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Author Archives: Eric Swain

November 9th

November 9th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

How are you all this fine, crisp, chilly autumn day? And you in the southern hemisphere can keep your bragging to yourself, thank you very much. Eric here to take you on another journey through This Week In Video Game Blogging!

Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta 2 continues to stir up conversation both as a sexual entity and in the game’s other facets.

Apple Cider Mage picks up the sex positive/sex negative discussion around the titular character as an opportunity to explore what is actually meant by both terms in a feminist context.

Todd Harper, however, is tired of the discussion around Bayonetta’s body and sexuality behind it to the exclusion of everything else. To that end he posted a series of short posts on the game as capable of instilling joy, dance and music, the angelic facade of the monsters and Bayonetta’s love of the camera and vice versa.

Ben Ruiz continues on this with a set of videos on his development blog going into extreme detail about the technicalities and depth of Bayonetta 2‘s fighting system.

Military and Politik

Kill Screen’s Chris Priestman, instead of leaving the image of “Hold X to Pay Your Respects” and calling it a day, talks about why Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare fails to earn that interaction.

Jake Muncy also condemns the use, but instead goes on to talk about grief and our odd aversion to dealing with death at funerals. Muncy then talks about two games that managed the ritual of dealing with grief far better than CoD:AW.

At Polygon, Charlie Hall puts the spotlight at a different type of war game, with This War of Mine‘s focus shifted a few yards off screen from Call of Duty‘s soldiers and instead focuses on the cowering, surviving civilians trapped in the conflict.

Meanwhile, at Ontological Geek, Tom Dawson turns his eye back to 2012’s Spec Ops: The Line and why it asks “How many Americans have you killed today?” and if that isn’t sending the wrong message.

Finally, Robert Rath talks about a different type of war, the War on Terror, and how Shadows of Mordor is a mirror of that conflict. He says the game fails Tolkien’s world by eliminating the themes of idealism, suspicion of power and our better natures triumphing to instead mire itself in modern cynicism, realpolitik and victory coming from tactics and the willingness to do anything.

History

History Respawned invites Dr. Zach Doleshal on to discuss the Eastern Bloc through the lens of Papers, Please.

And the game history e-zine Memory Inefficient volume 2 issue 5 on religion and game history has come out, featuring articles from L. Rhodes, Austin C. Howe, Danielle Perry, Mauricio Quilpatay, Jon Peterson, Amsel von Spreckelsen and Stephanie Cloete.

Contemplation

Sometimes one needs to only lean back and think, letting the mind wander for no practical end and see what connections can be made.

Alex Jones compares the feeling of driving at night between Glitchhikers and Euro Truck Simulator 2.

Zolani Stewart explains expressionism paintings and their lessons to understanding worlds like that of Sonic Adventure 2.

Horror Games

At Outside Your Heaven, Matthew Weise feels like he should like Alien Isolation more than The Evil Within, but he finds that the former just retreads too much ground.

On Gamasutra’s member blogs, Sergio Hidalgo has some words on the mental tax on developers making horror games, drawing from his personal experience.

Craftsmanship

A concerning not only with content, but with how that content is both delivered and expressed.

If you missed GDCNext, Raph Koster has put up his slides from his talk from that conference, “Practical Creativity.” More than a few of the slides are thought inspiring, even as just a rough outline.

Sam Kabo Ashwell of These Heterogenous Tasks wrote A Bestiary of Player Agency a few weeks back. It’s a long piece that goes into quite a number of different types of mental and physical play spaces and how the various implementation affect our behavior and what we get out of the game.

My colleagues at PopMatters Moving Pixels have also talked about different implementations. Marshall Sandoval writes about the use of regional authenticity to create the texture of real places rather than the bland settings of regurgitated copies of copies of copies. Also, G. Christopher Williams looks at the addition of a first person view to Grand Theft Auto 5.

Then there is David Canela who, on his Gamasutra blog, notes the many binaries in Dark Souls that mirror the thematic binaries at play in that world and how the oft overlooked sound is another of them.

Dispatches from Vienna

Joe Köller has these links to give from across the pond.

The essential story this week: apparently a German theater ran a stage adaptation of The Secret of Monkey Island. Videogame Twitter noticed it too late to make it to an actual performance, but the image gallery alone is worth clicking that link.

Austrian student paper Progress has a special on games this month, which includes a bit of media history by Helga Hansen, as well as Anne Pohl’s summary of recent GamerGate nastiness, among other things.

Meanwhile, Mina Banaszczuk talked about being an inexperienced player in MMOs.

Pixeldiskurs also has a recording of a talk Michael Schulze von Glaßer gave about his new book on games and the military-industrial complex.

You Know What This Is About

No seriously you do.

We missed this one from a few weeks ago: PBS’s Idea Channel tackles the issue of how to create responsible social criticism through media. So many good lessons here, like how saying something causes people to X is not the same as saying something causes X to be thought of as normal.

Indre Viskontas ends her Inquiring Minds interview with Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage on the anger directed towards woman in tech and videogame fields.

And finally, stand-up comedian Brock Wilbur gives his story of how he was doxxed by the hashtag and how absurd it is as someone who has nothing to do with video games. At one point, he quotes his mother’s reaction to the whole ordeal:

Why don’t they just take away all the Halos until boys learn how to play nice?

#TakeAwayTheHalos indeed.

Lighten the Mood

After all that, I need a laugh. Here’s Conan O’Brien trying and failing to cross a street in Call of Duty.

The Usual Footer Stuff

Please send any link recommendations to our Twitter account or by email.

We have a new November prompt, “Home Sweet Home,” up for Blogs of the Round Table.

Critical Distance is funded by readers like you! If you like what we do, please consider pledging a small monthly donation through our Patreon.

And I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I’m cold.

Episode 20 – The Founderhead

September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

Our regular podcast host Mattie Brice needs a bit of extra time for her latest interview, so we’ve dug into our archives again for yet another heretofore unheard Critical Distance Confab episode. In this installment, Eric Swain interviews our very own founder and former head curator Ben Abraham.

Part of the original games blogger boom in 2007-2008, Ben Abraham has always found himself focused on the community of critics. It led him to try and bridge many of those working unknown and segregated by the internet’s distance to eventually founding a curation site (this one!) to bring all the best writing.

Also in this podcast, we discuss some of his other notable projects and his obsession with Far Cry 2, the focal point of a few of those projects.

Direct Download

SHOW NOTES

SLRC

Permanent Death – The Complete Saga

Frank Bilders is Dead

A Post-Comment World

i am ben abraham

Replayability is NOT a word

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 19 – A Critic By His Window

August 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

This month we bring you another interview from the unheard archives. A few years ago Kirk Battle, going under the pseudonym L.B. Jefferies, was one of the most prolific critics of the burgeoning amateur bloggers arising from the boom of 2007 and 2008. Now he is retired from the video game criticism game. We look back on his time as a critic and his view of criticism itself.

In addition to being a personal inspiration to podcast moderator Eric Swain, Kirk Battle was named Critical Distance’s 2010 Blogger of the Year.

Direct Download

SHOW NOTES

Banana Peppers Martinis

PopMatters – L.B. Jefferies

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review

Zarathusra Analysis

ZA Critique: The Darkness

ZA Critique: Okami

Lester Bangs rant

Pauline Kael – 1234

Samuel Johnson and Video Games

Does Video Games Need a Lester Bangs?

The New YouTube Video Games Criticism: An Interview with “moviebob”

Does Video Games Need a Pauline Kael?

On Design Centric Criticism

Telling Tales in Gabriel Knight 2

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 18 – The Great Curator

July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

This month’s podcast is all about a subject near and dear to our hearts: curation.

Here at Critical-Distance we curate games writing and other forms of criticism. But what about curation of the games themselves? Steam is getting flooded with new releases to say nothing about the games that never seem to get the spotlight at all, hidden away individual projects scattered around the web.

For this month’s podcast, Mattie brings two curators of small, free indie games (Merritt Kopas and Chris Priestman) to discuss the process and the philosophy behind what games they try to give the spotlight to and what audience they are trying to reach.

Direct Download

CAST

Mattie Brice: Alternate Ending

Merritt Kopas: mkopas

Chris Priestman: Warp Door

SHOW NOTES

Forest Ambassador

Forest Ambassador Patreon

Forest Ambassador Twitter

Warp Door

Warp Door work in progress

War Door Twitter

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 17 – The Blogfather

June 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

Due to some unforeseen circumstances (namely, an impromptu digital game conference), Mattie Brice is unavailable to bring us a podcast this month.

Fortunately, we dug into the archives and found this gem: an unreleased interview with Michael “Brainygamer” Abbott. Recorded about two years ago, most of what we talk about is his historical perspective from the beginning wave of internet bloggers and critics and his own view on video game criticism.

We hope you enjoy!

Direct Download

SHOW NOTES

Brainy Gamer Podcast

Bloody Play

I’m your huckleberry

A conversation about Braid

Prince of quitting

RPG Syllabus

Unplayable

Portal on the booklist

Seeking the light

Look at the camera and smile: No More Heroes and the New Wave

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 16 – The Artist Formally Known as Critic

May 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

Welcome to the first podcast in the brand new Critical Distance Confab!

We were so impressed with Mattie Brice’s moderation of our Black History Month podcast that we’ve asked her back to helm a new, monthly series. Each month on the 15th, Mattie will be tackling exciting, weighty topics flanked by special guests from across the critical landscape — and perhaps a few surprises as well!

This month, Mattie sits down with fellow critic-developers Lana Polansky and Cameron Kunzelman, to discuss how they got involved in game design, why game development interests them, and how becoming a developer has changed how they write about games.


Direct Download

CAST

Mattie Brice: Alternate Ending

Lana Polansky: Sufficiently Human

Cameron Kunzelman: This Cage is Worms

SHOW NOTES

Rise of the Videogame Zinesters

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

March 23rd

March 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (1 Comments)

The Game Developers Conference is over and Kris will be back in the saddle next weekend. Hello to any new potential readers we may have picked up over the last week. Let’s get This Week In Video Game Blogging started.

Critical Proximity

While the inaugural meet up of game critics and writers was last weekend, there have been a few responses in the meantime.

Mike Joffe of Video Games of the Oppressed wrote about his take on attending the conference and how he learned to stop worrying and love the myriad and nebulous concepts none of us can agree on.

Joshua Comer focused on the particulars of jargon, a concept brought up in many of the talks and various attributes of it as a useful tool and a barrier to communication.

Meanwhile, Nick Hanford, The Man of Many Frowns, decided not to respond to one concept, but all of the talks through the lens of audience and who the talks were for and how the talks addressed the concept themselves.

And on the Critical Proximity site, Richard Terrell put up the Roundtable Maps, a dynamic snapshot that grew out of the roundtable talks held after several of the talks.

GDC

While not all of us were fortunate enough to go, there was much discussion to be had about the recent Game Developers Conference.

On Paste Magazine, Maddy Myers wrote about what she had to consider about how she dresses when she goes to conferences or conventions like GDC and how it ends up hiding who she truly is.

Matthew Kumar delivered a detailed write up of Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue postmortem for Edge Online.

Held concurrently to GDC, across the street is the Lost Levels conference as an ‘unconference.’ Mike Joffe posted the full version of his talk he gave on non-human play.

And finally, cartoonist Elizabeth Simins had what must be the shortest interview with Peter Molyneux ever and produced it for Kotaku in comic form. If this doesn’t spawn a Molydeux style game jam I don’t know what to do with you all.

Social Effect of Games

Looking at human’s response to video games for a sociological perspective.

Katherine Cross for Feministing looked at some success stories in the RPG realm – Dragonfall and Pathfinder – that put another nail into the coffin for the idea that sex sells and anything else is doomed for failure.

Mrs. Dawnaway wrote a piece for Big Tall Words about the implications of makeup in Mass Effect.

And Mike Rose delved into the seedy world of digital gunrunners who circumvent the Steam trading system to make a quick buck off of Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

This is where everyone sort of wanders about towards their own interests

Edward Smith wrote a trio of posts about Silent Hill 2 looking at the long intro walk in the woods, the character of Laura and a closer look at the subtle meanings behind the nurses’ design.

At Kill Screen Alexander Saeedy wrote about the archaic design as why he quit playing Baldur’s Gate II. The submitter did qualify that he wasn’t sure if Saeedy had made it through the admittedly somewhat lengthy and dull opening dungeon.

Mutlimedia Editor G. Christopher Williams at PopMatters looked into Device 6 and how it takes a different route towards its metanarrative of player/game relations.

Mark Chen calls Depression Quest the most important game he’s ever played.

Francisco Dominguez had some questions while figuring out his reading of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, so he went to the source, Dan Pinchbeck.

Robert Rath calls Ground Zeroes the first Metal Gear Solid game that gets, like the tagline says, Tactical Espionage Action right.

Leigh Harrison looks at the super lengthy Darksiders II and how that and its repetition are, in a way, something to be admired.

Stephen Beirne looks and the concept of exploration by eschewing the normative model of an open world filled with collectables for something far different filled with weird sights.

And Austin C. Howe wrote a defense of Super Metroid‘s backtracking for his blog Haptic Feedback.

Dispatch from our Foreign Correspondent

Amélie Middelberg writes about sexist abuse in her gaming life and the various internet projects dedicated to documenting such instances of harassment.

Tobias Martin Schwaiger considers how the movie adaptions of Resident Evil manage to enrich the source material, despite its own heavy use of cinematic devices.

Speaking of films, Benjamin Filitz talks about the Dota 2 documentary Free to Play and its uncomfortable existence as a Valve product documenting a Valve product.

On Polyneux, Doreen shares her personal experience with The Last of UsLeft Behind.

Other Types of Game Criticism

All before were words on a page.

Extra Credits looked at the design benefits of collectable games like Magic: The Gathering.

Campster aka Chris Franklin follows up on his look at Thief with a an analysis of the newest entry in the franchise.

The Ontological Geek has a new podcast and episode 2 takes a long look at the concept of the asylum level in video games and what it means.

Final Points

The Ontological Geek is holding a call for articles for Romance Month in April. Likewise The Journal of Games Criticism with open for submissions for their second quarterly issue. The deadline is April 19th.

Thank you for reading. If you have any suggestions for the weekly roundup please submit them via our email or @ message our Twitter account. If you like the work we do here and wish to support us with more than kind words you can at our Patreon page.

Also, you can spread the love for good criticism at the Unwinnable Weekly. Check out their Kickstarter.

Episode 15 – Black History Month

March 5th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

In honor of Black History Month or maybe, as the discussion recognizes, in submission to it, we at Critical Distance are honored to be host to a discussion of three highly intelligent black critics to discuss both the concept of Black History Month and what it means to be black in video games and the wider culture. Now, I’ll just get out of the way and let them take it from here.

CAST

Mattie Brice: Alternate Ending

Zolani Stewert: The Fengxi Box

Evan Narcisse: Kotaku

SHOW NOTES

Bow Nigger

The Arcade Review

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Direct Download

 

Episode 14 – In This The Year Of…

January 16th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

And comes close another year and along with it our fourth end of year look back podcast. 2013 is behind us and we at Critical Distance look one last time at the major points that occurred along the way. We did our best to keep the podcast as manageable as possible, time wise. This year, instead of breaking it up between the events that happen and games that came out we’ve done them all at once in a single chronological run through of the year.

CAST

Eric Swain: The Game Critique

Kris Ligman: Dire Critic

Alan Williamson: Five out of Ten

Cameron Kunzelman: This Cage is Worms

SHOW NOTES

FUCK VIDEOGAMES

Tropes vs. Woman in Video Games

The Creepy Side of E3

The Collapse of the Animal Crossing Economy and the Rise of Villager Trading

Video Game Therapist

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Part 1: Direct Download

Part 2: Direct Download

Enjoy!

January 12th

January 13th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

After taking a break from the year end specials, we at Critical Distance are back. I, Eric Swain, will be stepping in as your curator this week to present a double sized This Week In Video Game Blogging.

Connect the Dots

Eric Swain GMing style of Shadowrun Return at PopMatters. Also at PopMatters, G Christopher Williams wrote how Knock Knock managed to digitize the children’s game of hide and seek, while Nick Dinicola wrote how the game of Need For Speed: Rivals is at war with its soundtrack.

Sven Bergström of Sneaky Bastards penned a manifesto for 2014 on the nature of pure stealth games and their relationship to action games.

Brendan Vance wrote The Cult of the Peacock about the overwhelming influence of The Design of Everyday Things to the exclusion of artistic decisions and detriment of the work and to the designer saying,

Now, instead of manuals, we have interactive tutorials. They take about fifty times longer to produce, three times longer to consume, and players hate them so much that their highest aspiration is to become completely transparent. Currently I spend most of my waking hours developing them. It should come as no surprise that I hate them too.

Jaymee Mak wonders with regards to feminism and representation why the ‘why’ is always left out. She asks just such questions in interviews with developers Brenda Bailey Gerschkovitch, Kirsten Forbes and Mathew Kumar using their work as a springboard.

Soha El-Sabaawi spins out her reaction of The Escapist’s recent No Right Answer video on Anita Sarkeesian, commenting ‘there is no right answer, but a wrong way to discuss.’

Isaiah Taylor interviews Amanda Strawn, the voice actress of the infamous homeless black woman NPC from Dues Ex: Human Revolution to get her side to the character and the issue.

Stephen Beirne at his blog Normally Rascal talks about the inclusion of sexual assault in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes in relation to Kojima’s own track record.

Todd Harper looks at the presentations of character designs in fighting games and balancing the design between the game’s need and that of harmful stereotypes.

Patrick Miller peer reviews the No Show panel by Todd Harper and Maddy Myers and how most of the outward presentation reflects poorly on the work they were trying to accomplish.

Kris Ligman on Gamasutra says, ‘Fire Emblem Awakening is a triumph of good design and advertising and not casual appeal.’

James Marion likens The Sims to Our Town and how it is the player’s hand just like it is the director’s hand that grant’s the stage meaning.

Jeff Mummert at Play the Past looks at how video games aren’t really understood and to be used as texts in the classroom the understanding of player’s position and their agency is necessary.

Gaines Hubbell at Higher Level Gamer examines the ideal of a video game as a text and how we approach them as open works in the face of mainstream critics unconsciously insisting they are closed works. Also at Higher Level Gamer, Erik Bigras examines a game outside the norm for the NES why it was once a – Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus – prescription and what it can teach about asthma.

Dave Own wrote a feature for Polygon about Super Columbine Massacre RPG and how its purpose of working through the tragedy like many of the books and films in its wake was missed given the medium it is a part of.

Kevin Sultan on Gamasutra looks at the psychological anthropology in video games paying particular attention to images and what we consider monsters.

Jamie Madigan at Psychology of Games looks at studies performed at the Capilano suspension bridge in Vancouver where it turns out a heightened sense of danger can be transferred in the mind onto ancillary events. Some video games may do the same thing to get player attached to the characters in The Walking Dead and The Last of Us.

Adrian Froschauer wrote a guest article for Ontological Geek examining the illusion of choice in The Walking Dead and how it is that illusion that is much more important than any actual outcome in The Walking Dead. Also at Ontological Geek, Bill Coberly looks at the moral choice presented in FTL, in particular the confrontation with non-hostile slavers and the unspoken implications of all your decisions.

Robert Rath looks at the pirate life on display in Assassin’s Creed IV and how the game fits you into the world through quests and encouraged behavior.

Daniel Korn comes back to Pokemon with Pokemon X/Y and find everything from the villains to the rivals to the through quest utterly lacking even by Pokemon standards.

Eurogamer published a piece by The Secret Developers to keep them anonymous about their troubles with the Wii U and how these difficulties and lack of support has caused a lot of third-party support to quietly retract games that were once announced for it.

Pietro Polsinelli had indie developer Daniel Benmergui on the Design a Game podcast to discuss Storyteller, his puzzle game/system for creating visual stories.

Emily Short critique’s Gone Home as a work of interactive fiction and the larger trend of “presenting most of your story as backstory” as a means to get around many difficulties in writing interactive fiction.

Mark Filipowich wrote some of his thoughts on games writing and community involvement with links to quite a few other writers’ pieces and their responses to the current situation from Patreon to creating new games writing outlets.

Zolani Stewert launched the first issue of the Arcade Review, a digital magazine focusing on criticism of experimental games. It includes pieces by Line Hollis, Lana Polansky, Alex Pieschel and Zolani Stewart himself. Also, Objective Game Reviews launched while we were away. Finally, a site that gives nothing but truly objective reviews of video games.

Closing Credits

Thank you for your patience. We are now back to a normal schedule. Because of recovery and last minute scheduling snafus almost every single link above was a suggestion sent in by our readers. A big thank you to all of you. So remember, please send in any suggestions you might have through our email submission form or via Twitter mention.