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This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Design to Mirror Worlds

This Week in Video Game Criticism: From Design to Mirror Worlds

May 6, 2013 | By Cameron Kunzelman

May 6, 2013 | By Cameron Kunzelman
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More: Console/PC, Indie, Design

This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Cameron Kunzelman on topics including design archaeology, mirrored settings, and more.

All Star Party Zone

Top billing this week goes to Darius Kazemi's essay titled "Fuck Videogames." I'm going to refrain from commentary; going into it without any preconceptions is a good idea. After you read that, go for Liz Ryerson's "it's okay to like games," which I read as a companion piece to Kazemi even though they are basically unrelated to one another.

Switch gears. Ryerson and Robert Yang both made what you could call "critical Let's Play" videos for an event in Chicago ran by Jake Elliott. Yang's is on the first room of Half Life and Ryerson's is about the CliffyB sleeper hit Bioshock Infinite.

Bioshock Againfinite

If you're not totally burned out on anything and everything Bioshocky, Nicole Marie comments on Infinite, but with a particular focus on the critical discussion around Elizabeth as one of the best female characters of all time. Nick Dinicola also has things to say about the game, reading Booker DeWitt's character arc as a failed one.

Issues of Representation

Speaking of representations of women in video games, Samantha Allen posted an audio recording of ETSUcon's Sexism in Gaming panel (which I was lucky enough to be a part of) over at The Border House. At the same site, Mark Filipowich writes about privilege and how it is expressed in the RPGMaker game Exit Fate.

Helen Berents reads Ni No Kuni through the lens of peace studies, focusing on how the game positions conflict in relation to childhood. Rebecca Mir writes on Dog Eat Dog> and its representations of colonialism as a "fun" activity. At First Person Scholar, Sarah Gibbons writes on Auti-Sim and how it might be a problematic representation of autism that could push us forward to better, more equitable games dealing with the topic. A pull:
One of the important messages that disability studies scholars and autistic self-advocates reiterate is that disability should not be understood through the lens of pity. Working against a medical model that suggests that disability is an individual problem, disorder, or defect, many scholars articulate a social model of disability that emphasizes the disabling impact of built environments and social attitudes. Some scholars question the idea of impairment; for example, Shelley Tremain, who exposes the realist ontology that informs our understanding of impairment, explains that our definitions of impairments are not objective, but historically contingent . Tremain and other scholars point toward a generative model of bodily difference. The question with respect to games becomes, can simulation games enable players to explore these alternative models?

Developing A Critical Games Writing Community

Real talk: video game criticism is in a strange place. It is mostly performed by under-/un-paid people who want to talk about video games in some way other than "this was good, this was bad, 9.5/10." So with that in mind:

The new website re/Action launched into its beta this month. As the About page states,
re/Action evolved out of the need for change. Critical, experimental writing suffers in a media landscape based on traditional publishing models, and diverse readerships only find hostile environments without proper inclusivity policies. This publication aims to celebrate the amazing writing often turned away from the mainstream sites and left unpaid. We want to capture the conversations that need to happen and create a safe space for all to participate.

The first, "beta" month has articles by Lana Polansky, Denis Farr, and EIC Mattie Brice.

Five Out of Ten Magazine also released a new issue this week. If you haven't purchased any of the magazine so far, maybe think about buying the value-laden triple pack?

Take a Breather

Watch these motion capture videos of videogames by Nicolas Boillot.

History Schmistory

Here are some links about games history: Michael Barnes writes on the history of the "Dudes on a Map" genre of board games. Carl Therrien speaks in interview about a particular way of doing games history, laying out some basic information while pleading for a move to critical and specific history. More contemporary: read the story of Jager and how they came to develop Spec Ops: The Line. At Eurogamer, Craig Owens delves into a forum community obsessed with doing design archaeology of Shadow of the Colossus. Finally, Joel Cuthbertson tells it like it is: "The Boston Bombings Are Not A Meme."

Video Games Are Serious Business

Chris Bateman posted about the problem of "fiction denial" in games. Steve Wilcox interviewed Jesper Juul for First Person Scholar.

Design Time

Over at Unwinnable, George Weidman calls for a resurgence in analysis about Antichamber and makes lots of interesting points about lateral thinking. Scott Juster finds the banality of evil in Papers, Please. Adam Biessener pleads with the designers of videogame morality systems: "stop making me kick puppies to shoot lightning."

Nathan Altice (who only writes golden articles of wonderment) analyzes basically everything about Super Mario Bros. through vectors and how they work. Go learn.

Random Things That Are Good So Go Read Them

Andrew Vanden Bossche gives us magic. Roger Travis gets to the heart of immersion in Papo & Yo. Stephanie Carmichael shows us the mirror worlds of Twin Peaks and Deadly Premonition. Jason Johnson went looking for Jason Rohrer's hidden board game. George Kokoris finally saw in 3D with Nintendo's help. Aaron Matteson wonders if there is such a thing as "compassionate trolling." I played Rogue Warrior and found it to be no more silly than CODBLOPZ. Joel Goodwin falls in love with Starseed Pilgrim.

Foreign Correspondence

As always, Johannes Koeller is here with the foreign correspondence appreciation station:

Over on Kleiner Drei, Lucie Hohler interviewed Lea Schoenfelder about her Kinect game/art project Perfect Woman. On videogametourism, Rainer Sigl, Franzi Bechtold, Christof Zurschmitten und Robert Glashuettner all shared their experience and thoughts on the recently concluded AMAZE festival (or A MAZE, or Indie Connect, or whatever it's called these days). On, Benjamin Filitz also wrote about the AMAZE at length and Dennis Kogel has an interview with Jana Reinhardt of Ratking Entertainment and Arnold Floeck of Tinytouchtales up, in which they muse about the structures of the local indie scene and wonder why it doesn't seem to produce any well-known, polarizing figures. Why is there no local version of Phil Fish?

That's all for this week! Thanks for reading!

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