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Posts related to video games (console and computer).

Worth a Look: Video Game Criticism Edition

Worth a Look: Video Game Criticism Edition

Mass Effect: Andromeda stands as one of the most derided games of this generation. It’s to the point that Bioware said publicly that it’s no longer supporting it a mere five months after the game’s release. While I think the game is, indeed, very different from the previous Mass Effect games and, without a doubt, needed a few more drafts with the script, it was by no means a terrible game. If separated from the Mass Effect context––and when considered with all of its animation/texture/gameplay patches––it suffers from the deadliest of video game diseases: it ended up being a game that was just “fine.” Nothing stellar, nothing terrible, things that make it forgettable in the sea of games to get either quite excited about or quite angry about.

Pathfinder Sara Ryder from Mass Effect: Andromeda, a perfectly fine game. Screenshot courtesy of Bioware.

Though I may be biased because I enjoyed the game (aware of all of its flaws), I think Park’s ostensible defense of the game makes a very strong point not only about Mass Effect: Andromeda, but also about criticism in general. For those participating in the conversation around video games, both professional and amateur (though this line is blurring more than ever), a general agreement seems to be that to be “critical” means to look for what’s bad and point it out. I’ll grant some leeway because a lot of professional critics are playing these games during abbreviated periods for review purposes, so the bad stuff stands out even more. With a game like Mass Effect: Andromeda, it has the added burden of being a new entry in a highly venerated video game series, so expectations for the game were set a bit higher than other games. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have qualities worth discussing, remembering, and celebrating, and part of that, at least as Park argues, is because of gaming criticism’s relative youth:

We don’t yet have a critical structure that supports or fosters an appreciation of the misapplication of game language that causes “messiness.” And this is a major problem.

With that in mind, there is a trend away from more traditional reviews into a more personal or culturally critical look at a game. These are more critic-friendly because they don’t really need to be ready by the game’s release (although such timeliness is beneficial for SEO purposes), and such investigations allow the critic to step back from the game and take a more holistic approach to judging a game. Whether Mass Effect: Andromeda deserves or will even get that chance is up to history. At the very least, I hope future games––be they new installments in venerated franchises or new IPs––get the chance to be examined with a genuinely critical eye rather than just a score disguised as a conversation.

Instead of an article, this is an episode from the generally fantastic critical podcast, Bullet Points, where (at least) three games journalists record their thoughts of a video game they all played to write about and talk about for their website. Each episode is accompanied by articles written by the contributors and they’re always very thoughtful and insightful.

However.

This episode, where they look back on Epic Games’ Gears of War (the first installment), is an absolute disaster in the best possible way. In the hour-and-a-quarter episode, they spend about fifteen minutes total discussing the game and, instead, slam critical views together like rams over a ewe. The conversation devolves into an argument about how to read the game, critically. One wants to look at the mechanics and render judgment based on those while another wants to look at the game’s place in a historical context. And, in this conversation, the twain never meet.

C.O.G.s in the Gears of War (from Gears of War). Screenshot courtesy of Epic Games.

Throughout the entire fight, I found myself talking out loud as I listened while walking my dog one morning, hoping my mediation would travel through my headphones, up the RSS feed, and back through time so they could actually realize what it was they were fighting about. While it seemed like they were disagreeing about the quality of the game, the discourse on display was actually a fundamental lack of understanding when it comes to critical analysis. There is no one thing called “analysis” and that’s what everybody does. We have developed different ways to look at the same thing––be it Deconstructionism, Structuralism, Formalism, Feminism, Marxism, and so on. Look at something like Catcher in the Rye through a Structuralist lens will give you a very different argument than if you looked at it through a Feminist lens. And that’s okay. They all coexist. However, the static that can be caused by the lack of agreement on which one to use while looking at a text can lead to an actual halt to discourse and then nothing gets done, as is the case on this podcast episode.

The clashing ideologies between the two journalists was basically a fight between New Criticism vs. New Historicism, but the entire episode propels along a single question that, in itself, is quite interesting: can dumb texts be worth talking about critically? Also, can texts still be important when authorial intent is ignorant, dubious, or manufactured? I’d like to hear the podcast where they discuss that. Maybe more would get done.

Episode 147 – Whatever We Bring, We Bring It

Episode 147 – Whatever We Bring, We Bring It

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew attends Seattle’s BrickCon and is intrigued by not only the affordable prices of hard-to-get sets, but also the creativity of independent LEGO builders, while Dan gives his impressions on the pilot episode of Fox’s new tv show based, ostensibly, on their cinematic X-verse, The Gifted.

WHAT A THRILL: Andrew, inspired its free status for PS Plus subscribers this month, re-downloads Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and gets poisoned by Venom Snake all over again, two years on.

NOT MY AMERICA: Swedish developer, MachineGames, and their parent company, Bethesda, are ramping up the marketing for their upcoming, hotly anticipated sequel, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and their tact has made a certain demographic very displeased.

RELATED EPISODES:

WORKS CITED:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

Shortcast 32 – This Is the Take

Shortcast 32 – This Is the Take

STRIKE WHILE THE IRON’S HOT: After almost an entire year on strike, SAG-AFTRA and the studios it named in its grievance have come to a tentative deal, thusly ending the video game voice actors’ strike. But what was agreed to? What does this mean for the future of voice actors and game development going forward? Andrew and D. Bethel talk it out.

RELATED EPISODES & LINKS:

Despite saying “We don’t talk about that” when referencing Konami’s upcoming Metal Gear Survive, that game has been discussed on numerous occasions:

WORKS REFERENCED:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Shortcast 31 – The Secret Was the Clap

Shortcast 31 – The Secret Was the Clap

WEEK IN GEEK: D. Bethel doubles up this time to talk about a personally exciting moment he experienced while at this year’s Alternative Press Expo in San Jose, CA, as well as seeing the new cinematic version of (half of) the Stephen King classic, It, while Andrew discusses playing SteamWorld Heist.

D. Bethel’s comprehensive recap of his time at APE 2017:

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Episode 143 – This Is A Family Show

Episode 143 – This Is A Family Show

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew (starts at 1:38) hesitantly re-approaches (though actually, basically for the first time) Star Trek: Enterprise, while D. Bethel (16:13) has fun sacrificing folks in Kitfox Games’ The Shrouded Isle.

LUDIC CROSS-POLLINATION: (27:34) Gen Con, the long-running tabletop-focused convention, rolls out this weekend and leading up to it were a few announcements about new board games in an attempt to ride that wave of publicity. One of them is a brand new adventure board game based on the Fallout video game franchise. Lots of things like tv shows and movies are licensed for use within board games, but the kind of translation that can occur when adapting a game from one medium into a game in another proved a fascinating topic of conversation this week.

RELATED LINKS:

WORKS REFERENCED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“Get Aboard” by Daryl Neil Alexander Griffith (from the soundtrack to Valiant Hearts)

Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado

Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew played Punch Club by Lazy Bear Games while D. talks about his time with Thunder Lotus Games‘ newest release, Sundered.

Crafting a loadout for fights in Punch Club.
An automated fight against a ninja NOT-turtle in Punch Club.
Feature-quality idle animation for the main character, Eshe, from Sundered.
Some of the amazingly animated enemies from Sundered.

RELATED LINKS:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Episode 141 – The Unpop Culture

Episode 141 – The Unpop Culture

WEEK IN GEEK: In a fit of nostalgia, Andrew picks up The Sims 3 again (starts at 1:49) while Dan can’t get past a nit-pick to enjoy anything Netflix’s Castlevania has to offer (20:46).

SDCC 2017: [starts at 34:04] It was a big weekend for nerd culture as the San Diego Comic Con dropped a bunch of new trailers on the world. Dan and Andrew look at three trailers and how they seem to be pointing out the creative direction of their respective studios with Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok, DC/Warner Bros.’ Justice League, and Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.

For reference, here are the three trailers the discussion focuses on.

Thor: Ragnarok

Justice League

Ready Player One

RELATED EPISODES:

WORKS CITED, REFERENCED, OR CONSULTED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

Episode 140 – A Vernal Pool of Talent

Episode 140 – A Vernal Pool of Talent

Image created by Aaron Lowe.

WEEK IN GEEK: The guys are again on the cutting edge of entertainment as Andrew begins playing Skyrim (albeit the Special Edition that was released for current platforms last year) while D goes all the way back to 2006 and plays Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (albeit the recently released HD remastered version).

DOCTOR NEW: After speculation accruing since Peter Capaldi announced he would be leaving the lead role of Doctor Who earlier this year, the BBC announced his replacement, Jodie Whittaker. And the internet went wild. (Time Stamp – 38:38)

RELATED EPISODES:

WORKS CITED, REFERENCED, OR CONSULTED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“I Am the Doctor” by Jon Pertwee

Shortcast 26 – It’s Fun to Do Less

Shortcast 26 – It’s Fun to Do Less

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew spends some time with the Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite Story Demo while Dan gets conflicted watching Transformers: The Last Knight.

WORKS CITED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

 

Shortcast 25 – The First Second Time

Shortcast 25 – The First Second Time

Summer break is back with a vengeance, so the Shortcast run returns!

After a slight tangent discussing The Transformers and nostalgia, Dan and Andrew share their weeks in geek.

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew plays Bioshock from the Bioshock: The Collection released to PC and consoles last year. Dan actually finishes a book before discussing it. This time, it’s the Kickstartered Wild Times: An Oral History of Wildstorm Studios by Joseph Hedges (now available for purchase).

WORKS REFERENCED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

*audio clip sourced from The Transformers: The Movie