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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Rapture to No Man's Land

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics ranging from Valiant Hearts' treatment of World War I to the one type of blood you still don't see in video games.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics ranging from Valiant Hearts' treatment of World War I to the one type of blood you still don't see in video games. Strangely British America-to-UK transplant Leigh Alexander spends some time going to Rapture with The Chinese Room. Meanwhile, Feral Vector's David Hayward takes us on a stroll through the countryside as he reflects on the one thing really holding back the games industry: the "industry" part. Scottish national turned international sex icon Cara Ellison has released her latest embedded report, this time with Thirty Flights of Loving developer Brendon Chung and a side of Hyper Light Drifter's Teddy Diefenbach. (Be sure to check out her most recent S.EXE column on Rock, Paper, Shotgun as well.) No Game's Land On the Three Moves Ahead podcast Rob Zacny and Troy Goodfellow hook up with Jon Schafer to discuss revisionist history -- and to wonder why we don’t see more titles set during World War I. One of the few games which does depict this war, Valiant Hearts, is under Andrew Dunn's magnifying lens this week for its simultaneously cartoonish and raw depiction of history:

It's torn between being a serious This Is How It Was telling of WW1, and a ludicrous steampunky romp which plays merry hell with the history it earnestly tries to impart when it's not about fistfighting an evil German baron on top of two ruined tanks in the middle of the Somme's No Man's Land. To say the game is tonally inconsistent is an understatement. It's full-out atonal, right from the main menu screen: a morose soldier and his dog standing in mud and ruins while the sad theme music plays, juxtaposed with a jaunty text strapline about how many collectibles the game has.
Binders Full of Women Exhausted with recent arguments breaking out within and adjacent to game communities online, Leigh Alexander has some simple Dos and Don'ts for combating sexism in online spaces. Speaking of not helping, Sara Clemens places her tongue firmly in cheek this week to praise all the men who write thinkpieces about what great allies they are by playing female avatars. On Not Your Mama's Gamer, Samantha Blackmon reacts with some pessimism to recent comments by Aisha Tyler about the state of women's representation:

Aisha Tyler is right, female characters are everywhere in videogames. On every street corner, on every stripper pole, in every trash can, and in every situation where being scantily clad could be a possibility (or not). [...] [W]e have to consider is what a game "chock full of women" actually means and to determine when women in a game are actually a hindrance to the cause rather than a help.
Over at Kill Screen, Jess Joho has penned this analysis of games' perpetuation of social taboos regarding menstruation, in particular BioShock: Infinite. While it's a little cisnormative, the general points are good. Down to the Nitty-Gritty Over at The Escapist, Robert Rath has produced another satisfying fine-grained analysis, this time on the physics and technical hurdles that make water such a task in games. At Eurogamer, Tom Bradwell engages with a woman commenter to discuss how that classic derail to defend marginalization in games -- "it's not historically accurate!" -- is fallacious at best. Bradwell's article relates directly to recent discussions on Assassin's Creed, so this History Respawned video with Bob Whitaker interviewing Jessica W. Luther concerning race and the slave trade as depicted in Liberation and Freedom Cry is a nice follow piece. While a bit unfocused, it's a good history lesson. Elsewhere, Seth Brodbeck mulls on board game Eminent Domain and observes that its science-fictionalized imperialism, while theoretically dodging the issue of discussing real history, "is not understandable absent the context of European colonialism, and the use of sci-fi euphemisms threatens to obscure what is really going on." Lastly, Person of Consequence has effectively compiled a (fairly exhaustive) Critical Compilation of Nier! If we could find their contact info, we'd love to republish this (hint). Thank you to all our readers who sent in submissions last week! Remember, you can send in your own recommendations (yes, including your own work) by email or by mentioning us on Twitter! And hey, just a reminder: Critical Distance is funded through our readership. So if you like what we do here and want to see us continue to exist and all that, consider pledging to our Patreon! That would be really cool of you.

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