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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From War to The Last of Us

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including The Last of Us and war games.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including The Last of Us and young American men's fixation on war games. COME ON PEOPLE LET'S GET TOGETHER Chester Bolingbroke of CRPG Addict attempts to put a fine point on the difference between cheating in games and just being a jerk. On Indie Haven, Laura Kate and Jordan Webber hold forth in a valuable new letter series on the sexual and personal space politics of Hugatron, which showcased recently at UK-based counter-E3 conference EToo. Speaking of UK conferences, John Brindle recently attended London-based game design conference Bit of Alright, and wants to show us inside. Via our German Correspondent Johannes Koeller, we come upon Marcus Dittmar at 99Leben with a cynical look back on E3. Over on Kotaku, Tina Amini covers five tales of harassment and discomfort from this year's show floor, and on Gamasutra, GDC community director Patrick Miller gives us five more. (Full disclosure: I am one of the women mentioned in Patrick's article.) THE LAST OF US As one of the year's most-anticipated releases, Naughty Dog's The Last of Us had some pretty steep expectations to meet. We won't deluge you with all the reviews that have been put out; instead, here's a few useful analyses. You can expect spoilers in most if not all of these. On PopMatters Moving Pixels, Jorge Albor is among the first to draw the inevitable comparison to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and The Last of Us's theme of hope. Our own Cameron Kunzelman believes the theme doesn't totally stack up: "Children of Men is about a man dying so that the world can live on. The Road is about a man trapped so far inside of himself that he can't see the world for how it is." Stu Horvath came down with a nasty ailment recently and ended up reflecting how the game doesn't successfully communicate the 'frailty' it appears to be going for. Elsewhere and auf Deutsch, Rainer Sigl compares day-one reception of The Last of Us with BioShock: Infinite and has a few critical things to say about the state of our current review culture. DESIGN MATTERS On First Person Scholar, Emma Vossen wonders why Telltale's The Walking Dead shies away from the sex and romance that is such a hallmark of the franchise's TV and comic counterparts. Mark Filipowich has two this week on the subject of Persona 3, the first for Medium Difficulty exploring the protagonist's composite identity and the second on his own blog as part of his plural protagonism series. Back on PopMatters, G. Christopher Williams makes the case for why Superman makes a poor choice for a videogame protagonist. Meanwhile on Electron Dance, Joel Goodwin posits that 2D shooters are about "cleaning." On the Radiator Blog, the well-informed Robert Yang takes us through a history of PC gaming's "use key." Game historian Richard Moss takes a look at the videogame adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps and deems it a sign of "a bright future for interactive stories." Michael Clarkson describes why Dontnod's Remember Me falls flat and Not Your Mama's Gamer's Alisha Karabinus takes a peek inside how State of Decay achieves a sense of harsh realism through emergent mechanics. WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER On re/Action, Samantha Allen pens an open letter to games media, encouraging editors to make an active stance on inclusivity. On The New Inquiry, Leigh Alexander invites us to put aside the notion that 'fun' is the ultimate goal of games:

The idea that at the end of the day, games are obligated to serve the purpose of "fun" above all others has been the main wrench in the works of the gaming industry's machinations for legitimacy. Why should games be mature, cope with social issues, reflect society, or demonstrate the genuine artistic vision of a grown-up creator? At the end of the day, they're just for fun, say gamers when they've run out of defenses against the mainstream industry’s embarrassing, stagnant homogeneity. Alarmingly, professional game creators often contribute to that echo chamber too.
Auf Deutsch, Lucie Hoehler on Kleiner Drei laments the lack of women in tech. On Unwinnable, Gus Mastrapa posits that perhaps we crave challenges in games because our own are so hardship-free. In it, he cites this important essay on The American Scholar by Pacifique Irankunda a scholar from war-torn Burundi who reflects on why young American men are so enamored with war-themed games. First Person Scholar's Steve Wilcox advocates for taking game studies scholarship by the horns with feed-forward scholarship. Also, presented without comment: The Citizen Kane of Videogames tumblr. SIGNAL BOOSTING Sidekick Books is putting together a fresh-sounding book of computer game poetry. You should check it out. That's all for this week! Thanks again for reading. Please continue sending in your links via Twitter or our email submissions form! Yes, we do welcome self-submissions.

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