October 4, 2011 3:00 PM | Eric Caoili
[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ian Miles Cheong on topics including who killed video games, comparisons between The Wire and Demon's Souls, and more.]
Welcome to another installment of This Week in Video Game Criticism with appearances from some of our usual suspects as well as a few newcomers. It's been awhile since I last curated this series — since June, if you're keeping track —so I hope you'll enjoy what we have on show in this week's edition. After all, it's only the best of videogame writing, blogging, and criticism.
To crank things up is an excellent piece by Tim Rogers on Insert Credit, in which he writes about the death of videogames as we knew them and the birth of something much more insidious. As Rogers so eloquently puts it, it's all about the "cruel mathematics." The piece is in multiple chapters, so be sure to grab a coffee, find a nice place to sit, and read this one at your leisure – it's worth your time.
At Digital Romance Lab, Marc Bell brings up the subject of female nudity in games, and how we — the audience — approach it. He asserts that while many gamers and critics who express discomfort at the presence of female nudity are themselves the immature ones, videogames have yet to reach a level of maturity of technique comparable to film.
Dan Bruno writes about Bastion for his blog Cruise Elroy. It's succinct, and it touches upon the introductory portions of the game. Had he not played the game for longer than two hours, he says, he'd have missed the game's brilliance entirely. The same, perhaps, could be said of many other games so deliberately paced.
At Second Person Shooter, Laura Michet writes about the terms "gaming" and "gamer" and what it means to be a "real gamer", who plays "real games." She refers of course of that familiar phenomenon of gaming elitists, whose supposedly superior opinions offer them the privilege of denigrating anyone with a view counter to their own.
Fans of The Wire should take note of this next article. Matthew Armstrong draws similarities to David Simon's gritty TV series and Demon's Souls on his Misanthropic Gamer blog. Armstrong compares and contrasts each of the five seasons with the five different stages of Demon's Souls, just like that.
Next up is a PopMatters piece by Nick Dinicola on Deus Ex: Human Revolution's use of text for story recaps. For anyone who's ever paused a game, and gone off to play something else for a few weeks (or months) hopping back in isn't as easy as flipping back a few pages—even though it should be. One worth noting, developers!
Also on PopMatters' Moving Pixels blog is an article by G. Christopher Williams on the monetization of social (read: "Facebook") games. "Monetization" is undoubtedly an awful word, but it's one we're slowly but surely getting familiar with thanks to the proliferation of "freemium" games. The article talks about the different ways these games make money. A nice pair with Tim Rogers piece we mentioned earlier.
And more from Mr Rogers himself, at Kotaku this time, wherein he proposes ten suggestions that would make Facebook games fun to play, if not actually great. For those of us inured to the "cruel mathematics" and "engagement wheels" he referred to in the first article I linked (you did read it already, yes?), these suggestions are quite welcome.
At the Brindle Brothers blog, John Brindle shares his thoughts on the moreish Robot Unicorn Attack, a game I've attempted to understand—attempts which lasted about as long as the attempt to suffer through Nyan Cat. What initially begins as an exercise in futility (to you perhaps! – Ed.) quickly becomes an insightful look at Robot Unicorn Attack's aesthetics, which John argues shouldn't be overlooked in favor of analyzing its rudimentary game mechanics.
Next up is a piece by Leigh Alexander in Edge Magazine, in which she proposes gamers should keep level heads and get upset about the right things:
"…gamers might have suffered for years feeling like second-class citizens, but now they've grown extremely invested in ideas of what they are owed from both sides, highly precise about what they deserve, and vocal when they feel they are not receiving it."
Last, but not least is Alex Raymond's killer article on Dragon Age 2 at the While !Finished blog, which broaches the subjects of choice and triumph. Complaints abound around the game's supposed lack of agency—complaints that Raymond wants to address. She points out how the companion characters, after all, have just as much agency within the story as the protagonist.