This Week in Video Game Criticism: From cat collection to Metal Gear codec calls

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics ranging from the zen patience of Metal Gear Solid's codec calls to the feline indifference of mobile hit Neko Atsume.

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics ranging from the zen patience of Metal Gear Solid's codec calls to the feline indifference of mobile hit Neko Atsume.

Academic Rigor

Skepchick's Rebecca Watson parses the data (video) on a recently released study, which suggested that men who harass women in online games tend to be unskilled players. Watson's conclusion? It's a little more complicated than that, and could certainly benefit from a larger, more nuanced dataset.

Elsewhere, the newest issue of Game Studies has just been released. Choice picks: Nicholas Taylor, Chris Kampe and Kristina Bell tackle identification and The Walking Dead and Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone pokes at humor in classic LucasArts adventure games.

You're Tearing Me Apart, Lisa!

Here's a game genre we don't see much discussion on: real-life room escape games, and tips for designing your own. It's a simple concept open to a great deal of innovation and seems to be a burgeoning field, especially in China! As the article's author, Adam Clare, puts so succinctly: "Don't underestimate the determination of people to leave a room."

Elsewhere, however, Luke Pullen makes a case for why sometimes, staying put is the better option, rather than braving the nearest 'great outdoors':

It's all very well to speak disparagingly of escapism, with the (completely accurate) implication that there is a grand world out there to be explored if only you could put down the controller and confront your fears. But what happens when you feel that meatspace actively rejects you? When the physical environment is so relentlessly hostile -- physically, psychologically, economically -- falling into oneself is easy.

Not all games are attractive for their sublime vistas, however. The infamous hallway central to Konami's pulled P.T. demo game, for example, is memorable for other reasons -- enough that lone developer Farhan Qureshi went and remade it top-to-bottom in the Unity engine, in a bid to preserve its legacy.

And Errant Signal's Chris Franklin brings us full circle (hah) in this section, in his dissection of The Magic Circle (video). Here, Franklin has a look at The Magic Circle as being less "a game about games" and more "a game about game developers," and in particular how its thematic through-line of challenging designer constraints is undercut by the game's post-story 'build mode.'

Beyond 'Cool Japan'

George Weidman has put together an admirable analysis (video) attempting to iron out some of the confusion surrounding Shenmue 3's Kickstarter and the game's financial relationship with publisher/partner Sony. If your eyes start to glaze over halfway in... well, that's exactly Weidman's point: Shenmue 3's PR handling is an obtuse mess, he argues, a combination of underpreparedness, language awkwardness, and poor transparency.

At Kill Screen, Savannah Tanbusch explores why so few games are set within Japan's Meiji era, a period of Westernization and sociopolitical unrest. One upcoming game set in that period that Tanbusch highlights, and which I'm personally looking forward to: Dai Gyakuten Saiban, a prequel to the Ace Attorney series.

At Ludus Novus, Gregory Avery-Weir muses on how popular 'cat gathering sim' Neko Atsume is itself a little bit catlike:

[N]othing happens when you're paying attention to it. There's no juicy reward, no timers counting down. You have to close the app and return in order to see if cats have shown up. It doesn't even issue push notifications to let you know when something happens. You must remember the game and choose to check on it to see any progress [...] It's almost shocking how little the game pushes itself on you.

At Normally Rascal, Stephen Beirne pauses to reflect on the contemplative patience of Metal Gear Solid's codec calls:

If we want to be sensible we could say it's just a videogame thing. It could easily be like Dark Souls where the 'real' gameworld keeps ticking while we browse our menus, so players always stand the chance of being mobbed while they're trying on new shoes. That works well within the cosmology of Dark Souls and we accept it. Metal Gear Solid is quite un-Dark Souls cosmologically, however, so if we say everything freezes just so players don't fume when Snake gets gunned down during another bloody mandatory codec call, that's fine and grand. But since MGS is a romantic game, let's ourselves be romantic for a minute in considering what role the codec plays, what functions it fulfils, and what knowledge it imparts.

Relevant to the above, at Starts With a Fish, Rik Davnall ruminates on the etymology of the term "world" (literally: "age of man") and how certain games, Japanese and not, dilate time as part of their internal realities.

Lorem Ipsum

Looking for a great critical video series to crowdfund, one which is already producing factual, incisive work? Not Your Mama's Gamer's Invisibility Blues is in the final week of their project's Kickstarter, and they've just released a fantastic 'proof of concept' video on the type of analysis we can expect out of the series.

(I'm sure this section header is not referring to anything in particular.)

Last One Out, Get the Lights

Remember that you can always send in your own recommendations by email or by mentioning us on Twitter! And yes, you are welcome to submit your own work, or even better, the work of a colleague who might be too shy to do so themselves!

And finally, as always: Critical Distance is able to take the time to gather, curate and produce these features thanks to readers like you. If you enjoy what you see, consider contributing to our Patreon! We'd really appreciate it.

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