Hello, dear readers! It’s time for a special Halloween edition of TWIVGB. While the last time I covered the weekend roundup was Valentine’s Day, I assure you that I’m not just here for the chocolate.
Tricks and treats from the game industry
These critics discuss the past and present of the video game industry and its members.
- No reviews means no possibility of negativity? | GamesIndustry.biz
Honestly, I was expecting much more than one piece on Bethesda’s statement about review copies from earlier this week, but instead we have a single piece by Christopher Dring that gives an overview of multiple critics’ opinions on the subject.
Finish Him: Remembering Fighting Games’ Fatalities Arms Race | VICE | United KingdomWilliam Barboza explores the history of classic fighting games’ absurd and gory finishing moves.
- 20 years on, the Tomb Raider story told by the people who were there | Eurogamer.net
Wesley Yin-Poole provides an extensive overview of the Tomb Raider series and its development, recounted by the developers themselves.
- On artful walking simulators and other Awkward Dimensions redux | Robert What
Robert What examines a let’s play of Awkward Dimensions Redux and the game industry’s bafflement with games as art.
“for mainstream games culture however, art still appears as though out of nowhere, a large, luminous and terrifying train threatening to jump through the screen and run them over with its apparently overwhelming ideas”
Respect and consent should never go to the grave
The following pieces navigate consent and respect in interpersonal relationships. Due to the nature of this topic, these pieces contain content related to abuse, so please note the content warnings listed.
- A BDSM Game That Let Me Explore A New Type Of Sexual Experience (Content warnings: Mentions of dubious consent and BDSM and NSFW images)
Heather Alexandra discusses consent and sexual negotiation in Ladykiller in a Bind and Mystic Messenger and how these games allowed her to explore her own sexuality.
- Me Who Done the Walkin’ | Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling (Content warning: Brief mentions of abuse and interpersonal violence)
Emily Short looks at four games that center around a character that has been treated badly by others and how the protagonist deals with this treatment.
- The woman fighting against the pickup artist’s ugly game of seduction | Kill Screen (Content warning: Sexual harassment)
Kyle Kukshtel presents Angela Washko’s game/art exhibit The Game and its message about pickup artists and dating sims.
“Washko is giving a voice to those that are forced to be a target of the tactics of these men, empowering the player to simply not be a consenting agent to the taught tactics of a pickup artist’s game, offering the potential for an alternative narrative to the one forwarded by the books of Roosh V and videos of Blanc.”
Our Minds, Our (Boo)dies, Our Games
Five pieces from this week probe into the relationship between the human mind and body and video games.
- Representing depression through game mechanics – Kill Screen
Alexis Dalbey reviews the game Depression Presented Ludically in the Style of a Videogame, which directly uses the struggle of depression as a game mechanic.
- A Deep Existential Calm: Thumper as Therapy – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Lee Hibbard explains how the game Thumper provides catharsis among his experiences as a person with Tourette Syndrome.
- THE SYSTEM WILL SET YOU FREE. | Mammon Machine: ZEAL (Comic strip, may not be screen-reader compatible)
Iris Jay created a comic that expresses the feelings that the scenes in SUPERHOT invoked in them.
- Silent Hill: Shattered Memories Made Horror Personal | Kotaku
Peter Tieryas praises Silent Hill: Shattered Memories’ deeply personal and psychological take on the horror genre, even compared to the other games in the Silent Hill series.
- How LEGO Helps Us See | Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Charlotte Hyde uses LEGOs to teach her students about gaming, technology, and accessibility.
I showed this video to my classes this semester. Their assignment is to chose a technology that interests them, and research the usability of their chosen technology. I want them to see beyond the basic, expected, intended use of a technology and to the possibilities or consequences that technologies bring to the table.
Phantoms of the Past
Many of this week’s nuggets of game criticism look backwards into ideas, experiences, and theories from the past to inform our approaches to gaming in the present.
- Gamasutra: Bob Whitaker’s Blog – The Not-So-Big Easy: a historian discusses Mafia III (video: subtitles auto-generated)
Bob Whitaker examines the historical context of Mafia 3’s plot.
- How ‘Doom 2’ Helped Me Understand Technology | VICE | United Kingdom
Patrick Klepek provides a personal account of his childhood experience with Doom 2 and the computer knowledge used to run and mod it.
- Opened World: Nostalgia Ultra | Haywire Magazine
Miguel Penabella analyzes the the themes of nostalgia and adolescence in Oxenfree. (Disclosure: I am an editor for the Due Diligence column at Haywire Magazine.)
- Why keys became currency in Team Fortress
Stephen Winson applies economic theory to online gaming. (Disclosure: Senior Curator Zoyander Street is EiC of Memory Insufficient.)
- Videogames could do a lot more with the Venetian mask – Kill Screen
Khee Hoon Chan describes the history of the Venetian mask and applies it to games such as Bioshock and Masquerada.
- Playing with the Trickster | Kill Screen
In a similar piece, Andreas Inderwildi looks at the trickster archetype throughout time and a player’s exploration of it.
In his book Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art (1998), cultural critic Lewis Hyde re-examines one of the most persistently fascinating figures of our archetypal imagination: the trickster. Of all the places the trickster’s spirit may settle, videogames seem to me the most intriguing. Here’s a chance not merely to tell or be told about a trickster’s exploits, not merely to perform or witness their brand of creativity, but to enter an embodied trickster figure, and play with the rules of a system through this body.
Ghastly Game Guts
This last batch of stimulating games discourse dissects the mechanics and logic behind games and how these mechanics enhance play.
- Tool-Assisted Tool-Assisted Speedrun | vextro
Leeroy Lewin gives an overview of the game Tool-Assisted Tool-Assisted Speedrun, which is a cheeky nod at the tools speedrunners use to modify game mechanics. (I wrote this bullet point using only 8 A presses.)
- Gamasutra: Josh Bycer’s Blog – How Game Mechanics Condition Us
When I saw the title for this piece by Josh Bycer regarding feedback and conditioning in video games, I immediately wanted to make a Pavlov’s dog reference, but he beat me to it. Darn.
- How FPS architecture makes us think | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
In a similar vein to the previous piece, James Murff digs deep into FPS map design and its influence on our approach to an area.
If open maps promote a languid approach to advancing and fighting enemies, closed maps do the exact opposite. You are constantly fighting a battle against anxiety and impulse to make the best of a claustrophobic situation. You are spurred from place to place by an onslaught of foes, rather than settling down on a tower and sipping tea as you casually snipe people from across the map. The careful planning is gone, and all that remains is adrenaline.
These spaces are not just defined by how open they are, of course. They are also defined by their architectural complexity. This complexity is not how pretty the map is, but rather how many different paths you can take when traveling around.
More Critical Distance Goodies for Your Treat Bucket
If you’ve been out of the loop recently, the Critical Distance website has been bustling with new initiatives and ideas:
- Did you notice that we have a sweet new website design? Senior Curator Zoyander Street gives the details on the new search functions and the new BoRT layout
- We have a new column called Agony Auncle that gives the good old advice column a games criticism twist.
- Eric Swain’s Critical Distance Confab has a new podcast episode out, and you can find it here.
- This is just between you and me, but the secret recipe for our curation process has been leaked. Keep it secret, keep it safe.
Finally, if you find some Quality Games Discourse that gets your brain going, you’re welcome to share it with us on Twitter @critdistance including the phrase “#TWIVGB” (with or without hashtag) so we can include it in the weekly roundup. We also have a Patreon that keeps our website running and contributors paid, if you’d like to give us some spooky treats in return. Happy Halloween, folks, and stay safe!