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Worth Reading: 09/20/2013

It's been a busy week, and there's lots to consider as we head into the weekend. Join me?

One of the great benefits I’m afforded as part of Giant Bomb is that I’m able to work at my own pace. That’s really not true of a great many other places, and it means I don’t often have to force myself to form an opinion about something.

I don’t have much to say about Grand Theft Auto V, partially because I haven’t spent enough time with it to say anything beyond being impressed with psuedo Los Angeles and wondering why anyone would want to play through the whole game with the lock-on aiming system cranked up.

But other people do have strong opinions on Rockstar Games’ latest, and a few of those are shared below, in addition to your regular cocktail of video game linkery. The sheer popularity of the GTA series means it becomes a defining moment to use the franchise as an opportunity to make a point, since so many damn people are listening. The GTA series means different things to different people, and that’s what makes reading about everyone’s experiences so worthwhile.

We’re just a few weeks away from the start of October--Shocktober, as I’m calling it--and I’m going to pull the trigger on doing something more ambitious with my horror coverage on Giant Bomb that month. I’m still figuring out what that means, but two things recently slotted into place that have me really,excited about what’ll be possible next month! One of them is the image to your right, and the other one will totally surprise you.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

The response to Platinum GamesThe Wonderful 101 has been mixed--depending on who you talk to. The press haven’t been very favorable to the game, and Zeboyd Games’ lead designer, programmer, and writer Robert Boyd has a theory as to why. I’m not necessarily endorsing Boyd’s view, since I haven’t had a chance to sink my teeth into The Wonderful 101, but he argues there are some games that are uniquely situated to be less favorably reviews by critics. There is definitely truth to the idea that circumstance influences game reviews, though it’s hard to say if it’s different than other mediums that require a substantial time investment (i.e. books).

"Where it gets to be a lot more hit & miss is when the press is faced with a skill-focused game that doesn’t easily fit into a pre-established category. These are games designed to be played over a period of months, honing your craft & improving your scores & times, not rushed through to see what happens at the end of the story. And if the reviewer doesn’t even realize that this is a skill-focused game and instead thinks that the game is an experienced-focused game because it’s single-player and has a story? Heaven help the developer of that game who is hoping for a good metacritic score because they’re not going to get it."

"How Evil Should a Game Allow You to Be?" by Simon Parkin

If you’re willing to have part of Grand Theft Auto V spoiled for you, I must highly recommend you read this excellent, thought provoking piece by Simon Parkin. Yeah, Parkin was featured here last week, as well, but so long as he keeps writing pieces like this, I’ll be happy to flood this column. Anyway, what Parkin proposes is what, if any, consideration game makers should have for the characters they allow us to inhabit. Parkin isn’t suggesting censorship of Rockstar’s vision, but consideration about where creative boundaries exist.

"The question of whether—or to what extent—literature should allow readers into the minds of terrorists, murderers, and abusers both fictional and historical is one that continues to trouble authors. But if video-game creators share such qualms it hasn’t stopped the production, in the course of the past forty years, of games that ask players to march in the boots of legions of despots and criminals, both petty and major. Long-time video-game players are guilty of innumerable virtual crimes, from minor indiscretions like jaywalking, in Atari’s Frogger, and smoking indoors, in Metal Gear Solid, to more serious outrages like driving under the influence, in Grand Theft Auto; gunning down an airport filled with civilians, in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II; and full-scale genocide in Sid Meier’s Civilization series."

It warmed my heart to see Jordan Minor shine a spotlight on my new city. Sure, I don’t live in downtown Chicago just yet, but that’ll change in the months ahead, and I could not be excited about the prospects for the future. Chicago is a city brimming with video game talent, and it’s only a lack of exposure to what’s here that explains why Chicago isn’t thought of right next to Austin, Toronto, New York City and other American cities with budding video game scenes. You can expect I’ll be doing everything I can to change that once I’ve settled down in the windy city, and some of my hopes and dreams go far beyond simply writing up profiles of the games being made here.

"The city once had a thriving industry thanks to classic arcade companies from the ’70s coin-op and pinball days like Midway, and Chicago branches of massive, global publishers like Electronic Arts. But since 2007, poor management, unsustainable growth and an overall rough market caused their collapse. The few remaining big studios include Injustice: Gods Among Us and Mortal Kombat masterminds NetherRealm Studios and Jackbox Games, the trivia buffs behind You Don’t Know Jack. Now, far from the dominant California games industry, Chicago and its developers are left fending for themselves. However, as shrinking major publishers everywhere worry about the next generation, Chicago’s independent growth rises."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

No Shortage of Reactions to Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V

  • Chris Plante considers why so many people care about GTA in the first place.
  • Stephen Totilo takes a very specific look at how GTA treats and portrays women.
  • Dennis Scimeca argues GTA's blatant skewing of American culture is vitally important.
  • Kris Graft on when hugely anticipated games receive left-than-perfect criticism.
  • Leigh Alexander feels more trapped than freed while playing Rockstar's latest.
  • Cameron Kunzelman wonders why GTA's open world is constrained by a conservative narrative.
  • NPR reports on women who admit GTA has faults but can't help but enjoy it anyway.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
90 Comments
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Edited by MasterRain

That argument about wonderful 101 makes no sense. Fighting games are at the very end of the scale, needing A LOT of time to get skilled to enjoy it, but games like SFIV got 93 on metacritic.

Sorry dude, either your game is bad, or it just very polarising.

Posted by siblers

Pity there was such a small crowd for Darren Korb and Ashley Barrett

Posted by brownsfantb

Finally got to start GTA V last night and so far I'm...unimpressed I guess? It's not that it was bad or broken; it really seems well made. But, after playing a ton of Saints Row IV, I just feel kind of bored playing GTA. Maybe I'll start enjoying it a little more the more I play.

Edited by Mustard

Watching State of Play right now. So far: Interesting, but kinda slow.

...

Edit: Watched State of Play through completely. It's very slow placed, and isn't the kind of documentary that has tons of narration and explanation. Don't look to this to learn anythign about the Korean StarCraft Scene if you know nothing about it. It pretty much just follows the lives of some of the players, wanna-be players, has-been players and even some fans, as they go about their e-sports lives in the e-sports world.

Tries to pull at the heart strings a little at the end, but otherwise just kinda drones on (perhaps purposely?).

Unless you are REALLY interested in the world, I'd skip it.

Give it: 3 Pylons out of 5

Posted by bybeach

The 'Horrifying Village' for Animal Crossing was an entertaining trip, whether it was the Village itself or the couple playing it..

I can understand the Wonderful 101 getting into heavy waters with it's reception. I enjoyed the QL and that many cum one function of the game. It could be nothing more than a cultural (say) blind-spot of what a critic thinks should be invested into a game or genre of game. Time and time again, the majority has been wrong in history when decisions are set by it's prevalent contemporary values. How many scientists, mathematicians, thinkers etc. have died unappreciated or worse but have been vindicated after their deaths? This is not such a dramatic example, but the mechanics and social politics still hold.

Edited by takua108

wondering why anyone would want to play through the whole game with the lock-on aiming system cranked up.

dang shots fired

I see what you did there

Posted by Hippie_Genocide

Kris Graft is a bonafide idiot and Leigh Alexander should just go do something else.

Posted by Gunharp
@hailinel said:

A lot of great GTAV discussion, but I'm surprised at the complete lack of reading on Hiroshi Yamauchi here.


On point. I guess most folks just wrote obituaries, so nothing worth reading. I know I would like to read more, I kind of expected something from Polygon's own Kevin Gifford. That guy knows his history down to like quoting Japanese newspapers from the eighties.

Edited by ptys

I wasn't going to get GTA V, but now I have it I'm so pleased I did! Rockstar have great passion for what they do and it shows throughout the game, I have little interest in the social commentary about female protagonists, violence etc. This is a game to help one vent their frustration towards society... and does a really good job of it. That iPhone mission was classic!

Posted by chilipeppersman

@ejiehi: long live the new flesh!

Posted by WeaponBoy

That argument about wonderful 101 makes no sense. Fighting games are at the very end of the scale, needing A LOT of time to get skilled to enjoy it, but games like SFIV got 93 on metacritic.

Sorry dude, either your game is bad, or it just very polarising.

You completely missed the point about the reviewer's expectations. When someone picks up a fighting game like Street Fighter they aren't going to play through the story mode once, complain about the nonsensical story and bitch that the game never explained how to do anything so they ended up just spamming hadoukens to beat the game.

Posted by leem101

hey, this section always seems to have decent horror game coverage thanks to patrick of course, was wondering if anyone can suggest some games to play next month that are horror themed/ jump scared :)

thanks for any replies

Edited by jasondesante

Writing that large article about "Women and GTA" is literally going "hey look at me I want attention and I'll write up words". I have better advice, play GTA because they really did create a ridiculous game.

There is too much to consider. Lets just accept the fact that they made the most ambitious game of all time and pulled it off remarkably. Say what you will about the jokes, if you understood the references because you watch the news, you get some funny stuff no one else will have the balls to say or put in a game. This game pushes the limits on so many levels where are all the articles about random parts in the game and how amazing it is. There is literally too much to say, and the game is too big to talk about definitively yet, a perfect example is the "women in gta" thing. They poke fun at themselves in the game about how they portray women. It isn't like they don't know, so writing an article about wah wah wah doesn't do a single thing except try to steal a little bit of Rockstar's thunder to talk about nothing. Basically what I'm saying is Stephen Totilo is one of those people that Rockstar is making fun of in their game, whether he knows it or not.

Hell I'm a parody in the game look at my last name and first initial, and people have mispronounced my last name with an A and O before just like in the game. And I play games all the time and live with my parents! OMG!

But seriously they aren't no proto hipsters.

Bravo Rockstar! So happy this game was able to be made! :D

Edited by Shivoa

I just can't get a read on the nVidia Shield. The reviews really run the range, often with focus on Android (an ecosystem you've either brought into already or dislike for reasons a device can't do anything to change - and it seems many people writing about tech thing iOS is the only real platform for mobile, despite the majority of users buying Android devices), but generally point out it is both competent and competitive for the price.

When I came down to grabbing a new device this Summer then the Nexus 7.2 was the device I felt I needed more; providing me with a high DPI, large screen when a combination of phone and Kindle didn't cut it without needing to invest in an ultra-light laptop as a consumption device (I'll keep going with this ultra-cheap laptop). I guess that is the point of the Shield, it's an engagement device (like a laptop) not a consumption device and so comes with the penalty of lugging the peys to enable that with it in the form factor. It isn't replacing a phone/7" tablet for consumption, that was never the plan. It is just for gaming and giving PC users the Wii U/PS Vita remote play experience while also being a totally mobile game device on Android for people looking to play their $1 copy of a GTA or MineCraft on the go without virtual buttons.

Posted by Eviternal

Hey @patrickklepek, thanks for another interesting read!

(There are a couple of minor typos: "I could not be excited about the prospects for the future" missing "more" and "left-than-perfect criticism", unless that's an intended turn of phrase, as someone else noted in a previous comment.)

Posted by MrGtD

@jasondesante: Going "ha ha! we don't understand how to portray 50% of the world's population!" isn't fixing anything. I absolutely adore the game, but their female character issue is an actual problem. They had an opportunity to make Michael's wife a real character, their Skyler White or Carmela Soprano, a woman living the high life but cannot stand what her husband had to do and is currently back doing in order to get them there, but she loves her lifestyle, so she has to constantly debate between morality and comfort for her and her children. Instead, she's a yelling shrew that's always cheating on Michael. They could've had at least ONE female character with any depth.

Posted by Humanity

@mrgtd: But both males and females are ridiculous exaggerations of real human beings. If anything they don't know how to realistically portray 100% of the world's population. Every "male" character is either a hilariously overblown stereotype, sociopath, pervert or worse.

Also no, the game doesn't need to have anything the writers didn't intend for it to have merely to satisfy an ethereal quota.

Posted by BisonHero

@weaponboy said:

@masterrain said:

That argument about wonderful 101 makes no sense. Fighting games are at the very end of the scale, needing A LOT of time to get skilled to enjoy it, but games like SFIV got 93 on metacritic.

Sorry dude, either your game is bad, or it just very polarising.

You completely missed the point about the reviewer's expectations. When someone picks up a fighting game like Street Fighter they aren't going to play through the story mode once, complain about the nonsensical story and bitch that the game never explained how to do anything so they ended up just spamming hadoukens to beat the game.

Also, SFIV got a lot of those high scores because it leans PRETTY HARD into SFII nostalgia. I'm fairly confident that the vast majority of reviewers were pretty much this while playing the game:

But they still awarded it with high scores, because "Hey, I guess there's probably some complexity that I, as a casual reviewer, don't really understand but it's Street Fighter so I'll automatically give it the benefit of the doubt, also the graphics are good, also it has all of the characters I know from SFII".

The point is, for skill-based games where there aren't outside factors (e.g. the popularity of SFII, and Street Fighter as a whole), reviewers are unlikely to put in the time to learn the game's systems in the short time they have to review the game.

Or you get reviewers who are just never going to like the game because they fundamentally don't enjoy the gameplay type/genre, and are never going to care enough to learn how to play the game properly. As much as I more or less agree with Jeff's 2-star review of Catherine, if he kinda knew that he doesn't like games where the gameplay is almost exclusively block pushing puzzles, he probably should've asked around the office to find someone who would be into the game a little bit more.

Granted, the expectation these days is that unless your game literally is a multiplayer-focused fighting game, most character action games do have in-game tutorials explaining most of the moves, or an easily accessed comprehensive moves list. I haven't played Wonderful 101, so I don't know quite how much of an offender it is in terms of not explaining what to do.

Edited by XeroxPunk
Posted by BisonHero

@humanity said:

@mrgtd: But both males and females are ridiculous exaggerations of real human beings. If anything they don't know how to realistically portray 100% of the world's population. Every "male" character is either a hilariously overblown stereotype, sociopath, pervert or worse.

Also no, the game doesn't need to have anything the writers didn't intend for it to have merely to satisfy an ethereal quota.

Yeah, for example, Michael has elements of Tony Soprano (what with seeing a therapist, having a family that is used to all of the dirty money he is able to provide, etc.) except oh wait Michael is a caricature of an aging criminal and not written anywhere near as well as Tony Soprano, nor were they ever trying to do that.

Posted by solien
Posted by solien
Posted by solien
Posted by SmiteOfHand

@bisonhero: I think you are right. When it comes to systemically and mechanically dense games many reviewers either don't have the time, or don't dedicate the time, to invest fully. If this style of game has a certain level of popularity the benefit of the doubt will often be given.

You can hear the apathy with statements like "I'm never going to make it to the top of the leader boards. Only crazy people do that", which tells you immediately that putting effort into improving is off the table. This is a relaxing hobby. Anyone who puts effort is abnormal.

Which is fine! It is a big enough gaming world that all games don't have to appeal to everyone. I think where people get bent out of shape is when instead of saying "this just isn't for me", it is obvious the reviewer isn't trying, isn't paying attention, and made no effort to apply themselves, and then blames the game.

It is like a flaccid lover blaming the other.

Posted by TheHumanDove

Do we have to include Leigh Alexander's terrible excuse for writing in every 'worth reading' segment?

Edited by PandaBear

Damn, that Simon Parkin article is terrrible. Some choice quotes!

"Video-game violence is, like all onscreen violence, an act of play."

I'll remember that next time I see Schindler's List.

"A creator has no moral obligation to his or her fictional characters, and in that sense anything is theoretically permissible in a video game. But a game creator does have a moral obligation to the player, who, having been asked to make choices, can be uniquely degraded by the experience."

To some extant, this is true, where I get off is the implication that games are somehow more morally sensitive- that being asked to push a button to kill someone is really worse than just having someone do it in the story. The argument that by giving a person choice, it becomes worse, falls apart for two reasons. The first is that, if an action is mandated by story, it's not really a choice- Or at least, it's only as much as a choice as say, putting a book down or turning a movie off. Second, even if an action is not story mandated, games will always suffer in immersion and verisimilitude by player agency, probably more then they gain from it. When you can go from shooting someone to jumping up and down like a maniac to doing extremely stupid, funny, unrealistic things on the drop of the hat, its stupid moral panic to act like people are becoming so involved the the game world that the barriers between the real and the fantasy are falling apart and there being (in his words) "uniquely degraded".

" In a hypothetical motion-controlled video-game version of “Lolita,” it would be possible to inhabit the body, as well as the mind, of Humbert Humbert. A virtual sex crime might elicit a very different response if, instead of pressing a button to instigate it, you were required to mimic its pelvic thrusts and parries—even if, as in Nabokov’s work, it was included to illustrate or illuminate, not titillate."

Oh fuck you. Any game which did that would be kiddie porn, just like Lolita would have been if it had included loving rendered ten-page-long sex scenes. Trying to say that motion controlled sex with kids would be the game equivalent of Lolita is fucking disingenuous. A game that had the same premise as Lolita and had the same tact to focus on being a character study of horrible people rather than porn wouldn't be any worse for the medium. It would still kick up an UNHOLY shitstorm, but your a fool if you think LOLITA wouldn't also if it was released today with any attention.

This article sucks, in conclusion.

Not to piggyback on your comment too much ... but yes, Simon Parkin is a truly awful writer. He did this at IGN where he tells a bunch of gamers about "lost games you've never heard of by big name developers!!" ... that aren't really lost like "Let's Tap" on the Wii. Did you know that was made by the guy who made Sonic?!!? YOU DID!?! NO WAY!!

Last week Patrick had an article by Parkin about the Yeti in GTA San Andreas ... which was, in my opinion, plagiarism. A far better written and researched was done in Kill Screen (the magazine)... his read like a cut down version of that. The specifics in some of the sentences is incredible.

I never feel as much hate bellow from within me as when there are 'reaction' articles to highly anticipated games.

Everyone seems to have an urge to use the latest game to push their individual agendas, rarely they might make some decent points that they utterly fail to communicate in a way that doesn't make them sound like a dictator of how games should be (or worse what they perceive games as a medium are, or 'who' they're for).

It feels like some psuedo-fake journalism that doesn't even try to understand the real reasons why things happen the way they do, there's no investigating here.

Some of them just use video games as a mouthpiece for their own goals.

Some of them try to dissect the culture without being a part of it or placing themselves in the shoes of individuals that do, instead stereotyping the whole of video game players and enthusiasts with opinions of certain groups.

Anyone who dares oppose them are considered part of the 'problem', which is ironic hypocrisy when they talk about groups of loud internet morons who do the same thing to them.

I am so fucking done with controversy and cynicism, and I feel it's just going to get worse before it gets better.

I felt that way after reading Leigh Alexander's article on Gamasutra about GTA V... fuck can we ignore her yet? Seriously, she is complaining about how limiting GTA V is because it's hard to obey the law. You don't have indicators on your car and can't just live your life without commiting crime. So there should be a button on the controller for indicators now? I mean that quite seriously, present me with a solution not just a whine. Would you complain that Pac-Man never gets to leave the maze and that he HAS to keep moving in the direction he's facing? Mario has to save the princess, but what if he doesn't want to? What is my motiviation to fight in Mortal Kombat? Can't they talk it out?

All she does is complain about modern game design and rarely, if ever, offers a solution. Frankly I'd rather play a game where I can plan a bank heist than just pick up my laundry. I want someone to tell me what her point actually is and what he SOLUTION is. OR at least what the crux of her whine is about. $800million, critically and commercials lauded open-world game five years in the making, but you can't not be a criminal so it's hardly an open-world game? Fuck me dead. It's so common in the games media.

Game journos so often rest on the opinion piece to do 90% of their work. Do some research and interviews. If the reporters at my newspaper, or any other, where this lazy they'd be fired in a heartbeat.

Posted by scottygrayskull

Holy shit! I saw that proposal video ages ago but never realized that was Matt Gilenbach. That's awesome! :)

Edited by TheCheese33

Leigh Alexander and Cameron Kunzelman, as always, are the smartest voices in the room when it comes to these discussions.

Edited by Humanity

Leigh Alexander and Cameron Kunzelman, as always, are the smartest voices in the room when it comes to these discussions.

There's a large divide between "smart" and "smart sounding."

Posted by Lyfeforce

In the Gamasutra piece, I like how Leigh explained what she wanted out of a game like GTA; newer, shocking options to explore. Though I guess I wonder why she felt that way when the game has some stuff that could really bother people like waterboarding. Maybe it just wasn't for her?

Also, this:

@hailinel said:

A lot of great GTAV discussion, but I'm surprised at the complete lack of reading on Hiroshi Yamauchi here.

Edited by Ax23000

Man do I hope everyone reads the Ouya editorial by the That Dragon, Cancer developer. No matter your thoughts about Ouya (negative it seems most of the time) the post really gets at the mob mentality of the internet and gaming culture (whatever that is).

Posted by OwlBoy

Shit, Kickstarter links.

Posted by avantegardener

@humanity: Ha, that is the perfect summation of tedious video game journalism, desperately trying to justify it's worth. By contrast, I would read hours of Tim Rogers, all in the delivery.

Posted by porjos

Uber excited for your Shocktober plans :D

Posted by CrunchbiteJr

Some great chat about GTA V. I do wonder if it's unfair on the franchise though. So much of the chat centered on the position GTA holds in the industry and how people want more from it than what is essentially a light weight, blockbuster story. Almost as if GTA has to put out a deeper story to match it's popularity and production values on the gameplay side. Would any other industry do that to a franchise? Or would they just recognise GTA for what it is and look elsewhere for that deeper narrative.

Or to put it in a less wordy way, why does GTA have to be something it clearly has no interest being?

Posted by sellout365

Why is there so much hostility toward less-than-glowing articles about GTA5?