This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Mark Filipowich on topics ranging from tips for new game masters to why game jams are important for bringing new perspectives into the industry.
On Remeshed, Mariko McDonald argues that game jams are important in resolving the problems of representation in game development: “Game making, especially independent game making, can be a very isolating experience, but local jams encourage collaboration and force developers out of their comfort zones.”
Over at ZEAL, Austin Howe describes Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter as a JRPG that mechanically mimics poverty. It’s a nuanced argument with too many juicy quotes to pick just one, so I’ll leave it to you to check out on your own.
Nelson, founder and editor at Videogames and The Bible discusses Republique as a more effective dystopia than the supposedly “Mature” rated games that lean on explicit imagery:
All I can tell for sure is that in my roughly 10 hours of play, I was more disturbed by suggestions of the dark goings on in the game’s world than by any of [Bioshock antagonist] Andrew Ryan’s tirades.
This may be a good time to bring up Invisible, Inc. which Jake Tucker believes is the ‘Best Strategy Game of 2015’ according to his article on Vice:
The reason Invisible, Inc. is the highest-placing strategy release on VICE Gaming's end-of-year round up, and my own personal game of the year, is that every single decision matters. Whether it's closing a door, upgrading an agent or leaving half my team behind in an enemy stronghold, either/or moments that seem trivial or incredibly important can both lead to significant consequences.
Dr. Nathan Altice contemplates why we consider “remakes” like Square’s of Final Fantasy VII creatively bereft when covers, adaptations and updates are regular aspects of most media landscapes:
Homage, quotation, cash-in, revision—it doesn’t matter. The structural, cultural, and economic reality of the newer installment is that it is made by a wholly different assemblage of individuals filtered through a wholly different assemblage of contexts, influences, and expectations.
Finally, tabletop Game Master, Sarah Porzelt writes some advice for new GMs on Fem Hype. Specifically, Porzelt describes how she comes to understand the personality of the player-characters in her game and how she adjusts her campaign to those playing it:
I’ll admit it: I’m new to the tabletop gaming community, and very new to gamemastering, but I know fiction, by gum, and as a compelling writer and a determined thinker, I want to walk you through the use of personality to develop your games. A little knowledge in this area will make you a better storyteller, and better at creating challenges that complement the unique preferences each of your players bring to the table.
I think that will just about do it. Critical Distance remains a community project that keeps moving forward with the help of its readers. If you happen across a piece of games writing you’d like us to feature, give us a heads up either on Twitter or by email.
Lastly, if you’d like to keep our staff and projects funded, consider offering a monthly donation by Patreon or Recurrency or a one-time donation by Paypal. I wish all the best to everyone in the coming holiday weeks and a very happy New Year to come.