ClapethtrapethThis Week In Videogame Blogging would like to acknowledge the useful contribution of everyone who’s been sending links to the critical distance twitter account. It’s been very helpful so please keep ‘em coming!

By the time I’d written last weeks post, a storm was already brewing regarding a certain Modern Warfare 2 viral PSA style video and its use of the acronym ‘F.A.G.S’. Denis Farr explains why, as a gay person himself, the tacit acceptance of the Xbox Live culture of homophobic insults is not a thing that can simply be laughed off. Michael Abbott also wrote about the ad from the perspective of a father and a teacher, talking about how if we want this kind of attitude to change, we need to start teaching kids why it’s not okay. Matthew Kaplan also came up with a great discussion piece on the video as a response to Abbott’s post in which he examines the current marketing attitude of playing up to the current social climate of cynicism and self-centredness. Kaplan says,

[Abbott] mentions how insensitivity is in and empathy is out in our culture, and I think this is true to a certain extent… among conservatives. I don’t mean to turn a discussion about video games into a political rant, but to be honest the word “conservatism” isn’t merely political these days. Conservatism in our society has now taken on the form of the man or woman who is self-serving, immediate surroundings first and thinking outside the box a distant second.

Deirdra Kiai also discussed the trend toward offensive marketing, a trend which sees that “if anyone’s in the least bit outraged by what one has to say, it’s become some kind of a badge of honour.” Infinity Ward in the end pulled the offending video, but the damage was done and the attention garnered by Infinity Ward’s “edgy” video probably resulted in a net gain for the company. But I’m speculating now.

Slightly overshadowed by the latest video has been the earlier leaked footage of a level featuring a player engaging in in-game terrorist activity. Richard Clark of the ‘Christ and Pop Culture’ blog writes about how the terrorist scenes made him second guess his choice of Christmas gifts. Clarke makes a similar argument to David Wildgoose of Kotaku Australia who also picked up on the terrorist level video, commenting on how he feels that the general response to it says much about the immaturity of the medium.

Activision says the mission “is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism.” Cinema has a rich history of taking viewers inside the minds of people who commit atrocities. As a more mature medium, we accept that films that portray serial killers, murderers, terrorists or just base thugs aren’t automatically promoting such activities but may in fact have something important to say about the human condition.

The prodigious Michael Clarkson writes about endings and The Lord of the Rings in ‘dénouement of the rings’. It’s an entry into Corvus’ Elrod’s September Blogs of the Round table and there are plenty of other great entries from September. You can check them all out here.

Hooray, my favourite grinning, cynical game blog is back! Indie Gaming Bingo, for our newer readers, is a blog dedicated to skewering trends in indie gaming and taking specific titles down a peg or two. This week Dustin Gunn played Indie Gaming Bingo with Tale of Tales’ ‘The Graveyard’.

Because as an Aussie I know how it feels to be under The Man’s thumb when it comes to gaming, consider this link a fist-bump of solidarity with New Zealand gamers. The situation is (or was) that Microsoft locked a number of them out of Xbox Live downloads a few months back, and Tracey Lien takes the time to explain the whole strange situation.

Jorge Albor explores the online world of League of Legends and its online culture in ‘The Blame Game’.

Not really one to link to reviews, this section nevertheless caught my attention in John Walker’s review of Dragon Age: Origins,

…these dwarves come with a history. The younger of the two is the only mentally handicapped character I can remember encountering in a game. He’s looked after by his father, and has a savant gift for enchanting weapons. Treat them as more than a shop, talk to them, and the details of their past emerge, along with a surprising ethical quandary.

I can’t think of any other game that has depicted a mentally handicapped character as anything other than a two dimensional crazy-person. Can you?

Michael Abbott (again) delivers a great treatise on what exactly pacing means in a videogame, placing it within the context of a discussion of Uncharted 2’s fantastic control of pacing.

Here’s a damn clever think-piece by Eskil Steenberg, talking about MMO’s, how people are often attracted to abuse, and whether Steenberg wants to go there with his game or not.

Chris Dahlen cooked up a Google Wave bot and it gave me a few chuckles this week. Dahlen compares Wave gaming to Twitter gaming noting that,

…the nice thing about bots in Wave, as opposed to Twitter, is that you can invite them in to specific waves. You only see them when you need them. Gaming on Twitter appears to have stalled because seeing other people’s posts and autoupdates is lethally annoying. But Wave is fertile ground for bots, and I see a lot of potential here.

Who knew that Google Wave had so much potential as a gaming platform? I wonder if I could somehow convert the old Chat bot that I wrote for my high school Software Design class into a wave. Dahlen elsewhere talks about ‘The most boring game of the year’ and wonders if that’s why no one else is really writing about Demon’s Souls that much.

Here’s a trio of good pieces; the first by Shamus Young who, writing for The Escapist, talks about Survival Horror. The second, an interesting post by the Aartform Games blog, asks “Are games art? I think they might be more like cooking” and Kris Graft interviews Valve’s writers about their creative process for Gamasutra. The last one is a quite lengthy and crammed full of interesting tidbits.

Mitch Krpata writes about ‘Your level best’, or the difference between pleasurable advancement and painful grinding as demonstrated by Borderlands. He notes,

Gearbox did such a good job of spacing out the rewards, and making sure that one is always visible around the corner, that it rarely falls into the trap of feeling like a simple grind. Sure, it’s like work, but payday is every day.

Sun B. Kim is an Indie Game developer from Korea, and in an extreme display of commitment to games criticism and discussion, is translating some parts of Critical Distance into Korean. Here’s the translation into Korean of Critical-Distance’s GTA IV Critical Compilation. Videogames make people do amazing things.

The pensive harpy blog investigates the online, free-to-play world of Wizard 101 this week. I’ve never played it but I was first intrigued by it when it was mentioned on one of the Videogames and Human Values Initiative’s podcasts, and then again on the Brainy Gamer Summer Confab podcast. Taken together, that’s now quite a case for what some might see as “just” a free-to-play Kids MMO.

This week, Lyndon Warren finishes his series on KOTOR 2 with a treatise on the character of Kreia, explaining how she problematises the ‘light side, dark side’ dichotomy of the Star Wars universe. In my pick for must read of the week. Warren says,

[Kreia’s] point is random acts of kindness don’t necessarily make the world a better place and even though the game is giving you light side points that doesn’t mean that what you did was right. She has proved that the force is fallible….

Something to think about, y’know?

A reminder that for all TWIVGB posts on Critical Distance comments are turned off by default to encourage discussion on the original entries, and we can always be reached via the contact page. We’ve also now completed the move over to our new webhost so please let us know if you encounter anything odd.