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This Week in Video Game Blogging: From the Spore-like hype of No Man's Sky to the communicative level design of Phantasy Star II

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Mark Filipowich on topics ranging from how No Man's Sky has been anticipated in the press to level design as storytelling in Phantasy Star II.

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Mark Filipowich on topics ranging from parallels between how Spore's and No Man's Sky's have been anticipated in the press to level design as storytelling in Phantasy Star II.

Shocking Bios

Gadgette’s gamer-in-chief, Emma Boyle, asks why feminine clothing is so polarised in games, using Bioshock Infinite as the prime example of how feminine sexuality is either neutral or monstrous with no compromise:

A fear of female sexuality runs throughout Bioshock Infinite; Elizabeth’s first outfit infantilises her; she’s locked away from the public who think of her as nothing more than a holy infant; her powers (which are supposed to reach their height after her first period) are seen as frightening. It’s significant, therefore, that after she kills, as she becomes a character who acts through violence, a cold self-assured woman determined to get revenge and exercise the full extent of her powers unrestricted, she changes into a more sexualised outfit. The game really seems to tie female sexuality and female power together. Elizabeth’s outfit is feminine throughout the game, but the femininity is used to either highlight her as harmless or a dangerous threat.

Chris Suellentrop of Kotaku looks back at articles from 2006 anticipating Spore and compares the hype to articles on No Man’s Sky that promise a similar intellectual revolution.

Instead of transforming the human race’s understanding of itself, or even our understanding of video games, Spore became the last game—at the moment, at least—that Will Wright ever designed. Alongside Howard Scott Warshaw’s E.T.Spore became a punchline, a game remembered only for being a letdown.

Konstantinos Dimopoulos on Gamasutra goes over the design notes for Kyttaro, the RPG he and a small team had been developing for over a year and will probably never be able to finish.

Dietrich "Squinky" Squinkifer’s published talk from Indiecade 2015 illustrates how developing a game is ultimately for the people who it will speak to:

Like I said earlier, I make games for people, but making games for people doesn’t mean only giving them what they want. It means challenging them. It means expanding their idea of what a game can be. And not everyone’s going to understand, but some people will. And those people make it all worthwhile.

Brian Crimmins at First-Person Scholar takes a look at Phantasy Star II’s dungeon and town layouts as narrative devices:

…when we analyze the game’s dungeon design, we see a series of shifts according to the narrative’s demands. These shifts complement the narrative, exploring new facets of the game’s themes and suggesting new developments where the narrative remains silent.

I wonder if Robert What would agree that videogame architecture is more about the expression of culture than a reflection of reality. His response to Deanna Van Buren’s piece on digital architecture from earlier this month suggests that he wants more games to appreciate the ideology that builds our buildings even before the blueprints are drawn:

Perhaps from a professional architect’s viewpoint games may not be up to Standard™, but then some people also wonder what role architects and their glittering technological visions have in the actual construction of edifices to modern hyper-capital

Writing for FemHype, the writer known as Nightmare describes how the pacifist possibilities in Undertale make it such an inviting game, especially for the LGBT+ community.

Kill Screen’s Jess Joho is sceptical of the tech demo for Detroit: Become Human. Like many works with developer David Cage’s signature on it, Detroit seems as though its best ideas are lost in the game’s overall thematic clumsiness:

In the trailer to Detroit: Become Human, a half-assed allusion to slavery is attempted instead—I think? (I hope not, but I think so.) With the title's uncomfortable juxtaposition of Detroit—a city known for its history of race riots and current race-related drug, education, and housing problems—and the tagline "Become Human," coupled with the heavily implied metaphor to slavery, Quantic Dreams appear to be drawing unavoidable parallels.

Vincent Kinian writes on his blog, Game Exhibition, that more games need to explore “the minutia of ordinary life.” Kinian comes to this conclusion based on a review of Ihatovo Monogatari, a SNES adaptation of Kenji Miyazawa’s short stories.

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