This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Xbone to queering Silent Hill

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the Xbox One, the queering of Silent Hill, and more.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the Xbox One as Entertainment Altar, the queering of Silent Hill, and more. AH, MEMORIES On Kambyero, Joseph Berida takes us through a retrospective on idiosyncratic JRPG outlier Vagrant Story. On Hit Self Destruct, Duncan Fyfe has a few words on the real hook of Roberta Williams's Mystery House:

Catharsis comes in Mystery House not when the mystery is solved but when you start attacking the house itself. Later in the game, you must pull furniture and masonry apart, let fires burn holes in the floor and smash down walls with a sledgehammer. You are not exploring the house at this point: you are violating it. And after all it's put you through, seeing this house destroyed is a welcome brutality.
DESIGN MATTERS Following on a previous post on the aesthetic influences of Silent Hill from gay artist Francis Bacon, GayGamer's Mitch Alexander wonders what a Silent Hill would look like with overtly queer themes. John Brindle turns up on promising new magazine Insert Quarterly with a few thoughts on how Candy Box is a casual game in a core gamer wrapper:

[W]hat Alexander calls the "charming minimalism" of Candy Box is actually a core gamer dog whistle; its ASCI art suggests Dwarf Fortress, not Bejewelled, and its wizards, moats, castles and Doctor Who vendor are unambiguous geek signals. For Clark, these signs serve to convey the idea that this is not Farmville – that it's designed for a narrow, web-savvy audience and "not some imagined 'mass market.'" Part of that image is the assumption that the game is satirising social games. "But it's not, really, in the substance of gameplay," says Clark; "it's re-appropriated those systems and put a different set of clothes on." As Keogh puts it: "It's a social game without cutesy graphics or a 'share to Facebook' button, so it’s okay to be seen playing it."
Outside our usual spheres of games blogging, Peter C Earle of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has an interesting analysis of the recent gold exploit in Diablo 3, as it parallels real-world examples of hyperinflation. And the second issue of the Memory Insufficient e-zine has gone live, with articles from Troy Goodfellow, John Harney, Maggie Greene and editor Zoya Street. Well worth the read. RELATIONAL OBJECTS Cha Holland has a striking essay up on Tale of Tales' Bientot l'ete. Content warning: discussion of suicide. On Eurogamer, here's this touching article from Simon Parkin on a conversation between the author and Ryan Green, co-developer of That Dragon, Cancer. Reacting to a piece last week from Daniel Joseph, Jeremy Antley serves up a bit of a history lesson on how games became a private activity:

[G]ames, with the birth of the modern period, achieve direct, actionable linkages to the production of truth, which also coincides with the rise of liberalistic practices of which capitalism is a part. As capital facilitates the mass production of games, themselves cultural artifacts, these forms of entertainment that were previously limited to the shared 'public' sphere become absorbed and encapsulated in 'private' spheres by the rise of a new type of cultural actor; the gamer. The gamer, in turn, sees in games a way to cultivate a utility and beauty, but only if the the uncultivated others, located in the 'public' sphere of activity, can be successfully distinguished from the die Wissenden (gamers). This is facilitated by a creation of the 'private' garden of games.
IT'S PRONOUNCED CROSSBONE So the Xbox One was unveiled last week. More than a few writers took a turn gnawing on this Xbone, in particular the reports circulating regarding its used game functionality, but also just, well... everything about it. Gamasutra's editor-at-large Leigh Alexander bolted out the gate early with this editorial on why the Xbox One is out of touch with reality:

We are tired of buying consumerist fantasies. This isn't revolutionary. This is arrested development, the last gasp of the console generation, dropping names and making obeisances to live actors and television and film personalities as if this were still a prior age's clutch backward for creative legitimacy. It is a movie-soundtracked prayer to stop time.
PopMatters Moving Pixels' Jorge Albor criticizes the industrial manufacturing of need the console represents. Meanwhile, Craig Bamford stresses that yes, there are political ramifications with the new machine. Lastly, on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, John Walker turns the criticism back on complacent players

The Xbox One, with all its creepy Kinect-spying, TV interaction weirdness for the seventeen people who still ever watch TV as it's broadcast, and dog-based shooters serves a useful purpose. It takes the industry's fervent ambition to prevent the natural, beautiful human desire to share to a clearer, more immediately offensive place. It highlights the freedom we've already given up. And perhaps it will shake us enough to start resisting at last.
That's all for this week! Join us next time for more of the best that the ludodecahedron has to offer!

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