Welcome to another exciting instalment of This Week In Videogame Blogging. Before we dive in, I should probably explain how I go about compiling this list of the best stuff from around the blogosphere from the week. It goes something like this:
I have a Word document. When I read something on a blog that I think is worth noting, I copy and paste the URL into the document. That’s it. The downside is I only have so many blogs in my RSS feed and I can’t cover them all. When I suffer a debilitating case of The Swine Flu like this week I tend to miss stuff – thus, TWIVGB makes no claims of comprehensiveness – only quality. Think of us not as gate-keepers, but as tour guides to videogame blogging. Look at the woodland; observe the peacocks on the lawn; be the king of your own calm kingdom.
This week Brilliam writes about the need for a better, more accurately descriptive term for ‘videogames’ (or ‘video games’ if that’s your flavour) in “renaming the game“.
JC Barnett of Japanmanship has been a bit dormant in recent months, but he seems to have regained a new vigour and is back posting some great stuff about his life as a Western developer working on games in Japan. Check out his post on the IGDA and the Quality of Life issue. He’s actually decided to let his IGDA membership lapse over the issue.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun (it has been mentioned critically) is almost guaranteed to get a mention in TWIVGB. But it’s not because I’m a mindless worshiper (honest!) but because they are so consistently good. This week, Jim Rossignol does the hard work in checking out Mods for STALKER: Clear Sky, so you don’t have to. Alec Meer writes about Dead Space in ‘Looking Back: Dead Space‘, a slightly freaky coincidence for me given I’ve been playing Dead Space this past week as well. On a bit of a retro bender this week, Kieron Gillen also played Manhunt “for sheer perverseness” and wrote up his initial impressions of the straight-up-bonkers Stalin vs. Martians. He seems to imply that you will get probably more out of trying to decipher how much of the game is a satire than you will the game itself. Which begs the question — does it matter if we only enjoy a game on a meta level?
Kotaku quality blogging time: Brian Crecente has a good old think about “What Ails the World’s Biggest Gaming Platform” and comes off sounding not dissimilar to RPS. Yikes! Then Leigh Alexander picks up on the Art/Innovation issue again with a discussion of The Path.
Speaking of The Path, PixelVixen quite effectively contrasts [editor note: dead link] song lyrics from a new Rock Band release with the story content of The Path, saying
What was this horrorshow? Some indie nightmare? A bad boy shooter? Actually, it was the download of Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking for Rock Band. I was pulling your leg. We all know it’s okay for rock to go there. This was just a lighthearted way to introduce what I really want to talk about, which is rape.
And the rest is well worth reading [editor note: dead link].
Our unofficial favourite interviewer-cum-blogger Chris Dahlen talks to Mark Essen (aka Meshoff) about his provocative, edgy, and generally insane “Art” game Randy Balma: Municipal Abortionist in this tidy piece for Edge Online. RBMA was actually my second favourite game from ’08 behind You-Know-What. Just sayin’.
Duncan Fyfe writes this week about the audio-tour of Alcatraz he went on while taking a break from GDC and the parallels it has with game level design in a post titled ‘Chaos Theory‘.
The Dynamic Duo of Jorge Albor and Scott Juster from the Experience Points blog had a discussion of Gears of War 2 on their podcast. I can’t recommend ‘Episode 23 – Gears of War Roundup‘ highly enough.
Manveer Heir shows his humanity and humility in a post this week called ‘Mea Culpa – The Black and White World of DRM‘. It also serves as a cautionary tale for fact-careless bloggers like myself.
David Carlton (fellow Critical Distance Editor) writes on his eclectic blog Malvasia Bianca about Chrono Trigger and the Vintage Game Club’s recent play-through which has mostly now concluded. He seems genuinely impressed by its quality, saying that it’s:
Quite a game, when all is said and done. I can only imagine an alternate universe in which JRPG designers actually paid attention to Chrono Trigger, and emphasized a density of experience over stuffing you with dozens of battles with minutes of animations pitted against seconds of thinking. Or, more profoundly, an alternate universe in which the video game industry realized that grand narratives about saving the world from destruction had less of an impact on the players than sketches of what our daily lives, loves, families are or could be like
Go read about his experience with Chrono Trigger.
Going all the way with L.B. Jeffries this week, he’s produced an excellent ZA Critique of Gears of War that looks at the ‘classical hero’ and finds some real similarities in Marcus Phoenix, et al. to characters in The Iliad and The Odyssey. He also writes about how games are different from movies in a completely unrelated post.
A quick shout out to one of my RL friends who has recently started blogging. Not strictly from this week, I still quite liked his retrospective of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. With the recent release of the Xbox sequel/port/upgrade it has timely relevance.
Lastly, the fastest blogger in the game-blog-o-sphere would have to be Simon Ferrari (lolpuns! Sorry Simon;) ), and this week he wonders aloud about the effect that our choices of difficulty setting have on our experience with a game and as a result on our critiques and analyses. Check out ‘Our Amps go to Eleven‘ and tell him how you usually approach the difficulty issue. Me? I suck at anything that isn’t a PC FPS and so I usually pick the easiest or next-closest. I’ve played Far Cry 2 on the hardest setting (and nearly finished it too) but, interestingly, I actually enjoyed it more at that ‘sweet spot’ of difficulty which just happened to be the penultimate difficulty.
And that’s your lot for the week, readers.