This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Eric Swain on topics including the psychology of Steam sales and why Aliens makes for such poor video game enemies.
Jamie Madigan of The Psychology of Video Games throws open the curtains and details how the Steam summer sale is designed to prod your brain.
Game Criticism Meta Commentary
The response to Warren Spector continues.
Brendan Keogh expresses dismay at seeing yet another article wondering where the game criticism is with little to no actual research done on the matter. Daniel Joseph takes Brendan's post and then asks the next question of how people are defining legitimacy of a medium in the first place. Maddy Myers doesn't respond directly, but instead talks about video game criticism as a niche of a niche and what it means to have actually made it. Finally John Teti of Gameological pretty much has the last word on "where is our Roger Ebert" with Chasing The Dragon.
Meanwhile, Aevee Bee of Mammon Machine looks at critic's approach to craft and form in their criticism and their general ignorance of it. It's not what the game is about, but how it is about it.
The Last of Us
The game that keeps on giving.
Jorge Albor over on PopMatter discusses others games as well in looking at how fatherhood is portrayed in several big releases of the last few years. Greg looks along similar lines about how The Last of Us asks us how far we will go to protect a daughter and what that concept could mean in the real world.
Nick Dinicola looks at the character of Joel in a description of him as an awful human being in a cruel world.
Javy Gwaltney looks at "The Horror of Absence in The Last of Us" over at Medium Difficulty. And Joseph Berida explains why he loves Ellie more than Bioshock Infiinite's Elizabeth at Kambyero.
The -isms of Gaming
Nothing more to say, is there?
Evan Narcisse of Kotaku looks at the prospect of Assassin Creed 4 on Haiti, how it will figure slavery into the narrative and his own complex reaction of the situation saying:
I might be traipsing around an Island where some Frenchman with my last name owns someone who looks like my father. And that might make me wince a little.
Dr. B of Not Your Mama's Gamer in light of the events this week with Trayvon Martin and looks back on 3 years of her writing and career and what it means to be a black woman in the field of video games.
Jon Shafer looks to Ethics in Game Design and what small choices in games compound into larger ideas in our mind with regards to sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia etc.
And then F.M. Hamilton describes The Sims 2 as The Imaginary Country where there is no racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia or anything else. You can be whoever you want and achieve whatever you want and the game is the perfect escape from "real life."
Jesper Juul published an except from his recently released book The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games at Salon:
This paradox of failure is parallel to the paradox of why we consume tragic theater, novels, or cinema even though they make us feel sadness, fear, or even disgust. If these at first do not sound like actual paradoxes, it is simply because we are so used to their existence that we sometimes forget that they are paradoxes at all. The shared conundrum is that we generally try to avoid the unpleasant emotions that we get from hearing about a sad event, or from failing at a task. Yet we actively seek out these emotions in stories, art, and games.
Alex Duncan on his blog The Animist for his second post, look at the treatment of death in two popular indie platformers -- Braid and Limbo -- how they use it and how it related to the form's benchmark Mario.
Sebastian Standke reviewed the latest academic take on games, Stephan Gunzel's Egoshooter: Das Raumbild des Computerspiels (roughly: perspective in videogames), and remains critical of its dramatic assumptions and conclusions.
And Magnus Hildebrandt follows up on his guide to part 1 of Kentucky Route Zero with a thorough exploration of part 2 and its architectural, academic and philosophical references. Translation pending.
And the rest...
Here on Critical Isle --
Sam Barsanti of Gamelogical looks at the much derided final act of the original Bioshock and says that it instead of a mistake in fact drives home one of the game's most important themes, that of choice or the lack of one.
Mark Flipowich on PopMatters notes the banner over the hall in the beginning of Bioshock - "No Gods or Kings, only Man" - and how it is reflective of video games as a whole with regards to how they treat religion.
Joel Goodwin, proprietor of Electron Dance, wrote "an incomprehensible essay about Ted Lauterbach's complex and surreal puzzle-platformer suteF." He takes the circuitous and broken nature of the game and turns it into a half description half expose on the game.
Steven Poole explains why Aliens of the Xenomorph variety make for bad video game enemies.
And the Border House continues its series of female dev interview with the interactive fiction auteur Emily Short.
There's Ben Kuchera at the Penny Arcade Report who says certain assholes are great, because of the art they make, which I include for the sole purpose of Rob's response, which is the response everyone wishes they had written first.
That's all for this week. Please submit any recommendations you might have to our twitter and email.