GDC may have officially concluded more than a week ago but I, for one, am still in the midst of post-con fatigue. My greatest of thanks to contributors Cameron and Eric for picking things up while I was away in San Francisco. But now, readers, it’s time to get back to hitting the books! Brace yourselves, for it’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!
To The Metal
We start with a pair of interesting design documents this week. The first comes from Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend, co-developers of the popular smartphone puzzle game Threes!, which has been liberally cloned. In a bid to show just how much time and iteration went into their game, Vollmer and Wohlwend have released a huge heaping pile of valuable documentation on Threes!‘s design process.
Meanwhile over at The Game Design Forum, Pat Holleman and researcher Amanda Lange have released their latest Reverse Design book, tackling Super Mario World with TGDF’s usual super-dense and fine-grained style of analysis. A long but worthwhile read!
Mechanics of the Heart
On Ontological Geek, guest contributor Andrei Filote proposes an analogue for the Bechdel Test pertaining specifically to worldbuilding: is your game’s world rich enough to foster the existence of a novelist?
Elsewhere, on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, embedded journalist Cara Ellison has gone in search of a fabled gag in OutRun 2006, a game Tim Rogers once called Love: The Videogame.
And over on LudoNarratology, Michael Clarkson draws a couple interesting comparisons between Final Fantasy X‘s combat system and the sports culture that informs the story setting.
This Could Be Us But U Playin’
London-based critic Edward Smith pens a short but sweet piece contending that real controversy in game violence is hard to find:
Violence in games is only legitimate if committed against discernible individuals, whose deaths have a traceable, adverse affect on either the fictional world or the narrative. In Grand Theft Auto, neither of these metrics apply. Your victims are cartoon characters and their deaths feel less like tragedy, or drama, and more like housework.
In a similar vein, on Digital Love Child Reid McCarter decries Infamous Second Son‘s choice to use a real-world location but with completely fictionalized Native Americans, a copout he describes as “cultural cowardice.”
Rather than research the tribes native to Seattle and the area surrounding it, Delsin belongs to an invented one with no real history or culture to represent. With just the tiniest bit of effort audiences could have played a Duwamish or Suquamish character. Delsin could have represented real people with a culture that is under-served in mainstream entertainment. He could have been a character who, with only the tiniest changes to the game’s script, acted as a subtle reminder of a distinct people. Instead, by making him Akomish, Sucker Punch continues the long tradition of misrepresenting actual tribes and nations as some imagined, homogenous groups of “Natives.”
Dominque Pamplemousse developer Deirdra Kiai received a standing ovation for their ten-minute speech held recently at GDC’s #1ReasonToBe panel. If you haven’t had a chance, pop on over to Kiai’s website and see why.
On Gamasutra, Storm8 developer Elizabeth Sampat has also posted the full text of her GDC talk, concerning hiring discrepancies in the game industry. Don’t read the comments.
Or, if you were like Jenn Frank and you read the comments, head on over to Frank’s post on the same site, which serves as a direct response to the claim that studios should hire based on merit, rather than gender, as though the two were mutually exclusive criteria.
O Brave New World With Such People In It
How could we have missed this? Over on The Escapist, the ever-compelling Robert Rath has put together a great, well-researched two part feature on the complex interrelationship among wargaming, novelist Tom Clancy, and the modern first-person shooter.
Even more incredible (in the classical sense of the word), over on Eurogamer Robert Purchese presents us with this biographical profile of DayZ creator Dean Hall.
Dispatches from Vienna
Once again we’re honored with a brief peek inside the German-language games discourse via our German correspondent, Joe Koeller.
First, on Superlevel, Nina Kiel talks nude patches and mods, and by contrast, the “general prudery” in which base games find themselves. [Content Warning: Some images are not safe for work.]
Lastly, on Kleiner Drei, Lucie Hoehler reviews Leigh Alexander’s Breathing Machine, about growing up around computers.
Last Call, Last Call
Some of the usual business: the Journal of Games Criticism is still in open submissions for its second issue, due date April 19th. Also, the Unwinnable Weekly Kickstarter is chugging along, but could still benefit from your support. Give them a look!
Critical Distance is kept afloat due to generous support from readers like you. If you like what we do and want to see us expand into new, exciting content that may or may not involve fitting my cat with laser eyes, please consider signing up for a small monthly donation through our Patreon.
Thank you! See you all next week!