Going anywhere? Why don’t you stick around for a while? I’ve got some links for you, and they’re the best you’re likely to read all week. Straight from the best of game criticism, theory and commentary, it’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!
We start off with the member blogs section of Gamasutra, where Sebastian Alvarado continues his incisive series on the portrayal of neuroscience in games, this week turning his attention to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Meanwhile, fellow Gamasutra member blogger Sam Kite thinks we’ve got it all wrong about game cloning:
This argument about cloning being ok is mindless. It has nothing to do with cloning. This is about being turned against one another by mutual isolation.
Elsewhere, congrats are due to Patricia Hernandez, who graduated last week and also punched out this lovely and eloquent article on why she enjoys the authored nature of Proteus more than the real deal:
The world of Proteus is in servitude to the player. Things here exist, more, were created, specifically to be experienced, to evoke something from the player. Proteus delivers this curated package while at once providing a playground for contemplative, aimless sauntering. Travel is not utilitarian here, it is not a means to get to where you ‘need’ to be. There’s an intrinsic idyllic quality about the world, a landscape that’s to be appreciated for its own sake.
And yet there is intention behind every pixel in the horizon. Games aren’t an accident, they aren’t a miracle arising from chance. Games are designed.
My admiration is more easily channeled toward things I can intellectualize and understand, things I can learn from, and things that have purpose. The errant chance of nature? Not so much.
Speaking of Hernandez, you may recall she is also editor in chief of Nightmare Mode, which also pulled together a remarkably strong week. Newcomer contributor and Split-Screen vet Alan Williamson muses on how we can make death matter in games, while Bill Coberly pays tribute to Digital: A Love Story‘s reinvention of the silent protagonist.
Also on Nightmare Mode, Nolan McBride performs a deep reading on the player-character identification in The Darkness II. And Nightmare Mode co-editor Tom Auxier makes an aggressive case for how games have fallen out of touch with the narratives of our daily lives:
In truth, this is where video games struggle to communicate most with the young: they are an old-fashioned mode of communication. A majority of them tell the stories our parents, and our parents’ parents, want to tell. They’re not stories about pursuing our dreams, but stories about when we’ve already achieved them. We’re never no one, anymore: we’re assassin, we’re dragonborn, we’re Command Shepard’s favorite store on the Citadel. We’re never Mega Man, a cyborg with natural gifts but who has to earn everything for himself.
Video games are stories about when we’ve already arrived.
Meanwhile, Rob of World One-Two would appear to disagree in this recent essay on Journey, arguing particularly for its philosophical and aesthetic universalism:
For me, Journey is about the only thing that art worth any goddamn can ever be about, which is what it is we’re all doing here. Journey is about truth, about base reality, about this experience of being itself we so often ignore. It is a call to look around us and remember that, as David Foster Wallace puts it: “This is water. This is water.”
Two TWIVGB regulars, Eric Schwarz and Josh Bycer, also had strong showings this week. Josh Bycer debates whether there is such a thing as unethical game mechanics, while in a similar vein, Eric Schwarz looked into the historical conventions and current role of time limits in games:
There’s a certain Otherness to the timer, a sense of a foreign entity watching over us, monitoring our every move, and casting silent judgment. The timer isn’t just about what we’re doing, but what we’re missing as a result. Every action loses valuable time that could be spent elsewhere… and only the ticking clock knows if we made the right choice. The game is now about performance, in more ways than one.
And you may have heard that a certain long-awaited game starting with D and ending in -iablo 3 was finally released recently. Kill Screen’s Yannick LeJacq reflects how the Diablo series puts the agony in games of agon: “When I start to get exhausted, when bolts of pain shoot through my knuckles and up my arm, I have to remind myself that this is a game about hell.” Elsewhere, Unwinnable’s Jenn Frank thinks the game is just too gosh-darn cute:
In playing Diablo III, I feel such an expansive detachment from its happenings and goings-on. Take, for instance, my unprejudiced penchant for destruction: “We aren’t bad people,” I assured my friend Julian, right as his Witch Doctor punched a desk into smithereens. “We are only cats who like to tip things over.”
The Gameological Society’s Drew Toal takes us through two classic games of thrones, while Moving Pixels’ Jorge Albor writes in praise of support characters. And Andrew Lavigne kicks it oldschool for us this week in more ways than once with this feminist psychoanalytical textual reading of Resident Evil 3.
Thanks to Medium Difficulty editor Karl Parakenings for sending in these two recent articles: Heather Hale’s “Online Gaming: Can’t We All Just Get Along?” and Kyle Carpenter’s “Minecraft: Development, Discovery, and The Final Frontier“.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the great interviews and developer profiles that went down this week. Christian Nutt sits down with Quantic Dream’s David Cage about interactive narrative, while Simon Parkin paints for us a tender portrait of Metal Gear auteur Hideo Kojima. And more tangential to game development, Kill Screen’s Jordan Mammo speaks with author Jonathan Gottschall on the narcotic properties of game stories.
One of the cuter little curios of the week, 1Up has curated a series of “alternate history” speculative articles on where gaming might be today had history gone down differently. And you’re going to love this series of game character illustrations by deviantArt artist PaperBeatsScissors of the stuff they learned from games.
Lastly, a tip of the hat is due to two particularly stand-out bloggers who went far beyond the call of duty this week. Michael Walbridge of Snackbar Games found and played every Molyjam he could get his hands on, and Superlevel’s Sebastian Standke has written up an extensive report on all 1,402 games of Ludem Dare 23. Yes. All of them.