[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 looks at an odd flight sim interview experience, the permanence of Pokemon, and plenty more besides.]
I missed this because I was away last week at the snow, making snowpeople and snow forts and having an all around great time: Tim Stone invents a fanciful interview with The Flight Sim Genre
(yes, the genre personified) in which some telling truths and interesting things are discussed. For instance – why was the genre so popular in its heyday and what changed? What would it take to see a resurgence of aeronautical combat games? I recently went looking for a copy of a flight sim game I played in my early teens called A-10 Cuba!
as I had a rush of nostalgia for it; coincidence?
Roger Travis looks this week at whether Bioshock belongs (in the classical tradition) to the Epic or Tragic
genre: “The question I want to consider in this post is whether it's helpful to think about these ancient genres together in connection with our ongoing attempt to figure out what video games are good for.”
I’ll resist the temptation to respond with a Brownian “Absolutely nothing!”
Matthew Armstrong of The Misanthropic Gamer writes about ‘The Pokemon Ego Agenda
’, saying “It's pretty damn easy to point out that Pokemon is a series that needs to change. The trick however, is dealing with what is an established and deeply set-in formula that has lasted over a decade now.”
Denis Farr, having moved his blog the Vorpal Bunny Ranch over to a new site, writes about the independent XBLA game Limbo
in an aptly named post, ‘Before Limbo
And at Bitmob, Patricia Hernandez also looks at the game in, ‘Limbo: A Journey Through Hell
’, a beautifully written piece about humanity’s relationship with traveling: “Today civilization is defined by the industrious stationary cityscape. Civilized men, you will find them in towns, in cities, in an office. The others, the ones that render themselves illegible to society -- nomads -- their world is travel.”
I could definitely see this being spun out into a much more lengthy and in-depth piece. It’s a rich topic for discussion at any rate.
The Game Prodigy blog turns its attention this week to ‘Focus, Atmosphere, Limitations: Learning from Shadow of the Colossus’
: "How does the world work together with the gameplay? And... why is the game so limited in the abilities of the main character? Was that on purpose?"
At the Grey Wardens, Emily Bembeneck writes about ‘Shale and Gender Stereotypes in Dragon Age
’ examining the DLC character of Shale.
On a related tangent, Andrea Phillips at Deus Ex Machinatio looks at the choose-your-own-adventure style games by Choice of Games and the way they handle gender choices. Phillips’ argument centres on the fact that merely changing the gender of the avatar results in a superficially “female” character
as it won’t reflect a true female experience. She notes, “...one of the things I found so captivating about [Dragon Age] was the overt sexism of some characters. It was incredibly satisfying to me to have a character take a dismissive attitude of me in the game, because I was a woman -- as in real life -- and have the power in the game to rise above it and prove them wrong, in a way I don't always have the courage or capacity to do in real life.”
Of course it’s a supremely tricky line to walk, and she goes on to outline some of the ways to approach the issue, each of which has unique drawbacks.
You might like to read the next in light of the above, as Leigh Alexander explains what she discovered by playing Persona 3 Portable as an in-game girl
for Kotaku. It’s interesting as it’s not quite same situation Phillips found herself in, as Alexander notes: “I didn't realize a virtual sex change would make the experience anything but the same as before.”
Elsewhere, LB Jeffries, writing at Pop Matters considers ‘Morality in Shiren the Wanderer
’. I’ve always wanted to play Shiren, ever since Iroquois Pliskin mentioned, way back in January of 2009
, that he’d spent a delirious week walking the line between consciousness and unconsciousness while playing Shiren with a horrible tropical fever.
Also at PopMatters, G Christopher Williams has one of the most punchy openers to any blog post I’ve read recently, noting: “Pac-Man will die. / The space invaders will win. / Donkey Kong will get the girl. And you won’t.”
It’s about ‘Cynicism and Retro Game “Endings”
In another notable post, The Psychology of Games looks at Immersion in videogames
taking a more theoretical approach to the subject than some of the recent more philosophical discussions.
Simon Parkin’s ‘Maps’ for BoingBoing
was an interesting read. I thought it was interesting that the map of the Final Fantasy
world depicted at the top was so characteristically Final Fantasy-
esque, even if it was from a game I hadn’t actually played, I could still tell it was Final Fantasy
Evan over at the freshly minted Fickle Cycle blog writes ‘On why Far Cry 2 and STALKER are some of the most important games this gen
’. I couldn’t resist. And Michael Abbott writes about Deathspank for GameSetWatch in ‘Blood, Steel and Bacon
In addition, on his Brainy Gamer blog, Abbott writes about the ‘Arab Shooting Gallery
’ that is the WiiWare game Heavy Fire: Special Operations
. In response to the points raised by Abbott, Jason Young on the Beeps and Boops blog writes about why he felt outraged by the aforementioned game in ‘Destroy All Arabs!
Kirk Hamilton attended ‘Jesse Schell's "Visions of the Gamepocalypse"
’ talk at the Yerba Buena Centre in San Francisco this week and helpfully wrote up the talk for everyone to dissect and enjoy.
In another part of the blogosphere, Radek Koncewicz looks at the difficulty in localizing exclamations
, taking the example of FFXIII: “As things stand, vocalizations often come across as alien and awkward. They break the flow of conversation and the suspension of disbelief, and can leave a new audiences feeling put off.”
Brendan Keogh at Critical Damage writes about his first faltering steps with Final Fantasy VII
in ‘imagined interactions
’, using the tale to advocate the use of more player imagination in gaming. And Paul Sztajer at Fabula Ex-Machina discusses Inventory Management in games
Nels Anderson asks, quite pertinently, ‘Why Are So Many Indie Darlings 2D Platformers?
’ spurred on by a twitter conversation. Anderson says, “I'm not using 'indie darling' pejoratively, and I'm going to sidestep splitting hairs about what is and isn't "indie." Suffice to say, edge cases aside, I think there's a common set of games we can agree on. As for why there are so many 2D platformers, there are at least two significant reasons. One is purely pragmatic, the other more related to the medium itself.”
Go read the whole thing to find out what Anderson thinks those reasons are.
In a notable piece, Matthew Burns spoke to Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Videogames Matter
, about the game Alan Wake
and what he thought about a fiction writer as game protagonist: “I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear about a video game whose protagonist was a fiction writer. Then I read that this fiction writer protagonist could sprint for only about ten feet or so, and I thought, ‘Yes! They’ve done their research!’”
It’s short, and won’t take you more than two minutes, but there are some real gems in there.