News[We're partnering with game criticism site Critical Distance to present some of the week's most inspiring writing about the art and design of video games from commentators worldwide. This week, Ben Abraham examines road games, Alpha Protocol and first impressions, "juicy feedback," and lots more.] Jim Rossignol began this week with a bang, asking at Rock Paper Shotgun “Where are the road games?” . You could ask this of just about any well defined film genre, but road films do seem particularly adaptable to games – as he spells out here. Elsewhere, LB Jeffries has a lengthy essay for PopMatters this week, all about game architecture and game spaces, involving several discussions with game designers Steve Gaynor and Manveer Heir, as well as prominent Morrowind modder Princess Stomper. Speaking of architecture, Fabrizio Gallanti wrote an introductory essay for the Italian design site Abitare on the close relationship between real world architecture and game spaces. It’s the beginning of a series and is also translated from the author’s native Italian, so it may be a bit difficult to decipher in places, but it's one to watch in the future. Mitch Krpata has returned from his brief hiatus this week, with an discussion of video game values, via Alan Wake. Krpata explains the situation that so many games put us in, wherein we choose to ignore a narratively important or time sensitive event to instead search a room for extra items, often ruining the sense of tension or consistency: “Eventually, the sound sample of Barry's cries for help stops playing, but there's no reason for Alan to stop looking for ammo before going upstairs. Barry's not going anywhere. These are the value systems video games are still working with. Even the "serious" ones.” Continuing with the subject of collectibles, Daniel Bullard-Bates had this to say: “Soldiers collect dog tags, sure. But seriously, no one collects identical coffee thermoses or identical flags or identical anything.” His piece, ‘Collect Everything’, is a list of what a good system of in-game collectibles should do. Repeating last week’s theme of posts in threes, Mike Dunbar and Chris Green at RRoD have a trio of posts on Red Dead Redemption. First, ‘I figured out why it’s called Red Dead Redemption’ by Dunbar, analyses how particular elements of the game relate to its title, suggesting that “It’s got “redemption” in the title because you always get another chance.” Green takes issue with the game, however, suggesting that “sometimes you get the feeling that Rockstar have been more intent on creating an excellent, living, breathing world than actually leading you through it.” And finally, Dunbar returns to admit that, yes, “there’s a fault in my dream Western game”. Also on Red Dead Redemption, Michael Abbott describes the interesting relationship between player and protagonist in ‘Hero from a distance’. Says Abbott, “Red Dead Redemption illustrates how games can create a unique dialectical relationship between player and avatar; one that emerges from a blend of authored narrative and player-driven emergent gameplay... Despite its occasional narrative ineptness and dodgy AI, RDR invites us to ride with/as a man who lives in the grey areas we always say games never explore.” In the same week, Brendan Keogh attempts a defence of the cut scene, arguing that we shouldn’t be throwing the baby out with the bath-water in this particular case: "I agree wholeheartedly that instead of relying on the storytelling mechanics of a pre-existing, passive medium, game designers should focus on exploring the unique, interactive ways video games can present stories spatially and dynamically. However, I feel that games have held on to cut-scenes for decades now for reasons other than a lack of knowing any other way to do things." G. Christopher Williams writes for PopMatters this week about the impact of first impressions, and takes a bunch of games to task, not least of all Alpha Protocol and its notably poor beginning. And yet; “It took more than a few hours for it to dawn on me how much my choices had affected my play. It took until about midway through the game. As I realized the ramifications of some of the things that I had said and done way back in the first post-tutorial chapter set in Moscow, I also realized how very much I was enjoying the game and growing more and more fascinated with it.” Thomas Cross is reporting on the Games For Change festival in NYC this week, for Rules of the Game – the first two parts of which are up right now and are highly recommended. In other news, Matthew Wasteland takes up back to Alan Wake with ‘An Excerpt from the novel ‘Departure’ by Alan Wake’, a piece wryly that lampoons the in-game novelization present in the game. Matthew Orona at BitMob tells us quite candidly that ‘My four year old son plays Grand Theft Auto’. Before you jump to conclusions, Orona makes an excellent case for letting informed parents decide what media their children can and can’t consume, and in this case, with quite interesting results: “I egged him on to take the car in front of him which was waiting at the red light. He quickly looked up at me with disgust and refused, stating that the car was already owned by the person driving it. I was absolutely amazed by his response so I decided to sit back and observe how he chose to interact with this highly controversial game without the aid of a rotten-minded adult.” Sam Shahrani reticulates some splines for GamerMelodico this week, looking at why SimCity has dropped off the collective gamer radar, so to speak. We’d be remiss not to mention the Hey Baby game and discussion it sparked this week, first by mentioning Leigh Alexander's highly candid personal explanation as to why this is such a useful game to have exist, and secondly by looking at the reception it received when mentioned at Rock Paper Shotgun. The general misunderstanding and hostile reception it received from some readers prompted Kieron Gillen to attempt to further explain why the game is not a personal insult directed at male readers, and is instead a useful and important highlighting of an often downright horrible aspect of male culture prevalent in many cities. On a less charged note, Matt Gallant, writing for his blog the Quixotic Engineer, says “Please make your game” in response to Chris Hecker’s GDC 2010 rant “Please finish your game”: "Anecdotal evidence suggest that there are a great many people who are interested in making games, but have never done so. I suspect this is largely due to the fact that to start making games, you have to make your first game." Chris Breault of Post-Hype was an “assistant writer on The Punisher and Saints Row” and reckons that believable enemy dialogue is much harder – and has a much bigger impact – than many developers would like to believe: “I can't think of another game so destroyed by its dialogue as Splinter Cell: Conviction; not by bad lines alone (which are nothing novel in gaming) but by the way Ubisoft's designers and programmers used them.” Thatgamecompany's Robin Hunicke writes on her blog about getting ‘Juicy Feedback’ and employs lots of juicy graphs. And finally, the Game Overthinker asks “Who’s your daddy, Mega Man?” which I’m sure we’ve all been thinking, but have never been game enough to ask.
This Week In Video Game Criticism: A Departure To Juicy Feedback
In this week's roundup of the most inspiring writing about the art and design of video games, Ben Abraham examines road games, Alpha Protocol and first impressions, "juicy feedback," and lots more.