Category Archives: Link

/Twerk: Busy Badgers

Some badgers just want to watch the world burn.

Some badgers just want to watch the world burn.

Freelancing full time means that I’ve had to move away from — or at least spend less time on — the kinds of bizarre-o criticism and essays I cut my teeth on. My professional career started at the Sewanee Review, for example, and it’s not every Gears of War piece that opens with a T. S. Eliot epigraph.  Until recently, getting weird was my go-to critical lens, where “weird” means anything  besides consumer-facing previews and reviews.

Instead, in an effort to flex some under-used muscle (and also feed myself) I’ve been reviewing a lot, with a brief Icelandic séjour to cover CCP’s Fanfest.

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/Twerk: All the Things

Year Walk

It’s been almost three months since my last linkdump: I’ve had a few interesting pieces posted at my regular haunts since then and managed to creep into some new outlets, too.

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/Twerk: Machinarium, Borderlands 2, content degradation

Liara

I’ve been busy lately — I started a triweekly column (that is, every three weeks) at Bit Creature and had a piece published at Unwinnable.

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/Aeris

In a 2003 interview with Edge magazine, Yoshinori Kitase explains the motivation behind Aeris’ death. “Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad attached to it. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but a great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, ‘If I had known this was coming, I would have done things differently.’ These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith’s death relatively early in the game.”

The number of people looking for ways to bring her back to life, or to save her from dying, suggests the team was successful. Fans felt loss—but instead of just thinking about the things they would have done differently, they tried them all, and hoped that they would save her from dying.

Looking for a way to stop Aeris’ death or to resurrect her after she’s gone—they’re both ways of dealing with loss. So is blaming Square for killing her, or Sony for keeping Square from seeing its vision to its completion. And so is refusing to give up almost to the point of blindness, the idea that trying anything is better than nothing.

— Brian Taylor, “Save Aeris,” for Kill Screen

/Twerk: Gears of War 3

The following is a large chunk of the RAAM’s Shadow review that I left on the cutting room floor — not because I don’t think the topics aren’t salient, but for the crime of inelegance. It follows a discussion of the ways the DLC fails to expand on RAAM’s character:

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/Twerk: Dragon Age II

At a (relatively) recent press event in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I got a chance to play about four hours of Dragon Age II and to interview a few members of the development team. I got fifteen minutes each with lead designer Mike Laidlaw, lead writer David Gaider, and art director Matt Goldman.

After transforming — as if by alchemy — twenty pages of transcribed audio into eight articles and almost 8,000 words. I’ve wrapped up my pre-release coverage of the game for Destructoid. It’s probably the most extensive project I’ve ever done, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t proud of it, dozens of angry comments notwithstanding.

I did a traditional preview. I asked about downloadable content and the internet’s collective backlash against the game; and  about changes from the original, especially its art and story structure and new morality mechanics. I learned about how BioWare used it’s player data to refine its development process; and under which lineage Dragon Age II might fall.

I’m not sure if squeezing blood from a stone is a marketable skill, but it’s almost certainly been done here.

/On Japanese role-playing games

“Yes, games are power fantasies. But more than that, they show us the way things are supposed to be…”

“What?” She puts down the controller and, for the first time in the conversation, listens.

“I mean, deep down they function how we want the real world to function, right? There’s a set of rules and, if I follow them and do the right things in the right order, success is kind of guaranteed. That’s true of all videogames, but in JRPGs there’s the story too. They have a set trajectory that leads me out of the bastard confusion of adolescence towards an endgame of maturity and identity and, er, status I guess. And all you need to do to experience that is follow the breadcrumb trail and keep turning the cogs…

“Because, while the battles may be random, the war’s outcome is always predestined,” I continue. “You’re predestined to succeed. Just so long as you keep going. And jeez, that may be escapism or a gross oversimplification of the reality we live in, but isn’t that sense of… of justice the yearning of every human being? Are not JRPGs maps of perfect worlds where everything behaves how you expect it to.

“Because, when your life turns to shit and people let you down, or when you study hard but still flunk your exams regardless, or when you work your ass off and your boss doesn’t notice. . . .  Or, or even if he does but is too preoccupied with his own quests to congratulate you. . . . I mean, that’s sort of a broken system. It certainly feels that way. That’s just not how things should be. JRPGs counter all that disappointment and unfairness with dependable justice. They reward you for your efforts with empirical, unflinching fairness. Work hard and you level up. Take the path that’s opened to you and persevere with it and you can save the world. You can fix the things that break…

“Simon…”

“No, wait. They give you that power, sure. But more than that, they give you consistency. This world, and the people in it, do not. JRPGs are, well, er, I guess they’re sort of like heaven in that regard. Except with, like, improbably large swords and nuclear-grade hair gel.”

Simon Parkin, “Maps”