This week in video game criticism: From roleplaying to THQ logos
This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics including the "subculture of persistent world roleplaying" and a history of THQ logos.
Let's jam with some This Week in Videogame Blogging!
SWING LOW SWEET CHARIOT
This week saw the demise of veteran games publisher THQ. Richard Moss takes us through a history of its logos and branding
IT’S THE ECONOMY
On Tech Crunch, Tadhg Kelly has an interesting article on the inward-facing practices of "casual" games
, and how their approach -- focusing on metrics -- is actually very familiar to us:
Obsessed with measuring everything and therefore defining all of their problems in numerical terms, social game makers have come to believe that those numbers are all there is, and this is why they cannot permit themselves to invent. Like TV people, they are effectively in search of that one number that will explain fun to them. There must, they reason, be some combination of LTV and ARPU and DAU and so on that captures fun, like hunting for the Higgs boson. It must be out there somewhere.
Independent developer Jake Birkett showed up on Gamasutra's Expert Blogs this week with this provocatively titled article
, in which he datamines the revenue of some of his recent games and draws some conclusions about the state of mobile gaming.
On Tap Repeatedly, AJ Lange asks what the real market pressures are for something like Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Tangentially on the subject of economics, you know that game Monopoly
? Of course you do. But do you know about Onopo
, a version of the game which asks: what happens when you take Monopoly's gameplay and strip out all its themes and representationalism?
TALK TO HIM
Gamasutra's Mike Rose sits down for an interview with Richard Hofmeier, developer of 2011 indie sleeper hit Cart Life
On Rock, Paper, Shotgun, resident American Nathan Grayson interviews Jake Elliott, Cardboard Computer co-founder and half the driving force behind Kentucky Route Zero
Also on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, David Valjalo tracks down the musical talents behind 2012 indie game sensations Hotline Miami and FTL
On Gamasutra, Jordane Thiboust takes aim at the tall task of nailing down the various subgenres within the Role Playing Game
On PopMatters Moving Pixels, G. Christopher Williams observes how Assassin's Creed III
protagonist Connor isn't just flat as a character, he doesn't even seem to be from this planet
This assassin is on a years long mission for vengeance (and I realize that that might take up a lot of your time), but for God’s sake, he does have to think about something else once in a while. Again, this seems like what the Homestead missions are intended to do, yet, Connor’s basic inability to grasp any kind of common emotional response or behavior in the sorts of people that might allow us to see that he is more than a slow talking, stoic killer distances him further as a character rather than provides the player with any insight about him or any reason to give a damn about him.
On his personal blog, Tom Jubert draws some parallels
between Little Inferno
and Plato's allegory of the Cave. Likewise, Ontological Geek's Jackson Wagner has a few words about the game on the theme of entropy
And Leigh Alexander and Quintin Smith turned up on Polygon this week for a good old fashioned letter series
, this time on the subject of the hotly-debated Far Cry 3
At Nintendo World Report, Nate Andrews tells the fascinating tale of three game dev brothers
: Tim, Geoff and Mike Follin.
And a new article online at Edge takes us along for the ride on the trail of Japan's first RPG
USE AS DIRECTED
This is great: on using Proteus in the classroom
Elsewhere, Beefjack's Michael Johnson discusses falling into the subculture of Persistent World Roleplaying
through Neverwinter Nights’ DM Client:
Roleplaying is kind of the ugly step-child of acting, something that is routinely mocked and locked in the basement of disdain. From the outsider perspective, it’s seen as a way for people to live out their fantasies -- you get to be Conan the Barbarian cleaving heads with a gigantic sword, or Elvina the sexy sorceress, handy with a spell and rocking that skimpy robe.DESIGN MATTERS
The thing is, when you spend over 4 hours a day roleplaying the same character in a world filled with other sentient entities, you need to be more than that.
I spoke with Troy, admin and creator of the Persistent World ‘Legacy: Dark Age of Britain’, and he puts it like this: "My goal as a player is to, as much as possible, play and understand the ‘role’ of the character, and understand what it must be like to live in the world he’s living. How his motivations, morality, fears, faith, etc. are different from my own given the circumstances he’s in and what actions should he take and what goals would he have based on those factors."
On his Radiator blog, Robert Yang asks how we might approach game narrative algorithmically
: "We have physics engines or texture libraries, so why don't we think of narrative as a modular "asset" or "engine" or "library" to be swapped around as well? Why can't narrative be more "mechanical." Where's all the narrative middleware?"
Back on Gamasutra, Keith Burgun encourages his fellow developers to consider alternatives to Achievements
: "What's so bad about achievements? The mother-problem with any "achievement" system can be stated like this: at their best, they do nothing at all. At their worst, they influence player behavior
Meanwhile, at Critical Gaming, Richard Terrell has posted the first
parts of a three-part series containing some well-rounded advice on design space.
MAKE A GAME
This week Gamespot's Carolyn Petit brought her readers a very nice introduction
on the widespread appeal of accessible game design software Twine. Meanwhile, to put words into practice, Ontological Geek's Bill Coberly has written up a fantastic review of Porpentine's Twine game howling dogs
, itself written in Twine
GAMES AND ACTIVISM
Here’s an interesting game of political vandalism you can play at your own risk: Camover
Leigh Alexander has called off the event. See the reasoning here
This week also saw the announcement Objectify a Man in Tech Day, set for February 1st. Event founder Leigh Alexander offers an overview on New Statesman
, as well as an FAQ on her personal blog
and these helpful tips
for keeping the event positive and non-phobic.
Elsewhere, Stephen Beirne lays down in pretty direct language the purpose of the event
Gendered compliments are of that type of benevolent sexism that generally flies under the social radar. Getting praise is lovely, right? Surely it raises self-esteem and spreads good will to all the boys and girls.
The problem is that benevolent sexism goes hand-in-hand with the more obvious hostile kind (your torsos and your booth babes) and reinforces the subconscious values hidden therein. In essence, it’s the friendly face to those overtly harmful practices and behaviours, making it far more insidious in nature. Unwelcomed and irrelevant compliments on a woman’s appearance can also elicit emotions of self-objectification and shame. By subtly endorsing appearance as a top priority for women, they boost socially ingrained values of superficiality and unrealistic beauty standards.
Like individuals, videogames don’t exist in bubbles isolated away from society. The subconscious values of game makers manifest in industry practices and game design, such as the belief that men will foremost want to protect their female protagonist, or the idea that girlfriends are lovely and all but simply dreadful when it comes to the pew pew. I wonder how many developers have passed on the notion of having a female protagonist on the basis that girls are too dainty for all that running about. The effects of media representation on audiences is something we should always bear in mind.
While the proposed event has drawn criticism from several corners, I would definitely recommend reading the above links before drawing conclusions.
THIS IS AMAZING
You've seen that video of Hotline Miami
's ultra violent mask protagonist invading other games, right? No? Better fix that.
IT'S THAT TIME ONCE AGAIN
There are still a few days to squeeze in an entry for January's Blogs of the Round Table topic!
And as always, we encourage our readers to submit your own recommendations for these roundups via our email contact form
or by @ing us on Twitter
. Your submissions make all the difference each week, so please keep sending them in!