[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including Cooking Mama as performance art, how Skyrim is a place we inhabit, and more.]
Achoo! It's too cold for my liking over here. Let's warm up by the fire with a nice fresh supply of game criticism, theory and commentary. It's This Week in Video Game Criticism!
The man I usurped to get this gig, Ben Abraham, is back again this week with a compelling video essay in which he questions our fondness for the term immersion. This follows on a theme in recent weeks in respect to Jenova Chen's master thesis, and is also echoed in Tony Ventrice's feature on Gamasutra on flow in mobile media.
Also hailing from Gamasutra, Ara Shirinian investigates how we might use psychology to design intuitive graphical user interfaces. And Jorge Albor takes the subject to the dark side in ruminating on the use of psychology to develop alienating structures and creatures:
"[T]he same visceral reaction that we have to Giger's work or the synthetic/organic husks of Mass Effect 3 mirrors a reaction that future generations are intended to have when they meet the WIPP's warning markers. There is horror found in artificial yet unreadable architecture."
"If we want our games to provide us with real nourishment, I would argue that the last thing we need is last year's shooter wrapped in some awkward story about love and loss, or yet another indie platformer about the inevitability of mortality. We don't need superficially serious themes. We need new and interesting games which provide novel and challenging forms of play."
"There's a satisfaction in the rhythmic nature of the different tasks that have to be performed, and there's always the goal of pleasing Mama and besting your previous score. But there's also the abstract satisfaction of having created something, or the simulation of something, that someone else is going to consume. Like Tiravanija's curry, the gyoza or omelets that we make in Cooking Mama aren't composed for ourselves; they're created for the mystery person on the other side of the theoretical table, whomever we choose to fill that space with."
"Despite the impossibility of encountering another human being in Skyrim, its players all occupy the same imagined terrain through their shared experience. In this way, Skyrim does have that population of 10 million Dragonborn. Sure, we'll never come face to face in our different Skyrims, but I'll probably never come face to face with 99.9% of the rest of England's population either. That doesn't stop England being a nation. Our experience of any community is built from a mix of individual isolation and the impression of interpersonal links. In this way, Skyrim is a nation in its own right."