Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

An exclusively obtained screenshot of an early prototype of Norwegian WoodQuick! It's that day of the week again, which means it's time for a decidedly laissez-faire overview of the game criticism blogosphere. And don't forget: you can always send links to Critical Distance's twitter account for inclusion in TWIVGB.

After last week's acclaimed critique of The Joker and ludonarrative dissonance in Batman: Arkham Asylum, Michel McBride looks at the composition/execution cycle (as originally put forward by Clint Hocking in a GDC presentation) as played out in the game.

Alex Raymond had the pleasure of having her critique of gender issues in Mass Effect responded to by one of the designers from Bioware. Her original article can be found here.

Trent Polack talks about 'Gaming Gen-Y'.

Michael Abbot writes about the critical reception to two very different DS games in 'I'll Take Refinement', namely Scribblenauts and Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. He makes an interesting statement that I'd like to highlight:

Scribblenauts was, for awhile, the talk of the town in a way that a new M&L game could never be… [but] Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (despite its cumbersome title) is a smashingly good game, and it deserves at least as much critical consideration as Scribblenauts – or any other game for that matter.

Worth thinking about: but are all games really equally worthy of discussion and scrutiny? I'm sure there are things to be gained from and appreciated in any game, but I'm not as convinced as Michael, and I told him as much. He followed up with 'The Joy of Iteration'.

Nels Anderson, on a similar riff, says “Perfection? I'll take personality“.

Ian Bogost in his Persuasive Games column discusses Scribblenauts inclusion of the racially loaded term 'Sambo',

On the one hand, it is tempting to celebrate this new ignorance. If a more accepting and less bigoted society is one we want to live in, then there is some sign of cultural success when a racial slur obsolesces.  …But on the other hand, this very neglect points to a social ill even worse than racism itself: disavowal. We must strive for more than the destruction of stereotype, slur, and other visible signs of bigotry, as if eliminating the symptoms also cures the cause.

One of my friends In Real Life (don't make a face: I have friends) has started a blog to talk about her time with Habbo hotel: in her first post, she reminisces of times spent in chatrooms and the eponymous A/S/L. I love the name of the blog too: 'Talking Bobba': you'll get it when you figure out what 'Bobba' means.

Lewis Denby writes for Rock Paper Shotgun about the mod 'Korsakovia' from the same Portsmouth University researchers-cum-developers who brought you Dear Esther:

From the fusion of musical styles, to the alarming bumps and thumps, and particularly the utterly alien sound of the smoke monsters, it's an absolute aural feast. That is, a particularly poisonous one that ravages your insides. The whole mod sounds unthinkably horrendous, in the most brilliant way you could ever imagine.

I played most of it through in one night and can attest; it will disturb you quite a bit, or annoy you with its frequent use of blasts of white noise.

Sean at Finding the Fun writes about the Chronicles of Riddick re-release of a few months past and talks about where the fun is in shoving screwdrivers into throats and ramming knees into faces. I like where this is going.

The Videogames and Human Values initiative publishes it's first ever 'proceedings', written by none other than Justin Keverne of Groping The Elephant. It's called 'Game within a game: freedom and control in Assassin’s Creed' which sounds appropriately journal-ese.

Michael Clarkson critiques a section of Muramasa with the catchy title 'Muramasa goes to Hell'.

Some colourful criticism of GameInformer's review of WET from the Play Like a Girl blog. If that's not enough WET criticism, the fifth Beatle (if Rock Paper Shotgun were the Beatles), that is Quintin Smith, reviews WET without ever playing it. Because he's a professional.

Speaking of the RPS crew, Jim Rossignol imagines the future with a dream-based GTA5 Review.

GTA5 would, I/they explained, feature apartments across the city into which your character could walk, and rather than entering the living cutscenes of the previous games, he'd face a kind of dynamic soap opera, which would resolve in a mission. Each of the apartments contained the characters of popular sitcom, Friends, but these were placeholders, so as not to spoil the game for viewers.

Even when he's awake he's dreaming, that Rossignol, as he has written a new Offworld column too, called 'Game Research, Ghost Stories, Alan Moore, and Academia: The Far Reaches of Edutainment'. At the real Rock Paper Shotgun, Kieron Gillen wrote a 'Wot I Think' about Red Faction Guerrilla: saying interesting things about it, like:

…the series has always played in these political waters, but from its Blackwater-esque PMCs to its insurgency escalating in proportion and in response to corporate-statism, it's Iraq the game. It's at times like this Volition should think itself lucky that no-one actually takes videogames seriously. If someone had made Red Faction as a film, make no mistake: it'd be pilloried as anti-American propaganda.

He also talked about Art Game Lose/Lose this week, which deletes files on your computer as a game mechanic. He has a think about more mainstream applications for this kind of ultra-hardcore game, which then inspired me to go looking for the name of a classic game from the early 90's that I played the crap out of the demo for. In the search I Google'd up this piece by Greg Beaton about the game, Operation: Inner Space. Ah, the memories.

Chris Livingstone plays notorious, online Civ-alike game, Evony, for a week just to make jokes about the lack of buxom beauties and ends up spending much more of his time sending soldiers off to be slaughtered in nearby fields and woodlands.

Chris Dahlen talks to Corvus Elrod about his flexible storytelling ruleset 'The Honeycomb Engine'.

Have you ever wondered how many people own which consoles in North America? No? Me either, but apparently someone has as Crispy Gamer's Kyle Orland get his hands on some NPD data about console ownership and uptake. News Flash: People play games on more than just the Wii/PS3/360! A lot of people at that.

I don’t like to link to stuff that I’ve written, but I’ll make exception for an announcement about the ever popular ‘Permanent Death’ story series that I don’t want anyone to miss. I’m very excited about the final production.

I have on good authority from twitter user m_eilers that the GSW column 'Design Diversions: (Press Any Key to Skip This Article)' is a good read. It starts like this:

About thirty levels into World of Warcraft, I realized that I did not need to read two paragraphs of text to justify killing twenty specific woodland creatures. It was at this point that I realized something crucial: in these two paragraphs, the only words that held any interest for me were “kill” and “woodland creatures.” It was very liberating to know that aside from the very few quests that tied into a larger narrative, I wasn't missing anything at all.

That does sound good. I don't think it took me 30 levels to figure out that most of the text in WoW was superfluous, however. I think it probably took me about 3. Don’t forget that you too can send links to the Critical Distance twitter account for weekly inclusion in TWIVGB.

Special bonus! Matthew Gallant & Friends New Videogame for Personal Computer running Windows/Mac/Linux is out and it's glorious. It's called Norwegian Wood. Here's an Offworld write-up by Brandon Boyer.