This the final week of November sees perhaps the strongest cohort of posts in a long time – great posts, one and all. It’s This Week In Videogame Blogging.
From a couple weeks back, Jonathan Stickles at Preparing for the Apocalypse talks Splinter Cell: Conviction, feeling that the latest entry in the series lacks its titular characteristic. In previous iterations, says Stickles,
I felt like a real hero. I could work hard to avoid killing people as I achieved my objectives, and the game not only enabled that, it supported it. You’re the kind of person who prevents wars, stops trouble, and does so with the lightest touch possible. You could be an unstoppable assassin, but you aren’t. You’re better than that.
Radek Koncewicz at the Significant Bits blog brilliantly looks at Segues in games: how they are functional from a technical perspective yet rarely present a ‘smooth’ transition, belying the very name.
Robert ‘Radiator’ Yang writes in response to Jim Sterling’s Destructoid piece of the previous week in which Sterling held up a Fallout: New Vegas character as a positive, matter-of-fact depiction of a gay character. Yang has ten points expounding on why he thinks that kind of thinking is (while seductive) actually harmful in the long run.
Dan Kline at Game of Design has been reading Alfie Kohn’s book about rewards as extrinsic motivations (which Chris Hecker spoke about at GDC in March) and whether or not they actually encourage ‘explorer’ type players and exploration in general.
I remember when Fallout 3 came out, how exploring felt *different* somehow in a way I couldn’t explain. I thought maybe it was just an added layer of randomness – not just random places but random objects in random places. But that never sat right. Maybe it was getting back to the essence of what Exploring meant. In Fallout 3 I chose where I wanted to go. I had little expectation of what I would find, but I knew I didn’t have time to see everything. I knew it wouldn’t be easy when I got there or always pay off. And it appealed to me in a way that none of the story objects I’ve chased through the years ever have.
Brendan Keogh at the Critical Damage blog writes about a draft paper he is writing about the strange features of the player/game hybrid entity. Keogh’s thesis centres upon the concept of ‘You’ in games:
‘You’ is a necessary construct to talk about the hybridisation between player and game, but just what ‘you’ consists of has never been adequately accounted for. Who, or what, is ‘you’? The instinctive answer to this question is also the most problematic. ‘You’ is not the player. Or, more specifically, ‘you’ is not just the player.
Kate Simpson of the blog Falling Awkwardly concludes her stunning four part series on ‘The Metaphysics of Morrowind’. As I said in the comments on the final entry, this series is in my opinion one of the most important and special pieces of games writing/criticism of the year, spanning the spectrum of issues from the nature of videogame fictional universes to the nature of the player character and agency. It’s an hour well spent reading through parts one, two, three and four.
Trevor Owns at the new games & history blog Play The Past looks at Sid Meier’s Colonization and asks ‘Is it offensive enough’?
In short, at the codebase, Colonization is racist and offensive. But wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, any game about that period in the Americas be racist and offensive, if it were even remotely faithful to that time period?
Also at Play The Past, Jeremiah McCall says ‘The Unexamined Game is Not Worth Playing’, echoing the words of the great philosopher Socrates, with one small caveat: “When the focus shifts to simulation games and the formal study of the past, however, there is little point to the unexamined game.”
Scott Juster at Experience Points writes this week on the counter-intuitive decision Treyarch made to hide the names of its voice acting stars. The decision, says Juster, only makes sense in light of its dual nature as both a single-player and multi-player game:
So as not to subvert its strangely democratic nature, the game must avoid becoming too focused on charismatic leading men, even as it yearns to sit alongside the great war stories found in other media.
Brad Gallaway at his blog Drinking CoffeeCola examines ‘The Problem with Blaming the Gamer’ for expecting games to be long. In essence, Gallaway is on board with shorter, less time-involved games, but wants to see a reciprocal attitude from publishers – after all, if it’s half the length it should be similarly reflected in the price:
Asking players to modify their standards and expectations makes sense, but that’s only half the battle. Where’s the compromise on the part of the publisher?
Dan Apczynski at Gamer Melodico considers the difficulty he had in connecting with the characters of Final Fantasy XIII in ‘Much ado about “…”’:
The sights and sounds of Final Fantasy XIII were certainly capable of stimulating the senses, but why did I have such difficulty relating to the cast, or even understanding their most basic motivations and likely outcomes of any given interaction?
James Bishop on Pokémon, the ‘coming of age’ story, and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth idea.
And lastly for the week, Jim Rossignol (one quarter of the Rock, Paper, Shotgun hivemind) has written a lengthy essay for BLDGBLOG this week on ‘the inevitability of prophecy among models of New York’:
Occasionally, even, the simulations might accidentally model things that have yet to happen. Conspiratorial cyber-fantasy Deus Ex was awash with its own ideas about the sinister possibilities of our politico-military techno-future, but what was the meaning behind the twin towers missing from its future skyline? A year before the towers were destroyed? The silent bells of paranoia began to ring.