We’re back for another week of top-shelf videogame blogging, writing and criticism.
First up, Rob Zachny writing for Gamers With Jobs talks about RUSE and ‘the Fall of France’. It’s a story about a young girl who meets a pianist… kidding! That was a ruse. It’s actually about the missed opportunity for telling a fresh and poignant story from a different perspective. Zachny says,
I am most disappointed by the campaign in RUSE because I know that one of the best chances to tell the story of the fall of France, Vichy, and the Free French Forces has just passed us by. A French developer without an Anglocentric point of view (the care taken with the French and Italian armies proves this) had a large budget for an innovative RTS.
Do we have any Dutch readers in our audience? Rainier Jaarsma sends us a link to a piece he wrote for the Dutch language blog Bashers, that (I think) is about the conflict between player agency and story. I offer this up to our non-Dutch readers as a reminder that not everyone who writes about games writes in English.
Nier is a game about games, a pastiche of the action-adventure/RPG genre and often more besides. To really appreciate what it has to offer you’ve got to be aware of at least some of the clichés it addresses, games it pays homage to and tropes it twists and borrows.
At the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog, Kris Ligman writes about ‘What ‘Ys Seven’ Seems to Have Against Its Protagonist’:
like any creature that’s evolved in relative isolation for one too many generations, there’s a specificity to Ys Seven‘s design the function of which I just cannot understand. Namely, it is the way that it integrates its silent protagonist.
Also at PopMatters, LB Jeffries wrote an essay this week on ‘Post-Structuralism in Video Games’ which is a review-meets-discussion of Bernard Tschumi’s Architecture and Disjunction which is a series of essays that “engage with the idea of applying Derrida’s theories about how people interact with meaning in art to architecture and space.” It’s a dense treatment of a complex subject but, as with much of Jeffries’ writing, it’s worth the effort.
Adrian Forest at the Three Parts Theory blog elaborates on the contaminated water that functions as a barrier for the player in Fallout 3 and how that relationship changes in the ‘Point Lookout’ expansion:
The prevalence of water in the area and the necessity of crossing it to explore serves to reduce the player’s aversion to water, to retrain them and accustom them to their new capabilities. Having to cross the water teaches you that, as a high-level character, water is less dangerous to you. Consequently, when the player encounters quests such as ‘The Velvet Curtain’ which requires them to swim out from the shore to a sunken submarine, spending so much time in the water will seem less dangerous.
Have you been reading Quintin Smith’s Rock Paper Shotgun series of game diaries called ‘Mine the Gap’? If not, you’re in for a treat. Those still attempting to resist the call of the Mine are warned to stay away, however.
Alex Raymond has one question for Team Ico [mirror] and I’ll leave you in suspense as to what the question is, instead I’ll summarise the post as a solid backhand to Team Ico’s explanation for their choice to change the protagonist in the forthcoming title The Last Guardian from female to male. It almost makes me wonder if there’s some kind of publisher pressure, as per Leigh Alexander’s ‘No female protagonists at Activision?’.
Amanda Lange at The Second Truth blog chronicles the diminution of Samus Aran that, Lange argues, has been an ongoing process for the past twenty years:
Has Samus actually physically shrunk? Hm, hard to say; the portrayal of her height could just be chalked up as inconsistent. She looks pretty short in Other M, but then again she’s also standing next to other space marine types in big power suits. Has she metaphorically shrunk? Yes, definitely.
Also discussing the latest Metroid, Matthew Weise at the Outside Your Heaven blog writes about ‘What Metroid Other M Can Teach Us About 3D Game Design’, namely how it handles 3D combat in faux-2D environments:
The effect is somewhat like being trapped in an ant farm, but a slightly wider ant farm than normal, giving the player some limited room to move laterally.
Richard Clark writing for Gamasutra looks at ‘How Faith Is Treated In Red Dead Redemption’:
Rockstar has accomplished a fascinating and moving picture of a man running from his past, but it’s also a cynical and overly simple statement about the nature of redemption and spiritual concerns. By granting John and many of his acquaintances a three-dimensional personality but refusing to offer the same treatment for those who would seek to speak to Marston’s spiritual questions, they do their character and the player a disservice. The game is both less interesting and more oppressive as a result.
How do I link to this piece that a kind reader sent in? It’s a fairly colourful screed I wrote about the non-word “replayability”, and how it is contributing to the ongoing difficulty in writing about games with accuracy and clarity. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.
And in a similar vein, Matthew Armstrong of the Misanthropic Gamer blog dusts off and republishes an old post complaining about the ambiguous use of the word “gameplay”.
Jamie Madigan’s The Psychology of Games column for Gamasutra looks at ‘Priming, Consistency, Cheating, and Being a Jerk’. Madigan believes that games should make more use of priming, as “It’s a staple of advertising and surprisingly easy to do.”
In a look at the processes affecting the men and women behind the curtain, as it were, Luke Halliwell of Real Time Words (developers of the now defunct All Points Bulletin) outlines “Where Realtime Worlds went wrong”. Says Halliwell,
In the end, I’ve settled for a set of observations that are cultural in nature. With my knowledge of what happened, these are the closest I feel I can get to root causes.
Mike Dunbar looks at the design lessons of Pathologic and The Void [mirror] in the second part of his series for Chronoludic.
Over at Bitmob David Banaham looks at the ‘One Button’ design aspect of classic game Another World/Out Of This World [mirror]:
Things have just started, and you’re already drowning. Bubbles rise to the surface, reminding you that air is no longer in your lungs. Having no idea what to do, you frantically press anything. Your panic meets reward when you discover that every button is the “swim-for-your-life” button.
Still at Bitmob, Ben Cook tells us that ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Bad Games’ [mirror] and Layton Shumway reckons ‘Casual Games Are Changing the Industry For the Better’ [mirror]:
As I wandered the show floor at PAX, I couldn’t help but notice how similar many of today’s “hardcore” games looked and how many sequels were on display. Another generic fantasy MMO. Another drab space marine shooter. Another zombie game. Where was the real outside-the-box thinking, the spark of creativity? In the independent, downloadable, and casual games, that’s where.
And lastly for the week, Hellmode’s Ashelia writes about the trend towards “digital deluxe” and collectors editions in ‘The Collectors Conundrum’ [dead link, no mirror available].
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