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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From the challenges of narrative to the demise of P.T.

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Johnny Kilhefner on topics ranging from Konami's decision to pull P.T. to the challenges faced by game narrative.

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Johnny Kilhefner on topics ranging from Konami's decision to pull P.T. to the challenges faced by game narrative.

In trying to figure out what to say this week, and by say, I mean figure out how to structure what these other writers were saying in such a way as to best complement their work, I found this piece by Maddy Myers to really say it all:


Creating art and music is not just about the glamorous act of being inspired and pouring out your soul. It, too, is rife with the thoroughly unromantic grind of production and editing and refinement and polishing. The grueling march of notating, measure by measure, every single not that every instrument must perform, and at what time, and in what way. The rote memorization required for performance. The expectation of acknowledging an existing "canon," even if only to rebuke and subvert it. And even when the code loads or the right notes get played, all art can fail, in its own way. That's exactly why creation is terrifying.

It might be my own background in music, but what a beautifully succinct description of creators of art. I hope you'll find the selections this week to be a phrase of individual notes, the different tones creating a harmonious melody.

What’s In a Story?

At Offworld, Leigh Alexander asks, "Why are the stories in video games so bad?"

The writers of FemHype want to make you cry, or at least, relive what games made you shed a tear or two in "Press F to Grab Kleenex: Our Top Emotional Moments in a Video Game" (Content Warning: descriptions of sexual assault).

Elsewhere, Drew Toal writes of two games recently released that both take place in Victorian London, but only one of them gets it right.

Sam Zucchi riffs on the narrative defining tracking shots of Daredevil and True Detective, comparing them to the camera in action games, and it's not pretty:


Yet the very elements that tracking shots can transmit are too often the very same elements that action games neglect, producing their opposites: linear environments instead of complex ones; buggy, stodgy action instead of grace; the lazy expression of a vicarious power fantasy instead of legitimate tension.

Over at VICE, Ed Smith writes about Watch Dogs' Aiden Pearce and how the music on his smartphone makes him an even worse character.

While at MotherBoard, Soha Kareem takes on “The Dirtiest Job in Video Games

In light of Koji Igarashi's Kickstarter campaign, Michelle B. took to FemHype to examine Igarashi's history with women protagonists in “What Is a Woman?! Bloodstained & Koji Igarashi’s Female Characters"

Blake Reynolds comes to terms with pixel art and his desire to communicate with his audience in a language they understand, even if it means foregoing the form he loves.

While at Offworld, Jon Peterson writes about the blurring of the lines between reality and fantasy by not the players, but the authority figures.

Finally yet importantly, Carolyn Petit looks at how a graphic novel challenges the convention of videogames:


Why do we simply accept that so many games present violence as the only way to solve a problem? Why do we accept so many narratives about brave heroes fighting evil and rescuing the girl without ever questioning how the narratives are constructed precisely to leave us with no room to ask questions about whether the bad guys are really so bad or whether what we’re doing is really so good?

Fire Dancers, Speed Runners and the Cruelty of the Industry

 

At VGChartz, Corey Milne bemoans the loss of P.T. and the need for a culture of digital conservation:

 


There's a cultural numbness here that dictates that if a product is not actively generating capital then it is rendered worthless. To compound the issue, while publishers actively seek to dismantle the past, they try to sell us on the lie that our digital-only future, as inevitable as it is, will mean that our games will live forever. At least until they unplug the servers.

Elsewhere, Simon Parkin deftly navigates the intersection of the real and virtual in Eve Online.

In keeping in the spirit of immeasurably vast expanses of digital spaces, Raffi Khatchadourian of The New Yorker profiled No Man's Sky chief architect Sean Murray:


Because of the game’s scope, and because he had decided not to reveal key features, he feared that it had become a Rorschach test of popular expectation, with each potential player looking for something in it that might not be there.

Jeffrey Matulef dives into the world of speed running in “The Loneliness of The Long-Distance Speedrunner”.

Meanwhile, at Kotaku, Jason Schreier reluctantly goes into "The Horrible World of Video Game Crunch" and over at The Guardian, Keith Stuart reminds all of the Sega fans of their grueling years begrudgingly clinging to their Saturns in "Sega Saturn: how one decision destroyed PlayStation's greatest rival".

Elsewhere, Scott Juster writes on PopMatters of the excitement of the unique discovery in “Fighting FOMO in Bloodborne”.

Virtue Ethics, Mental Health and Online Confessions

Over at Not Your Mama's Gamer, Jennifer McVeigh talks virtue ethics in Life is Strange in "Doing the Right Thing: Life is Strange and Virtue Ethics", while Carly Smith talks about the importance of support for students in “Mental Health and the Do-nothing Adults in Life is Strange”.

Kill Screen's Chris Priestman plays Selfie: Sisters of The Amniotic Lens and finds the bottled despairs of relative strangers as "beautiful" and even "new to videogames.

On FemHype, Doc Martens gives a harrowing account of a family member’s sudden terminal illness:


I can’t hack and slash my way through cancer no more than I can pummel my coworkers when they are driving me crazy to deal with stress. But I can hack and slash 10,000 attack squads, armored golems, Cactuars, and Master Tonberrys instead, watching my character’s attributes and my gil keep climbing higher.

Mechanical Error

Josh Synder's attempt to review Ether One on the PlayStation 4 was called into question by a blurring of game mechanics and bugs from shoddy porting:


Each time, after a couple minutes, the game will magically reappear, as if load times of that length are normal. Granted, one could argue that this is intentional design, given the game’s subject nature, and I may be willing to buy that with the texture pop-in (a literal translation of someone’s memories slowly coming back to them, I suppose) but when looked at alongside the inexcusable load times, I begin to suspect that there is nothing intentional here.

PopMatter's Nick Dinicola discusses the relationship between horror, tension and control in "She Who Controls the Flashlight, Controls the Horror" and over at the Haptic Feedback blog, Austin C. Howe talks "republican dad" mechanics in Dark Souls.

Ray Porreca at Wizards of Radical talks about his favorite RPG of late -- MLB 15: The Show, and Shawn Trautman played Modern Warfare and found the perfect analogy for what bothered him so much about it.

Lastly, on Gamasutra, Katherine Cross writes about game manuals functioning as alternative game mechanics:


The manual becomes, here, another vector for expressing Minkomora’s aesthetics and sensibilities, conveying the game to you as you read it. Simple though it may be, lacking my beloved appendices and subsections, it still effectively conveys a strong sense of what Minkomora is and means, lending character and colour to the game world before you even set foot in it. It also shows a path to digital distribution for cost-conscious developers; you no longer need to expensively print copies of a manual in order for it to perform these functions.

This is The End, My Friends

Whew! I told you it was a lot to get through, but I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did.

As always, we’re entirely funded on the generosity of our readers, so if you haven’t already, please take a look at our Patreon page and consider donating!

And don’t forget to keep those links coming via Twitter mention or email.

Until next time, I’m going to see about ascending in Kanye Quest!

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