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This Week in Video Game Criticism: Our Marketing, Ourselves

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Alan Williamson on topics including more on 'procedural death labyrinths' and the marketing legacy of games.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Alan Williamson on topics including more on Lars Doucet's 'procedural death labyrinths' and the marketing legacy of games. Market, Research Over at Polygon, Tracey Lien examines why games aren’t marketed at girls. It’s a well-researched piece that interviews marketing executives, early women developers like Carol Shaw and Lori Cole, and as is obligatory for videogame articles these days, Ian Bogost. Shame it perpetuates the old ‘Coke Santa’ myth, though! Jim Rossignol writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun: games are best when things go wrong. Certainly, FTL’s constant sense of peril has generated lots of memorable moments, but I’m not sure about the comparison to Dishonored. Doesn’t the latter essentially let the player adjust their own level of peril? Also at RPS, they’re running down their favorite games of the year - worth a look. There's a lot to love about the Critical Path project; the design, the content, the classy search function. This interview with Clint Hocking about Far Cry 2’s weather systems is a highlight. Haven’t watched the rest of them yet - let us know your favorites and we can feature them in future. If we get all of the Critical Distance staff involved, it should only take a couple of years. Ludodecahedral Blog Labyrinth On his blog Fortress of Doors, Lars Doucet - inventor of the term ‘procedural death labyrinth’ - goes into more detail about the term. Meanwhile, Chris Bateman critiques the exploratory life labyrinth Gone Home. Also on the subject of Gone Home, Dan Cox feels like a ghost when he plays it (warning: story spoilers from the outset). Carli Velocci has an interesting piece on Kill Screen about narrator gendering in Portal, The Stanley Parable and more, taking a slightly broader approach to Cara Ellison’s previous piece about gendered AI for Unwinnable. Cool fact: Siri has a male voice in the UK, which makes it sound like a robotic butler. Hopefully Apple will use their cash reserves to hire Ellen McLain and then we can make some ‘GlaDiOS’ jokes. Gotta Read ’Em All At the Atlantic, Daniel Gross investigates Pokemon Red, White & Blue, the latest PETA videogaming non-sequitur. As Gross points out, the world of Pokemon is much more ethically complex than PETA’s facile treatment: but of course, their games exist to make headlines, not real arguments. Here’s a couple of good pieces about The Last of Us: over at Complicate the Narrative, Paul Bills discusses TLoU and Telltale’s The Walking Dead as works of Neo-Romanticism. Meanwhile, Stephen Beirne looks at how the game differentiates itself from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series by replacing the platform puzzling and Mayan mayhem with… a lot of ladders, apparently. I think we mentioned the Video Game Foliage Tumblr last week, but maybe not this look at Counter-Strike’s de_aztec. It’s a great example of economical design. Poking the Fourth Wall Tearaway is now out on the PlayStation Vita, and if you played it at a trade show during the year, it will come as no surprise that the finished product is just lovely. Leigh Alexander talks about it for Gamasutra, finding its fourth-wall breaking nature compelling… and weird. Also playing Tearaway is Brendan Keogh, who is back at Unwinnable and has been reading a lot of Susan Sontag. If you somehow missed the existence of Spelunky, this writeup by Nathan Altice at Metopal is as good as any. He also discusses the surprising compelling world of Spelunky Let’s Plays, of which I must also confess to having watched far too many. Moving from sublime games to terrible ones, Cameron Kunzelman plays Legendary. Legendary is not a good game. Well, I’ve not played it - just taking Cameron’s word for it. Back to nice things, Indie Statik interview Jessica Curry, the composer behind Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Meanwhile, Scott Nichols’ Beautiful Machinery is a new biweekly column, debuting with a look at Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. And finally, Play the Past discuss the ‘ubiculturality’ of Assassin’s Creed as part of an ongoing series about Ubisoft’s third-person stabber. Kritische Distanz The following comes courtesy of our foreign correspondent Joe Koller, who says the translation above is close enough to 'Critical Distance'. The new WASD is out, a local bookzine and games writing powerhouse featuring practically every games writer in the German-speaking world. No digital version yet, but there's a pretty substantial sample available. On Glam Geek Girl, Ally Auner has a brief writeup on a recent talk on gender identity and sexual diversity by cultural studies person Rene Schallegger (audio online). Speaking of sex, Dennis Kogel of Superlevel interviewed Tale of Tales after they disagreed with his assessment of Luxuria Superbia. Hey, wait a minute... this piece is in English! At videogametourism, Rainer Sigl talks about stylization vs. photorealism, originally written for local newspaper Der Standard. Winter Wrap-Up If all this week’s blogging wasn’t enough to sate your thirst for reading: our friends at First Person Scholar celebrated their first birthday this week and now have over 114,000 published words for your viewing pleasure. Closer to home, we wrapped up Blogs of the Round Table for this year with a roundup of our Game Changers. Slightly further away from home but still close-ish, the special charity edition of Five out of Ten is out and has all your favorite writers in it. That’s all for us this week - don’t forget to send us your favorite writing of the week through our contact form or tweeting them in the general direction of @CritDistance.

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