Given last time’s Gone Home-dedicated TWIR and my negligence this past week, I have about three weeks’ worth of stuff to share with you. It’s also my first since Halloween, hence the title. All in all, here’s a pretty disparate bunch of writings. I regret I have very little to show by women in the field – I don’t know how it managed to turn out that way but I really don’t like it. In future, I’ll make a greater effort to provide a stronger balance of authors and content creators.
Down at the bottom you’ll find links to a handful of games you could be playing literally right now, so feel free to skip to the end to try them all out.
Links and articles that contain minor spoilers (minor narrative beats or gameplay segments, etc.) will be marked with a *. Those with major spoilers (major plot twists of story beats) will be marked with a **.
Daniel Starkey on The Jace Hall Show*, on the characterization of Bonnie in The Walking Dead: 400 Days.
Drop Out Hang Out Space Out on realism as presentation of systems, rather than representation of reality, regarding Grand Theft Auto.
Mattie Brice on Alternate Ending, advocating the deprioritisation of the player by authors of personal stories. I’d contest the point that player agency doesn’t exist, but it’s a minor point and not intrinsic to the purpose of the article.
John Walker’s The Sunday Papers on Rock Paper Shotgun. Only recently did I learn that RPS put out these brief Sunday roundups, so I’d like to share this one because I support the endeavour.
Eric Swain on Pop Matters*, on the control interface and door-opening mechanics of Fatal Frame 2 (Project Zero 2 on this side of the pond). I’m also playing Project Zero 2 these days, and once I finish it I was planning on writing something on these exact points. Swain’s piece makes my own redundant. Give it a read, he’s spot on.
Mike Rose on Gamasutra, on playing into cycles of stress and relief in Spy Party.
Quintin Smith on Shut Up And Sit Down, on a banquet party game version of The Prisoner’s Dilemma.
Cameron Kunzelman on This Cage is Worms arguing the benefits of analysing AAA games.
Ami Angelwings on Escher Girls pointing out the body politics of Elder Scrolls Online.
Sidney Fussell on Pixels or Death talking about how all too often the perceived solution to gender politics is simply to add more women. Could have done without the paragraph singing Mass Effect‘s praises, perhaps, since that’s very much a title where the male is set as default (male animations for Shepard, and masculine pronouns make it into Citadel audio clips) and with notoriously gendered beliefs on human behaviour.
Robert Yang on Radiator* cheering holistic design mentalities as evidenced by The Last of Us‘ texturing ethos.
Brendan Keogh on The Conversation, discussing what Call of Duty‘s trailers say about its intended audience.
On his own blog, Critical Damage, Brendan Keogh’s** notes on Call of Duty: Ghosts.
Bob Chipman on The Escapist with a write-up of one of Anita Sarkeesian’s recent lectures in the academic circuit.
Brian Boudreaux on Player’s Delight** bringing to light how the invisible choice mechanics of Beyond: Two Souls play in to the player’s perception of his/her experience. It sounds like the problems found in the case of Beyond could have been solved by snapping the player out of traditional choice mechanic mentalities where everything is clearly labelled and broadcast. This article has done a lot to make me want to pick up Beyond – from a design perspective I’m a big advocate of invisible choice mechanics.
Brendan Sinclair on Games Industry, on the trend of games journalists and critics to jump the industry fence.
Matt Suckley on Gameranx, talking about his unorthodox history of game titles.
Chris Priestman on Indie Statik, rounding up a trio of controversies concerning some indie games and the lessons learned from their mistakes. He also wrote about some of the relationship problems that may arise between indie devs and the press.
It’s not a piece of writing but I love this collection of Final Fantasy VII‘s pre-rendered backgrounds* on Cannon Barrage.
Self plug! On Gameranx, I compared BioShock Infinite unfavourably with BioShock 2* in terms of the progression of the series’ system design.
Good news – this week I have a barrel of games to share with you. I’ll start with a couple of scary ones.
The Corridor is a Russian horror game. It’s pretty traditional in how it goes about getting a scare, but damn if it didn’t affect me. It’s nice and short and evenly paced.
Imscared by Ivan Zanotti takes the techniques now familiar to us from Slender, Amnesia and so on, and elaborates them into a more expansive surrealist game space. I adore how Imscared refrains from using cheap jump scares but still harbours an atmosphere that crawls the back of my scalp. I’m not sure what to make of White Face – both threatening and yet, somehow, companionable. I can’t endorse this game enough.
Inventor by Jack Spinoza – I love the visual style, and how different genres are presented with their conventions and rules backfiring to illustrate disaster across various walks of life.
The White Mask Experiment by Sean Mcilroy and Lucky Frame tests the player’s ability to navigate a space with distorted or disrupted points of reference.
Negative Space by Maddox Pratt looks at the gap between the extremes of binaries and false dichotomies, the limiting sense of reality imposed by language and signifiers.
Accelerator is a nice arcade-y game where you dodge incoming obstacles as you speed down a tube. Normally I’m not much for these types of games so I don’t quite have the language to describe what I like about it, but it’s great and it’s fun. (I’ll leave the manifesto on how it’s fun for another time.) You’ll need a mouse, though.
Similarly, 10 More Bullets is oddly compelling. I think my high score was around 400 or so, see if you can beat it.