[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Eric Swain on topics including Melbourne's FreePlay conference, the first female StarCraft 2 pro player, death in gaming, and more.]
Apparently, our usual host Ben Abraham is off gallivanting at FreePlay conference in the wiles of Melbourne, Australia with other game critics and academics. So while he's getting panda with all of them, I'm taking over for a week.
Speaking of which, Ben sent me a piece by Ben Eltham at Crikey.com talking about Freeplay and how video games are an art form.
And two pieces we missed from last week. Martin Watts at Bits & Bytes Gaming writes "For the Love of Isometric RPGs" and a celebrity guest editorial by Amanda Lange at Tap Repeatedly entitled "How I Fell Into the Generation Gap."
Also from last week, Kirk Hamilton and Leigh Alexander are at it again. Writing letters back and forth talking about a classic game of old, one of them has played it before and the other is a noob. Last time they did Final Fantasy VII and this time, it's Deus Ex. And instead of Paste, the conversation is now at Kotaku. Part 1 and Part 2.
Troy Goodfellow, last week, finished all the writing on the nation characters, but this week he wraps it up with an Epilogue and the strategy focused podcast There Moves Ahead episode 130 with Rob Zachy. If you haven't been listening to this show, you should start.
Meanwhile, Joel Haddock of Spectacle Rock begins his own series as he begins his playthrough of the original post-apocalyptic RPG, Wasteland. He talks about his original experience with the game all the way back in 1991, his modern view of the character creator and finally his roleplaying as the Long Arm of the Law.
We keep saying that we don't link to reviews, but it seems every other week someone is doing their best to prove us wrong. Filipe Salgado reviews The Stanley Parable, a Half-Life 2 mod, for Kill Screen. And a little more on The Stanley Parable at PopMatters, Aaron Poppleton writes "Even Winning Feels Bad: Agency in 'The Stanley Parable'."
Gregory Weir on his blog Ludus Novus asks, "Why so few violent games?"
"In some ways, it's a historical aberration. If Gygax and Arneson had made some war-focused game instead of Counts and Courtship, or Will Crowther had decided to entertain his kids with his obscure caving hobby instead of an exploration of his childhood friendships, perhaps the focus of our games would be different. Doom wouldn't have been an oddball niche title if there were a hundred other games at the time about shooting aliens with guns."
Robert Yang says "It belongs in a museum!" with regards to video games. Then he wonders if they really do: not because of the art question, but because we are human and can't play normally in a public space like we can when experiencing something on our own.
Your Critic's K. Cox turns her eye on death in gaming looking at the particular connection the player has to the avatar with regards to their ultimate fate.
"Unlike Alyssa, I don't get stressed when my first person player character 'dies' in Portal. Her death is impermanent; the player's respawn is nearly instantaneous and the game replaces puts the avatar pretty much right back at the site of the player's failure. I no more stress out about launching myself into a turret (oops) than I do about laying a jigsaw puzzle piece in the wrong corner, or about missing a move in Tetris. Portal is ultimately about solving puzzles and although there's a great narrative framework going on, I don't feel personally affected by Chell's ceasing to be; I only feel frustration at my lack of talent or timing."
Eric Shwartz at Critical Missive continues writing on the Encounter Design in shooters with the 201 level.
Guest Anna Anthropy at the Border House talks about the virtues of the Saint's Row series with regards to inclusively in the character creator. Saint's Row 2 in particular does this by letting you create whoever you want to be and then never judging you even if you play as say "as a burly man in a dress and heels, a woman with a beard, someone totally androgynous – I played through the game as a fat woman, and I can't remember the last time a game, mainstream or otherwise, gave me that choice."
Jonathan McCalmont gives us an epic length piece on why he is meh about inFamous 2, transforming it into an examination of mindless entertainment vs. mindful entertainment.
Becky Chambers does a write up about the first female StarCraft 2 pro, Eve, for The Mary Sue.
"Eve, on the other hand, will most likely have to deal with this mess being dragged back up any time she loses a match. There's nothing that can be said about that, except that I think it brings up something that most female gamers have felt from time to time. For many of us, playing the game doesn't just mean being good enough. It means needing to be the best. We all, on some level, want to be the Disney after-school special in which the girl wins the championship for the underdog team. If we're going to play, there is that underlying feeling that we damn well better be on top of our game. We had better be able to win."
Kick some ass, Eve!
Abe Stein on his blog A Simpler Creature, writes about how sports video games are made for sports fans and how it is improved with all the little nuisances put in there solely for making the game more real to those who know it best.
Part 6 of Andrew Doull's Proceduralism series came out; this time, he focuses on the architecture created. The first 5 parts all came out last year, so you might want to catch up first. Links to the previous parts are in the above post.
And finally, because I'm lazy I'll give this last one to Ben:
In the same week that Warren Buffett told the US to stop coddling the uber-rich, this Ponzi scheme was outed in Eve Online. I didn't think it was necessarily worth including in TWIVGB – instructive, yes, even educational but hardly criticism, right? Well, Pat Holleman disagrees, telling me that "Oh, but it is a criticism! It's a practical criticism of the players. It's a criticism of banking. It's a criticism of capitalism. I can think of nothing more critical than what they have done and said. It's just not self-consciously critical." and I think he's right.
Please, if you read something interesting tweet it to @critdistance or email the link to us at our email.
PS. Check out Kirktaku.com for all the latest updates on our favorite Kotaku contributor. (I'm sorry Kirk, I had to do it.)