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This Week in Video Game Blogging: Games without Players

by Critical Distance on 11/23/15 03:38:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Riley Macleod on topics ranging from choice developers interviews to envisioning games without players.

At The Mary Sue, Emma Fissenden spoke with Ann Lemay, a current writer for Bioware, on the ins and outs of working with games narratives:

There’s a lot of iteration in our work. There’s a lot of having to let go of ideas you really wanted to run with, there’s trying to make something that needs to be in the game fit, and then there are the times when a plan comes together and you just giggle at yourself and hold your breath while hoping it won’t be need to be cut.

Keith Stuart chatted with Nina Freeman about her recent game Cibele:

Has [Nina] ever been concerned about the implications of putting herself out there so honestly? “Putting myself into these stories in a vulnerable way has definitely taken practice. I’m more and more comfortable with each project. I have learned to separate my present personal life from them, because it could be uncomfortable to feel like critics are talking about me when they talk about the game. Yes, they are talking about me, in a sense, but they are really talking about the character I created based on me. That distinction is important.”

Dean Takahashi at Venturebeat talked to Amy Hennig and Jade Raymond about Star Wars and story in games during the Montreal International Games Summit.

At Kill Screen, Chris Priestman interviewed altgames creator Dylan Barry about his newest project, Uriel’s Chasm 2:

Barry didn’t realize that bringing these games to Steam would seemingly offend so many people. He saw in their reaction a familiar “religious behaviour,” as if he had walked into their temple and smashed their stone commandments, which laid out what games were and how they should be… It was for aspects such as this, along with its esoteric narrative and peculiar challenges, that Uriel’s Chasm was labeled “bundleware”… But Barry wore this label as a badge of honor. This is exactly what he was going for. “My aim was to potentially change a person’s life with something made for mass bundling,” he tells me. “I wanted to play right into the pigeon hole I’d been put in, then feel around for the walls, the limitations of exactly what could be achieved in that dark place.”

AAA is going strong this week, with the recent releases of both Fallout 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. At Gamasutra, Simon Parkin looked at the conflict between narrative and violence in games like Tomb Raider, noting how, for instance:

Nathan Drake becomes an unsettling blend of chirpy wise-cracker and insatiable murderer. This kind of observation has become so prevalent with regard to blockbuster games that even its mention in critical writing is now considered cliché.

Meanwhile, if Fallout 4 is still taking up most of your time, Zak McClendon praised the jankiness you love to hate over at Wired, boldly claiming:

[R]eviewers and players [are] calling out its creaky engine, poor companion AI, sub-par animation, and many other glitches and bugs. Some see this as a failure of Bethesda to get with the program and embrace modern-day AAA polish. I don’t. Each time a new release is as rough and buggy as those that came before, it shows Bethesda is focused on the right things.

Back at Kill Screen, Ed Smith worried about how children are presented as characters:

You encounter humanity in games not in people but through simpler, more tangible non-human vectors. You never speak to people, because people are complicated. Instead, you straightforwardly learn about people through architecture, diaries and robots, objects which can purport an essence of humanity but also be used to conveniently sidestep the pressures and expectations of writing and creating a believable human character.

Several writers looked at the role of the player this week. Brendan Keogh imagines videogames without players:

Designed without a human player, the system would work perfectly, without hiccups, and much faster. While the computer can smash out thousands of decisions and act on them in a microsecond, the player has to drag their lumpy fleshy digits from one button to another and press it while also pushing on a thumbstick and thinking about what to do while also not being distracted by a barking dog or the afternoon sun glare on their television screen.

Last, Gita Jackson heads over to Paste to reflect on what her experience at Indiecade says about the sustainability of the industry, responding to the recent resignation of Indiecade coordinator John Sharp:

When I got back home, I emptied my backpack and dumped business cards on the floor. It wasn’t that I thought people weren’t happy to meet me or that I didn’t think genuine connections were being made. But I was also very aware that everyone at Indiecade was kind of there to make a sale. It’s the nature of the beast. You want to be an artist, but you have to eat.

And There You Have It

Hopefully this has given you a lot of food for thought (Get it? Ah, you get it…) If there’s something you’d like to see featured, let us know about it on Twitter or over email.

As always, Critical Distance is supported by the generosity of readers like you! If you’d like to help us out, you can make a donation at our Patreon or Recurrency. We also take donations through Paypal now!


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