This week in video game criticism: From door design to Skyrim geology
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Katie Williams on topics including door design, Skyrim geology, nostalgia in the BioShock series, and more.
March 04, 2013
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Katie Williams on topics including Dead Space door design, Skyrim geology, nostalgia in the BioShock series, and more.
It's a party in here! We here at Critical Distance are filling the halls with cheerily-coloured, but still very meaningful balloons in celebration of Women's History Month. I am Katie, here to deliver the first of March's This Week in Videogame Blogging round-ups curated by CD's women editors. Lots of tasty stuff here this week, friends, so let's toss a few streamers and get the funtimes started.
It's very good that games can give us feels and all that fun stuff, but besides the ability to make us cry, you know what else videogames explore? MONEY! And, okay, the possible feels associated with it. That's what Chris Dahlen's looking at over at Unwinnable, with his analysis of Cart Life both as a retail simulator and a sadface-inducing story of people down on their luck:
While Cart Life has been tagged a “political game,” it doesn't deliver a simple critique. After all, you're not just a struggling member of the underclass; you're also a budding capitalist. The crushing anxiety of the first half of the game turns into relief, satisfaction and even pride once you finally get your stand going and start to bring in some money.
Also at Unwinnable, Stu Horvath once again exercises that muscle of his that endlessly impresses me with its application of non-videogame knowledge to, well, videogames, with a comparison of Dunsany's asymmetrical variant of chess to the way today's gamers still can't fight that urge to tinker with the ruleset here and there. “When children play amongst themselves, the rules of play are malleable,” says Horvath. “Changing the rules – seeing just how much one can get away with before exhausting the patience of the group – becomes the game more than the game itself.”
At Kotaku, Evan Narcisse and David Brothers ping-pong to each other a series of letters that explores “why we need more black people making games.” I mean, we know this already; hell, even the devs know it, if the developer quotes that Narcisse reveals are anything to go by. “One day someone’ll realize that there’s an opportunity here,” Narcisse says, “just like they did with hip-hop, hood movies, blaxploitation, and more besides, and then it’s gonna be on and popping.”
Over at Pop Matters' Moving Pixels blog, my brother in the art of Williamsing, G. Christopher Williams, has a really cool take on those people who are all, “Dude, relax, it's just a game.”
But I do worry about you guys, sometimes. You do know that all those pixels on a screen mean something, represent something, communicate something, right? You do know that the flickering images on a screen make you feel something, make you laugh, make you cry because, you know, they're familiar, not real, but they remind you of real circumstances, real moments of joy, real moments of tragedy?
Meanwhile, Williams' brother in the art of pixel-moving, Nick Dinicola, also has something weighty to say. About doors. Never let it be said again that the doors of Dead Space 3 are not a big deal, because they're significant constructs in the building of the entire world, man.
Timely right now, especially with BioShock: Infinite's ever-nearing release, is Kaitlin Tremblay's thoughts on the use of nostalgia in the BioShock series:
When talking about BioShock, Levine stated that the game acted as a Rorscarch for people (one that usually ended up in negativity, infuriating gamers who chose to engage with it on that level), and this is exactly how nostalgia is operating: it's letting us, as players and as an audience, look at the game (the mechanics, the setting) and project our own political discourse onto it.
And while we're on the topic of BioShock Infinite (as well as in the midst of Women's History Month!), our German-language correspondent this month suggests Marcus Dittmar's article on the representation of women in videogames for 99 Leben, starting with what I feel is a rather problematic developer quote on the visual design of the character Elizabeth:
“Originally we had a very different outfit for her, and it was a little bit more true to the period. And I thought, ‘a user is going to look at this and be like, why the hell would I want to hang around with her?' She wasn't attractive at all. Revisiting that to keep it true to the time, but also so it has a little bit of appeal to the modern eye.”
At Gamasutra, Vlambeer's Rami Ismail has a thoughtful, well-constructed piece on the place of academia and games studies in games development, as well as the press' misconception's about his stance on the subject. As a former games student who once felt like she was “doing it wrong” in both the academic and the technical side of things, like a helpless spider whose legs are pulled in opposite directions… Rami, I know that feel, bro.
Also at Gamasutra, Mike Rose wonders if we can address the free-to-play model's problems via a game jam: “An avenue by which inspirational and creative individuals can attempt to tackle the free-to-play space, and hopefully show the average gamer how free-to-play can universally be done in a respectful and entertaining way.”
And, finally, we end with some of the nerdy videogame-to-real-world comparison stuff I just can't get enough of: trained geologist Jane Robb, writing for Gamespot, investigates the accuracy of Skyrim's geology, and whether it's up to a standard that might allow for its use in educational training.
And now it's time for me to kick y'all out so I can get to work on the cleaning the place up. Sigh. But don't take this to mean the party's over: Women's History Month has only just begun, and as usual, we'll be fielding all your recommendations on Twitter or via email. And while you're at it, check out Alan's excellent new BoRT topic, too. See you next week!
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