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spec ops the line

October 7th

the universe drop down around you like a shroud.

But we shouldn’t let that cloud our entire week, as devastatingly depressing as it is.

I don’t have a good transition here.

Anjin Anhut’s “A Man Chooses A Slave Obeys” is a brilliant close reading of Bioshock and critical-favorite Spec Ops: The Line. Anhut focuses in tightly on what it means to perform an action in a game, and comes to the conclusion that maybe we do actually need to turn the machine off sometimes (also, the graphic design in that article is stunning. Go look.) Anhut starts…

October 14th

…Steven Sukkau raises the interesting hypothesis that Halo-based machinima franchise Red vs Blue is the modern inheritor of Clerks.

Let’s telescope outwards a bit, shall we, from first-person to third-person. Kim of Co-Op Critics has been revisiting Silent Hill 2 and The Dark Tower alongside her play of Spec Ops: The Line and has some interesting reflections on how the three connect. And going well beyond game genre into the spanning world of global politics, Robert Rath explains how a global economy interconnected with Chinese censorship standards actually feeds into North Korean propaganda with fear-mongering titles like Homefront and…

January 20th

…bullets and ray-guns.


On Nightmare Mode, Mattie Brice writes about how many AAA games, for instance Spec Ops: The Line, seem a world away from the kinds of violence she faces every day.

Posting on his home site, indie developer Jonas Kyratzes writes a lengthy critique of his interpretation of Brice’s article, on the value of war narratives in games and a kind of criticism not based in identity politics.

On his Electron Dance, Joel Goodwin also remarks on what he terms “confessional writing,” or journalism and criticism…

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January Roundup

…challenge can also rely on the affective state of the player, such as in horror games or the ‘psychological shooter’ Spec Ops: The Line. Some of the difficulty in Mass Effect comes from the torture of choice (or “die Qual der Wahl” as I heard it in high school), even when the consequences of choice are obvious.

Mark Filipowich sees difficulty as a glue that holds narratives together, whether it’s Luke piloting an X-Wing down the Death Star trench or Link snagging Ganon in the groin with a hookshot. Winning does feel good, and beating a hard challenge feels…

April 14th

It’s time to pay our dues. Pull up a chair, dig out last year’s receipts, and bust out the reading glasses. It’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!


At Unwinnable, Brendan Keogh sits down with the Konrad to his Walker and has a long conversation with Walt Williams, lead writer of Spec Ops: The Line. Over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Nathan Grayson puts the finishing touches on a three part series of interviews with Walt Williams and Far Cry 3 lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem.


You might recall when Mike Rose modeled

May 5th

…out some basic information while pleading for a move to critical and specific history. More contemporary: read the story of Jager and how they came to develop Spec Ops: The Line. At Eurogamer, Craig Owens delves into a forum community obsessed with doing design archaeology of Shadow of the Colossus. Finally, Joel Cuthbertson tells it like it is: “The Boston Bombings Are Not A Meme.”

Video Games Are Serious Business

Chris Bateman posted about the problem of “fiction denial” in games. Steve Wilcox interviewed Jesper Juul for First Person Scholar.

Design Time

Over at Unwinnable, George…

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August 25th

…this past week: on the foolishness of being loyal to corporations, especially your employers.

Design Notes

Xander Kish writes about Kane and Lynch 2 as an anti-shooter and a forerunner of Spec Ops: The Line.

Videogame narratives rely too much on the Christ archetype for their protagonists, Richard Clark writes on Christ and Pop Culture. He offers one possible solution to this problem.

Following on this deep analysis of the first Mother on Nightmare Mode, Goblet Grotto co-developer Kat Chastain lays out an excellent thematic reading of Mother 2 (Earthbound) and Mother 3.

On PopMatters,…

June – July Roundup: ‘VINPCs’

…calcified; a long march through a hellish city stuck in a purgatorial loop of violence, death, and rebirth that mirrors the aesthetic of internet snuff.”

It’s really interesting how Dog Days was excoriated on release, but many critics are now discussing it as a “proto-anti-shooter” in the vein of Far Cry 2 and Spec Ops: The Line. I guess the question is when a game is being intentionally “oppressive”, and when it’s just shit.

Dakoda Barker is attached to their players in Football Manager 2014, everyone’s favourite mod for Microsoft Excel. I’m working on the next issue…

November 9th

the cowering, surviving civilians trapped in the conflict.

Meanwhile, at Ontological Geek, Tom Dawson turns his eye back to 2012’s Spec Ops: The Line and why it asks “How many Americans have you killed today?” and if that isn’t sending the wrong message.

Finally, Robert Rath talks about a different type of war, the War on Terror, and how Shadows of Mordor is a mirror of that conflict. He says the game fails Tolkien’s world by eliminating the themes of idealism, suspicion of power and our better natures triumphing to instead mire itself in modern cynicism, realpolitik and…

Our TYIVGB Methodology

…Keogh’s book on Spec Ops: The Line, Killing is Harmless, and Leigh Alexander and Kirk Hamilton’s Final Fantasy VII letter series.

For the rest of the first starter list, I read through all the TWIVGBs of the past year. I pull out all the links I remember throughout the year and any further links that seem of interest for the year roundup. Previously, I read all of the featured links, but this was time-consuming and my current method creates pretty much the same starter list in a much shorter amount of time.

The Second List

The second…