[Gamasutra is 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 the future of digital distribution and Portal's female protagonist.]
Jenn Frank of Infinite Lives writes one of the best explications of the importance of feminist readings of videogames in ‘Videogame feminist of the decade; or, when “You” is a girl
It’s a hard one to sum up in the short blurb I usually do for these sorts of pieces, so here’s a big chunk that hopefully illustrates some of its more critical points. Frank is talking about Portal
here, and the moment in which the player first observes their player-character through a portal.
“And so now you say to yourself—maybe not aloud, maybe internally instead—“I wonder what I look like.” So you backtrack, trying to get a better look at yourself. And ever so carefully, you edge into your own line-of-sight. Surprise! You are a chick. THAT IS UNSETTLING. It’s unsettling even if you really are a chick, but probably also if you are a dude.
Because, when you spatially align yourself so that you can observe your own avatar, she is staring off to her right or left through a space/time vortex, ostensibly gazing right back at you. And (this is the horrific part), you and she are standing in exactly the same spot and moment in space and time, eyeing each other. I don’t think there’s a stranger existential moment in the history of gaming.
Evan Stubbs writes at Red Kings Dream about ‘the future of digital distribution
’. It’s a theme we’ve seen a couple of times this month, first turning up in LB Jeffries piece on the irresistible lure of steam sales, and then several times elsewhere.
In related news, Rock Paper Shotgun also noted this week the coming of a possible ‘second hand market for downloaded games
’. That would be interesting, wouldn’t it?
Elsewhere, Latoya Peterson, writing for The Borderhouse this week, noted that ‘The Patriarchy Hurts Gamer Guys Too: The Rockstar Labor Controversy, Game Developer Wives and Work/Life Balance
’. The most important idea being that while poor managerial practices (such as crunch) hurt everyone, men included; it doesn’t affect everyone equally and can have a worse detrimental impact on women in the game development workforce. Quotes from Erin Hoffman and Brenda Brathwaite appear in the article and both make appearances in the comments.
In another notable blog post, Daniel Bullard-Bates writes about Final Fantasy IV
in a post titled ‘Real Sacrifice
’, noting: "Personal sacrifice for the sake of others has been a source of fascination and praise for humanity" - even in Square Enix RPGs.
Paul Bauman writes in to let us know about a piece he wrote on immersion and risk over at Destructoid, in a new post called ‘The Future: Thrown to the Wolves.
Matt Gallant helpfully points us in direction of a piece by Jonathan Morin of Ubisoft Montreal about the importance of context in game design
. He uses a touching story of the context around losing a baby and the insights it gave him, and moves onto context in sports games. It’s a very different, very intimate kind of post, but worth reading nonetheless.
Aaron Sexton lets us know that he has written about Bayonetta’s plot
, which he feels has been overlooked in favour of discussion around the sexualized imagery in the game. Sexton unfavourably compares the game to the King Kong
movie game tie in.
We mentioned Gaming Watch in last weeks post, and this week they discuss ‘A Slow News Day
’, in which the enthusiast press echo chamber uncritically re-posts dubious polls from a UK website.
Loyal readers of TWIVGB may remember a post from the Lesbian Gamers website that discussed the nature of the Halo 3: ODST
character of Dare, with the argument that the game presented a rather sexist depiction of her character. More recently, the author of the original post came across an alternative reading of the Dare character in an entry on the Halo wikia page called “Examination of Female Characters
” and praised it for its thoughtful disagreement with the Lesbian Gamers original. My Xbox 360 is currently dead, so I’m still waiting to play ODST
, which is a real shame.
Rock Paper Shotgun’s Kieron Gillen and Quintin Smith have been playing the hex-grid turn-based indie game Solium Inferium
, by the same solo developer who did the well received Armageddon Empires
. This week saw the completion of a truly stunning series of running game diary posts
that describe the game in all its glorious backstabbery and intrigue. It’s one of the best things RPS have done and a highly entertaining read.
Other readers that have gotten in touch this week to point us towards this piece by James Dilks at No Added Sugar asking 'Do We Need Criticism?
' -- to which my own response would be a resounding 'Yes!'
Stephen Locker is producing a series of video essays on 'Games Worth Remembering'. If you're at all familiar with the explosion of video essays issuing forth from the multitudes of film critics on the net then you'll know the format. This piece on the PS3 game Flower
combines video, music and voice-over in what is the first truly solid attempt (that I've encountered at least) at this format of games criticism. Ever since I encountered one about a horror film I've since forgotten, I've been waiting now for the first video essay about games to turn up. The first in this very promising series can also be found here
Did we really get to the end without mentioning Dragon Age: Origins
? Better fix that by linking to this piece by Dan Bruno - ‘Morrigan Disapproves
’. The DA:O
pool is safe for another week.