Take your time before rushing ahead: it’s this week in videogame blogging!
The release of Superhot has many reviewers drawing comparisons with action movies, not simply because of its violent content which directly draws on hit films, but because of the way that pacing and the gaze are used.
- Superhot review | Eurogamer.net
Christian Donlan considers dramatic tension and Superhot
“Turns out there is a killer trick to creating hyper-violent entertainment: do the slow stuff fast, and the fast stuff slow.”
- ‘Superhot’ Is the Shooter Game for People Who Hate Shooter Games | VICE | United Kingdom
Ed Smith explains why Superhot appeals to a different play style than other shooters
- SUPERHOT Review Impressions | ZAM
Analyses of level design are going from strength to strength, which is fantastic to see. Articles this week looked at JRPGs as well as shooter games.
- Nobody Cares About It But It’s The Only Thing That Matters: Pacing And Level Design In JRPGs | Medium
Aevee Bee scrutinises the use of space in JRPGs
- New Arrivals | Great Levels in Gaming (Video: captions auto-generated. Content warning: brief shots of graphic violence)
Level design analysis from crate stomping simulator Dead Space
Continuing the discussion of spatiality, Kitty Horrorshow’s latest release Anatomy is inspiring thrilling discussions of the meaning and experience of a house.
- Uninterpretative | Short on Games: January/February 2016
How Anatomy sees the house as a body
“The theory of houses espoused in Anatomy is of the house as body. The tapes tell the story of living room as heart, bathroom as digestive tract, bedroom as mind, and basement as subconscious.”
- ANATOMY Review Impressions | ZAM
Claris Cyarron looks at Anatomy from her perspective as an architect and game designer (full disclosure: Claris and I have a close professional and personal relationship).
How have technologies facilitated and hampered communication with each other? Can they help us to gain a sense of interconnectedness and even help us to connect to something transcendental? This week’s games blogging offers some surprising answers, beginning with pieces on im null and Panoramical and continuing with Firewatch below.
- im null | The Arcade Review (Content warning: spoilers)
Heather Alexandra uncovers the nihilism and mystery of this unusual title.
“The best and the worst of what you might find in a digital landscape stand side by side and, in rare cases, overlap to create chaotic messages that merge marketing with mortality.”
- The Face of God in ‘Panoramical‘ | Gamechurch.comGamechurch.com
A rather moving expression of the experience of beauty from a faith-based perspective.
Interesting discussions about Firewatch continue, with some critics starting to push beyond the “walking sim” label to look at how actions centered around technology provide tactility, as well as how some interactive elements undermine it.
- How Firewatch hearkens back to relationships on the early internet | Gamasutra (Content warning: spoilers)
Continuing on the theme of relationality, Kat Cross describes the interpersonal intimacy of Firewatch through the terms of another medium.
“Cibele takes on the online dimension of this phenomenon forthrightly, but Firewatch abstracts it away from even the mediating force of the Internet, instead exploring all the other ways we can have ineffable but meaningful contact with human life.”
- Firewatch Debrief | Experience Points: EXP Podcast #366:
How Firewatch uses the physicality and immediacy of videogames for storytelling
- Bad Hands in Firewatch | Pippin Barr
Pippin Barr offers an amusing critique that seems to have been missed in most writing on it so far (note, I’m sure the problem raised is a technical issue that will be patched in future, but I like this narrativist reading of its effect on the experience.)
In a similar vein to some of the themes coming out of the Firewatch discussions, some pieces this week looked at how game systems and interactivity are used for narrative purposes in other games, including the fertile field of morality and the consequences of actions.
- When War is not a Game: This War of Mine | Not Your Mama’s Gamer (Content warning: war zone)
“Despite all my decisions to steal, despite all my efforts to play classical music, to find books and cigarettes, to find ingredients for a hot meal, depression, despair, and utter loss takes over in a matter of days. This is the side of war no one speaks off. This is the side of war where people become monopoly pieces buried beneath the hungers of power.”
- Morality in the Mechanics | Game Maker’s Toolkit (Content warning: mental illness and abuse)
How games can portray morality without karma points
- Meremanoid | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Mermen and narrative coherence in RPG design
I’ve been thrilled this week to see examinations of who has power in the social and cultural spaces around games and how power is portrayed in design.
- Policing Behavior in eSports and ‘League of Legends‘ | PopMatters
Jorge Albor examines community management, professionalisation and the complex power dynamics of esports
“By publishing these commandments, players know what transgressions are punishable and the extent of the punishment connected to them, new players to the scene have an easy reference of things not to do, and fans have some transparency into the punishment process.”
- The punishment and rehabilitation of the convicted in prison video games | VG Researcher (Content warning: abuse in prisons)
Wai Yen Tang considers Prison Architect from the perspective of criminological research.
- The State of Games at MoMA 4 Years Later (Part One) | Paste
- The State of Games at MoMA 4 Years Later (Part Two) | Paste
A two-part feature on games curation at the Museum of Modern Art by Tim Mulkerin.
As always, the question of who is being represented and how is on many people’s minds. Two pieces this week did some interesting work reclaiming characters and defending them as cultural touchstones.
- Samus Is Trans, and Ronda Rousey Probably Shouldn’t Play Her
Colette Arrand gives an overview of the popular argument that Samus Aran is a trans woman, following the news that Ronda Rousey, who has opposed trans inclusion in sports, may be playing Samus in the forthcoming Metroid movie.
“It’s unfortunate that what stake we have in Samus is rooted in a joking slur buried as an Easter egg in a Japanese strategy guide, but we’re so hungry for representation, for the ability to play the hero just once, we’ll take what we can get, all the while pushing our way out of the market that forced this scarcity upon us.”
- Justin on the importance of FFVII’s Barrett to him
This discussion of the character of Barrett in FFVII goes beyond a critique of the angry black man trope to reclaim a character with complex motivations.
What can be learned from mistakes in game design? This week the BBC published an interview with a former developer who survived one of the most infamous mistakes in games history, and Tom Francis examined how XCOM’s mistakes could be repaired.
- The man who made ‘the worst video game in history’ | BBC News
The rather sad story of how the Atari ET game was made and what happened next for its creator.
“I’m not sure exactly what I was full of but whatever it was, I was overflowing with it.”
- Solving XCOM‘s Snowball Problem | Tom Francis
Tom Francis gives some suggestions on small changes that could make XCOM more fun while remaining true to the fiction.
As always, I want to remind you that we are community-supported, and that you can help us through Patreon, Recurrency, or Paypal; and you can also help us by sending along anything that you think should be included via Twitter or email.
Additionally, I want to highlight a couple of extra things this week:
- Frequency Festival and the Architecture of Art
My own publication Memory Insufficient published a piece by Nathan Dean on the state of interactive public arts in the UK.
- Fundbetter | Failbetter Games
If you’re making a narrative-heavy game, be sure to check out this new fund launched by the people who make Sunless Sea and Fallen London.
And that’s all! I hope your week is enjoyable, and if you have any comments or questions don’t hesitate to Tweet at me.