So how about that Eurovision? Eh? Eh? I am a worldly American, I know these cool things all my European friends are into.
No, seriously, Moldova should’ve made it into the final.
Anyway, the dust has settled and France somehow squeaked by with a non-zero score, so let’s turn our attention to your reason for Sunday. Yes, it’s time for This Week in Videogame Blogging!
In the Creases
On his personal blog, Ridiculous Fishing and Luftrausers developer Rami Ismail breaks down by numbers just how very biased toward English computer technology and the Internet actually is, and the implications this has on everything from communications to inclusivity in game development.
On Kill Screen, David Wolinsky wonders why there has been so little discussion of Letters from Incarcerated Gamers, a zine produced by Alejandro Quan-Madrid and Mare Odomo containing the unanswered letters of prison inmates to game magazine. More broadly, Wolinsky explores why incarcerated players are not something we tend to talk about.
At PCGamer, Emanuel Maiberg ventures into the sneaky, sordid, lucrative arms race of game cheats. And at Electro Bureau, Tony Sarkees gives us this stellar analysis of Square’s Legend of Mana, in particular one subplot of the game which Sarkees saw as mirroring his own experience as a gay youth:
[The Jumi people] are whispered of in dark corners, and some claim to even have seen them, but these reports are viewed with a skeptical eye. Many of the worlds’ citizens derogatorily refer to them as “dirt” due to their more mineral qualities. […]
It is revealed that not only are the Jumi living among us, but they are actively searching for each other to reassemble their fallen race. The Jumi have been searching the world in pairs for many years, balancing their need to blend in with their need to connect with others like them.
I could drag the comparison out, but it’s clear: the Jumi are closeted. But what drives a need for such furtiveness? In Legend of Mana, genocide.
On the subject of queer themes, Nintendo’s North American PR touched a raw nerve this week when it told the Associated Press it would not be including same-sex marriage into its upcoming life sim/toy Tomodachi Life, implying that to do so would be a “form of social commentary.”
In an opinion piece at Polygon, Samantha Allen blasted Nintendo’s remarks as “hatred, pure and simple.” Chuck Jordan of Spectre Collie feels differently, saying:
[F]rankly, I think calling it “hatred” is lazy. […] Nintendo’s initial statement comes from a place of more subtle and systematic prejudice. It’s like the aunt who insists on calling your boyfriend your “friend,” and who keeps trying to set you up with a nice girl.
At Gamasutra, my former colleague Christian Nutt shares his hands-on impressions of the game, obtained via his husband. He notes that to treat the game as a ‘sim’ is a mistake:
Tomodachi Life just isn’t intended the same way [as Animal Crossing]. It does not have that possibility space. You can’t even exert much control over it. To see it in action it is to immediately understand that.
At the same time, no matter how shallow, we expect our pop culture to reflect reality as it is, not as its producers envision it. Demanding that it does has long been a tool for social change.[…]
Funnily enough, what bothered me was not so much is the omission of same sex marriage, but the enforcement of heterosexual marriage: The idea that whether I wanted it to or not, my Mii — an image that has represented me since the Wii launched eight years ago — would marry a woman.
That, in some way, seemed to vacate my identity. Not just that: For a second, it almost seemed like it would eradicate my marriage, much more thoroughly than the impossibility of getting married to a male character would.
Halls of Learning
At Play the Past, Angela R Cox wraps up her four-part series on teaching games as classroom texts. And at Quarter to Three, the one and only Tom Chick lauds Imperialism II as a critical comment on empire and exploitation.
At The Escapist, Robert Rath breaks apart Vice and Activision’s new Call of Duty “documentary” on private military contractors (PMCs), which he argues distorts political and economic facts to suit the upcoming game’s fiction:
Here’s the worst part: I want [Activision] to make a good documentary about PMCs. You have the resources and connections to do it and it could be a great public education tool. The rise of military contractors is indeed an emerging trend, and brings many questions with it […]
I’m willing to bet that if you geared your documentary trailers toward information rather than exploitation, they’d prove just as popular force others to see you in a new light. You have the potential here to get lots of young people interested in global politics — why not take it?
Apart from hosting Call of Duty ads, Vice also serves as the latest platform for Jenn Frank, who returns with a tale of the heyday of college campus piracy and shareware procrastination that seems almost transcendent and mystical. And she’s talking about Snoods, for gossakes.
Space and Place
For his latest Patreon-funded piece, Stephen Beirne has produced a dense, satisfying analysis of worldbuilding in Demons Souls.
Meanwhile at Paste, Gita Jackson questions the apparent whitewashing of Ubisoft’s upcoming Watch_Dogs, which despite great attention being paid to the verisimilitude of its virtual Chicago, seems unconcerned with actually representing its citizenry.
Eurogamer’s Graeme Mason offers up an interesting retrospective on Computer Artworks’ 2002 adaptation of John Carpenter’s idiosyncratic The Thing.
World journo extraordinaire Cara Ellison has released her second embedded piece, heading to France to interview Escape from Woomera‘s Katharine Neil and Dishonored‘s Harvey Smith, two expat devs with incredibly storied histories.
And the Kitchen Sink
With the shuttering of Free Indie Games, James Patton has penned a loving eulogy for the site, and in particular what it meant as a community space in a growing independent scene:
These games were not about pushing out a finished product ready to sell, which preoccupies a lot of indie dev culture at present. They were about playfulness, exploration, a breathless desire to just throw some assets together and make something real. These games were working on the frontier, going to strange, unexplored places and unlocking our ideas about games and our potential to make them in unexpected ways.
At Videogame Tourism, Eron Rauch continues his series of (English-language) essays by asking what does the current wave of indie and art games have to do with the art scene of 19th century Paris? Quite a lot, it turns out:
You see, most people would like to think that if they were alive in Paris in 1874, they would have been cheering on the Impressionists’ effervescent break with tradition, been one of their champions, and slugged down wine in the courtyard bars as they argued the finer points of their work. But that is a fantasy. Most of us would have been just like everyone else in Paris and lined up to go see the grand history paintings and voluptuously rendered Venuses in the massively anticipated yearly art show at the Louvre.[…]
What other people have a massive interest in pushing the edge on smoke and light effects in three dimensional spaces? What other group of producers strive to hide the made-ness of the object behind shine, polish, slickness, lens-flare and even literally has options you can check in the menu to turn on “full screen glow”? Who else holds suspension of disbelief and immersiveness as their highest goals?
And back with Eurogamer, Tony Coles poses: is Solitaire the first roguelike?
At Gamasutra, Mike Rose has the story of how the unusual party game compilation Sportsfriends came to be.
Indies are also on the minds of the fine people over at Not Your Mama’s Gamer, who in their most recent podcast interview Dominique Pamplemousse developer Deirdra Kiai.
Past Critical Distance contributor Zolani Stewart has posted the latest installment of his “Let’s Crit” Critical Let’s Play of Perfect Dark. And at The Border House, Samantha Allen interviews veteran games journalist and musician Maddy Myers on her recently released Metroid-inspired EP, “Peace in Space.”
Last Call, Last Call
Thanks for reading! If you have a link to an article, video, podcast or other piece you think would do well in This Week in Videogame Blogging, please send it in to us by email or by mentioning us on Twitter!
A bit of signal-boosting: Good Games Writing has announced its second Pitch Jam, which is a fun way for writers to engage with seasoned editors to get feedback on their work. You may want to check it out!
Did you know? Critical Distance is entirely funded by readers like you. And unfortunately, we also recently lost our biggest patron. So if you enjoy what you see here and want to support us (in this and perhaps our future infiltration of the Eurovision Song Contest), please head over to our Patreon and sign up for a small monthly donation!