6 min read

This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Gone Home to the horror of GTA V

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Mattie Brice on topics including the "adolescence" of Gone Home and Grand Theft Auto V as horror game.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Mattie Brice on topics including the "adolescence" of Gone Home and how Grand Theft Auto V works as a horror game. The Illegal Seizing of Motor Vehicles In reference to Grand Theft Auto V, Alisha Karabinus pens a reassuring statement that children can tell the difference between reality and videogames with assistance from their parents. Anjin Anhut agrees that the game will not play tricks with our minds, since it doesn't have a well enough grasp of satire to challenge the status quo:

When joking about any form of oppression out there, you need to make the oppressor the punchline, NOT the oppressed. When joking about any form of inequality, you need to make privileged people the butt of your joke, NOT the marginalized and disenfranchised.
Over at The Border House, Quinnae asks when is enough enough, citing the toxic behavior and somewhat apathetic reaction of community leaders to gamer's sexism and other horrible qualities. Paul Tassi seems to have an answer, saying that as long at GTA doesn't have a lead woman character, none will be given the depth that such a game can afford. Taking a different route, Tom Bissell shares a letter to Niko Bellic of the previous GTA game, saying how the games resent gamers, and how he is aging out of that demographic. A truly touching piece. Rather than turn away from life-rending horror, Nate Ewert-Krocker embraces the grotesque qualities of the game and likens it to the horror genre, where everything is meant to be disturbing:

Both the world and the characters of GTA are meant to elicit both disgust and pity in the player. The counterpoint of those two emotions is what makes a grotesquerie so compelling: the player (or reader, or viewer, or what have you) wants to continue the narrative because they want to see whether or not the characters come to a place that’s less disgusting, less pitiful.
Leigh Alexander compiled subversive games, to which she pointedly dismisses GTAV as a contestant. Elsewhere, journalist Brendan Keogh was too busy trying to take selfies within the game. Some Words From Our Sponsors Is the world ready for the decadent evils of digital sports? We say yes. Jorge Albor recaptures how we are witnessing the emergence of a new sporting culture, that follows traditional sports' footsteps. Dan Solberg goes back to SimCity 2000 to talk about the architecture it predicted we'd have by now, and how real life stacks up to its vision. Our own Eric Swain goes to grips with Endgame: Syria, and reassures us of the inevitable: there is no paradise for those looking for it in the horrors of humanity. He says:

At one point, I thought I had done it. The regime was ousted with no sectarian violence, no destabilizing of the region, and no religious extremists emerging. The only downside was the loss of hospitals, utilities, and other basic facilities from functioning properly. I mentioned this on Twitter and got the response I deserved. “So you made a desert and called it peace?”
Stay Home, Or Else Old Man Ian Bogost has finally finished an oral rendition of his review on Gone Home. Daniel Joseph was able to sglean subversive thoughts gained from Bogost's words:

There is nothing literary about Gone Home, if we are to weigh it against the history and progression of the last 200 years of western fiction. And yet it is beautiful (and wildly effective) in its simplicity and earnestness because our own lives are actually quite simplistic. Or at least we perceive our own lives simplistically, amateurish, forced, and heavy handed even when they are almost certainly never only those things. To use Heidegger’s tool analysis, most of the wild complexities of our lives fade into a series of interlocking sequences of events and objects ready at hand, a series of moments linked and made sense of through widely available tropes.
Community Reading Corner Angela R Cox reframes Phantasmagoria, a community favorite, under Gothic literature instead of its usual film comparison:

The house governs nearly every part of the game: it is the source of isolation; it is the containing structure for both the supernatural demonic presence that drives the plots and for horror and terror; it tells the story itself through architecture and spatial distribution of plot elements.
The story vs mechanics tension often comes up in our community, but Mark Filipowich aims to take it a step further and adamantly tries to fuse story and mechanical elements into a language we can talk about games. On the same note, Mitch Krapta refocuses current game conversations on looking not at the rules of play, but the verbs the game affords the player. What does it mean to be a character? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be you? Chris Batemen explores these terrifying questions digging through a strange paradox: why does a personality-absent cipher character like Gordon Freeman win fan character contest polls? And now, to Germany After some strange happenings around the Critical Distance office bathroom, we are sure to have Joe Koller on the job of translating any strange German transmissions we get from the strangle black and purple hole in the wall. He recently translated a message from Rainer Sigl, about the recent horrors of Amnesia - A Machine for Pigs:

Instead, it presents primarily an aesthetic experience, atmospheric horror, living on the moment of fear and, beyond that, dreadful suspicions. Its rationality is faked time and again - just like the fragments of Dear Esther don’t amount to a full story, A Machine for Pigs offers no conclusive whole. Why and how should it, when its themes are taken from a century of mass murder and ideologies of genocide?
Joe also just now slipped me this note:

Marcus Dittmar wrote about environmental storytelling and the limits necessary to appreciate open worlds, Markus Grundmann covered Cookie Clicker and consumerism and Dennis Kogel interviewed Jasper Byrne of Lone Survivor and other things. Superlevel is also providing smaller features on entries in the Experimental Game Pack 01 over here.
Thank you for reading! If you have any recommendations for these roundups, please let us know via Twitter or email. Just want to send us some thoughts? Submit to Blogs of the Round Table and hopefully some powerful demons will take a liking to you. Lastly, the newest issue of Five Out of Ten Magazine is now live, with articles from Brendan Keogh, Alan Williamson, Lana Polansky, Bill Coberly and our own Kris Ligman! That's it for this week. Until next time!

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