Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

When the night sky turns to glamor, it’s time for This Week in Videogame Blogging! Good evening– I am your hostess for the week, Kris Ligman, and if you are a member of a certain recent, notorious Freeplay panel then neither this nor last week’s roundup by Katie Williams actually exist. Whoops! For the rest of our readers, welcome and enjoy: this week’s offerings are sure to satisfy.

Let’s begin with Michael Clarkson and the recent relaunch of his blog, now named Ludonarratology. He kicked it off with a post on critical approaches to games, addressing the rival (some would say defunct) schools of game studies referred to in the blog’s name:

To approach videogames solely through the lenses evolved for the criticism of preceding narrative media is to embrace their evolution into content-delivery systems glossed with meaningless interactivity. Yet, to insist that all criticism focus on the cold whirr-click of code and mechanics is to accept — even encourage — the final triumph of commoditization and cultural irrelevance. Neither approach fully appreciates the medium’s unique capacity for creating meaningful individual and group experiences. The comforting warmth of a preferred orthodoxy is, perhaps, sufficient salve for those shortcomings. So be it; these viewpoints are still of great value.

Also recommended from Clarkson’s blog are two relaunch companion pieces: ‘A Tale of Two Chesses and ‘The crying game’.

Going from narrative and emotions within games to heightened emotions surrounding them, this past week has been a… volatile one, to say the least. First was the reveal of the new Mass Effect Liara figure, about which both Go Make Me a Sandwich and The Mary Sue have some strong words. The latter outlet sums up the sentiment quite well in its title: ‘Hey, Bioware: Stop Crowdsourcing Your Gender Politics!’

Then came Dead Island-gate (just for you, Rowan), in which players discovered a misogynist slur against the game’s heroine had been written into the code. Arin Dembo has a good overview over on Gamasutra, while Wundergeek’s commentary in Go Make Me a Sandwich, once more, knocks it out of the park:

If the sorts of “jokes” that happen in game studios can include employees wearing shirts that say ‘dead girls can’t say no’ and women being interrupted during meetings by male employees telling them to make them a sandwich, I don’t see why we should assume that this joke is benign. In an environment where jokes that trivialize sexual harassment, assault, and rape are considered funny, why should we assume that this anonymous coder is an anomaly?

Writing in his Pretension +1 column at Joystick Division, Gus Mastrapa describes games as fetishware:

Games encourage obsession. They draw it out of us or provide a vessel for us to pour it into. And so it makes sense that they’d also be filled with objects of our obsession. Weapons, riches, vehicles, clothing, other people — they’re all things we want because we fill them with our dreams and desires.

Speaking of games, objects and meaning systems, Kieron Gillen does a reading of Deus Ex: Human Revolution which contends the whole thing is about DRM.

Next, a pair of unconventional reviews to spice up your Sunday. The first arrives from Jon Irwin, in a reflection piece on playing Ocarina of Time for the first time on the 3DS. The latter comes to us by way of Eric Lockaby on Nightmare Mode, for the 3DS release Deliverance. Lockaby has cultivated a reputation for his “weird” reviews; but, as Ben Abraham puts it, “I like weird.”

it becomes apparent fairly early on that “stylus” in the case of Deliverance is actually to mean “phallus”…and when you finally realize it, earlier moments in the game—such as the player’s being asked to trace the contours of the young model—suddenly become more potent. A lot of games strive towards “replayability”…Deliverance finds its replayability in continued interpretation.

Roger Travis writes about “immersive learning,” gamification, and Bioshock. And Latoya Peterson at Racialicious comments on the recent Slavery: The Game hoax, remarking that a hoax is still worth discussing.

This week also brought us a point-counter point on the adventure game genre. PC Gamer UK’s Richard Cobbett reckons he knows ‘How to Save Adventure Games’. Tadhg Kelly, meanwhile, argues the genre is already dead and had it coming. The comments on Kelly’s post are also worthwhile.

Last but not least, we venture over to my home stomping ground of PopMatters where senior multimedia editor G. Christopher Williams positions that ‘In Some Games, It’s the Pattern, Not the Plot, That Makes Them Beautiful’. And how better to cap off this week’s roundup than with Scott Juster’s take on the “videogames and art” question: ‘Telling Hamlet What to Do’.

…notions of what constitute art have changed throughout history. Because of this, asking whether art will change to accommodate video games is just as valid as asking whether video games can be art. We would do well to remember that artistic strata are ultimately human constructions and are therefore malleable.

I can’t think of a better note to end on than that! Thanks for joining us, and as always, your contribution to Critical Distance is only a tweet or an email away.