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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Corrypt to objectivity

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the market for art games and how to write an objective review.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the market for art games and how to write an objective review. SYSTEMS ALL THE WAY DOWN With the recent court decision ruling that virtual human likenesses aren’t covered under free speech, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has an interesting critique of how the ruling differs from rights afforded to non-interactive media. Meanwhile, Ian Bogost voices the frustration of his fellow Facebook Platform developers in his usual straight-forward fashion:

The Facebook Platform is a shape-shifting, chimeric shadow of suffering and despair, a cruel joke perpetrated upon honest men and women at the brutish whim of bloodthirsty sociopaths sick with bilious greed and absent mercy or decency. Developing for the Facebook Platform is picking out the wallpaper for one's own death row holding cell, the cleaver for one's own blood sacrifice.
CONFOUND THESE INDIES Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander goes out on a limb to present Jason Rohrer in his own words concerning his recently controversial game, The Castle Doctrine. On Edge, Craig Owens provides us with look inside Experiment 12, a game created by 12 independent developers. BUY MY ART Liz Ryerson has a few notes on Corrypt developer Michael Brough's oeuvre and how market saturation is crowding out unique titles. Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman offers up a semi-response to Ryerson, on putting together a personal game design spectrum between 'craft' and 'art.' Raph Koster, meanwhile, puts the discussion thusly:

You can choose an art style that is broadly accessible, or not. You can have training in your new mechanics, or not. You can expect to make money at your art, or not. You can see your art as a business, or not. You can regard player needs as paramount, or not. You can require absolute adherence to your own artistic vision, or not. You can embrace the sordid need for marketing, or not. You can select a populist price point, or not. You can wish for many to embrace your work, or not.
HOW THE SAUSAGE IS MADE Edge has been outdoing itself with smart retrospectives as of late. Here are two of particular note: the making of Richard Hofmeier's Cart Life and the making of Squaresoft's Final Fantasy VI. DEEP READS On Metopal, Nathan Altice shores up an analysis of Yars' Revenge as a sports game. Meanwhile at Madness and Play, a recently started blog dedicated to depictions of mental illness in media, we have this critique of two L.A. Noire threads involving mental illness. On Kotaku, guest contributor Paul Wallace suggests that games are a way of enacting myths -- an article I link largely to contrast it with this one by Suriel Vazquez on Unwinnable, on the cult-like nature of videogame power fantasies. On Game Church, Mark Filipowich has a look into the complexities of Final Fantasy Tactics's monotheism. On Haptic Feedback, Austin Howe continues his analysis of the Metal Gear franchise and directs his gaze particularly towards the franchise's damselization of Meryl and Emma. Corey Milne approaches BioShock Infinite as an Irishman and a historian, questioning the game's rather nuance-free portrayals of ethnic minorities -- including the Irish. On Ontological Geek, Aaron Gotzon praises the actually quite nuanced portrayal of weight issues through the character of Ellie in Borderlands 2. And, topically, First Person Scholar's Jason Hawreliak contends we need a middle ground with the best of both academic publishing and the blogging world. YOU KEEP USING THAT WORD Magic Hour Cityscape reminds players that "parody" and "homage" are not blanket defenses:

A lot of the recent indie games that invoke the trope also invoke retro games either aesthetically or in gameplay. Castle Crashers, Dragon’s Crown, Spelunky, Braid, Double Dragon Neon, and so on. That they use a retro plot in addition to gameplay or aesthetic aspects is maybe a perceived factor of 'authenticity'. However! That’s not a great excuse for re-instating something that was taken for granted in the past, when it is more openly recognised as sexist now. It’s not something you see in other works adapted from the past. For example, there is a lot of media based around the works of Lovecraft, but usually his racism is thankfully absent. Mass media these days doesn’t feature overtly racist characters unless it's made clear that their stance isn't approved of. That's the factor these Damsel in Distress games often lack.
Elsewhere, on Macrotransactions, Adrian Forest argues that the cyborgs of cyberpunk such as the recently released Shadowrun Returns don’t resonate anymore because we are already part machine. OBJECTIVITY With the recent uproar over critical reviews of Vanillaware's Dragon's Crown a few readers have called for completely "objective" reviewing standards. On Culture Mass, Sidney Fussell points out that not only is complete objectivity pretty much impossible, it's in review outlets' interests to embrace subjectivity. Meanwhile, Samantha Allen takes things to the other extreme and illustrates what a completely objective review of Dragon's Crown would actually look like. EVERYTHING ELSE On PopMatters Moving Pixels, Nick Dinicola writes of how games are like dioramas. Chris Kohler of Wired Game|Life maintains that no, really, Final Fantasy is actually dead. Andy Burn completes a six-part series on the evolution of game music. And on Polygon, Richard Moss has a great feature on developing games for players with sight disabilities. Game producer Angel Inokon writes a short-but-sweet piece on using game development to explore her heritage as a Nigerian American. And on Dialog Wheel, Ron Sierra puts it to us straight: games may be art, but they frequently have little to say. As he goes on to say:

How do games expect to be taken seriously when a story about a teenage girl falling in love with a vampire covered in glitter speaks more effectively about the human condition than almost any game in our canon?
SIGNAL BOOST Ontological Geek is starting a new Twitter-based roleplaying game, It is Pitch Dark. Find out more here. Mitch Alexander on GayGamer is implementing a new series of features called Queer Mechanic, exploring how developers can incorporate queer identity thoughtfully into game design. That's all of this week! Thanks again for reading. As always, remember to submit your links by mentioning us on Twitter or by using our email contact form.

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