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by G. Christopher Williams

27 Oct 2010


In most games, inventory management is unlikely to be seen as a form of pleasure.  Utilitarian and, perhaps, a necessary evil?  Maybe.  But fun?  Not so much.

While inventory management seems a kind of compliment to the style of play of games like RPGs—after all, a large component of the RPG is collecting bigger and better weapons to compliment one’s steadily increasing power—it tends to be an element of gameplay largely included as a means of creating boundaries for characters (the player shouldn’t have access to everything and anything during their adventure) and authenticity (nor would they literally be able to).  Basically, inventory management forces the player to make choices but very often not especially interesting ones.  Since I have limited room to carry stuff around, should I take the +4 STR sword or the +5 STR sword?  Not the trickiest of puzzles to solve in a gameplay environment.

by G. Christopher Williams

20 Oct 2010


Many folks are aware that modern fairy tales are frequently sanitized versions of the original tales that they are based on.  Charles Perrault admitted that his version of the story “Little Red Riding Hood” was intended to teach a lesson to children to avoid strangers, especially young women who might be overcome by a predatory male.  Thus, Red Riding Hood is devoured at the close of his tale as a brutal illustration of the lesson to be learned.

The Perrault version is especially disturbing because of its commitment to the potential for the instructional quality of story, as it is a fairy tale willing to not merely put a child at peril but to see consequences for foolishness on the part of the young to a very terrifying and very terminal conclusion.  Even the Brothers Grimm, also not ones to normally shy away from violence in their tales, were unwilling to see their revision of the tale through to this conclusion.  They found a way for a child to ultimately escape despite the errors of her ways.

Most modern versions of fairy tales also revise the more “questionable” elements of such stories, but David Bae and Nathan Ratcliffe’s Gretel and Hansel series returns to the uglier truths of a violent world that is unforgiving of the inexperienced and immature.  Interestingly, the reversal of the protagonist’s names in the title, which signals the developers’ decision to make Gretel the clearly dominant hero in the story, seems to especially beg comparison to Perrault’s type of tale.  It is the female character that is most at risk throughout the games, since that is the character that the player largely controls, making one wonder if there is a similar lesson intended, something about the fragility of children with younger women being made especially vulnerable here.

by G. Christopher Williams

13 Oct 2010


I lack imagination. I know that now.

Playing Minecraft has taught me something: I don’t know how to play.

However, by that, I don’t mean that I don’t know how to play Minecraft. I mean that I don’t know how to play. At all.

Maybe I should explain.

by G. Christopher Williams

6 Oct 2010


The product that this review is based on was provided by Nintendo of America.

The experience of playing a Professor Layton game reminds me of the experience of playing Diablo.

Seriously.

by G. Christopher Williams

15 Sep 2010


Image of Samus Aran is reprinted with the permission of REIQ.

Abbie Heppe’s review of Metroid: Other M over at G4‘s web site provoked a bit of debate a few weeks ago.  It’s an interesting review that goes well beyond a discussion of game mechanics by considering the significance of the presentation of Metroid series protagonist, Samus Aran, within the context of the newest game’s plotline.  Much of the discussion surrounding the review concerned Heppe’s focus on the infantilized version of Other M‘s Samus: “Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man” (“Metroid: Other M for Wii”, G4, 27 August 2010).

Heppe offers a number of interesting examples of this phenomenon throughout the review, to which commenters to the thread responded in various ways.  Some agreed with Heppe’s criticism of the game.  Some merely found it refreshing that a game reviewer would consider such issues at all.  Some dismissed the criticism given that Other M is “just a game” and, thus, unworthy of gender analysis.  Still others noted that the presentation of women as submissive and child-like is simply indicative of developer Team Ninja’s standard approach to female presentation (after all, these are the folks responsible for titles like the voyeuristic Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball) and that Nintendo’s choice to place development of this newest iteration of the Metroid series in their hands would, of course, necessarily lead to this kind of representation. 

I am, likewise, unsurprised that Team Ninja would present Samus in such a way.  Their “aesthetic” and “themes” are pretty obvious.  However, what did surprise me is the sense that many players had that Samus is a female figure in gaming that has previously been presented in a non-sexualized way.  Even Heppe herself says as much about the bounty hunter when she calls Samus, “the most iconic (and nonsexualized) female characters in gaming history”.

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