September 26, 2011 3:00 PM | Eric Caoili
[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Eric Swain on topics including The Sims Social, what's off about Gears of War 3, and why games don't have to be fun.]
Welcome one and all. It is my pleasure to be your guide today around the Gallery of Vido Game Criticism from this week. We have a bevy of word-pieces for you, so if you'll just follow me through the gallery...
We start our tour at that weekly goldmine that is the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog. From last week we have Sean Brady, who goes back to take a look at Chrono Trigger, explaining the importance of historical context when looking at its work. And from this week we have Kris Ligman looking at the concept of virtual patience in video games and Scott Juster's look at Catherine's characters and messages, finding they hit a little too close to home.
Meanwhile on your right, you'll see Juster's partner in crime Jorge Albor at the Experience Points blog looking at the discussion coming out of Games for Change (G4C) and their "focus on "serious" and social impact games." The discussion at present is around 'What kind of change are we talking about here?'
Now if you will look over here in the next room, we can see the great work that came out of Kill Screen this past week. James Dilks looks at the names of video games and what they convey about what is within, particularly the unusual case of VVVVVV. Brendan Keogh is behind a barrier of his own making as he realizes that, like Red from The Shawshank Redemption, he too has been institutionalized. And Lana Polansky reviews indie game Rock of Ages and its tumultuous journey through time and Western art history.
In the 'contemporary art corner' over here are the submissions from the Bitmob writers collective. Sumo Attuqayefio has a short, but heartfelt piece on how Shadow of the Colossus helped him emotionally deal with his daughter's cancer; Kate Cox asks 'Why does the fear of death continue to be gaming's greatest motivator?'; and Rus McLaughlin says, 'Games don't have to be fun.' It has, to my mind, a conclusion that perfectly sums up the argument:
"Even if you didn't exactly enjoy yourself at the time, you'll probably look back and consider it a fun experience. Not because you enjoyed playing it...but because you enjoyed the result."
On the feature wall to your left, we are proud to present two new pieces from David Carlton at the Malvasia Bianca blog. Continuing on from last week's puzzle talks, he focuses on Catherine here in 'Rearranging mental blocks', and addresses the game more holistically in the aptly titled 'Catherine.'
We are also most happy to present to you a brand new work in three parts from The Artist Formerly Known as L.B. Jeffries - Mr. Kirk Battle Esq. himself. The creator of these works calls them the 'MMO Judiciary' cycle, focusing on the upcoming legal complications as real money enters the MMO sphere and what companies can do going into the future.
If you will follow me into the next antechamber, you can see two pieces of worthwhile news. To your left, Tracey Lien has a real piece of investigative journalism at Kotaku Australia, exploring the consequences of 'What Happens To Developers When A Studio Closes', counterpointed nicely by the challenging political overtones of GamePolitics' 'How a 14 Year-Old Girl Changed NHL 12.' I believe this title speaks for itself.
Keep up, everyone, please keep up. We are now entering the Hall of Theory.
Here you will see Kate Cox's piece 'Win, Lost, or Fail,' from the Your Critic is in Another Castle blog, about what video games are and what winning or losing has to do with it. Alongside the aforementioned work is a piece by a new artist on the scene - one 'hellfire', from the You Must Register blog, in which is discussed the general lacuna the author feels is present in the work of Gonzalo Frasca and Ian Bogost w/r/t more complex games like Planescape: Torment.
On the wall opposing is Mike Birkhead writing for Gamasutra, and going into detail of the particulars of 'What makes combat fun.' Adjacent to Birkenhead is Critical Missive's Eric Swartz talking about the annoying trope survival horror games use, which is that their poor controls are actually a feature. As you can see, our gallery is well and truly overflowing with works and the trustees of the gallery are having a fundraising drive to expand the Hall of Theory wing. You kind donations are generously appreciated.
Through this renaissance era archway is a little transitional alcove, installed within which is a piece by Brendan Keogh at his personal blog Critical Damage. He talks about the contemporary treatment and perception of scientists within two iOS games that seem to encapsulate the sentiment:
"Personally, I find it all incredibly infuriating when I watch television and see creationism and evolution debated as equal 'theories', or when the secret agendas of a climate scientist's peer-reviewed findings are questioned by an oil company, but that is not an area I'm an expert in or tend to write on.
What I find interesting, however, is how this general attitude to the sciences permeates and is reflected in our cultural texts. In particularly, two videogames I've played and loved in recent months I think could be seen as emerging from this culture that has become obsessed with discrediting and deriding the sciences."
Now if you will follow me into The Room of Games, where we have a number of interesting pieces on individual games.
Here before us is another piece that was rescued from the archives by a diligent graduate student doing research for us. This week we are proud to present the work of Tom Bissell and his thoughts on Dead Island for Grantland. We are very fortunate indeed this piece has been spared the indignity of languishing undisplayed in the basement.
On the left wall are Randy Smith and Theoron Jacobs getting into a dialogue on what makes Sword & Sworcery so 'awesomely cool', and it is brought to us by a generous grant from the Edge Foundation.
Tom Chick on the Quarter-to-Three wall describes what is off about Gears of War 3.
"Late in Gears of War 3, someone will say, 'Bloody hell, they found the UIR! It's a Gorasni ship!' The line is delivered as if it's something that matters, but Gears of War 3 hasn't told me what a UIR is or who the Gorasni are. The line might as well have been 'Bloody hell, they found the Boop-i-dee-bop! It's a Whamble-di-dee ship!' It's an example of how Gears 3 cares about itself far too much to be arsed to care about me."
Much has been said about the boss fights of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but in an impeccable display of creativity Nick Rudzicz at Newton64 decides to go a step further and fill in the blanks left behind by the developers.
On the far wall behind you, you will find the Erik Hanson Equality Scholarship winner Denis Farr's roleplaying account of Pokemon: Fire Red as drag diva, made possible by the Gamers With Jobs.
And the centerpiece of the room - by emerging artist Nathan Grayson (so hot right now) - is a piece exploring Bastion's multitextuality and how it succeeds where many others fail. Grayson sees Bastion as a game about moving forward while simultaneously looking backwards, but curiously not at the same time.
This concludes the tour... but what? Oh yes. That...piece in the center of the room. Yes, it was a controversial inclusion by the museum director himself: some post-modernish rambling by Tim Robbins or whatever his name is from Action Button on The Sims Social. I really can't engage with it, but certainly it is here for you if you like that sort of thing.
Now please feel free to browse around, I hope you have enjoyed the tour and we thank you for stopping by the Gallery of Vido Game Criticism. Please feel free to direct your comments, suggests and recommendations to the Board of Trustees via Twitter or email.