It’s beginning to feel a lot like October, and you know what that means: IndieCade and Halloween are right around the corner, and then we have a whole boring month before the ceaseless ‘end of the year’ retrospectives which populate December.
Are you ready? I’m ready. Bring it on. And while you’re at it, bring on This Week in Videogame Blogging!
This Funny Thing Called Curation
At Gamasutra, Alex Handy has a look back at the Oakland, California-based Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE), which celebrates its fifth anniversary today. Meanwhile, at Paste, Javy Gwaltney pays tribute to Newgrounds, the turn-of-the-century flash games and animation portal which became one of the first mainstream ‘open platforms’ for independent games on the web.
Next, a couple interesting game collections for you. At her own site, Line Hollis shares her latest ‘MIXTAPE’ feature curating several lesser-known games around a theme — in this case, games which break the fourth wall. And the Group Show tumblr rounds up a collection of games (some unexpected) which, in the blog’s own words, “try to translate our understanding of the natural to the technological word.”
At International Hobo, author and educator Chris Bateman has a look at what’s changed from the heyday of the forty hour benchmark of a game’s ‘replayability’:
The big money is no longer out to hold a player’s attention for forty hours, but to hold a player’s attention long enough to get the next game out, or to hold on to groups of players in the hope to pull in a few big spenders, or to hold the player’s attention throughout the year with events crafted to maintain appeal and bring back those who are slipping away into other games. Hobby players — those who commit to a game service over the long term — often play other games on the side, which is a tiny crumb of good news for indies making smaller games. Indeed, at the bottom of the market, there are perhaps greater opportunities for those who make games than ever before, but the lower market is competing for the scraps left over from the gorging behemoths above them, like crabs scuttling about for the tiny morsels that fall to the seabed after the giant sharks have fed.
At Playboy, Jake Muncy looks back on the critically-panned The Order: 1886 and attempts to salvage one of its few redeeming features:
There’s something conspicuously like an idea there, shining through the rest of the game’s mediocrity, and it’s worthy of excavation and defense. It concerns the way we pace blockbuster, action-packed media, games and film alike, and it suggests that maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to hit the brakes now and then.
At Kill Screen, Chris Priestman interviews Matthew Sisson on translating the fast-paced mobile party game Spaceteam into a workable card game. And at Eurogamer, Rich Stanton reflects that Simogo’s Year Walk, a game about visions of the future, perfectly suits the forward-looking but ‘cursed’ Wii U console, onto which the game has just been released.
Also, if you haven’t been following David H. Schroeder’s developer “memoirs” from the 1970s and 1980s, now is a good time to get caught up. This links to the latest entry, Part 2, with a link to Part 1 available in the post.
The SAG-AFTRA Strike
You may have heard murmurs this week about videogame voice actors potentially striking over issues of compensation and workplace safety. Game Informer’s Mike Futter does a serviceable job of breaking down the issues at hand, which, if nothing else, speak to industry-wide unfair conditions, above-the-line talent and below-the-line developers alike.
One of those above-the-line talents, Wil Wheaton, has taken to his blog to share his own take, as a voice actor who voted in favor of a strike. Worth particular attention are his comments on safety conditions during motion capture:
It can be dangerous work, especially when there are fights involved, so when we work in live action film or television, there is always a trained, qualified, professional stunt coordinator on set to ensure that nothing goes wrong and nobody gets hurt. The performers who work in those scenes [in game motion capture] should be afforded the same protection we get when we’re on a traditional film or television set.
How We Relate to Games
As part of Ontological Geek’s mental health month, therapist Kim Shashoua shares a couple of experiences where videogames became an essential tool for reaching young people in group therapy:
This borders on tautology, but for something to be meaningful to someone, it has to be relevant to them. The problem with most failed cookie-cutter presentations is that kids are told what matters to them. For groups to really work, they can be guided by a therapist, but they have to be led by kids.
Instead of tearing up the floorboards and replacing all of our current analogies with gaming references, I suggest that we recognise video games as a font for cases where kids have already encountered (and often triumphed over) real-world issues. Mario Kart wasn’t just a thing that those kids knew — it was a place where they felt anger and betrayal. It confronted them with the fact that their friends don’t always support them. For those kids, a reference to Mario Kart was an acknowledgement of these complex experiences.
And in the latest Unwinnable Weekly, Reid McCarter and Jed Pressgrove share an excellent letter series exploring how The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture engages with the spiritual motif present in the title. I couldn’t hope to pullquote this one effectively, so I encourage you to pick up the issue for yourselves. It’s a good one, folks.
And lastly, back with Playboy, Jake Tucker praises the “primitive” first-person shooter Intruder for lending the genre an uncommon sense of (for lack of a better term) realism:
[C]ombat is a brutal, clumsy thing, defined by the terrible physicality of your characters; jumping up onto a railing will often lead to you slipping and falling to your death, while running around a corner can lead to you falling over and sliding across the floor. Explosives and bullets will, in addition to doing damage, knock you to the ground. It’s the first shooter I’ve played that’s managed to make me feel like the fleshy useless lump that I am.
War Has Changed, War Never Changes
Thank you for reading! As always we greatly value your submissions through email and Twitter, so please keep sending them in!
You have a little bit of time to submit for September’s Blogs of the Round Table (theme: “Maps”) and This Month in Let’s Plays as well.
Some signal-boosting: Kill Screen is looking for international writers in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, India and Japan. If this is you, consider checking them out!
And while I can’t say anything about it yet, we have an exciting announcement for you all on Monday! Stay tuned!
Critical Distance is proud to be funded entirely by its readership! If you like what you see and want to help fund our exciting roster of features, consider pledging a small monthly donation via Patreon! Those who donate a little more get a special thank-you from my cat each month, and no, I’m not kidding.