Sunday is for pulling oneself together and pretending to be a genuine chronicler of the latest and greatest pieces of videogame writing, blogging and criticism. It’s also for celebrating the 50th Birthday of the woman who mysteriously decided that giving birth to me would be something akin to a good idea. Happy Birthday Mum, and sorry for being such a difficult baby. It’s time for This Week In Videogame Blogging!
Brendan Caldwell writing for RPS about Garry’s Mod discovers what the harsh world of online tinkering is really like. Featuring the odd stabbing, face shooting, and wetting of oneself, it’s really quite a ride: ‘Living and Breathing in Garry’s Mod’.
Matthew Burns of Magical Wasteland writes the deadly serious, ‘Why we don’t have female characters’:
Women are difficult to model because they have– they’re sort of put together– well, let me put it this way: male bone structure is mostly made up of ninety-degree angles. Right? Maybe a couple forty-fives here and there. But it’s simple, and that makes it easy. I guess I shouldn’t say “easy,” but I mean more straightforward.
Jim Rossignol on his personal blog designs the ideal Williams Burroughs game, “where you battle the forces of control by distributing fucked up ideas across the city.” I’d play that.
Brendan Keogh writing for the Kill Screen Magazine website this week tells us, ‘Sackboy says no words’. Keogh plays LBP2 with his significant other, and relates how the non-verbal communication goes down in the game. It’s very cute:
Instead of Helen telling me to “go over there,” and pointing at a corner of the television screen, Helen’s Sackgirl herself points at a switch within the world and my Sackboy goes there. When he finds the wrong switch, Sackgirl shakes her head angrily and points again. This time my Sackboy gets it right, and Sackgirl grins and gives a thumb up.
The Border House + Able Gamers + Gay Gamer + Pax East = a nearly one hour video of the Pax East talk entitled ‘One of us’. It’s all about what it can be like at times for an all-too-often excluded minority within the already decidedly minority that is the life-long, serious, quote-unquote “hardcore” gamer.
The author of the Quiet Babylon blog writes this week about videogame architecture and how it,
…focuses on the journey, not the destination. Whole cities are laid out in a way that only makes sense if you are trying to have as much fun as possible going from point A to point B. They do not reward or even allow efficient transit. Video games are about long strings of interesting travel. They have few loops and many way-markers. Video game architecture drives you forwards to the next thing.
Over at community site Bitmob, Rob Savillo has written an interesting piece about storytelling in two zombie/strategy games: Atom Zombie Smasher and Trapped Dead.
Missed this last week: Dierdra Kiai on her personal blog responding to Brian Moriarty’s talk at GDC explains why she appreciates the fact that games are hard to shoehorn into the typical categories of ‘Great Art’ which are often uncritically presented as holding universal appeal (even though they’re made by mostly dead white men):
…the very reason games are so compelling to me as an artist is that they’re more removed from notions of “high art” than any other medium. There’s more uncharted territory and less tradition, fewer obstacles to surmount in getting unknown voices heard.
Karl Parakenings at Design Robot writes about what he learned from GDC, and it’s all good points. The one I picked up on as the most worthwhile however was, “It’s not who you know, but who interests you and is interested in you” which I think is the key to a whole lot of things. If I could give one piece of advice on what would help people get the most out of GDC it would be to “make sure you are interesting and/or are doing interesting things”. Tales! Of! Interest!
Have you been reading Leigh Alexander and Kirk Hamilton’s letter series about Final Fantasy VII at Paste Magazine? Hamilton is the wide-eyed rookie and Alexander is the tough-as-nails FF veteran in this excellent series that covers some genuinely new ground on the now decade old game.
JP Grant writes up Jane McGonigal’s PAX East keynote for Gamer Melodico. Having attended her talk at GDC, it seemed to cover very similar ground and Grant shared many of the same criticisms people made at the time. Definitely worth reading and thinking about though:
Jane McGonigal occupies an interesting position in the industry right now. She’s one of academia’s most highly visible proponents of gaming, yet she also inspires a certain degree of cynicism. Her new book, Reality Is Broken, outlines her eager conviction that gamers are a powerful force for good. I can see why it’s hard to reconcile that outlook with, well, Dickwolves. Sometimes, all you can hope for is that Reality Is Alright.
Riffing off of McGonigal’s book title, Matthew Burns writes about the GDC experience from the perspective of an indie developer trying to pitch his game to publishers, in ‘Reality is Bokeh’. A nice alternative take on GDC.
He ain’t heavy… Denis Farr at the Vorpal Bunny Ranch responds to the character of Carver in Dragon Age 2, in a post titled ‘Carver’s My Brother’:
By the time I was running around Kirkwall, earning coin for an expedition into the Deep Roads, I found the arguments my brother and I kept getting into rather endearing. Well, not endearing. Intriguing? I overuse that word–it’s become as meaningless as interesting or stuff.
Another hugely fantastic piece by Tanner Higgin on space, mapping, and race in videogames and Left 4 Dead in particular:
Mapping, often associated with level design, is the active manufacture of gamespace. When a designer makes a map they are creating space. The aspect of this process that interests me is how this process of arrangement of space in videogames is yet another site where racial difference is constructed. Space in games, and its active creation through architecture, geography, maps, and sociality, affects the negotiation of identity within gamespace in ways that mimic and exacerbate our current understandings of space and identity.
Michael Abbott looks at some community created maps in LittleBigPlanet 2 that are being used to teach children, in ‘LittleBig Classroom’.
Dilyan Damyanov has a very well thought-out piece at the Split/Screen Co-op blog this week, where he writes about Fallout’s currency arguing that,
On the surface, Fallout’s bottle-cap currency is a clever gimmick, that seems to lend realism to the world in which the games play out. Dig deeper though and you will find its very existence is logically unjustifiable.
Hmm, somehow I missed this last week, but we still have tome to rectify that – At Game Set Watch, Andrew Vanden Bossche wrote about the strange indie game Beautiful Escape: Duneoneer, and in particular how it deploys dialogue decisions:
Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer has some of the most compassionate dialogue options of any game I’ve played, perversely appropriate for the psychopathic protagonist. This is a game in which you lure innocent strangers to your basement to be tortured to death, but it’s also a damning critique of how video games use dialogue to represent relationships.
Aaron Poppleton at Pop Matters wrote this week about the critical darling No More Heroes and ‘The Meaning of Meaninglessness’ in said game.
The Rampant Games blog looks at indie tower defence game Defender’s Quest and what happens when you possibly end up ‘Over streamlining the CRPG’.
Troy Goodfellow at the Flash of Steel blog is back and has picked up his series on ‘The National Character’ as portrayed in strategy games (primarily the Civilization’s) – this time it’s the French taking a turn.
Last, but by no means least, Mark Sample writing for the Play The Past blog talks about Tropico’s virtual prisons:
Once a prison is built and you have enough money in the treasury to pay your guards, it is possible, in what the game calls the “Edict Mode,” to arrest anybody, at anytime. The edict mode shifts gameplay into a state of emergency, what the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls the “state of exception.” Put simply, the state of exception is the power to suspend the rule of law in the name of preserving the rule of law. If we follow Agamben’s argument that “the [concentration] camp is the space that is opened when the state of exception begins to become the rule” (168), we begin to understand the entire gamespace of Tropico as a virtual camp. That is, it is possible for the entire island in Tropico to become a semi-permanent nether-region, in which individuals who are already tracked, traced, and tagged can be stripped of their political and social rights without any legal protection.
Thanks again to everyone who sent in their own or other people’s work – please don’t hesitate to do the same.