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This Week In Video Game Criticism: From post-game content to  Hotline Miami 's importance
This Week In Video Game Criticism: From post-game content to Hotline Miami's importance
November 6, 2012 | By Cameron Kunzelman

November 6, 2012 | By Cameron Kunzelman
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More: Console/PC, Design



This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Cameron Kunzelman on topics including why Hotline Miami is so important, why post-game content shouldn't exist, and more.

I am Cameron Kunzelman. I don't have any gimmick. I just have links to things that were written this week. Let me tell you, as an occasional person who does this, that curating this is a special kind of hell. Imagine an infinite row of tabs scrolling into a human eyeball forever. It is a little bit like that.

This is This Week in Video Game Criticism. Here are the links. There isn't a real order to them – no beautiful cataloging like Kris would do. But you will deal with that just fine.

Rob Zacny writes about the implosion of Homefront developers Kaos Studios over at Polygon. It gets deep in the nitty-gritty; names are named. Go check it out. For the reverse story, read Dean Dodrill's narrative of how he created Dust: An Elysian Tale out of nothing but blood, bone, and bits.

A key theme of the week, based on this distinction that I just made up, is violence. Rachel Helps, writing at Nightmare Mode, explains "How Mormons Get Away With Murder In Videogames." She writes:
"The fantasy aspect of a game is necessary to distance ourselves from videogame violence, and by extension, intending to apply it to real life. It's the reason why most parents are perfectly comfortable with their children slaughtering innocent goombas, but get nervous about them playing Uncharted. If videogame worlds are completely unlike the real world, it's harder to transfer the virtually practiced actions of killing (unconsciously or otherwise) to real life. In real life you can't jump high enough to jump on top of your enemies like Mario does. But you can carry around a gun and shoot someone in the head like in Uncharted."
Speaking of Uncharted, Greg Weaver writes about the theme of that game and how it is totally rad. I will admit to both having no idea what music is and to also thinking the article is awesome.

Daniel Golding writes about watching Robin Hunicke play Journey. The piece will turn you into a giant weepy baby.
"Hunicke eventually put down her controller. Journey had reached its climax, and she would not go beyond the early scenes of snow. It was too personal to continue, she said. Though it would have been thrilling to see her play through perhaps the most moving section of Journey, she was right. Some things need to be experienced alone—or with only an anonymous internet user who could be hundreds of kilometres away."
Jamin Warren thinks games are too long, Yannick LeJacq thinks gamification and freemium politics has exploded outward, and Stephen Beirne thinks long and hard about determinism.

Alice Kojiro writes about content in games. (I want to interject here and just say that Alice writes some of the most content-full posts about games on the internet.)
"Speaking of appropriate levels of content, there's a rising trend that really bothers me about most newer RPGs: post-game content. Such a thing shouldn't really exist; post-game is going online and telling your friends, fans, and whomever else wants to listen about the game you've just finished. Or otherwise, telling your real life friends, if you're one of those people with non-digital friends; filthy socialites. When you finish a game, it should be finished, but many developers are insisting upon putting a little something extra for which you must return to the game to experience, often taking place in a continuity shattering place in the timeline before the battle with the final boss that you've already killed."
Andrew Vanden Bossche brings us an all new, all better scoring system.

The rest of the links that I have to show you are based around three recent games: Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation, Dishonored, and Hotline Miami.

Two links about Liberation: Daniel Kaszor interviews Jill Murray, the writer of the game, about, well, the story of the game. Evan Narcisse points out that, surprisingly, a game about a black woman in America actually contains a little information about what it would have been like to be a black person at the time.

More and more Dishonored posts pop up every week. Rowan Kaiser points out how the game uses its steampunk aesthetic as shorthand of class criticism. Justin Keverne explains that Dishonored is all about how poorly you treat those you choose to treat poorly. Cameron Kunzelman, in a moment where he chooses to promote his own writing, puzzles out the ethics of the world of Dishonored and finds them painfully and artfully sad. Oh, and Scott Juster thinks that river krusts are creepy.

One second. Let us check ourselves lest we wreck ourselves. Joe Martin wants us to pause of a minute and realize that Dishonored is a lot like Thief. XCOM is back, too, and we're all drooling and the thought of a new Sim City. Are we…back in the 1990s?
"For years now, I've felt the games industry was stuck in a cynical and boring rut. It seemed like there was an endless cycle of games which were moving us in the wrong direction, that were getting bigger instead of better. Modern Warfares rolled by like they were coming off a production line and, it turns out, they kind of were. Publishers were getting us excited over all the wrong things – release platforms and the amount of playtime and polygons and 3D. The sort of stuff that's good to know, but which isn't why games actually matter.

Do you want to know the reason that Call of Duty hasn't had a new idea in five years? It's because it hasn't needed one."
Oh well! Lets just power through it and get all the way back to the sweet, sweet 1980s (I'm told the 1980s air was much more fresh!).

Hotline Miami has made a lot of people excited since it was released. Kyle Carpenter makes the comparison with Drive and with at-home dentistry. Rami Ismali does some amazing work to try and get at why Hotline Miami is so important, finally coming to the conclusion that
"The trick that Hotline Miami employs perfectly is offering no time for thought during its violent gameplay and then offering abundant need for reflection through pause and uncertainty of narrative. All of that was not achieved by telling me to feel this way, nor by voice-over or dialogue – it was that unique combination of interactivity, visuals, audio, dialogue and atmosphere that only games can offer.

Hotline Miami took a daring step forward into an uncharted territory in which ego, player, avatar, autonomy, trust, action, responsibility, justice, morality, games and gaming all hold relevance, but never are quite clearly defined, never quite take shape and often overlap, exclude each other or challenge each other in impossible ways."
That is all I have for you this week. Please remember to send in your link suggestions by Twitter or email. And be sure to check out Alan Williamson's roundup for October's Blogs of the Round Table.


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