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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From violence to the Holy Grail of game design

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including meaningful game violence and a 'Holy Grail' for game design.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including marketplace discoverability, meaningful game violence and a 'Holy Grail' for game design. We Attack Digipen at Dawn! (Context.) On Game Girl Advance, bibliophile Jane proposes one solution to the discoverability problem. Elsewhere, on Psychology of Video Games, Jamie Madigan draws upon an interesting 1950s study which may reinforce the idea that players are more likely to enjoy games based on their cost. On Frictional Games' official dev blog, Thomas Grip shares some wonderful core principles for interactive storytelling. Meanwhile, on Pixels or Death, Tom Auxier looks to how Shin Megami Tensei IV shortens its encounters to suit handheld. And on Plus 10 Damage, David Russell Gutsche draws an interesting comparison between the state of competition-as-entertainment in modern media and in T.H. White's depictions of King Arthur -- and calls for games to, likewise, go on a quest for some Holy Grail. On Ontological Geek, the writers sound off on boss battles -- the purpose they serve, and favorite examples thereof. Via Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Keith Judge pens his confessions of a failed indie developer. Finally, this wrenching post by coder David Brady has been getting a lot of attention this past week: on the foolishness of being loyal to corporations, especially your employers. Design Notes Xander Kish writes about Kane and Lynch 2 as an anti-shooter and a forerunner of Spec Ops: The Line. Videogame narratives rely too much on the Christ archetype for their protagonists, Richard Clark writes on Christ and Pop Culture. He offers one possible solution to this problem. Following on this deep analysis of the first Mother on Nightmare Mode, Goblet Grotto co-developer Kat Chastain lays out an excellent thematic reading of Mother 2 (Earthbound) and Mother 3. On PopMatters, G. Christopher Williams discusses Rogue Legacy and the so-called "irony" of playing a game about generational succession in the midst of the current social climate of aging Baby Boomers. Two interesting articles come via Play the Past this week. The first from David R. Hussey discusses how video informed our understanding of the Gulf War -- and in turn how that understanding fed into contemporary videogames. The second, from Zach Whalen, takes a magnifying glass to some of the implicit storytelling in the original BioShock. Mike Joffe pens an interesting essay on the "game" of kabuki theatre, as well as its counter-cultural origins as street performance art. Meanwhile, Sylvain L continues his series of academic-minded essays with a look to the digital image’s effect on our perception of time and space -- as it relates to both contemporary cinema and games. Peter Shafer questions why even in our advertising for games we linger on imagery of women being brutalized. Meanwhile, Leigh Harrison argues that we need to be more shocking with violence, not less -- we just need to use that violence "meaningfully." (Content warning: descriptions and depictions of strong violence in the previous two links.) Always Going Home Let's start out with this essay by Scott Nichols: on what constitutes a "spoiler" for Gone Home. Mike Mahardy has penned the obligatory Polygon longform concerning the game's development. Patrick Lindsey praises the use of "implicit narrative" through setting. Depression Quest lead Zoe Quinn writes enthusiastically about how she relates to the central characters. On the subject of Gone Home's minor characters, Caitlin Moore pens a short-but-sweet alternative reading of Oscar, the narrator's great-uncle. Elsewhere, Nich Maragos praises the portrayal of Daniel as avoiding Nice Guy Syndrome. Matthew Burns lauds the "radical realism" of Gone Home in its decision to eschew all fantastical trappings. Meanwhile, anna anthropy criticizes the characters' arc as too neat and the game's presentation as too convenient, and Maddy Myers contends that the game is anything but realistic -- a sentiment Todd Harper expresses as well. Speaking of Harper, he has a smart follow-up piece on one aspect in which he could relate a little more to the game: Gone Home's depiction of spirituality -- namely, how various peripheral characters seeking spiritual answers for life's troubles. Finally, on Gamers with Jobs, Sean Sands offers an interesting comparison between Gone Home and another "sibling game," Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Signal Boosting Ghosts in the Machine is a now out and a thing that you can purchase. This is a new anthology from a huge collection of well-regarded critics, journalists and artists, including Lana Polansky, Brendan Keogh, Maddy Myers and Alan Williamson. Speaking of ebooks, the latest issue of Zoya Street's free ezine Memory Insufficient, on the subject of histories of games hardware is also out. This issue features contributions from Darius Kazemi, L. Rhodes and Alan Williamson (again) (this guy gets around). Lastly, Brendan Keogh's and Dan Golding's critical longreads publishing label, Press Select, is now live! That's all for this week. Be sure to stop by this month's Blogs of the Round Table prompt and consider participating. Not even a week left! This time, we're running the current topic until the end of September. And as always, we welcome your submissions by mentioning us on Twitter and contacting us via our email submissions form. We got quite a few email submissions this week, and that's a trend we'd like to see continue! See you next week!

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