This Week I Read – The cat is staring at me, I can’t think of a title

This weekend past and a bit more to its sides, Laura and I whisked away to Edinburgh for our summer holidays. Since it’s Scotland, the fact that it was winter little mattered. Our stay was jam-packed with tours, museums, sightseeing, and food, so I had no time to scope out any new writings over the past seven days. Edinburgh is an amazing city and we didn’t get rained on once. Thank you for an incredible weekend, Laura.

So this week’s post will primarily cover the week before last. Although I only have a wee few games to share with you, two of them are utterly brilliant and might devour your life as they did mine. As usual, 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 or story beats) will be marked with a **.

On The Ontological Geek, Zachary McAnally* wrote about the thin line between fear and frustration in horror design, particularly regarding Slender* and Silent Hill 2*.

Back in August 2011, Scott Juster wrote for Pop Matters advocating spoiler warnings. His defence takes the form of rebutting that study commonly touted as demonstrating a spoiled story is more enjoyable. I’d supplement this with the classism involved in dismissing spolier warnings as useless and wasteful (self-plug).

On Alternate Endings, Mattie Brice discussed the monopoly videogames have on the discussion of games at large.

Last June on This Cage Is Worms, Cameron Kunzelman pointed to his favourite bit in Remember Me as an example of realism, on the basis that realism is about relationships, not facts.

Also from June, on Ludonarratology, Sparky Clarkson specified design problems revolving around Remember Me‘s combat systems and interfaces.

Continuing the theme of Remember Me, back in July for Paste Magazine, Maddy Myers talked about how involved it is in its medium, asking whether it would have rathered be a movie. For my own part, I share some of Meyers’ and Clarkson’s criticism of the game (self-plug 2**).

Sticking with Paste (aha, sorry), here’s another write-up by Maddy Myers on a talk by and encounter with Anita Sarkeesian (of Feminist Frequency fame) in Boston, and the toil of stimulating change in the culture and industry.

Bob Chipman also wrote an article for The Escapist on Sarkeesian’s talk.

And while I’m at it, the fourth video in Feminist Frequency’s Tropes vs Women In Video Games (spoilers for games in the list given, but they’re generally only minor) went up last week.

On her blog, Ellaguro, Liz Ryerson discussed the shifting usage and connotation of the term “indie”.

And on his own blog, Brendan Vance examined the narrative design of Ryerson’s Problem Attic**. It’s such a great write-up that it convinced me to have another go at Problem Attic (which you can play here). I managed to get farther than my first time around, but still ended up tearing my hair out at the horrible design innate to platforming. While I like what Ryerson was going for, this is not a game I can play, for reasons unintended by the narrative, so I appreciate Vance’s write-up.

On Jaconbin, Ian Williams dug his teeth into some of the institutional ways games companies exploit their employees.

Nathan Grayson, on Rock Paper Shotgun, mulled over the arrogance of some industry people and their blithe disregard for others that chased his recent interview to a swift close.

It’s not analysis or criticism but it’s still worth sharing Critical Distance’s celebration of Kris Ligman’s contribution to the site.

Lastly, I’d like to point you towards my own piece  over on Gameranx on the role of conversation in games, faded now through design single-mindedness and lack of imagination.

Games

Now for some games! Some of these might entertain you for only ten seconds, and there’s a couple in here that had me glued to my laptop’s screen until seven in the morning. All are worth a look.

Here’s one on destroying cliques and spreading love, possibly inspired by the recent ruckus on privilege in the indie community, relevant to pretty much any clique anywhere. I think it’s by Arthur Ward Jr., in which case here’s his site.

A Second Chance by one Major Bueno is about sending a team of astronauts into space to save the world. Short, sweet, David Bowie.

A Dark Room is a text adventure made by Michael Townsend. I don’t know how much to say just now, since I intend to write about it at length in the near future. Briefly, this game, and the one linked below, inspire in me a sense of adventure and exploration greater than anything else I have played this year. They example the power of words, of space, , of interface, presently undreamed by the AAA bloc. With these two, I have my favourite games in recent memory.

The last game is another text adventure: Candy Box 2 by aniwey.

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