March 13th

Our illustrious editor-in-chief is off to GDC, for a week of talks, discussions and, hopefully, not the con plague. In the meantime, I have stepped in to supply your weekly dose of links for This Week in Videogame Blogging.

Masochistic Difficulty

A bit of a theme appeared at PopMatters this week.

G. Christopher Williams turns his thoughts to why his present game of choice is the rogue-like and why their presentation of death and masochistic like challenge appeals.

Meanwhile, Jorge Albor looks outside the digital realm for a different type of masochism, the annual Barkley Marathon in Tennessee, how it relates to what he labels “incomprehensible game design” and the joy in overcoming the challenge.

And Nick Dinicola writes about Darkest Dungeon regarding the pain that game represents to the fodder you send in waves to their doom and how it manages to capture the insurmountable challenge of a Lovecraftian nightmare.

LeeRoy Lewin pens a guest post for Sufficiently Human about the original, masocore game, Gradius III, and how its difficulty represents it as an avant-garde text given the climate it was released in.

Video Killed the Writer Star

George Weidman (Super Bunnyhop) goes through all the first levels for the Sonic console games and used them as a barometer for each game’s design ethos.

Chris Franklin (Errant Signal) looks back to one of the best open world driving games, Burnout Paradise, in order to see what was under the hood that made it work.

Ian Danskin (Innuendo Studios) begins a new 4-part series this week with the first video Story Beat: Dear Esther, where he explains the game plays with the unreliable narrator by putting the player in that position.

Mark Brown (Game Maker’s Toolkit) explores Jonathan Blow’s design philosophy when it comes to creating puzzles towards creating a moment of “I understand” over “I finally figured it out.”

Speaking of Jonathan Blow, Jane Campbell recently got around to playing both Braid and The Witness and finds herself with a more favorable response to The Witness seeing it as a representation of the mind of its creator.

Social Politics

Katherine Cross decides to answer the question “what about the men” in earnest. She looks at two games that actually deal with a more human representation of men: Catherine and Firewatch.

I Need Diverse Games publishes a piece by David Gaider where he explains why we need GaymerX.

Alex Layne explains that in hostile spaces, gaming included, it’s important to have mentorship, and lists off several ways to be good stewards to women wanting to get into playing games.

Dark Side of Politics

Ed Smith at Vice looks back a year at Battlefield Hardline and how it remains troubling in the current political climate, explaining how the apolitical is unavoidably part of the political.

Robert Rath uses his column at Zam this week to look back at the “No Russian” level from Modern Warfare 2 in the wake of the Paris attacks, and how they represent the new terrorist threat on soft targets. (Content warning for discussions of terrorism.)

Also at Zam, John Brindle sees the FBI interactive mutlimedia thing, Don’t Be a Puppet, as the last gasp of newsgames in their original form, and also shows how it succumbs to the same propaganda checklist it tries to educate its users to be wary of.

Owen Vince takes the espionage of the Metal Gear Solid series to task for failing to portray the reality that civilians are the primary targets of surveillance or rendition.

Cameron Kunzelman at Paste finds the politics embedded in Far Cry Primal to be just as bad, as they present a false, progression-based, colonialist narrative of our prehistory.

Sonia Fizek at First Person Scholar sees the industrial revolution concept of machines freeing humans from work come full circle, by putting them to work in the games they were originally to free up time for.

Horror, monsters and bad faith

Over at Vogue, Pip Usher explores why women are choosing virtual boyfriends over real life ones.

Eve Golden Woods reviews Trigger for The Arcade Review. It’s a visual novel about a women dealing with trauma, rape and suicide, so content warning for discussions of such.

“Children are inherently monstrous,” explains Cassandra Khaw in an effort to answer “Why Danganronpa is so viciously appealing?

Bianca Batti at Not Your Mama’s Gamer tries to understand the difference between the visual and visuality: what we see versus what we imagine, when it comes to the horror genre.

Kate R for ZEAL defends the practice of cheating in video games, arguing that in some instances it is correcting for bad faith in certain games’ design.

Players are being nice in Heroes of the Storm, uncharacteristically so for a MOBA. Sharang Biswas at Zam explains the design philosophy of the game that lead to that surprising result.

Players are at the whims of their quest givers due to asymmetric information. Bards can counter this problem with a medieval version of Yelp explains Multiplexer of Critical Hits.

Finally, Bob Mackey of USGamer gives us The Oral History of Day of the Tentacle in honor of its impending HD rerelease.

Close Out

From our Advisory Board member Alan Williamson, the latest issue of Five out of Ten is out, number 17 I believe, so give that a look-see.

All our work here at Critical Distance is supported by readers like you, so please consider giving to our Patreon if you have the chance.

And as always, we accept suggestions every week for inclusion in the roundups by @-messaging our Twitter tagged with TWIVGB or email us directly. Additionally, the March topic is up for Blogs of the Round Table. So check it out. Don’t worry, someone else will be stepping in next week. Good luck and good night.