January 17th

What’s up, Critical Distancers? DJ Melissa here, spinning the sickest new written beats in the gameosphere in This Week in Videogame Blogging!

That Dragon, Cancer and Its Emotional Impact

That Dragon, Cancer, an interactive look into a couple’s experience with their son’s fight with cancer, released on January 12th and touched many heartstrings.

Over at The Guardian, Keith Stuart compares his experience playing That Dragon, Cancer with his own experience dealing with the death of his father.

Stephen Addcox from GameChurch and interactive fiction author Emily Short examine the game’s usage of contradicting aesthetics to simulate the experience of losing a child.

At Kill Screen, Alexander Kriss focuses on That Dragon, Cancer’s methods to express the deep sadness of the Green family’s situation.

Our own Riley MacLeod specifically looks at the way that That Dragon, Cancer tells Joel’s, the Green family’s son, story when he is too young to tell it himself.

Intertwining an interview with creator Ryan Green with his own reactions to the game, Satchbag’s Goods reflects on the game’s greater implications on our purpose in life (video, no captions available).

The Art of Speedrunning

Awesome Game Done Quick, or as the cool kids call it, AGDQ, sparked discussion for two game bloggers. First, Games That Exist clarifies a point made in a previous work of theirs, classifying speedruns as “creative, anti-consumerist, community-driven performances that double as oral histories.”

Meanwhile, on her Tumblr, Carolyn Petit explains how speedrunning brings back the magic of videogames that she felt as a child.

Are Gamers the New Religious Right?

You, our kind and helpful reader base, pointed out to us that there’s a debate going on in the gaming blogosphere this week that simply asks “are gamers the new religious right?”

At Houston Press, Jef Rouner argues that yes, gamers are the religious right of today, stating:

The gamer right has its moral crusade, now. It wants gaming to be orthodox and traditional and easy to swallow without thinking too much about it.

In response, Damion Schubert posits a counterargument on Zen of Design: “So don’t call these people you refer to as ‘gamers’. That’s a term for good people. Go with ‘fuckwads’.” While his response was fairly concise, I also recommend checking out the discussion in the comments!

Party Like It’s the Classical Era

Other writers this week have been getting in touch gaming’s roots in classic art and literature.

Brick by Break’s Ario Barzan brings us a piece on the link between Dark Souls’ concept art and its environmental design, comparing the game’s concept art to paintings by Joachim Patinir, Friedrich Schinkel, and Caspar David Friedrich.

Meanwhile, at The Guardian, Holly Nielsen explores the idealized vision of country living in games such as Story of Seasons and Animal Crossing and how it relates to ideals from a variety of time periods in history.

Mechanics, Mechanics, Mechanics

A big chunk of videogames blogging this week highlighted mechanics usage in games:

Did you know that Bossa Studios is working on a VR version of Surgeon Simulator? Thanks to Jake Tucker at Pocket Gamer, now you do.

In Gamasutra’s blog sections, Chris Pruett tells us about the different elements of tension he’s found in the horror genre and how he applied them to his own game.

YouTube channel Game Maker’s Toolkit dissects the quest “Beyond the Beef” in Fallout: New Vegas and lauds it as a great example of sidequest writing (video, captions available).

Over at The Atlantic, Will Partin presents different case studies of an MMORPG’s version of the apocalypse.

Grayson Davis at Videogame Heart praises Emily is Away’s interface’s representation of the instant messaging of yesteryear.

According to G. Christopher Williams at Popmatters, if you take a good, hard look at the interaction between mechanics and storytelling in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, there’s another shocking twist to be found! And no, for once, it’s not Ocelot’s fault.

The packaging for a PS4 controller skin makes Brendan Keogh wonder what, exactly, we consider to be “cheating” in a videogame.

At Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Bianca Batti checks out the relationship between games, their mechanics, and life.

The Term of the Week Is: Ludonarrative Dissonance

Did you think we were done discussing mechanics? Sorry, bucko. A few of the works from this week brought up the term “ludonarrative dissonance,” which means a disconnect between a game’s mechanics and overarching message. The more you know!

Uninterpretative’s Zack Fair contemplates how Undertale’s theme of distrust affects whether the game features ludonarrative dissonance or not. (I’m totally digging the Hello Kitty blog theme, by the way.)

After some controversy over the previous game in the series, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days did not receive much critical examination, and Miguel Penabella at Thumbsticks wants to remedy that, featuring the game’s usage of ludonarrative dissonance to prove a point.

On Gamasutra’s Expert Blogs, E. McNeill ties history and videogames together, arguing that a contradiction in veracity cheapens the experience for both.

(Critical Distance alumna Lana Polansky already came up with a much better term and approach for all this, by the way. -ed)

For All Your Representation Needs

Another cluster of games writing aims to raise awareness about diversity in gaming and game design.

In another gem from PopMatters, Jorge Albor muses on the potential for VR games to provide us an empathetic view on the lives of marginalized folks.

Game developer Rami Ismail writes about the intersection of Islamophobia and opportunities for Middle Eastern game developers on his Storify.

Gamer mom Nicole Tanner tells the story of raising her young daughter as a videogame player.

At The Guardian, Simon Parkin interviews Helana Santos, developer of Epic Mickey 2.

In an incredibly detailed essay for Analog Game Studies, Aaron Trammell teaches us about Dungeons & Dragons’ appropriation of the “Orient” and its influence on modern gaming.

See You Later, Space Cowboy

Thanks for reading, friends! These roundups exist courtesy of your contributions, so we are always happy when you share your favorite brain food of the week with us via Twitter mention or email.

If you like to dish out your own brand of games writing, make sure to keep our monthly Blogs of the Round Table on your radar. This month’s theme is Progress! If you’re looking to expand your horizons in professional writing, Onological Geek is looking for new contributors, and are accepting applications throughout January. Applications close on February 1st.

We can support our writers (myself included!) because of your financial support, so if you like what you read, throw us a dime on Patreon, Recurrency, or Paypal. All questions, complaints and cute pictures of guinea pigs can be directed to my Twitter, @LongLiveMelKing. Toodles!