Hope for all our US readers you had a lovely, stuffing Turkey Day and didn’t spawn too many family brawls. For everyone else, happy weekend. Welcome to This Week In Video Game Blogging!

Bioshock and Beyond Earth

Bioshock is back in the critical eye. Anthony Burch at his blog No Wrong Way to Play decides to see what the consequences of the little sister decision is by never using any of the Adam earned from making a moral choice and finds the game lacking in its response. Meanwhile, Rick Stanton at Rock Paper Shotgun looks at the legacy of Looking Glass Studios in regards to the Bioshock series.

On the other half of the header, Katherine Cross writing for Polygon finds that Beyond Earth can’t top Alpha Centauri. Peter Christiansen writing for Play the Past, focuses on the Beyond Earth‘s tech trees and notes that while in many ways it is no different than Civilization’s determinism approach to technology, in others it matches with recent historical understands of Actor Network Theory. And Errant Signal’s Campster feels the game has a bit of an identity issues between Civilization and Alpha Centauri‘s different styles and themes.

AAA Themes

Jamie Patton finds the Assassin’s Creed series through III to fail by creating an everlasting present of anti-colonialism values that devalues actual history and our ability to change for the better.

Romance author Ruby Duvall takes and does not take issue with a Dragon Age: Inquisition side quest dealing with a character liking a romance serial and the serial’s inclusion as part of the greater world of Dragon Age. Looking at Bioware’s other major property, Dara Khan at Videogameheart thinks through the theme of transhumanism being presented in Mass Effect‘s final choice and finds it doesn’t mesh with what the rest of the series has been about.

At TransGamer Thoughts, Heather Alexandra explores at one of the most underlooked games of the past few years, Binary Domain, and how it deals with AI and what it means to be human.

Meanwhile, George Mylonas looks to a more recent game, Alien: Isolation, and how it functions through the research done about the horror genre.

Interactive Fiction

You may remember a few weeks ago we posted a piece on Alter Ego by The Digital Antiquarian. His wife, Dorte, has written a follow up from the point of view of a woman playing the game as a woman. Later that week, he focused on what looks like the final game in his “digital book” series, 1987’s Portal. It doesn’t look like something that would be out of place in the modern day’s more avante guarde Interactive Fiction scene.

Javy Denton muses on driving alone at night and how Glitchhikers nails the need to talk to someone in the wee hours, even if it’s just other parts of yourself.

The Feel of the Game

At The Butter, Brian Oliu talks about the feel of being the superstar that NBA Jam evokes. It’s not about winning or losing, but putting on the most amazing basketball show possible.

In The Binding of Issac: Rebirth, one starts off with a normalish looking body and by the end has transformed into a monstrous blob of flesh. At PopMatters, G. Christopher Williams explains how it is a statement of freedom in a way, “free from established rules and stricture, free to continue to grow into something other than what others desire it to be.”

In his review of Never Alone, Daniel Starkey comments on how happy he is, as an American Indian, that any tribe would get a game made in conjunction with them to valorize their history and beliefs as “an interactive piece of folklore.”

And Cara Ellison, in her NSFW column at Rock Paper Shotgun, chats and laughs with some real world lesbians about the hilarious failures of Girlvania, an ‘All-Girl Sex Simulation’.


Our own Zach Alexander goes back to a notable title in the mobile battle monster game genre, Puzzles and Dragons, and digs into its exploitative practices against the genre uninformed, likening much of it to capsule machines.

The Extra Credits crew praises the Dark Souls series for its approach to scalable difficulty.

Criticism on Criticism

Nick Capozzoli comes back to his own blog, to unpack the recent statements about opinion and objectivity of Youtuber Total Biscuit. How, when boiled down, the complaints always seem to be, “Why Wasn’t a White Guy Consulted?

Brendan Keogh decides to return the favor to Darius Kazemi and review his book on Jagged Alliance like Kazemi did to his book two years ago. In it, Brendan continues the conversation about approach towards long form criticism.

Melody of Melody Meows About… talks about the need to defend oneself from the purposefully compulsive nature of many of today’s video games. They are designed not just to be enjoyed, but all consuming to the detriment of everything else.


Remember, we are always accepting suggestions for our weekly roundups. Just submit them via our email or @ message them to us on twitter.

If you’re quick you can submit a piece for November’s Blogs of the Round Table.

If you can, please support us and the good work we do here at Critical-Distance through our Pateron. If you can’t afford it, but want to help, signal boost our efforts.

Thank you and have a lovely week. I’ll be subsuming myself into the end of year curation mines.

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 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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

It’s getting rather dark and rather chilly around here. Another week, another list of links for This Week In Video Game Blogging.

Video Games Both Great and Small

Horror month continues a little past October with Zachary McAnally looking at Slender: The Arrival‘s horror design and Soha El-Saaawi explaining the journey of Year Walk.

Emanuel Maiberg at Kill Screen looks at the new Call of Duty and how the campaign ends up turning you unintentionally into a terrorist and a Nazi. While E.T. Brooking at The Escapist explores the real world space faring weaponry that has and could exist.

Becky Chambers of The Mary Sue relates her experience with Papers, Please from both sides of the customs booth, both in the game and in real life. Levi Fowler wrote ‘What AntiChamber Teaches Us About The Nature of Religious Texts’ for GameChurch.

Bendan Vance talks about intrinsic and extrinsic features of a work and how Liz Ryerson’s Problem Attic is an example of a game fully designed with intrinsic meaning instead of “paying lip service to aesthetics.”

Ethan Gach asks “What is Final Fantasy?” in the respect that the games have always changed and mutated over their many iterations and looks at the core of what makes a quote/unquote Final Fantasy game.

Nathan of Metopal.com compares Baseball to Spelunky in regards to their various levels of play and the deceptively simple descriptions of how they play.

Eric Swain at PopMatters explains how most games that claim to be cinematic fail to take advantage of the techniques of film and how Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a game that incorporated such techniques into its camera.

Stephen Beirne wrote a piece at Gameranx claiming that BioShock Infinite‘s combat design was a step backwards from BioShock 2.

Alisha Karabinus at Not Your Mama’s Gamer explored how thanks to her age and our journey with her in Season One, that taking control of Clementine in The Walking Dead Season Two could be path to a new empathy to girls’ and women’s situations in trying circumstances.

State of Things Orbiting the Medium

Bob Chipman explains the changes that happened to criticism in the public sphere over the last century and how it wasn’t always consumer oriented, but theory oriented in his latest Big Picture Show episode.

Cameron Kunezlman looks at the complex relationships indies and AAA industries have with one another, especially the workers of each. Speaking of which, Ian Williams looks at the distressing reality of Video Games and Labor.

Emanuel Maiberg now shows the other side of the debate in ‘what big data can’t teach us about video games.’

At the Monochroma development blog, Burak Tezate?er looks at the expressionism art style and its relationship to video games.

Gender and Race Tied Up With Lace

In her Edge column, Leigh Alexander explains how those fans that get defensive of their favorite games over criticism end up displaying the same sensitivity they vilify in others who are not explicitly catered to.

Sindey Fussell explains why the main answer towards equality in the medium is in the end another silencing tactic in favor of the status quo.

At The Border House, Mark Filipowich explores how the relationship between sex and politics is presented in three different games.

PBS Game/Show asks the question ‘Are Games Racist?’ answering yes, though not for the reason one might think.

See You Next Week

Thank you for reading. If you have created or see something you think is worth including a future edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging, please contact us by sending a mention to our Twitter account or use our email submissions form.

Your resident librarian of games criticism is back in the seat again. We have a wonderfully diverse collection on the recommends shelf of This Week In Video Game Blogging.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto is a very popular subject as of late. We decided just to put them out on the front shelf; it seems to be the topic of the moment.

Stephen Beirne on the Huffington Post writes about how it normalizes violence, not through causing it, but by creating an atmosphere where people cannot recognize it. Furthermore, Beirne suggests that the satire defense merely exacerbates the problem.

Cassandra Khaw at US Gamer talk about how unrealistic Michael and his family are given that she grew up with a real world analog to him. It isn’t so much social criticism as it is the high flung fantasy of an executive.

Spann at Arcadian Rhythms is a little disappointed at the criticism towards GTA5‘s most heinous mission and how under read it’s used in regarding Trevor and his character.

Mark Serrels says Los Santos is a place he’d never want to visit on Kotaku. And Johnny Kilhefner at Unwinnable regards existence in Los Santos as condemning a person to a slow death and eventual end by one’s own hand.


Kimberley Wallace put out a new piece published by Game Informer about how confronting despair can influence a reading and ultimately the ending choice in Beyond: Two Souls.

Paul Haine looks at running in games and how the culmination of elements in Remember Me finally made him slow down and walk to the benefit of the game and his enjoyment.

Also, a brand new work from the highly reclusive author – first in a long while I must say – came out this week. Our own Kris Ligman – yes her, right over there – published a piece at Unwinnable deconstructing Johnny Gat from the Saint’s Row series.


Leda Clark goes back to the cultural initiator of the boom and digs deep into the psychosis of Braid by looking at oft overlooked elements.

Alex Duncan looks at creation and self creation through art in The Unfinished Swan on his The Animist Blog. Don’t get much about this gem.

Rob Parker of First Person Scholar tries to reconcile Jesper Juul’s understanding of game and failure with regards to the art of Papers, Please.

Stephen Beirne sees Gone Home as three games wrapped into one.

Daniel Joseph sees Howling Dogs and Kentucky Route Zero as a new type of game entering into the general public’s view and hopefully laying down the groundwork for what the next world will look like.

Look Back

We also have a number of new writings on classic titles for the vintage player.

Ed Smith did a insightful retrospective of the original Tropico and how perfectly it mirrors how politics really works and why so little ever gets done.

Eric Swain continues horror month at PopMatters by looking at a classic adventure game now again once widely available and how I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is more faithful to the concept of horror than most other games.

And Liz Ryerson collects her three critical walkthrough videos of the first chapter of the original Doom and of the subtle nuances of the level’s design and hidden storytelling.

Social Issues

We have a treat this week. Stanford was kind enough to to show the study that demonstrates how sexualized game characters have a demonstrative detrimental real world effect of self esteem and cognitive ability. Yes, no paywall or anything. JSTOR is usually so picky.

Darius Kazemi and Nina Huntemann list off the three least powerful woman in gaming. many repeat entrants this year.

Robert Rath in his weekly pamphlet says that we need more soldiers to write about games.

And if you are willing to go into the viewing room we have a set of companion videos from Idea Channel. Controlling vs. Being Your Video Game Avatar and Are you Weird if You Play as the Opposite Sex? That second one comes close, but manages not to fall into any pitfalls.


Those? Oh sorry. I haven’t gotten around to reshelving them yet. Sure you can have a look.

L. Rhodes at Polygon says sequels are sometimes good for gamers. He also wrote about how copyright law pertains to Super Mario Brothers and video games in general for Medium.

Jason Johnson wrote an interesting look inside the “failed” utopian New Games Movement.

And Mitch Dyer wrote on the all too depressing and all too real question of ‘how long can video games matter?” This is given their iterative qualities instead of artistic and how each new game forces obsolescence on their predecessors.

Eric Keeps Forgetting the Closing Section So Kris Had to Write This Part

Thanks for stopping by! As usual we welcome all outside submissions, so please send us your recommendations via Twitter mention or our email submissions form.

Also, we are still on the look-out for foreign language correspondents! In particular, we are looking for readers familiar with French, Spanish, Russian or Japanese games writing, although we welcome all comers, of course. If you think you can help out, please drop us a line!

There are a few days left to submit to this month’s Blogs of the Round Table, so please consider taking part!

See you next week!

Sunday afternoons are made for being lazy. Just stretch out, scratch the nearest cat tummy and watch the dust particles float on by. But there are still posts to read and link lists to curate. So on with This Week in Videogame Blogging.

Gone Home and Papers, Please

Because two great tastes go together.

Kate Craig, artist for The Fullbright Company wrote a post on the company blog explaining some of the subtle symbolism with flowers used in the game.

Jorge Albor talks about the concept and realization of family in Gone Home over at PopMatters.

Claire Hoskings wrote for Polygon the six lessons for creating believable female characters using Gone Home to highlight each point.

At Ontological Geek, Matt Schanuel calls Gone Home the act of soft transgressions. And Oscar Strik sees both Papers, Please and Gone Home as games about stories the recognition we should pay more attention to those of others.

Stephen Winson at his blog The Good, the Bad and the Awesome, sees Papers, Please main flaw is that it sets it in the communist bloc as if that were the only government to slide into a bureaucratic state.


To protect and abuse.

Maddy Myers of Paste questions her reading of Hotline Miami has a satire of masculinity given its sequel’s start and satire in games as a whole and the relevance and necessity of authorial intent for it to be there. She mentions The Castle Doctrine as part of that.

Jason Rohrer explains his choices regarding families with mechanical value as it relates to the player’s behavior regarding them and how changes to the family changed player behavior.


Games and Otherwise.

Laura Kate says that she is not a Journalist, because the relationship between writer and subject isn’t the same in the games press.

Jeff Kunzler, someone who actually works in advertising, has a few things to say about Adblock and their recent move into advertising. He’s positive on the whole thing.

And Robert Rath in his Critical Intel column at the Escapist goes step by step over the mainstream news media’s incompetence and harmful reporting regarding a tragedy with an 8-year old, his grandmother and a video game that was mentioned only into get attention.


They all talked about sleeping this week.

Edward Smith says to stop and smell the roses as video games never seem to let you have those moments to actually absorb what is going on.

Nick Robinson says sleep is boring, but video game all nighters are interesting.

Nick Michal seems to go a little off the deep end into the surreal. How did the hero get here? Is this a beginning or an ending?

Assorted Close Readings

Random video games.

At PopMatters, Mark Filipowich takes his turn on the Final Fantasy is dead debate, saying the series isn’t dead, it isn’t even unwell, but rather healthy because it is still with us in all its incarnations. G. Christopher Williams, meanwhile, looks at the current state of the MMO and laments it fails to offer the same incentive towards friendship as it once did.

Jonas Jürgens at Thunderbolt Games played The Sims 3 and was bored out of his mind as he desperately searched for substance.

Caitlin Oram looks at I Am Alive and its portrayal of the apocalypse and notes that the greater danger is with other humans not monsters.

Aggrodrago, real name unknown, looks at the effectiveness of a simple camera control change towards teaching the most important lesson in the beginning of The Last of Us.

Paw Dugan does a quick overview of the music in Persona 3 and how it ties the game’s story together.

And Edge looks at The Making of: The Last Express.


Ethics regarding in and out.

Dan Solberg wrote a profile for Kill Screen on the Marina Abramovic Institute and game creator Pippin Barr’s part in it.

Ethan Levy defends himself on Kotaku against being called a cancer on the industry to explain a few things to people.

Reid McCarter at Digital Love Child says that playing the classics isn’t always easy, but it can be valuable to struggle through the dry material because the experience can be worthwhile.

Joe Webb of Ludic Poop, talks about the elitism of the “pure gaze” that arises in every medium to propagate the notion the form is more important than its connection to the real world and how such a stance by the hardcore is used to alienate bros as well as content critics.

Wrap Up

Thank you for visiting. Don’t forget Blogs of the Round Table is still going on till the end of September. We take recommendations every week via both email and twitter. Welcome to the new month and the end of summer.

Welcome all. I am your intermittent host Eric Swain. Kris is off relaxing out in the northern wilderness so I’m picking up the curating duties in the meantime. We have a doozy of a This Week in Videogame Blogging ahead of us, most of it written in the last two days.

But first…

Ludonarrative Dissonance

Robert Yang kicked off a lot of discussion on the term ludonarrative dissonance by saying, I’m not in fact sure what he was saying and nor were a lot of other people as I saw so many streams being crossed all week.

Ethan Gach wrote an elaborate response to Robert’s points as an exploration if not an out and out defense of the term.

Gone Home

The output from this game alone…

Campster does a quick overview video on how the game seeks to tell its story and how the mundane subject matter works to its advantage without delving into any spoiling specifics. Justin Keverne compares its methodology to its lineage of the Shock games and those of Looking Glass Studios. Robert Yang explores what Gone Home is through the lens of the mansion genre. And Leigh Alexander explores the comparative artistic movements of grunge grrrls and video games that matter very much to the game’s setting.

And that’s all you get spoiler free. Play the game before continuing with any of the follow posts.

Brendan Keogh has some notes on Gone Home. Ben Abraham talks about a single moment in the game and how it exemplified what the game was pulling off with regards to expectations and uses it undermine Yang’s earlier declaration on ludnonarrative dissonance. Cameron Kunzelman has a few things to say about the game’s craft in how it delivers its various narrative threads.

And that’s all you’ll get with light discussion. Deep content analysis and full explanations ahead.

Austin Walker wrote about the transgression within the game and how it profoundly affected one of the characters. Mattie Brice talks about the ghosts of the game (they’re not literal ghosts). Michael of Correlated Contents writes on the game’s dramatic irony. Merritt Kopas wrote quote “some hastily-written emotion reflections on Gone Home” and they are some profoundly affecting reactions to numerous elements in the game. Naomi Clark meanwhile focused on a single piece of paper and what it meant the game refused to let you read it as opposed to so many other barriers games have thrown up.


Some writers decided to take the time in the summer lull to look backwards.

Samien McFerran at Eurogamer unveiled the history of the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy game book series now getting a rebirth on mobile platforms.

Edge Online published The Making Of: Thomas Was Alone.

Some guy at PopMatters could think of little else and explains the storytelling stylings of Loom.

Alex Rubens explores how Missile Command came to be and how it got stuck in the mind of its lead developer over at Polygon.

Bioshock Infinite

More barbie on the fire.

Nate Barham looks at the violence in Bioshock Infinite, particularly in the opening and how it misses the mark in the one place it’s supposed to have a transgressive impact.

Justin Freeman delves deeply into the character or rather lack of one of Bioshock Infinite‘s Elizabeth portraying her creation as a cynical attempt to justify the rest of the game.

The Last of Us


Edward Smith says The Last of Us’ opening is a showing of things to come and for us to transfer our feelings from one girl to the next as Joel does.

Mattie Brice on the other hand concludes that The Last of Us would have been a brilliant commentary on the “dadification of games” if it had anyway been on purpose.

Meanwhile, Robert Rath decides to look at the real world science of the Cordyceps and other infections that mind control their hosts. Nightmares ho!

Just over the halfway mark.

Gender in Games

Michael Robinson tackles the type of games that blatantly objectify women from another angle by stating that it isn’t his power fantasy. Maddy Myers likewise takes a different angle on the issue by looking at the sexual objectification of men by looking for the “hottest” virtual dudes around.

Brian Crecente of Polygon asserts the possibility that the greatest threat to the video game industry may be the fans themselves in looking at the issue of developer harassment.

Leigh Alexander at Edge discusses a point brought up at a recent panel she was on to explain diversity doesn’t mean dumbing down the games. On the same track over at the Escapist, Jim Sterling has a video explaining diversification does not equal a neutering of creativity and how in practice it has been the exact opposite. Alisha Karabinus of Not Your Mama’s Gamer looks at what the term gamer even means anymore and how it’s loss of definition is a positive step.

Jenny Haniver chronicles her dealings with an asshole on Xbox Live and the flaccid response from customer support at Microsoft over the incident.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Naomi Clark storifies Derek Yu’s reasonable responses to the unreasonable regarding Feminist Frequency inclusion of his game as an example in her latest video. He was supportive of it.

And Colin Campbell at Polygon says it’s time for more leading women in games.

Game Feel in Design

Prepare to go cross-eyed.

Luke McMillan goes into great detail about how to quantify for designers what has been a very wishy washy explanations for a critical element of play: game feel. Raph Koster then defends it on his own site against some of the commenters miss the fact that tools don’t stifle art.


For all those one off pieces.

From PopMatters Jorge Albor looks at some small games that are serious about their subject matter and are outside the realm of video games for most peoplee and Nick Dinicola explains why he felt more free to punish the characters in The Walking Dead: 400 Days DLC as opposed to the main game.

Yahtzee Crowshaw explores a new reading of the Mario franchise games and Mario RPGs and how they are a metaphor for Nintendo itself.

Jon Irwing of Kill Screen asks if Animal Crossing is showing us our economy’s bleak future.

Justin Davis at Venture Beat explains the emotional impact Papers Please had on him with regard to one of standard questions he had to ask.

Joe Köller looks at multiple choice narratives in games and how they let us shape our blanks slates.

Bill Coberly of the Ontological Geek compares the ending states of XCom: Enemy Unknown and Pacific Rim.

The Indie Gamer Chick talks about epilepsy and gaming. She asks that you do not user her editorial as a baseline for your own ability to play a game.

And finally, Rob Gallagher at The New Inquiry thinks that video game’s devaluation of life may be a good thing overall.

Closing Notes

We have a new Blogs of the Round Table topic up and running through the end of September. Don’t forget to submit your suggestions for TWIVGB through email or twitter. I have no idea who will be here next weekend, but you’ve got plenty of reading before then.

Hello all. Eric Swain, your friendly neighborhood background editor, here. I’m back at the helm of This Week in Videogame Blogging this week. We got a lot to swing through, so let’s get started.

The Castle Doctrine

Spawning out from the first part of Jason Rohrer’s interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, came the debate on Rohrer’s upcoming new game The Castle Doctrine.

Daniel Joseph ruminates on the concept of “evil games” and how they challenge us and their worth. Cameron Kunzelman is far less forgiving explaining why he will never play The  Castle Doctrine.

Paul Alexander on his site Imaginary Playmates doesn’t look at the game, but rather the pre-hype response it has received both in the above posts and on twitter and how troubling it is given no one commenting has played the game.

Stephen Beirne’s piece on Gameranx compares the troubling design of the wife and kids characters in The Castle Doctrine to Ico‘s treatment of Yorda within the game systems.

And Jason Rohrer explains his own perspective on the treatment of otherness in his games Diamond Trust of London and his upcoming game The Castle Doctrine in their design.

Animal Crossing

Jenn Frank over at Paste Magazine uses her review to try and pinpoint what the appeal of the highly engaging game is.

Meanwhile, Juli Clover reports a recently discovered glitch that lets you double money and items at will and how it has turned Animal Crossing into “a grotesque slave exchange.”

The Last of Us

Some guy over at PopMatters is disappointed in The Last of Us that for all its supposed greatness he found that it didn’t focus on any fundamental ideas as much as its drama and ultimately felt it a work of emotional manipulation and little else.

Alisha Karabinus at Not Your Mama’s Gamer examines The Last of Us and concludes it’s only great by virtue of the low bar in video games it has to jump over to succeed.

Chris Franklin of Errant Signal has a video/script on The Last of Us. In it he says:

Ultimately the game feels like a perhaps the best possible version of a fundamentally flawed design ideology; a perfect implementation of an imperfect idea. It takes the Half-Life content muncher mentality as far as you can possibly take it. But in doing so it yo-yos back and forth between two mediums; clearly more interested in the one it isn’t that the one it is.

The Many Scattered Close Readings of Other Games

Leigh Alexander in a piece on Gamasutra, explains why Leisure Suit Larry should have never been remade as it doesn’t get what made it appealing in the first place.

Taekwan Kim looks at Saints Row The Third misogynistic behavior through the lens of thematic self sabotage and how it in fact doesn’t fit the game at all.

Colin Campbell of Polygon examines both sides of the argument to Company of Heroes 2‘ depiction of Russia and the Russian Army during World War II.

Nick Dinicola, on his PopMatter column, decides to take a closer look at Aliens: Colonial Marines and finds it a fascinating lesson in how to make a bad game.

Austin C Howe on his blog Haptic Feedback reads into the original Metal Gear Solid as a Postmodernism masterpiece.

Zolani Stewart looks at the meaningful design of Aaron Steed’s Ending.

Kyle Derkson at Push Select Magazine calls courage the weakest link in the Triforce.

Rich Stanton of Eurogamer wrote a retrospective on Kane & Lynch: Dead Men saying:

So Kane & Lynch, and its sequel, are about what happens when risks don’t pay off. When murderers aren’t secretly nice guys. To play through this is a depressing experience, the narrative drumbeats no more than violence atop violence. It’s so unrelentingly bleak and without ceremony that at times it almost – almost – becomes comical.

Angela Cox has a guest post on Play the Past about the Parody in Sierra’s Space Quest both in the writing and puzzle design.

Mark Filipowich in a piece for Unwinnable asks, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Cousland?” He looks at his experience with his Warden from Dragon Age: Origins, Virginia Cousland, and how it made him experience the world from a woman’s point of view.

And Stephen Winson created a Let’s Critique in the vein of a critic’s DVD commentary of Dishonored for Re/Action.

Outside the Game

Ian Mahar states that nobody wins with the stigmatization of mental illness in horror games over at Kotaku.

Daniel Cook looks at the type of games that become hobbies in and of themselves and are separate of the larger gaming culture.

Evan Tilton of Thinking While Playing takes his shots at the cult of immersion and how limiting it is to use it as the holy grail of gaming narrative.

On a similar path, Sam Crisp looks at the details embedded in games and how if at all they affect the player given that play means we mostly ignore them.

Foreign Correspondence

Johannes Köller brings us more pieces from the German language critical circles.

The new issue of WASD magazine, a biannual game writing publication.  With the topic this time being scandals. A substantial preview is available here and can buy it here. Be warned, there’s no translation.

Thomas Mitterhuber wrote about the ableism of games and how simple adjustments can make them so much more friendly to the deaf, colorblind or infirm.

Benjamin Filitz criticizes Lupa and Gulag Paradise for the superficial treatment of their subject matter, prostitution and gulags respectively. Both developers responded in the comments.

And Dennis Kogel translated Magnus Hildebrant’s second part of Kentucky Road Zero analysis that we featured last week. It’s now in English.

Design Docs

Jordan Mechner on his personal site has released the design doc for Prince of Persia 2, now 20 years old. He also says that this is not how to make a game and only worked for in this specific instance for a number of listed reasons.

Up, Up and Away

…no, wait…

In any case TWIVGB will be back next week for more link roundups. Please submit any recommendations for it to our twitter or email.

Also, there are still a few more days to participate in July’s Blogs of the Round Table.

And that’s all I got.

Kris is taking a much-deserved break this weekend and recharging her cognitive faculties with sleep and Animal Crossing. So I’ll be hosting this weekend, bringing back some classic This Week in Videogame Blogging.

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the Steam sales and you wallets aren’t crying too much. Jamie Madigan of The Psychology of Video Games throws open the curtains and details how the Steam summer sale is designed to prod your brain.

Game Criticism Meta Commentary

The response to Warren Spector continues.

Brendan Keogh expresses dismay at seeing yet another article wondering where the game criticism is with little to no actual research done on the matter.  Daniel Joseph takes Brendan’s post and then asks the next question of how people are defining legitimacy of a medium in the first place. Maddy Myers doesn’t respond directly, but instead talks about video game criticism as a niche of a niche and what it means to have actually made it. Finally John Teti of Gameological pretty much has the last word on “where is our Roger Ebert” with Chasing The Dragon.

Meanwhile, Aevee Bee of Mammon Machine looks at critic’s approach to craft and form in their criticism and their general ignorance of it. It’s not what the game is about, but how it is about it.

The Last of Us

The game that keeps on giving.

Jorge Albor over on PopMatter discusses others games as well in looking at how fatherhood is portrayed in several big releases of the last few years. Greg looks along similar lines about how The Last of Us asks us how far we will go to protect a daughter and what that concept could mean in the real world.

Nick Dinicola looks at the character of Joel in a description of him as an awful human being in a cruel world.

Javy Gwaltney looks at “The Horror of Absence in The Last of Us” over at Medium Difficulty. And Joseph Berida explains why he loves Ellie more than Bioshock Infiinite‘s Elizabeth at Kambyero.

The -isms of Gaming

Nothing more to say, is there?

Evan Narcisse of Kotaku looks at the prospect of Assassin Creed 4 on Haiti, how it will figure slavery into the narrative and his own complex reaction of the situation saying:

I might be traipsing around an Island where some Frenchman with my last name owns someone who looks like my father. And that might make me wince a little.

Dr. B of Not Your Mama’s Gamer in light of the events this week with Trayvon Martin and looks back on 3 years of her writing and career and what it means to be a black woman in the field of video games.

Jon Shafer looks to Ethics in Game Design and what small choices in games compound into larger ideas in our mind with regards to sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia etc.

And then F.M. Hamilton describes The Sims 2 as The Imaginary Country where there is no racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia or anything else. You can be whoever you want and achieve whatever you want and the game is the perfect escape from “real life.”


Jesper Juul published an except from his recently released book The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games at Salon:

This paradox of failure is parallel to the paradox of why we consume tragic theater, novels, or cinema even though they make us feel sadness, fear, or even disgust. If these at first do not sound like actual paradoxes, it is simply because we are so used to their existence that we sometimes forget that they are paradoxes at all. The shared conundrum is that we generally try to avoid the unpleasant emotions that we get from hearing about a sad event, or from failing at a task. Yet we actively seek out these emotions in stories, art, and games.

Alex Duncan on his blog The Animist for his second post, look at the treatment of death in two popular indie platformers — Braid and Limbo — how they use it and how it related to the form’s benchmark Mario.

Foreign Correspondent

From Germany.

Sebastian Standke reviewed the latest academic take on games, Stephan Günzel’s Egoshooter: Das Raumbild des Computerspiels (roughly: perspective in videogames), and remains critical of its dramatic assumptions and conclusions.

And Magnus Hildebrandt follows up on his guide to part 1 of Kentucky Route Zero with a thorough exploration of part 2 and its architectural, academic and philosophical references. Translation pending.

And the rest…

Here on Critical Isle —

Sam Barsanti of Gamelogical looks at the much derided final act of the original Bioshock and says that it instead of a mistake in fact drives home one of the game’s most important themes, that of choice or the lack of one.

Mark Flipowich on PopMatters notes the banner over the hall in the beginning of Bioshock – “No Gods or Kings, only Man” – and how it is reflective of video games as a whole with regards to how they treat religion.

Joel Goodwin, proprietor of Electron Dance, wrote “an incomprehensible essay about Ted Lauterbach’s complex and surreal puzzle-platformer suteF.” He takes the circuitous and broken nature of the game and turns it into a half description half expose on the game.

Steven Poole explains why Aliens of the Xenomorph variety make for bad video game enemies.

And the Border House continues its series of female dev interview with the interactive fiction auteur Emily Short.

Last Word

And finally…

There’s Ben Kuchera at the Penny Arcade Report who says certain assholes are great, because of the art they make, which I include for the sole purpose of Rob’s response, which is the response everyone wishes they had written first.

Next Time on TWIVGB

Kris should be back, though I wouldn’t blame her if she wanted a second weekend off. In the meantime, please submit any recommendations you might have to our twitter and email.

I do believe July’s Blogs of the Round Table is still going on as well. Please consider participating.

Good night and good luck.