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This Week In Video Game Criticism: From GoW3 Genocide To Cow Clicker

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics including genocide in Gears of War 3, the death of Cow Clicker, and more.

Ben Abraham, Blogger

October 11, 2011

6 Min Read

[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham on topics including genocide in Gears of War 3, the death of Cow Clicker, and more.] Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another installment of This Week In Video Game Criticism. We've got some cool pieces this week, so let's jump in the deep end. At the Vorpal Bunny Ranch blog, Denis Farr has been playing the first Metal Gear Solid for the first time. Here's what has to say about the bosses, in particular:

"…it felt like I was entering a Western, ready to engage in a duel. Considering each of these bosses was a personality unto his or herself, it really felt like a clash of personalities in which you were able to know your opponent. Raven's stature along with spirituality made for a curious blend when he was using these very man-made weapons to try and kill you. Sniper Wolf's expertise with her weapon of choice led a calm sense of superiority which was only confirmed in the cutscenes. Psycho Mantis was perhaps the most unique fight, and seemed the most psychotic of your opponents; in order to defeat him easily, you have to actually physically change the way you input your controls."

Richard Dillio at The Gwumps blog, writing about Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, says that "Gamers Can't Handle the Imperium":

"I asked a friend the other day how he would classify the political structure of the Imperium of Man. He responded with Theocratic Feudalism*, which I think is a great start. I also think there is a strong streak of dictatorial control in the Imperium (theocracies and dictatorships are different, so this isn't redundant) and when fully realized, we could call the imperium a Theocratic Feudalist Dictatorship. I'm not just splitting nerd-hairs, here, because this background has a profound effect on how you would create a game – especially a role playing game, a game that demands the player invest in an imaginary character."

At the Magical Wasteland blog, Matthew Burns tells a story involving the incongruous appearance of an AD&D character sheet, a shared crush on a girl, and a long school trip – 'In the realm of the dragons'. Poignant. As a Berlin-based game designer, Anjin Anhut of the How To Not Suck At Game Design blog found the ending to Gears of War 3 uncomfortable, and he spells out similarities to the kind of language used by Nazis in the Second World War in his post 'Gears of War 3 and Genocide':

"…as it turns out, launching a super holocaust to solve the Locust problem, worse and more thorough than anything the Nazis were capable of, is the celebrated victory you achieve when beating the final boss of Gears Of War 3."

And at the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog, Scott Juster also writes about the game in 'Gears of War 3: A Triumphant Past, a Familiar Present, and an Uncertain Future'. Sarah Elmaleh writing for GamerMelodico reflects on the recent Hurricane Irene that hit the US East Coast and the contrast of: 'Hurricane Heroism vs Videogame Heroism':

"Videogames, as you enlightened people know, can be mirrors to our deeper selves. They highlight the disparity between who we are in reality and who we are—or wish to be—when the stakes are imagined. They are rehearsal, and rehearsal can have a crucial impact on how you respond during a "real event." Granted, the type of rehearsal that proves effective in real life is more likely to be safety drills than videogames."

Leigh Alexander at Kotaku regales her readers with the story of Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker Cowpocalypse and 'The Life Changing $20 rightward facing cow':

"The past year has been one of the strangest ever in the life of game designer, lecturer and author Ian Bogost. It started with the launch of the most successful game he's ever developed, and ended with him bringing it to a strange, cathartic end."

And game designer Frank Lantz blogs at Game Design Advance his own take on the satirical game and the journey it has undertaken. And if that's not enough Cow Clicker for you, the Playable Character podcast recently finished up its first season, so why not take a look back at episode 6's interview with Ian Bogost in which he talks about the Cow Clicker journey with a lot of heart and feeling. This is one of my favorite interviews they've conducted – great stuff. At the Lost Garden blog Dan Cook has a huge post on the tuning he's doing to the Facebook game Triple Town and how changing visual elements has changed dramatically player responses to certain NPC bears, as well as a lot of other good stuff! Jonathan McCalmont at the RuthlessCulture blog has a good piece this week riffing off Tim Rogers 'Who Killed Videogames (A Ghost Story)', in which McCalmont asks 'Why Does It Matter That Game Designers Are Evil?':

"If evil game designers means better games then I shall be the first to fall to my knees and praise the Dark Ones for they are truly the source of our deliverance from a world both boringly cruel and cruelly boring. Evil is not the death of games design… it is its logical end point."

Michael Clarkson at the LudoNarratology blog wrote this week on 'Human Revolution's giant hole' and the poor ending to the game. Meanwhile, Thomas Wilburn at the Mile Zero blog who, in the words Clarkson uses to describe the post, "thinks Human Revolution is the fairest Deus Ex of all, but…he [also] thought it ended poorly." For what it's worth, I turned my apathy for the ending into a murderous rejection wherein I killed everyone I could, "good" or "bad". Hmm! Eric Schwarrz of Critical Missive has a 'Belated Design Analysis' of Portal 2. Better late than never. So what does he think?

"I won't lie – there aren't too many things to complain about in this game. Still, however eager a critic I am, and however difficult it is for me to be nice, sometimes one can learn just as much from things that are done well as from things which are done poorly."

That's nice then. It's always good when we can get along. Speaking of nice things – at McSweeney's, Wil Buchanan writes about a couple of levels of Call of Duty: Postmodern Warfare. Stunning. And lastly in this slightly shorter-than-usual entry, Tom Auxier at Nightmare Mode writes about his 'Radical Gaming Blues' in response to some musings by Tadhg Kelly at the What Games Are blog, which wonders if games can be radical art. That'll do it, I think. As per always, you can send in good reads during the week via a tweet or via email. These are our bread and butter, as no one person could possibly hope to stay on top of everything, so please do send in recommendations when you read something good. Please, if you read something interesting, tweet it to @critdistance or email the link to us at our email.

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