According to my working document naming convention this is the 70th TWIVGB I’ve assembled. That’s somewhat mind boggling, and so is the number of posts this week!
Greg J. Smith at Serial Consign usually blogs about architecture, and occasionally, we are blessed with an essay like this one  where he “consider[s] two broad themes in examining the delineation of urban space by architects and game designers. These themes are a top-down, consideration of the city as a system and the charged notion of “play” in urban space.” Smith notes that,
Advances in computer graphics and a need for increasingly sophisticated in-game navigation and informational systems have made gaming an R&D lab for exploring methods of representation derived from not only architecture, but interface design, cinematography, cartography and data visualization.
Michael Clarkson looks at ‘The Dunning-Kruger reticule’ which is a deceptive kind of reticule occasionally employed by RPGs that belies the fact there are hidden calculations behind the shot that determine where it’s going:
The steady reticule that doesn’t really represent where the bullets are going to hit isn’t a very satisfying representation of the character’s lack of skill. Indeed, it isn’t a representation of this at all. This is a problem because the visual language of games, and specifically the visual language most frequently experienced by the audience these games are meant to attract, attaches a certain meaning to the reticule, which the probabilistic calculations of an RPG violate.
Michael Abbott of the Brainy Gamer says kids are a ‘tough crowd’.
Chris Green at the RRoD blog is attempting to render Dostoevsky’s classic ‘Crime and Punishment’ using only the game-cum-story-machine Sleep is Death. He writes about some of the things he’s learnt from the exercise in a blog post entitled ‘Playing Monomania: A protagonist in the throes of madness’ [dead link, no mirror available]. What’s monomania, you ask? Says Green: “Monomania bares a resemblance to Paranoia because of its tendency to make the sufferer believe that their reality is the real one, that others are wrong and are plotting against him/her.” I swear I’ve had that at least once.
Ian Cheong says that he “played Uncharted 1 & 2 in the span of a week. It may have been the shortest amount of time I’ve taken to play two games and it’s because I never wanted to leave” and he’s been enjoying discovering the quality of the series [dead link, no mirror available]. He says it mostly comes down to smart and believable character writing: “Dude Raider he is not. Unlike Lara Croft, Nathan Drake is a multidimensional character–one full of personality.”
The big story this week was the blow up around Activision/Blizzard’s RealID, but the only piece on it we’re going to mention here is from the Pensive Harpy blog. The author of this post says that the abortive move to force players to use real names on the World of Warcraft forums shows that, in the eyes of the company, ‘We are not the customer anymore’:
I think for many of us, this change from ‘small tight-knit company to mega giant’ is a sad one, especially if you’ve been in MMOs a long time and remember when things were smaller and more personal…. I think we’ve finally crossed that line in the MMORPG sphere. Sure, it means bigger budgets, flashier graphics, bigger expansions and tie ins, and more prestige. But I think the MMORPG as a genre has lost a part of its soul; a part that had originally appealed to many players in the first place.
Jason Young at the Beeps and Boops blog writes about ‘Videogames as Propaganda’ [mirror], starting with the BP Oil Spill situation and the prescient “BP Offshore Oil Strike” board game and moving onto others including the intriguing Redistricting Game and the eponymous America’s Army.
Julian at LittleBoBeep on ‘How Board Games Explain Everything – Pt 4, Utopia, Sex, Art’ [mirror] and for the sake of completion, here’s part 3 which I don’t think we linked to at the time: ‘How différance can be understood in terms of games, play and Calvinball’ [mirror].
Angelo at the Bergsonian Critique blog writes about ‘Understanding the Narrative of Final Fantasy XIII’ [mirror]. I’ll leave it to you to determine whether that’s mean disparagingly or not. It’s probably a neat companion piece to Simon Ferrari’s analysis of the FFXIII combat system [dead link, no mirror available]. It’s certainly about as lengthy.
Brendan Keogh at the Critical Damage blog has a post this week called “Understanding My Allergy To BioWare Games” and it looks at the old bugbear of telling versus experiencing story.
Mashup, remix, pastiche, borrowing – whatever you want to call it – should only be a good thing for games, or so says Jorge Albor at the Experience Points blog in a post titled ‘Theft and Recreation’.
After mentioning Leigh Alexander’s excellent Jeremiad ‘Who Cheers for War?’ last week a number of writers have come out with responses to the piece. First is Roger Travis at the Living Epic blog who being a Classics professor has
…a very long view of the question “Should we be worried that so many video games are about armed conflict?” In fact, that long view makes me like to ask the question somewhat differently: Why is traditional epic always about warriors? Why are so many of the most popular video games about soldiers, super-soldiers, and super-duper-soldiers?
Which are probably better questions to be asking in the larger scheme of things. The full piece is ‘Games of Armed Conflict: a question of narrative technology’ and I strongly encourage you to go read it. Similarly introspective and interrogative is Nick Dinicola who muses on “Why do I cheer for war?” and realises that “It’s not something that I’ve ever specifically thought about, but I now ask myself—why do I love shooters?” Which, if nothing else, is an endorsement of Alexander’s call to think about the subject a bit more critically and more often.
In a similar vein, Michael Thomsen at IGN [mirror] makes the case that games should be even more violent, including a deeply disturbing and visceral description of the experience of cutting the throat of a chicken, illuminating quite powerfully (and perhaps upsettingly – reader discretion is advised!) how devoid of bloody reality games almost invariably are:
It’s been six years since I did all that and I can still remember the small details and the irresolvable emotions I felt in deciding my will should trump the right to life of another being. Making that judgment of another human, even in the safely authored realm of fiction, ought to provoke at least as much emotional conflict and self-doubt. Likewise, if killing a chicken is so complicated, it’s safe to assume killing a human being might require more than a melee attack or a few quick button presses.
Laura Michet at the Second Person Shooter blog ‘failed to restore oxygen to the moonbase‘ and thinks NASA needs to take some game design lessons from the commercial sector. The problem?
I was convinced, throughout the whole playthrough, that the astronauts would die, that they would suffocate to death if I didn’t save them. Dead astronauts are the creepiest things modernity has offered us in the past fifty years.
And instead, all that happened was a minor setback, a day of productivity mysteriously ‘lost’. Sounds like Michet is looking for a Permadeath mode.
If you’re like me you’ve probably heard Johan Huizinga’s “Homo Ludens” referenced in just about any and every journal article about games ever written and yet somehow neglected to read it yourself. Well, now you don’t have to as LB Jeffries is here and he’s gone and made us a cliff notes version.
On a more sombre note, the Press Pause to Reflect blog is, well, pressing pause to reflect for an extended, even indefinite period. Thanks for the all great work over the years, Daniel and CT. Enjoy the break.
The last word for the week can go to Leigh Alexander’s video about What’s Wrong With Videogame Journalism. It made me laugh.
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