Criticism & Culture
Nick Lalone (Before Game Design) compares the cultures surrounding games now to the culture of the first video games
. Scott Juster (Experience Points) responds to a PAX panel's attempt to map a way forward for games treating serious issues. Scott makes a clear argument that we're already taking games seriously
, even if game designers aren't always. The notion that nobody takes games seriously may be built on very old conceptions of games and gamers, but it is still a prevelant stereotype. Then again, I suppose spreading the gospel of criticism is a big part of my motive here.
Quick admission: I sometimes think about adding a banner to these posts with a frowny animal picture and text that reads "serious writing is serious." Other times, I just think of posting this:
Anyway, J. Bronaugh Vorderkunz (Gamasutra Blogs) attempts to lay out central questions
for games studies. I'm not sure I want to get into the intentional fallacy argument
again, but Bronaugh does bring up the specter of authorial intent.
At long last, Roger Travis (Living Epic) completes his series on Performative Play Practices, now focusing on how things like genre expectations influence how players draw the magic circle
Brandon Sheffield (GameSetWach) explains immersion in first-person games
, and how immersion can be broken. Matt Sakey (IGDA's Culture Clash column) looks for a connection or inverse relationship between game complexity and immersion
. Iz "Ysharros" Lavigne-Parsley (Stylish Corpse) pins down quests as immersion-breakers
. Iz writes specifically within the context of MMOs, but I think this likely applies to quests in other games as well. I'm sure there's a way to intentionally use the monotony of repeated quest dynamics in a game to make a point (e.g.
, to hearken to the excitingly punctuated monotony of trench warfare), but the "kill ten rats" cliché is seldom given that level of flourish. Feel free to disagree with me or point out notable exceptions.
Jamay Stevenson (Gamasutra Expert Blogs Featured Post) went to see Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf
, and it inspired Jamay to write about theater, literature and media transcription
, with a new appreciation for Facade
Jason Rice (Gamasutra Expert Blogs Featured Post) applies sentence mapping paradigms to games
prompts Ryan Straight (Gamasutra Blogs) to wonder how cinematic titles could be used in film studies
Tim Rogers (Kotaku) envisions better tutorials
and tool tips, both in games and in other interfaces. In part, Tim's calling for games understanding player inputs better, on a macro scale.
Matthew Burns (Magical Wasteland) gives a close to how Braid models constructing meaning from memories
. It's a good contribution to the discussion on Braid
, but, as I mention in the comments, he seems to get side-railed with the misunderstandings between designer Jonathan Blow and games critics shortly after the game was released.
Daniel Johnson (Daniel Primed) lauds the Halo
series for innovating or otherwise mainstreaming a number of important parts of the FPS genre
. Daniel makes a point of repenting of his previous dismissal of the series. Then again, I dismissed the series as well, and finally played all three main titles and found myself uninspired by the mechanics and narrative that I'd heard so much about. Halo
may have been a coup when it first came out, but I find the sequels to be triumphs of craft more than art.
Jorge Albor (Experience Points) gives a primer on Farmland
and similar games. It's not the headiest of articles, but it may be worth reading as an introduction to this new and wildly popular genre of games.
Aaron Miller (Anyway Games) dissects the interaction of loot and skills
in RPGs and other "loot-based" games.
From the "I'm pretty sure I've linked so something like this before" department, "Syp" (Bio Break) wishes game design would embrace the creative side of the create/destroy dichotomy
Edge Magazine wonders why games haven't tackled the moral ambiguity of playing a Nazi
soldier, though they're willing to admit that games certainly aren't avoiding moral ambiguity altogether.
Michael Clarkson (Discount Thoughts) questions the understanding of science fiction genre conventions
in the design of Mass Effect
. Namely, Michael understands that science fiction isn't really so much about the science as it is about using new settings and understandings to explore the human condition, and Mass Effect's
handling of such deeper subjects sometimes feels an afterthought in the gameplay design. A.J. Glasser (Kotaku) surveys torture in games
Jonathan Stickles (Preparing For The Apocalypse) catalogs some of the usual culprits (mostly BioWare titles) of chaotic stupid syndrome
, but further looks at how those games' mechanics discourage ambivalence
. While on the subject of poor implementation of ostensibly good intentions in BioWare titles, Alex Raymond (Game Critics) looks at the lopsided gender inclusion
in Mass Effect
, paying specific attention to the slipshod Asari gender conceit. L.B. Jeffries (PopMatters' Moving Pixels column) zooms in on the topic of the psychology surrounding female avatars
in games, and Kai Bailey (1UP's The Grind blog) continues inward gives a thorough analysis of Squharkeall Leonhart
from Final Fantasy VIII
, a character who's alternately maligned for being too effeminate and too macho. But Vagary (Brouhaha Abounding) zooms out, wanting to get past nameless, faceless NPC allies
G. Christopher Williams (PopMatters' Moving Pixels column) is troubled by the narrative reversion in Prince of Persia
Difficulty & Fun
Steve Gaynor (Fullbright) argues for fun
. It's not a new debate, though this is relatively well written. My guess is that if someone responds beyond agreement, it'll be to move the debate towards semantics, looking at various different types of fun and at how things like learning can yield their own kind of fun--and thence perhaps discussions of what "play
" (Pat Kane's The Play Ethic blog) is.
Simon Carless (GameSetWatch) is similarly concerned that games are too much like work
, though Simon is inclined to blame the players as well. Simon takes it further, though, to talk about how difficulty helps determine how accessible games are to wider audiences. Nick Dinicola (PopMatters' Moving Pixels column) metes out the difference between challenge and punishment
John Walker (Rock, Paper Shotgun) asks where the "skip level" option is
. That is, why do game designers allow difficulty spikes to ultimately end a player's experience playing the game, rather than simply allowing that player to skip the level and finish experiencing the game's prescribed plot?
Batman (Conversation) Returns
Thomas Wilburn (Mile Zero) continues last week's
discussion on the treatment of mentally ill in Arkham Asylum
. Simon Ferrari (Georgia Tech's News Games) joins Thomas and the rest of the Batman
discussion with a new twist, looking at the game in terms of how the mechanics approach combat ethics and non-lethal tactics
Dreamcast's 10th Anniversary
The Sega Dreamcast was released on September 9, 1999 ("9-9-99," in those heady days before the terror of Y2K). For the console's 10th anniversary, Racket Boy gives a historical review of the Dreamcast
. Douglass C. Perry did a retrospective on Dreamcast's rise and fall
for Gamasutra as well.
If you're hurting for more Dreamcast talk, Peter Moore himself (now his EA blog) reminisced
about the system's launch.
Beatles: Rock Band
Chris Dahlen reviewed the title for Pichfork and came to the conclusion that the game was built around a central theme of reverence
, but it seems not everyone is so reverential toward the game or its coverage. John Teti (Crispy Gamer) disliked last week's New York Times feature
on Beatles: Rock Band
, seeing the NYT praise as disingenuous for starting from reprehensible premises
. John does a great job of putting forward a view of what current critics should do in their work.
Ian Bogost approached Beatles: Rock Band as nostalgia
and made a lot of internetizens very angry. Sherol Chen (Expressive Intelligence Studio) covers the debates
By the way, if anyone has suggestions for a succinct way of describing comments like this one
, or of describing the type of person who would leave such a comment, please let me know. I know there are dangers with labeling people and bunching them into groups, but I'd really appreciate not having to spend 30 seconds describing this every few days.
Meanwhile, Sean "Elysium" Sands (Gamers With Jobs) sees the importance of Beatles: Rock Band
as part of the overall triumph of rhythm games
News & Upcoming Events
The University of California at Irvine announces the opening of a new games research center
. (Kotaku coverage)
runs tomorrow through Friday (September 15-18).
is next month, October 11-13.
The deadline for abstract submissions to Stephanie Boluk's zombie anthology
is next month, October 15.
Noah Wardrip-Fruin is speaking at MIT tonight
and at the NYU GAmes Center
on Thursday, the 17th.
As always, feel free to contact me (here via note or comment, or @erik_a_hanson on Twitter) if you would like to point out something you think I missed, or if you'd like me to check out a site to add to my weekly review. And be sure to check the VGHVI events section, both as a reference and to add any events you think are worth including.