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This Week in Video Game Criticism: Game Dev in the Ukraine and Authenticity in Tomb Raider

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Lindsey Joyce on topics ranging from a review of Tomb Raider by an archaeologist and the plight of developers in Ukraine.

Game Developer, Staff

December 15, 2014

5 Min Read

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Lindsey Joyce on topics ranging from a review of Tomb Raider by an archaeologist and the plight of developers in Ukraine. History and Culture Clashes Quite a few of the submissions this week talk about how history and culture are both used and confused in games. For instance, Corey Milne uses the recent news about Greece's pleas to have their artifacts returned to them rather than loaned out by the British Museum to draw parallels to the Uncharted series. Milne argues that Nathan Drake is nothing like Indiana Jones, but is more accurately a thief with no respect for other cultures. From a different perspective, professional archaeologist Sarah Ingram plays through Tomb Raider and amongst other observations (such as how poorly written Lara is) she notes that the game's more aligned with treasure collecting than archaeology. The next two submissions deal more directly with how history is used and how it creates meaning. Austin Walker examines the interaction between genre and history and how that informs or influences criticism, using Attack of the Friday Monsters as a lens for discussion. Alternately, James Patton looks at the ways contemporary Western cultural, political, and religious values are placed in historical contexts unfairly and illogically. Bridging from that, Claire Hosking provides an Australian perspective on the recent Grand Theft Auto ban in Australian Target and K-Mart stores. Hosking details the important difference between Australian and U.S. perspectives on culture, speech, and criticism and how this relates to perceptions of the ban itself. To end this section on a brighter note, Christopher Sawula, a postdoctoral fellow, historian, and teacher explains what makes Valiant Hearts not only a good game, but the only one worth using to help students understand the emotional, social, and cultural contexts of World War I. The State of Criticism and Curation This week also presents us with two opportunities to get a bit meta. Over at Game Informer, Matt Helgeson examines the rate of production of video game content, criticism, scholarship, etc against the loss of it due to poor archival and curatorial work in the field This week also brings us the playable criticism of systemic prejudice in Parable of the Polygons, created by Vi Hart and Nick Case. Design and Development Working in the game industry is tumultuous anywhere, but Anton Paramonov discusses the more unique and specific challenges Eforb faces as a development studio based in Ukraine. For instance, he notes this as an unique position to find your business: "It's tough to fall asleep in one country and wake up in another." Elsewhere, Holly Gramazio talks about her work designing place-based (parks, hotel rooms, etc) games -- not all of which are digital. Meanwhile, Damion Schubert discusses the concept of resonance (or really the lack thereof) in Civilization: Beyond Earth. Over at GameSound, Kenny Young shares an email conversation he had with the late Ralph Baer about the development of game audio. So technically this is more about child development than game development, but bear with me, as this week Andy Baio details his experiment in child rearing in which he had his son play through video games in chronological order beginning with the Atari 2600 to see whether (and how) it would alter his son's perception of contemporary games. Sex, Sexuality, Gender, Performance and the Political Responding to art with art, Cara Ellison discusses the stolen moments found in Anna Anthropy's Queers in Love At the End of the World in verse form. Over at How To Not Suck At Game Design, Anjin Anhut asks: "What can be gained if we use the concept of gender performance for our efforts to change the culture? Elsewhere, Katherine Cross discusses the character Oh Eun-a in Hate Plus and how she, and the other female characters, are caught in the "unfinished revolution" of social mores that no longer fit. At The Mary Sue, Victoria McNally covers Aisha Tyler's recent remarks at the Paley Center about women in the gaming community, both as players and characters. Podcasts If your eyes need a break from the screen, there's some good stuff for your ears this week too! This week, our own Eric Swain and the Moving Pixels Podcast takes on Spec-Ops: The Line, while The Crate and Crowbar more broadly discuss the things we do in games we'd like others not to see. Even more broadly, Dan Golding's new podcast "A Short History of Video Games" discusses video game history across the generations. Lastly, Justice Points invite Javy Gwaltney on to talk about his work and his thoughts on paid writing in addition to discussion about more recent game news. Mélange Serving up a "Worst of" list rather than a "Best of" list, Jed Pressgrove dishes up an analysis of the ten worst games of 2014 whose "insidious" marketing ploys are hidden beneath technical and artistic completeness. Over at The Game Critique, Eric Swain talks about elegance in writing and a(n ironically inelegant) piece written by Mark Rosewater from 2004. Elsewhere, Alex Pieschel writes a detailed history of glitches as aesthetic, discovery, and performance. At Play/Paws. Melody conducts a close-reading of Transistor's themes (including elitism, surveillance, censorship, and virtuality) in this three-part series. Final Mentions: As always, we're grateful for our readers and those who have submitted works. If you see something you think we should feature, donat forget to submit it to us via a Twitter mention or through email. Keep in mind if you are submitting something for This Year in Video Game blogging, you must submit by email! Also, in case you missed it: StoryBundle has brought back the very first video game bundle, which includes Ralph Baer's Videogames: In the Beginning and Brendan Keogh's Killing is Harmless. Finally, we're thankful for the support of your readers. We reached some important funding milestone recently, and we've got some great things planned for 2015, so if you aren't already a supporter, please consider becoming one!

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