forgiveness.’

If you come across some work you’d like us to call attention to next week, don’t hesitate to give us a shout on twitter or email. We depend on our readers and contributors to help call attention to the ongoing discussions in all sorts of circles.

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