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March 16th

March 17th, 2014 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

Hallo it is Cameron Kunzelman here to cover This Week in Videogame Blogging. Right to the quick of it, then.

Games Criticism! It Happens!

This Sunday marks the occasion of the first Critical Proximity, a conference for games writers that happened right before GDC. You can see text and video of a number of talks here. You can also watch the archived Twitch stream here.

Angela Cox explains that teaching games to students is easier if those students aren’t already invested in games.

Tadhg Kelly writes about what he calls “patreonomics” and lays out the land of cultural production around videogames.

Javy Gwaltney writes about the incredibly small world of videogame criticism and what it means to put a lot of weight and pressure on writers and reviewers.

Ethan Gach reads the concept of canonicity and comes to some conclusions about games and the canon.

Olly Skillman-Wilson plays some Far Cry 2 and also weighs in on the critical work on the game.

Games and Their Buddies I Mean Players

Alex Duncan does some hardcore Lacanian work to talk about players and avatars and what it means for the two to come into contact with one another.

Mattias Lehman performs some statistical analysis of various forms of representation in League of Legends. I can’t say that I’m on board with all the digressions that he makes, but the data itself is fascinating to someone like me who literally has no idea about anything involved with that game.

Jonne Arjoranta wonders if you can ever really, truly know what it is like to be a cat person in a fantasy land far, far away.

Jeff and Holy Grenade talks about his life as an Xbox Live bully. This link contains all of the language you might associate with that. [Trigger warning for this: sexual assault described in detail, racial slurs, general sexism.]

CYBERPUNK: IT IS PUNK. CYBERPUNK.

Mark Filipowich writes about the connections between videogames, Philip K. Dick, and Austin Walker’s A(s)century.

Zack Fair pings off of the same game in a piece about time and how cyberpunk as a genre has dealt with the concept.

Red Thumbs reviews Remember Me in a sprawling format, reading aesthetics, play experience, and writing all as one big, ungraspable mass. How cyberpunk.

THINKING ABOUT SPECIFIC GAMES

Jill Scharr explains the specific failings of the new Thief, reading its cutscenes and comparing it to Dishonored.

Gus Mastrapa has words elicited from him during matches of Titanfall.

Alice Kojiro plays and contrasts World 2 of Super Mario Bros. with the World 2 of Excite Mario Bros.

Stephen Beirne tells us that “Boletaria wasn’t built in a day.”

Martyn Zachary performs an in-depth analysis of Gone Home and reads it from 100 different angles.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

Christian Gürth interviewed gay games journalists, Youtubers and PR people about their experience with the games industry, stereotypes in games and online harassment.

Meanwhile, Dejan Lukovic had a long talk with games rapper Rockstah about his new album.

THAT IS ALL

Thanks for reading! As always we greatly appreciate the links you send to us by Twitter mention or by our email submissions form.

March 2nd

March 2nd, 2014 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

Cameron Kunzelman here to sum up the past little while in games criticism. I’m link heavy today, so I’m going to cut the cute intro and just give you the information. The information is good. Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Games Are History

Play the Past recently ran a week on the Assassin’s Creed franchise, which I encourage you to check out, but I want to highlight this post on the women of the franchise by David R. Hussey.

By the same author at the same website, there’s a very readable “Microhistory of Eve Online.”

Tracey Lien writes a much more comprehensive and lengthy article on the same game, taking us for an oral and systemic historical analysis of EVE in “The Most Thrilling and Boring Game in the Universe.”

Switching into a different mode of history, Jeremy Parish gives us “7 Reasons Super Metroid Was A SNES Masterpiece,” which doesn’t win any awards in the article title category, but manages to pay off anyway.

Emma Vossen does a bit of personal history, thinking through how her modes of interaction with female characters as a child has formed her. She writes:

I think it took me a lot longer to catch on that games were not “for me” because I lived in an incredibly small town that was relatively cut off from the world. When I was young we had very few television channels and the ones we did have wouldn’t have had video game advertisements or anything like that. Furthermore we didn’t have a Walmart until I was older, and we didn’t have a games store ever. My parents bought all our games for my brother and I, so we had an idea of what we wanted, but didn’t really understand what the “market” itself was like. I don’t think we really realized we had options, and we didn’t always know what was out there until we got the internet. I think the main reason I didn’t realize that games weren’t really for me was  because I had the benefit of living with a male sibling who liked both sharing, and more importantly, playing games together.

Podcasts! You Listen To Them!

GI Janes recorded an inaugural podcast where they talk about Gone Home.

Moving Pixels Podcast discussed the endings of Grand Theft Auto V.

Thinking About Specific Games in Detail, or T.A.S.G.I.D.

Paul Haine writes about strange envy, or “aspirational living” in Animal Crossing.

Patrick Lindsey wonders about the modes of death living in Far Cry 2. A sample:

The game had already long since established its yawningly casual acceptance of extreme graphic violence. I’d listened to soldiers scream as they burned alive on the savannah, shot unarmed hostages in the face while they pleaded for their lives. It’s safe to say that I—both as player and character—had been successfully desensitized to Far Cry 2’s brand of carnage. I’d murdered up-close and personal before, but this was different. This wasn’t murder or even combat; this was a mercy killing. I wasn’t prepared for the look of actual human pain on my buddy’s face, or for him to literally grab the barrel of my gun and pull it to his face, practically begging me to put him out of his misery.

Alice Kojiro has two recent pieces that I want to highlight, the first on Alice: Madness Returns and the second on Chrono Cross‘s Dead Sea.

Leigh Alexander, Quinns, and Jesse Turner collaborated to put together an incredible feature on the now-universally-loved Netrunner

Over at Unwinnable we have Jill Scharr on The Novelistand how it made her question her own life as a writer.

Austin C. Howe provides some analysis of the painfully under-written-about Final Fantasy VIII by weaving together fan theories and close analysis in order to make some sense of what the game is actually attempting to do.

Chris Franklin created yet another brilliant analysis video, this time of fan-favorite Thief. He also write a quick clarifying post about it.

We Literally Cannot Stop Talking About The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite

Anna Kreider writes about Joel and how he could be improved upon in a number of narrative ways.

Joseph Berida writes in “The Last of Us: Left Behind and Denial” about the new DLC and how characters interact with one another in that world.

Irrational is closing, which elicited a few pieces from prominent games writers about the industrial and cultural symptoms and reasons for that closure. Brendan Keogh wonders if we can connect up the themes of Irrational’s blockbuster franchise with the relations between creative leads and the people who actually do the creating. Leigh Alexander connected it up with her own journalistic practice and how she navigated reporting on the studio’s work environment while having to pretend she didn’t know about its work environment. Ian Williams laments that the studio’s collapse means a few things:

And yet here we are, with an entire studio turned out on its collective ear for doing its job properly, while the one true failure in the story has not just landed on his feet but is poised to crank out vanity projects, post-Spore Will Wright style, for the rest of his life. The games press, for the most part, is salivating about what he’s going to do next, thereby enabling this sort of behavior the next time. Hovering over it all is the vicious irony that a man who made his name by writing about a Randian dystopia is going to be just fine because we’re currently living in one.

To round out the Bioshockery for this week, we have Kyle Fowle reviewing its box art and Felan Parker doing some amazing and specific work on how Bioshock Infinite fits into the larger cultural narrative of games and their status as art.

Wait one last thing here is Maddy Myers writing about Biocock Intimate which is exactly what you think it is.

culture culture culture

Dan Cox cautions everyone to think about the people who don’t have the means or simply can’t manage to make their way to the coastal conferences and festivals every three months in his “‘Everyone Was There’ and You Weren’t.”

Paul Reid wrote an article with lots of visualized data that seems to correlate conservative thinking with certains kinds of games. I am not a scientist.

Robert Yang delivers some advice for people submitting games to the IGF.

Mat Jones does us all a wonderful service and finally presents “The Real ABCs of Games Journalism,” such as

Qwerty: Throw that shit right out and get yourself a DVORAK keyboard to help yourself with typing speed. Never mind that it’ll fuck up the keybindings for all your games, get used to moving your fictional characters around with a game of hand-twister.

Game Theory

Merritt Kopas posted some text about and some results from a workshop that she ran at the NYU Gamecenter a couple weeks back. There’s an amazing analysis of what queer game mechanics can look like. Read it.

Reid McCarter writes about guns in games and guns in the world and how those two things are related to one another through the fantasies of humans in “On Guns, Real and Virtual.”

Matt Barton asks some open ended questions about Neo-Marxism and how it could operate in games.

Stephen Beirne says some things about “detective mode” and how it is implemented in games.

Lana Polansky extols the virtues of the eroticism of games, championing the ones which manage to be “bleeding and vulnerable.” Writer Mo at Imaginary Funerals also thinks through the concept of bleeding and what it means for players and games alike.

I Made Kris Ligman Write the Closing Section Again

Thanks for reading! As always we greatly appreciate the links you send to us by Twitter mention or by our email submissions form.

See you all next week!

August 4

August 4th, 2013 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

Kris Ligman has become addicted to the powder waste of the Pelumbran Cackler Frog. I’m Cameron Kunzelman. I will be your guide to video game blogging this week.

FINAL FANTASY IS DEAAAAAD

Last week ended with an interview with Nobuhiro Goto and Motomuru Toriyama, two developers for the upcoming Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII in which they revealed that the main character, Lightning, now has larger breasts that “jiggle.” [Note: I think this is awful-CK]

This prompted Chris Kohler to state very plainly that Final Fantasy Isn’t Dying. It’s Already Dead.”

Todd Harper responds in a fashion that is equally critical of both the original interview and Kohler’s article in “You Knew This Was Coming If You Were Paying Any Attention.”

Ethan Gach writes that “It’s the Nostalgia that’s Dying, not Final Fantasy” and argues that this event is yet another in a long string of strange and often sexualized choices in the Final Fantasy franchise that we should have been, and should currently be, aware and critical of.

Absolutely unrelated to any of these previous articles, Dan Crabtree wrote about Hironobu Sakaguchi’s mark on the Final Fantasy franchise the culminated in Final Fantasy IX.

INTERVIEW APPRECIATION STATION

Chris Priestman interviewed Molleindustria (aka Paolo Pedercini) for Indiestatik. The entire interview is full of insight, but here’s an obligatory pull quote:

Statik: Would you say your games reflect your personal views or are they tailored to act as a commentary for other people to engage with their own views? Perhaps both?

Paolo: It’s great to see more and more game makers coming out and saying, “This is what I think and feel; this is how I see the world, and I decided to express it in a game form,” but I’m also interested in works that can contribute to the public debate beyond self-expression. I want to see games and simulations being used to make sense of the world around us; I want to see them next to text or moving images – and not in an ancillary role. I want to see more journalism, more philosophy, more history education, more experimental geography, conceived natively for interactive media.

THERE WAS ONLY ONE INTERVIEW, TIME FOR SOME SOCIAL ANALYSIS

Sidney Fussell writes broadly about online sexism, the role of men in communities and development, and how trolling solves approximately nothing in his “The Trouble With We Men.”

Sarah Nixon writes about how difficult it is to be a woman voicing dissent in the online gaming community.

Samantha Allen writes the flip side of the previous argument: what are the struggles of the omniscient 18-year-old boy?

Maddy Myers goes all-in on the recent games that have meditated on what it is like to be a dad in “Bad Dads vs. Hyper Mode.”

Todd Harper analyzes Persona 4 and how “gay characters” are represented in that game.

Chris Sawula writes about FTL: Faster Than Light and the dark decision processes around space slavery.

Jason Hawreliak writes on what he calls “middle-state publishing” and how it might be the place where the most interesting critical interventions are happening in video games.

ANIMAL CROSSING/EARTHBOUND: I COULD NOT THINK OF A GOOD HEADER

Alex Dale cannot stop playing New Leaf and seems a little distressed about it.

Drew Mackie explains about why he deleted his Animal Crossing save.

Shigesato Itoi, designer of Earthbound, wrote a bit about what it means to him–”it is not dead and it’s not even human” ranks up there on the list of poignant things you can say about a game you made.

Simon Parkin wrote a retrospective on Earthbound. Spoiler: is good.

SOME HISTORY. WE ALL LOVE HISTORY. I’M TELLING YOU TO LOVE HISTORY.

Jed Lepinski recounted the creation and legacy of The Oregon Trail.

Angela Cox writes on “The Othering of Time Age of Empires II.

 Cornelius Holtorf explains the playful desire of reality-altering efforts of time travel in contemporary culture.

MISC.

Paul Tassi asks “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Nintendo?

This is a wonderful redesign of the entirety of The Last of Us that asks the question “what if we played as Ellie?”

Mike Rose uses the new SimCity to model yet another instance of horrible traffic.

Jason Johnson connects Shin Megami Tensei 4 to Bolano’s The Savage Detectives.

June 9

June 9th, 2013 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

So this week Kris Ligman is off collecting every single one of the original 151 Pokemon. I’m Cameron Kunzelman and I am filling in for Kris and boom here we go. This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Women in Games

Craig Stern of Sinister Design lays out the reasons that he decided to purposefully have women as the main characters in his game.

Maddy Myers reflects on the Tropes vs Women in Video Games videos and comes to the conclusion that there are no magic bullets when it comes to ways of speaking out against misogyny in video game culture.

The new issue of Ada, the Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology is out, featuring academic essays that analyze Xbox Live demographics, queerness and Persona 4, and the feminization of casual games.

TRIGGER WARNING: repeated use of the word “rape”: Rowan Kaiser does some shortform analysis of the hypermasculinity of “hardcore gamer” rhetoric and makes a move away from the limiting, abusive language.

The Games Industry

Jason Schreier uncovers the horrible abuses at Trendy Entertainment. Not only is the studio seemingly a bastion for sexist behavior, but the company direction appears to be based on straight-up plagiarism. A sample:

Late last year, according to four different people, Stieglitz fired the lead designer on Dungeon Defenders II and shifted direction on the game, telling the development team to start taking ideas from the popular arena battle game League of Legends. The motto floating around the company, employees told me, is “if League does it, we do it.”

“He threw out design work to copy League of Legends,” said one person.

“Interesting, creative ideas [were] thrown by the wayside because ‘we don’t have time,’ or ‘Does League do it? No? Then it’s a waste of time, we need to do what League does,’ said another person.

Matthew Kato lays out the basic barriers to entry in order to play contemporary video games and decides that they are fairly extreme compared to other hobbies.

On a similar, more Microsoft-specific note, Chris Plante notes that the Xbox One signals a choice that limits consumer rights and makes the Microsoft and select partners the most money. “If you’re low on money,” he notes, “you’re out of luck.”

Kate Cox points out the basic infrastructure problems with next generation consoles’ online needs and how they excludes massive numbers of people in rural America and abroad.

Specific Games and the People Who Think Very Hard About Them

Austin Walker writes about the various loves he has for State of Decay.

Jason Rice reflects on the mechanics of the second installment of Kentucky Route Zero.

Kaitlin Tremblay writes on Bioshock 2Borderlands 2, and Baldur’s Gate to try to get at the heart of abject subjectivity in games.

Jorge Albor works out why the decision making in Quandary hits in a particularly hard manner.

I wrote about the most wonderful moment in Remember Me.

Research and Development

Nick Degens thinks through some baseline questions in regards to the relationship between players and protagonists.

Shamus Young defends the silent protagonist.

Zack Wood presents a case for the strength of Japanese games’ ability to build worlds with interesting characters.

David Carlton wants the teleological nature of games, and game narratives, to change:

So: I’d like games that are less about saving the world, aspiring to become all-powerful; in fact, I’m curious about games that step away from aspiration completely. Having said that, that’s just me right now, not a general statement about what other people should be interested in or even what past or future me should be interested in.

Miscellaneous Roundup Because Hey, They Are All Good Too

Day 1 game reviews are biased toward being positivity. Leigh Alexander and Quintin Smith write to one another about relationship games. Mitch Krpata made a fun little quiz to find the REAL Citizen Kane of games. Jeremy Antley plays with dronesThe New Inquiry just released a new issue on games and you can read some of them here.

Johannes Köller Brings You The Foreign Language Report

Mostly quiet over here, Michael Cherdchupan of kollisionsabfrage.net ran an obituary for Japanese game designer and composer Kenji Eno, Rainer Sigl of videogametourism.at wrote about multiple choice as the narrative mechanic in The Yawgh, Save The Date and Kentucky Route Zero and also, in translating and expanding on an earlier post, about why games need to be shorter.

Cameron, Remember to Include the Regular Housekeeping Section or Kris Will Sneak in Something Embarrassing During Proofreading

Thanks for reading! Please continue to send in your submissions by email or Twitter.

Blogs of the Round Table is still doing its May-June mega-topic and we encourage you to participate.

See you all next week!

May 5th

May 5th, 2013 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

Kris Ligman is off camping the spawn point, so This Week in Videogame Blogging is being brought to you by me, Cameron Kunzelman. Let’s get to it.

All Star Party Zone

Top billing this week goes to Darius Kazemi’s essay titled “Fuck Videogames.” I’m going to refrain from commentary; going into it without any preconceptions is a good idea. After you read that, go for Liz Ryerson’s “it’s okay to like games,” which I read as a companion piece to Kazemi even though they are basically unrelated to one another.

Switch gears. Ryerson and Robert Yang both made what you could call “critical Let’s Play” videos for an event in Chicago ran by Jake Elliott. Yang’s is on the first room of Half Life and Ryerson’s is about the CliffyB sleeper hit Bioshock Infinite.

Bioshock Againfinite

If you’re not totally burned out on anything and everything Bioshocky, Nicole Marie comments on Infinite, but with a particular focus on the critical discussion around Elizabeth as one of the best female characters of all time. Nick Dinicola also has things to say about the game, reading Booker DeWitt’s character arc as a failed one.

Issues of Representation

Speaking of representations of women in video games, Samantha Allen posted an audio recording of ETSUcon’s Sexism in Gaming panel (which I was lucky enough to be a part of) over at The Border House.  At the same site, Mark Filipowich writes about privilege and how it is expressed in the RPGMaker game Exit Fate.

Helen Berents reads Ni No Kuni through the lens of peace studies, focusing on how the game positions conflict in relation to childhood. Rebecca Mir writes on Dog Eat Dog> and its representations of colonialism as a “fun” activity. At First Person Scholar, Sarah Gibbons writes on Auti-Sim and how it might be a problematic representation of autism that could push us forward to better, more equitable games dealing with the topic. A pull:

One of the important messages that disability studies scholars and autistic self-advocates reiterate is that disability should not be understood through the lens of pity. Working against a medical model that suggests that disability is an individual problem, disorder, or defect, many scholars articulate a social model of disability that emphasizes the disabling impact of built environments and social attitudes. Some scholars question the idea of impairment; for example, Shelley Tremain, who exposes the realist ontology that informs our understanding of impairment, explains that our definitions of impairments are not objective, but historically contingent . Tremain and other scholars point toward a generative model of bodily difference. The question with respect to games becomes, can simulation games enable players to explore these alternative models?

Developing A Critical Games Writing Community

Real talk: video game criticism is in a strange place. It is mostly performed by under-/un-paid people who want to talk about video games in some way other than “this was good, this was bad, 9.5/10.” So with that in mind:

The new website re/Action launched into its beta this month. As the About page states,

re/Action evolved out of the need for change. Critical, experimental writing suffers in a media landscape based on traditional publishing models, and diverse readerships only find hostile environments without proper inclusivity policies. This publication aims to celebrate the amazing writing often turned away from the mainstream sites and left unpaid. We want to capture the conversations that need to happen and create a safe space for all to participate.

The first, “beta” month has articles by Lana Polansky, Denis Farr, and EIC Mattie Brice.

Five Out of Ten Magazine also released a new issue this week. If you haven’t purchased any of the magazine so far, maybe think about buying the value-laden triple pack?

Take a Breather

Watch these motion capture videos of videogames by Nicolas Boillot.

History Schmistory

Here are some links about games history: Michael Barnes writes on the history of the “Dudes on a Map” genre of board games. Carl Therrien speaks in interview about a particular way of doing games history, laying out some basic information while pleading for a move to critical and specific history. More contemporary: read the story of Jager and how they came to develop Spec Ops: The Line. At Eurogamer, Craig Owens delves into a forum community obsessed with doing design archaeology of Shadow of the Colossus.  Finally, Joel Cuthbertson tells it like it is: “The Boston Bombings Are Not A Meme.”

Video Games Are Serious Business

Chris Bateman posted about the problem of “fiction denial” in games. Steve Wilcox interviewed Jesper Juul for First Person Scholar.

Design Time

Over at Unwinnable, George Weidman calls for a resurgence in analysis about Antichamber and makes lots of interesting points about lateral thinking. Scott Juster finds the banality of evil in Papers, Please. Adam Biessener pleads with the designers of videogame morality systems: “stop making me kick puppies to shoot lightning.”

Nathan Altice (who only writes golden articles of wonderment) analyzes basically everything about Super Mario Bros. through vectors and how they work. Go learn.

Random Things That Are Good So Go Read Them

Andrew Vanden Bossche gives us magic. Roger Travis gets to the heart of immersion in Papo & Yo. Stephanie Carmichael shows us the mirror worlds of Twin Peaks and Deadly Premonition. Jason Johnson went looking for Jason Rohrer’s hidden board game. George Kokoris finally saw in 3D with Nintendo’s help. Aaron Matteson wonders if there is such a thing as “compassionate trolling.” I played Rogue Warrior and found it to be no more silly than CODBLOPZ. Joel Goodwin falls in love with Starseed Pilgrim.

Foreign Correspondence

As always, Johannes Köller is here with the foreign correspondence appreciation station:

Over on Kleiner Drei, Lucie Höhler interviewed Lea Schönfelder about her Kinect game/art project Perfect Woman. On videogametourism, Rainer Sigl, Franzi Bechtold, Christof Zurschmitten und Robert Glashüttner all shared their experience and thoughts on the recently concluded AMAZE festival (or A MAZE, or Indie Connect, or whatever it’s called these days). On superlevel.de, Benjamin Filitz also wrote about the AMAZE at length and Dennis Kogel has an interview with Jana Reinhardt of Ratking Entertainment and Arnold Flöck of Tinytouchtales up, in which they muse about the structures of the local indie scene and wonder why it doesn’t seem to produce any well-known, polarizing figures. Why is there no local version of Phil Fish?

Details

That’s all for this week!

We’re still having issues with our contact form, so please keep submitting links via Twitter.

Thanks for reading!

February 3

February 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

I am not Kris Ligman. I am Cameron Kunzelman, and because of events both dangerous and deceitful far and wide, I am running This Week In Videogame Blogging this week. I don’t have any notes up top beyond the notes that I just wrote.

Oh, actually, I do: Kris does a great job of organizing posts thematically. I don’t. So–

Mark Rowlands doesn’t write about video games at all, but his “Tennis With Plato” is some amazing writing about games in general and their maybe-intrinsic value to someone who is growing older.

Sarah Wanenchak writes for Cyborgology on the concept of winstates and how the necessity of winstates in games means that they have fundamental limitations as a medium. As she says,

Our actions are naturally constrained by what we perceive as not only appropriate but possible. We can’t do certain things with certain technologically mediated forms of storytelling because there are limits to what users can imagine within the context of those media. What I want to emphasize here is that this is a very real problem for anyone trying to do anything innovative with design; too innovative, too unfamiliar, and the user won’t possess the baseline assumptions, imaginings, and understandings necessary to experience the medium in the way the designer intended.

Keeping with the same theme, this past week saw the formal release of Proteus and a general storm of whinyness about its gameness/notgameness. Mike Jones lets everyone know that it was okay to not like anti-games. Rob Parker lived the game for a little while. Ed Key, one of the developers of Proteus, responded with an exasperated post, generally confused about why we are still having debates about “game.” And Oscar Strik does some etymology and provides some Wittgenstein to round out the debate.

Trigger warning for sexual violence: Mat Jones takes a bullet for us all and does a short oral history of the Reddit game forum and how it feels about Sarkeesian’s Tropes Against Women.

Michelle Ealey writes for The Border House and explains that blaming entertainment for X thing isn’t the way to go about it. At the same time, Simon Parkin writes that the military industrial complex has many tentacles and that manshooter games are intimately linked to the actual gun industry. Mitch Krpata responds to the debate at large by writing that we should actually figure out if video games are harmful and, more importantly, that we should be open to the data that comes from studies.

Enough of that.

David Valjalo works through Thirty Flights of Loving with creator Brendon Chung and gets twenty seven references out of him.

Angela Washko teaches people about feminism in World of Warcraft. Not feminism as embodied in World of Warcraft, but actually inside the game.

Zoe Quinn explains how the guy who made a game about his job ended up getting fired.

Roger Travis continues his series about the “life” of Bioshockand how it operates in the critical and academic assemblages.

Self promotion station: I think that video game writers could learn a lot about their own critical community by looking at early cinema criticism.

Sparky Clarkson wrote a review of Hotline Miami in Twine.

Aaron Gotzon writes about reading Super Mario Bros. as a surrealist, psychoanalytic event that processes the self.

Jill Scharr writes on The Legend of Zelda and how it gave her a sense of wonder as a kid. Brendan Keogh hones that feeling down to a fine edge, tracing the development of his own “gaming grammar” at a similar age.

Maddy Myers writes about why she has always played at violence in games. A teaser:

But what about my guilt over enjoying violent power fantasies, given how judgmental the media and politicians and Americans everywhere have been about violent media lately? What is it that I love about holding an imaginary gun and shooting hundreds of avatars in the face? Am I just acting out some Tarantino-esque revenge fantasy on the daily micro-aggressions that I feel from strangers, and even friends, who talk down to me because I’m a wee little baby-looking girl who must need help, who can’t do anything on her own?

Ian Bogost writes about Hundreds.

And that’s all I have for this week.

In case you missed it, January’s Blogs of the Round Table has wrapped and the results are tremendous. Stay tuned for February’s theme.

And please be sure to submit your recommendations for This Week in Videogame Blogging via our email submissions form or by @ing us on Twitter!

November 4th

November 4th, 2012 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

I am Cameron Kunzelman. I don’t have any gimmick. I just have links to things that were written this week. Let me tell you, as an occasional person who does this, that curating this is a special kind of hell.  Imagine a infinite row of tabs scrolling into a human eyeball forever. It is a little bit like that.

This is This Week in Videogame Blogging. Here are the links. There isn’t a real order to them–no beautiful cataloging like Kris would do. But you will deal with that just fine.

Rob Zacny writes about the implosion of Homefront developers Kaos Studios over at Polygon. It gets deep in the nitty-gritty; names are named. Go check it out. For the reverse story, read Dean Dodrill’s narrative of how he created Dust: An Elysian Tale out of nothing but blood, bone, and bits.

A key theme of the week, based on this distinction that I just made up, is violence. Rachel Helps, writing at Nightmare Mode, explains “How Mormons Get Away With Murder In Videogames“. She writes:

The fantasy aspect of a game is necessary to distance ourselves from videogame violence, and by extension, intending to apply it to real life. It’s the reason why most parents are perfectly comfortable with their children slaughtering innocent goombas, but get nervous about them playing Uncharted. If videogame worlds are completely unlike the real world, it’s harder to transfer the virtually practiced actions of killing (unconsciously or otherwise) to real life. In real life you can’t jump high enough to jump on top of your enemies like Mario does. But you can carry around a gun and shoot someone in the head like in Uncharted.

Speaking of Uncharted, Greg Weaver writes about the theme of that game and how it is totally rad. I will admit to both having no idea what music is and to also thinking the article is awesome.

Daniel Golding writes about watching Robin Hunicke play Journey. The piece will turn you into a giant weepy baby.

Hunicke eventually put down her controller. had reached its climax, and she would not go beyond the early scenes of snow. It was too personal to continue, she said. Though it would have been thrilling to see her play through perhaps the most moving section of Journey, she was right. Some things need to be experienced alone—or with only an anonymous internet user who could be hundreds of kilometres away.

Jamin Warren thinks games are too long, Yannick LeJacq thinks gamification and freemium politics has exploded outward,  and Stephen Beirne thinks long and hard about determinism.

Alice Kojiro writes about content in games. (I want to interject here and just say that Alice writes some of the most content-full posts about games on the internet.)

Speaking of appropriate levels of content, there’s a rising trend that really bothers me about most newer RPGs: postgame content. Such a thing shouldn’t really exist; postgame is going online and telling your friends, fans, and whomever else wants to listen about the game you’ve just finished. Or otherwise, telling your real life friends, if you’re one of those people with non-digital friends; filthy socialites. When you finish a game, it should be finished, but many developers are insisting upon putting a little something extra for which you must return to the game to experience, often taking place in a continuity shattering place in the timeline before the battle with the final boss that you’ve already killed.

Andrew Vanden Bossche brings us an all new, all better scoring system.

The rest of the links that I have to show you are based around three recent games: Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, Dishonored, and Hotline Miami.

Two links about Liberation: Daniel Kaszor interviews Jill Murray, the writer of the game, about, well, the story of the game. Evan Narcisse points out that, surprisingly, a game about a black woman in America actually contains a little information about what it would have been like to be a black person at the time.

More and more Dishonored posts pop up every week. Rowan Kaiser points out how the game uses its steampunk aesthetic as shorthand of class criticism. Justin Keverne explains that Dishonored is all about how poorly you treat those you choose to treat poorly. Cameron Kunzelman, in a moment where he chooses to promote his own writing, puzzles out the ethics of the world of Dishonored and finds them painfully and artfully sad. Oh, and Scott Juster thinks that river krusts are creepy.

One second. Let us check ourselves lest we wreck ourselves. Joe Martin wants us to pause of a minute and realize that Dishonored is a lot like Thief. XCOM is back, too, and we’re all drooling and the thought of a new Sim City. Are we…back in the 1990s?

For years now, I’ve felt the games industry was stuck in a cynical and boring rut. It seemed like there was an endless cycle of games which were moving us in the wrong direction, that were getting bigger instead of better. Modern Warfares rolled by like they were coming off a production line and, it turns out, they kind of were. Publishers were getting us excited over all the wrong things – release platforms and the amount of playtime and polygons and 3D. The sort of stuff that’s good to know, but which isn’t why games actually matter.

Do you want to know the reason that Call of Duty hasn’t had a new idea in five years? It’s because it hasn’t needed one.

Oh well! Lets just power through it and get all the way back to the sweet, sweet 1980s (I’m told the 1980s air was much more fresh!).

Hotline Miami has made a lot of people excited since it was released. Kyle Carpenter makes the comparison with Drive and with at-home dentistryRami Ismali does some amazing work to try and get at why Hotline Miami is so important, finally coming to the conclusion that

The trick that Hotline Miami employs perfectly is offering no time for thought during its violent gameplay and then offering abundant need for reflection through pause and uncertainty of narrative. All of that was not achieved by telling me to feel this way, nor by voice-over or dialogue – it was that unique combination of interactivity, visuals, audio, dialogue and atmosphere that only games can offer.

Hotline Miami took a daring step forward into an uncharted territory in which ego, player, avatar, autonomy, trust, action, responsibility, justice, morality, games and gaming all hold relevance, but never are quite clearly defined, never quite take shape and often overlap, exclude eachother or challenge eachother in impossible ways.

That is all I have for you this week. Please remember to send in your link suggestions by Twitter or email. And be sure to check out Alan Williamson’s roundup for October’s Blogs of the Round Table.

October 7th

October 7th, 2012 | Posted by Cameron Kunzelman in This Week in Videogame Blogging: | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

All of the party people are at Indiecade, so I am here to deliver some video game writing to you. My name is Cameron Kunzelman. I like video games. I like criticism. I like short, declarative sentences. I am not good at this.

Anyway, video game criticism is something that is really important to me, so I volunteered to take this week while Kris was off doing important things that I am not doing.

The first piece for this week is one that I have gone back to over and over again (as you can see in the comments). It is a piece by Kaitlin Tremblay about, well, “Borderlands 2 and the Surprising Feminism of the Siren Class.” She writes that

The Siren class is a subversion of a stereotypical female trope that points fun at the token female in many video games. Maya is not stereotypical as the Siren comparison initially implies. It’s part of the Borderlands joke: the game is seemingly steeped in machismo in order to poke fun at the machismo of video games. It’s aware at every turn of its own ridiculousness, and this is what makes the Borderlands franchise so great.

While I’m not sure that I am convinced by the argument (I can’t drop the subject position; I am a bad pretend journalist), I can say that it is getting at some interesting questions that the video game community should be dealing with.

I would be remiss here if I didn’t mention, at least in passing, the blowup that happened around this article by Wesley Copeland (TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault). Copeland had the audacity to suggest that women shouldn’t be groped in public, and the response was typical–read the comments to feel all the sadness in the universe drop down around you like a shroud.

But we shouldn’t let that cloud our entire week, as devastatingly depressing as it is.

I don’t have a good transition here.

Anjin Anhut’s “A Man Chooses A Slave Obeys” is a brilliant close reading of Bioshock and critical-favorite Spec Ops: The Line. Anhut focuses in tightly on what it means to perform an action in a game, and comes to the conclusion that maybe we do actually need to turn the machine off sometimes (also, the graphic design in that article is stunning. Go look.) Anhut starts asking questions toward the end, and all of them are important:

How many games made me do things in this hypothetical space, which I didn’t feel like doing? How many kills did feel odd to me, even within an exaggerated fictitious war scenario, but I still marched on? How many days did I spend just mindlessly following waypoints, screen prompts and nice voices? How many times did I accept pretty girls void of any personality as a bribe to save the day? In how many games did I reluctantly accept racial stereotypes as just what the enemy looks like?

In other close readings (my favorite kind of readings), Lana Polansky has written a wonderful piece on “The Poetry of Created Space” that combines analyses of Shelley’s poetry and video game space. You know you want to know things about hubris, decline, and their effects on video games.

Making a move to meatspace, Mike Schiller writes about his daughter and her use of video games to cope with Tourette’s syndrome.

In a time where pharmaceutical solutions often take the predominant role of treatment, video games are a welcome supplement. My daughter’s favorite games have become some of her most effective coping strategies. While I would never suggest that video games replace doctor-prescribed treatment, understanding the disorder and what engages her in meaningful cognitive activity has allowed my wife and I to give her one more tool in her set of coping strategies.

At PopMatters, G. Christopher Williams wrote about the “mini-roguelike” and why we like games like The Binding of Isaac and FTL so much. Describing mini-rogulikes as “anti-Bioshocks,” he asserts that

These are games that are about the development of a player, not a character, and as such celebrate the player’s skills and smarts in ultimately overcoming obstacles despite the fact that these games feature more failures than not.  Victories are made sweeter in the knowledge that the game does not expect me to run through from beginning to end successfully, it expects me to only reach a conclusion if I can develop myself as player enough to do so.

Video Game Tourism has a brilliant interview with David Adler. I’m not excerpting any of it, because the whole thing is interesting. 1916 looks properly terrifying if you think worms with teeth are scary (I do think that).

Anthony John Agnello wrote an article about the controls of video games. I wish that I had words to make that sound more interesting; I promise that it is actually really cool. A phrase that is used in the article: “Mastery leads to grand expression.”

Matt Marrone wrote about being a “deadbeat gamer”. I have a lot of feels (when you read this in the future, know that ‘feels’ was a thing we said in the fall of 2012) about this. There is something oppressive about the constant slog of content in games. Marrone remarks:

Even Skyrim, I have recently discovered, has a downloadable expansion pack. When I was 10, that would have been the ultimate dream come true – a never-ending adventure!

Now that just makes me feel old and tired.

Nathan Altice is doing a “cold run” of The Legend of Zelda. No walkthroughs; no FAQs. Just pure action. He is documenting it all, of course, and it is a fascinating read so far. For example, he has rightly pointed out that the beginning of  the game is a lot like Dark Souls.

The opening hub area in Dark Souls has the same structure. Multiple paths radiate from the Firelink Shrine, one of which is manageable at low levels; the others, less so. The player learns through exploration, not through pop-up text. What was once calledlevel design is now known as hardcore difficulty

Finally, Daniel Golding has an article up titled “Why Code is Not Poetry“. There are citations. Go have that argument.