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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”.

by G. Christopher Williams

8 Sep 2010


The last 10 or 11 months have seen an awful lot of twos.  Assassin’s Creed II, Bioshock 2, Kane & Lynch 2, Mafia 2, Modern Warfare 2 were all fairly big ticket sequels, and with the arrival of a plethora of sequels, very often comes the discussion of the lack of creativity on the part of developers and lack of courage on the part of publishers in developing original intellectual properties.

Some of these titles received initially positive critical and fan response (though in some cases, this initial adulation faded once the “newness” of a follow up to a beloved game wore off).  However, much as fans of movies often do, fans of video games also very often question the potential quality of follow ups, wondering if the creative types might find their time better spent working on a new idea, rather than merely attempting to polish up (or more cynically put, cash in on) an older one.

Unfortunately, for fans of particular creators, like Ken Levine or Hideo Kojima, or specific development houses, like Rockstar or Irrational Games, this medium (again, much like film) is one that is marketed on the basis of content recognition and much less so on creative recognition.

by G. Christopher Williams

1 Sep 2010


Mafia II features a lot of nudes.  51 of them to be exact.  I know this because the game features 50 collectible Playboy centerfolds that can be viewed (after collection in game) in the main menu.  There is also one nude in the in game sequences themselves.

The inclusion of 1950s Playmates apparently is intended to add an air of authenticity to the period in which the game takes place and to the seaminess of the mob lifestyle of the game’s protagonist.  While the Playmates presence in the game are actually anachronistic if the game were set in a historical United States (since the game’s main action takes place in 1943 and 1951, years prior to the release of Hefner’s magazine in actual history), assumedly the fictional city of Empire Bay resides in an equally fictional alternate timeline of United States history, in which Playboy emerged on the American scene about a decade early.  The authenticity of these nudes is probably derived more from their more demure quality (something that most players would associate with pornography of a period perceived to be more prudish than the current one) than an adherence to real historicity.

In that regard, the nudes featured here are certainly more buttoned up than what one might expect to encounter when performing a Google image search with SafeSearch disabled in 2010.  None of these images feature full frontal nudity (as no Playboy pictorial did prior to the 1970s).  Many of them feature women merely in sheer clothing or often feature a bare bottom rather than bare breasts and are generally less raunchy than contemporary pornography.  Nevertheless, the game makes it abundantly clear that these nudes are here to be viewed.

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