This Week in Video Game Criticism: Procedural Death Labyrinths

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Zach Alexander on topics including The Binding of Isaac's use of horror and the function that genres actually serve.
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Zach Alexander on topics including The Binding of Isaac's use of horror and the function that genres actually serve. What’s the happs this week? Zack Hiwiller googled for an old ZZT order form and mails a check to the listed address. What’s the worst that can happen? SPOILER: The most interesting thing happens instead. Mattie Brice expands on locality. What are the different standards of play embodied by different communities? Some new consoles were launched over the past two weeks. Leigh Alexander asks who really cares about this business model lurching forward into another cycle. Well, I care! How can I possibly experience the gritty reboot of Madame Bovary imagined by Matthew Wasteland if I don’t have the newest console. Of course, for indies, there’s always the other new console that just came out. You probably haven’t heard of it. We don’t often feature Kickstarters on Critical Distance, but this (content warning: gore, self-mutilation and sexual assault) visual history of horror games is right up our alley! Speaking of horror, Aaron Gotzon is talking out how Binding of Isaac uses horror over at Ontological Geek. What kind of game is Binding of Isaac anyway? Tanya X. Short says, “Don’t call it a rogue-like”, citing the egregious misuse of “doom clones” back before “first person shooter” was a thing. Lars Doucet responds by proposing “Procedural Death Labyrinth” (catchy!) and a chart to back it up. Ansh Patel takes issue with the premise of genres. Steve Swift takes it one step further, and asks what is the purpose of defining genres and mediums? Who are we helping? Meanwhile, is chess a game? what’s your favorite chesslike? Marginal Revolution isn’t a gaming blog but Tyler Cowen talks about the concept of “nettlesomeness” in chess: “Using computer analysis, you can measure which players do the most to cause their opponents to make mistakes.” Warren Spector stirred the pot this week by dropping “emergence” into his list of Best Game Qualities. Andrew Plotkin responds, and we’re back to talking about the folly of definitions again: “For twenty years, gamers have been dismissing Myst as a linear slideshow -- while other gamers remember it as a completely open, unconstrained, explorable environment.” Nick Dinicola talks about Batman: Arkham Origins using a “pre-hero” state for Batman to give him something he found lacking in the previous two games. Jorge Albor talks about asymmetrical game mechanics, which give different meanings to different player’s actions. Andy Robertson argues games are like poems, in the work they ask us to put in in order to extract meaning. Similarly, Nick Dinicola talks about Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us and how limited expressions can be more potent. Meanwhile, Critical Path has a video interview with Matt Boch talking about crossover of gender politics and motion capture techniques. “We’re taking things we understand, and we’re saying lets put them out in media and perpetuate these understandings… We can imagine elves and orcs, but men and women still behave in a particular way still.” I’m assuming you’ve heard there’s a new Tropes vs Women video out, but the Feminist Frequency tumblr also linked to a bit of fan-art imagining Mr Pac-Woman. Related, Rock Paper Shotgun has a remarkably uncomfortable ending to an interview with Blizzard when Nathan Grayson asks about the representation of women in Heroes of the Storm. “We like comic books” is pretty dishonest as far as these things go. Don’t miss the follow up article where Nathan explains why Blizzard’s response is so dishonest. Stephen Beirne talks about dialogue in games, and how conversations are an important act of humanity, but in games, communication is often treated as a design obstacle. Ya’ll know Forest Ambassador, right? Merritt Kopas has a post up pointing folx towards Jostle Bastard, as well as a link to the creator’s excellent conversation about satire and Hotline Miami. Finally, let our foreign correspondent, Joe Koller, top you off with some good ol’ fashioned German-language writing: On Kleiner Drei, Pablo Dominguez Andersen gives a decent summary of GTA V's misogyny. On Video Game Tourism, Rainer Sigl and Ciprian David started a new series about the intersection of film and games, and Christof Zurschmitten about Literature and Games. Here's Rainer and Ciprian interviewing John Hyams because of reasons, and here's Christof interviewing Jack King-Spooner, maker of Beeswing, and Robert Sherman, author of Black Crown. (Part 2) On Superlevel, Benjamin Filitz brings us this smart feature on the actual significance of new console generations as technological baselines, and the fake importance attached to the whole Next Gen business. And we're done. Be sure to send in your recommendations to these roundups via Twitter mention or our email submissions form. See you next week!

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