[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics including the why Portal 2's music excels, and video games in The Erotic Engine.]
Dan Bruno at Cruise Elroy analyses the music and sound of Portal 2. I think every man, woman and child has pointed out how great the music and sound design is in this game, but Bruno elaborates succinctly as to why.
The BIG news this week, in case you somehow escape hearing it, is that Brandon Sheffield and Co. are relaunching the allegedly awesome Insert Credit blog that has lain dormant recently. The relaunch is kicked off with a manifesto in seven parts, and here's Sheffield:
"The fact is, writing about games is depressing in all new ways. And guess whose fault it is? It's mine. It's my fault. Ours, really. That sounds self deprecating, but it's actually kind of arrogant, and it's not even totally untrue. Games writing is now way too personal. It's too casual. Too many writers inserting too much of themselves in ways that nobody in their right minds cares about. Too many armchair journalists speaking as though their word is gospel."
"The effect of being immersed in a video game is qualitatively different from any medium in which the consumer is just a spectator. You don't feel as though you're pushing a button on a controller-you feel like you're blowing up a tank. Translate that into sexuality, particularly acting out sexual fantasies, and you are playing with a power that few companies have been willing or able to harness. Although the explicitly erotic video game sector remains relatively small, it is still a driving force in the field."
And as it turns out, making porn games is a lot like making regular games:
"We spend a lot of time on, I don't know what to call it, some kind of boob physics or whatever you want to call it," Abrams said with a laugh. "I have no idea what would be a great name for it, but basically our boobs bounce. There are so many little details that we go into to create a little bit of life in a character which are typically ignored most times in other games."
"In gaming, the camera's gaze and the characters' get tangled together, because we aren't just viewers, but players. We take on the role of someone in the story, and the camera serves as our eyes. Male characters tend to be the point-of-view characters, even in a third-person game. We watch what interests them. Miranda's deliberately putting herself on display for Shepard. This makes the moment of male gaze particularly jump out if you're playing a female Shepard, as then the on-screen dynamics feel misplaced, rather than feeling like a default."
"Video games tend to be an insular, thematically slight medium in which much of the meaning that is explicit often refers back to other games themselves (I'm still looking at you Braid). Whoever observed that there are more books written about other books than any other topic would have something to say about the nostalgia binge of the last five years. In this light, it's exciting to hear about an atmospheric, thematically ambitious game that not only takes on the typical, if excellent, triumvirate of nostalgia, coming of age and fantasy, but does so with a clear consciousness of weightier issues, namely global poverty and the harm it wreaks on families."
"As a devotee of noir fiction and a long-time admirer of both James Ellroy's LA Quartet and Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential (1997), I was more than looking forward to Team Bondi's attempt to recreate 1950s Los Angeles using the Grand Theft Auto sandbox template. However, as soon as Ken Cosgrove was shoved into an interview room with a suspect and told to extract a confession, I knew that something was desperately wrong – not just with L.A. Noire, but with video games as a whole. After decades of investment in realistic graphics and physics engines, modern video games can perfectly recreate what it is like to shoot someone in the face… but ask them to recreate a believable conversation between two humans and they are at a complete loss. What we need is a revolution in the way that games portray social interaction."
Remember Split Screen's metacritic breakdown of scores? Well this week Craig Wilson is back with some pretty word-clouds of game names.
'Designing Better Levels Through Human Survival Instincts' is a post on the Gamasutra members blog by Christopher W. Totten, and it's got lots of great pictures to illustrate it's points.
And lastly, at The Mary Sue, Becky Chambers is 'Looking For A Few Good Chells: Why Player Character Gender Matters', which is something I hope our readers don't need convincing of since I know you're all such a clever and informed bunch, but we can always do with a reminder.
Thanks muchly to everyone who sent in recommendations this week – I couldn't do what I do without you, particularly in the hectic weeks like this one. And as always, you can send in any recommendations of great games writing, blogging, or criticism via Twitter or email.
[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics including the dark side of Neptune's Pride, Native Americans in video games, and more.]