Welcome to another exciting, informative, and hopefully entertaining instalment of This Week In Videogame Blogging.
Before we swing into the usual routine, a few words about a certain blog post you may have read this week. Around about the time last week’s TWIVGB went live, Dan Cook wrote an inflammatory blog post called ‘A blunt critique of game criticism’, and a heated conversation bloomed across much of the blogosphere. I’ve made my personal response (to the original draft, which has since been edited heavily) on my personal blog but I wanted to comment here as well, since Critical Distance was singled out in particular.
If there’s one thing that Dan Cook is correct about in his piece it’s his intuition that the quality of game criticism (if TWIVGB is an accurate representation) is far from consistent, and it’s true that it’s not always “pure” criticism that we include. But hey, if we limited ourselves to just pure criticism we wouldn’t always have enough to include each week and besides, criticism isn’t the only thing that’s worth reading each week. True, deep, and insightful criticism is hard and doesn’t always happen that often. That’s fine, and we’ll point it out enthusiastically whenever it comes along, but there’s room for pretty much anything in this space. The only criteria we really apply when deciding whether to include something in TWIVGB is whether it’s worth reading. After all, it’s called This Week In Videogame Blogging for a reason! (N.B. I am aware that GameSetWatch & Gamasutra it’s called ‘This Week In Videogame Criticism’; that wasn’t my decision and was related to a clash of names, nothing more.)
So what’s worth reading this week?
Patricia at NightmareMode says ‘I don’t want to save the world’. If that’s not your cup of tea, The NightmareMode bloggers have been busy this week so maybe you might be interested by Grant Fench’s “Minecraft and Materialism” exercise which is up to Part 3, and if that’s not enough, blogger curlyhairedboy has some ‘Musings on The Witcher’.
Dan Apczynski editor of the GamerMelodico blog wrote about the iPad/iPhone game Sword and Sworcery’s ‘Audience Calibration Procedure’.
On his Gamasutra members blog, Michel McBride listens to and describes the acoustic ecology of Half-Life 2’s City 17, recording a “sound walk”. If you’ve never heard of a soundwalk before, it’s pretty much what you think: walking through an environment and deliberately listening to the sounds you hear. It’s actually an extremely rewarding exercise, and to my knowledge it’s not been done in a videogame before.
This next one’s a bit of fun: applying last week’s critique of “Gamification” by Ian Bogost is TinySubversions blogger Darius Kazemi who’s made a plugin for Chrome that will automatically swap the ‘gamification’ related terms with their ‘exploitification’ equivalent. Critique can be practical, too!
Zach Alexander at the Hailing From the Edge blog writes on ‘aesthetics’, although it’s more about the ‘yes and…’ performative agreement approach as it applies to story and games. So it’s about story aesthetics, I guess. Yeah.
Spotted via The Border House blog, at the Critical Hit blog, blogger Critical Kate looks at why it’s kind of a big deal that while there’s 102 quadrillion possible character variants in the recently released Brink, not a single one of them can be female:
Some guys might not understand what the big deal is, being that there’s no shortage of shooters featuring characters of their own gender. It can be difficult to comprehend how alienating it can be for a genre to so rarely include you, when you haven’t experience that same level of exclusion. There may be a few shooters, like Perfect Dark, where you’re forced to play the campaign as a female character, but even the multiplayer in that game has males to choose from (more males than females, in fact). Male characters in multiplayer shooters are never considered optional or included as an afterthought; they’re mandatory.
Troy Goodfellow at the Flash of Steel blog is nothing if not workmanlike – the latest instalment in his long running ‘The National Character’ series is about The German National Character, as revealed through the lens of the Civilization games as well as a bunch of other strategy titles.
At The Game Design Forum, Patrick Holleman blogs a fantastic piece of almost-journalism of the Tom Wolfe tradition. He spent a weekend hanging around and observing ‘Scenes from a Game Jam’, specifically the Philadelphia Game Jam of a week ago. If you’ve never been to one (and I haven’t) it’s like a window into a whole other world:
Dan Fischbach, of the Running with Scizor (you know, the Pokemon) was one of the first Jam contestants to arrive. He got his M.A. in making games from the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, and it showed. The first thing that Dan did—actually it was one of the first things that happened at the Jam—was Dan unpacking and connecting his own server, the hub that his team would use. I announced my amazement at his level preparation and he looked at me like I was astonished that he was wearing shoes. “Yeah,” he said, in brief acknowledgement before going back to his work. Of course he has a server. Nobody else seemed as impressed as I was.
Clearly those Indie Jammer’s were a committed bunch, and if that first pull-quote didn’t convince you to give this piece a read, here’s what Holleman discovered on the second morning:
Very few people had slept at all, and not all of them were choosing to remain awake either. There were supposed to be rooms away from the action where Game Jam and GXL contestants could sleep, but that didn’t happen because of a staffing problem at the event. So, obviously, the natural choice for everyone was to sleep on the floor of the men’s room. This made for an awkward bathroom trip.
At the Live Grenades blog Steven Granade says ‘Portal 2 has a great adventure story’.
At the Talking Writing online magazine, Andrew Vanden Bossche talks to Steve Meretzky, who
…created games before the advent of graphics, when all he had were words and the player’s intellect. His first game, Planetfall, in which the death of the beloved robot sidekick Floyd brought many young players to tears, is remembered vividly to this day by game industry veterans.
And lastly for this week, but certainly not least, Greg J Smith has a thoughtful post at Serial Consign, all about ‘The Psychoeconomy War Room Table (and other situational awareness vignettes)’. Don’t let the title you off:
The cleverest of the anonymous internet [white house] situation room photo edits was a tight crop of the intensely-focused Obama wielding a Playstation controller alongside a Brigadier General hunched over a laptop; drone mishaps notwithstanding, perhaps this is our caricature of warfare for 2011? The absurd addition of a gaming controller brings to mind a 2006 sound bite by Henry Kissinger where he described the (pre-makeover) White House situation room as “uncomfortable, unaesthetic and essentially oppressive” – in this image, wargaming is pure playbour.