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Worth Reading: 06/27/2014

It might be the first week of summer, but there's still plenty of time to sit around with a pot of coffee and read, right?

I considered saying something regarding the state of journalism, but I think the countless tweets from the last few days has more than taken care of that for me. There was something in the air this week, apparently.

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Instead, let's grab this question from Tumblr that suddenly seems relevant.

"Do you take your own skill level at gaming into account when analyzing a game? Not just reviews, but any writing you do... do you weigh your own proficiency against other factors? I've been thinking about game difficulty and my own skills a lot ever since I passed 40 and realized story, setting, and accessibility have become more important than challenge to me. As someone who clearly enjoys games that have significant challenge, I was wondering if you think about this as well."

Generally speaking, the answer is no. Though I guess, truthfully, it's a little muddier than that. Giant Bomb doesn't have an official "rule" that we play every game on the "normal" difficulty, but that's usually what happens, since that's what we suspect most people will do (and what we play). This usually provides as close to a typical gameplay experience as possible, even if it's ultimately impossible to actually simulate that. I started thinking about this question, however, as I perused through the comments section on my Shovel Knight review.

I really enjoyed Shovel Knight and recommend playing it--yes, even if the thought of yet another retro platformer makes you want to gag. That said, towards the end, I mused about how the game wasn't very difficult. If there's any kind of game I consider myself pretty okay at, it's games like Shovel Knight. Shovel Knight didn't take much effort on my part to finish, which felt worth noting. I wouldn't say the game was knocked a star because of that (we don't score games with such an arbitrary system, it gets too weird too fast--scores are a gut feeling), but it was an honest reaction I had to the game. In that sense, my own skill played into how I felt about Shovel Knight.

So the real answer to this question yes and no, and hopefully we're able to articulate why it does or doesn't factor into a particular review when it seems relevant to our reaction to it.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

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It's hard to imagine a time when Electronic Arts might have considered cancelling The Sims, but Simon Parkin's story on how The Sims accidentally (and not accidentally) ended up with homosexual relationships paints Will Wright's groundbreaking game as one that almost never came out. This story comes not long after Nintendo's Tomodachi Life, a game that found the in a debate over what is and isn't a political statement regarding the inclusion of different sexualities. Though this story comes from 1999, it feels very relevant in 2014.

"On the first day of the show, the game’s producers, Kana Ryan and Chris Trottier, watched in disbelief as two of the female Sims attending the virtual wedding leaned in and began to passionately kiss. They had, during the live simulation, fallen in love. Moreover, they had chosen this moment to express their affection, in front of a live audience of assorted press. Following the kiss, talk of The Sims dominated E3. 'You might say that they stole the show,' Barrett said. 'I guess straight guys that make sports games loved the idea of controlling two lesbians.'"

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It's easy to dislike PewDiePie. But Maddy Myers nails why he gets under our skin: he's popular and we don't understand why. There's a bit of old man syndrome at play here, a distaste for the trendy because it's not aimed at us. If we believe video games are truly the medium of our time, that means the audience for them is potentially limitless. It's hard to imagine they're all coming to places like Giant Bomb or IGN, though. Instead, they're going to PewDiePie, Tumblr, and other atypical sources. It may not be for us, but who cares? It's for them.

"As a result of all of this, Kjellberg appeals to The Tumblr Audience, particularly teen girls who probably see little “for” them from other Let’s Players, and I predict that’s the secret ingredient that’s made his pageviews max out over other YouTube gaming stars. Kjellberg may do little more than scream into a microphone, but it’s what he doesn’t do that counts. He doesn’t actively alienate female viewers; if anything, he’s done his best to keep them by toning down misogynistic humor. Girls are playing and enjoying videogames already. They’re just not going to “mainstream” gaming sites, because there’s nothing for them there. But, apparently,they are watching Kjellberg."

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