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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperDesignGames/comics/film/literature/everything criticism on my blog
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nathy grrrl
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« on: September 14, 2015, 06:46:41 am »



Essays (newest first)



The Patreon lives here

Hey all! I started this thread a while back to share my design-focused game criticism, but sadly this petered off in between school, work, and my first Steam release. I want to resurrect the project, so I've started a Patreon. Please give a look!

Original First Post

I just published my first piece in a series of weekly games criticism on my blog. I wrote about Trick Shot by Jonathan Topf (which I discovered on TIGSource and helped test). I'm trying to write articles that specifically distill design lessons for other game developers, not just criticism for criticism's sake. I'm going to keep this thread updated with links to every week's new article, and I would also love to hear anyone's thoughts and get some discussion going in this thread as well.

So, here's the link to the first piece on Trick Shot.

And here's the link to the page where all the weekly posts will be living, along with one post about Bastion and Transistor from almost a year ago.

Hope you enjoy!
« Last Edit: July 09, 2017, 08:37:44 am by nathy grrrl » Logged

nathy grrrl
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2015, 09:37:06 am »

Alright, admittedly it's been not one week, but two weeks, since the last post. This one turned out to be much more detailed and comprehensive than I expected! I wrote about Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, which I quite recommend.

Here is the post. Hope you like it!

Maybe a more adequate time interval for these posts would be "every week... or so."
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2015, 08:40:38 am »

Sorry for the delay in posts. There most likely won't be another one until November, when I launch my game's Greenlight campaign. For now, I crunch! Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2015, 08:49:31 am »

This is just the kind of criticism I want more of.  Keep it up!
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2015, 08:37:36 am »

Thanks! Hearing things like that makes it all the more worthwhile.

Also thanks for making me peek at my site again; I just realized I had an unfinished post hanging out for everyone to see! The spoilers have been removed. Tongue
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2015, 10:55:09 am »

Whew! Clocking in at just under a month since my last critical contribution here. My bad.

I gave a talk last Friday at a meeting of my school's feminist club. I'm posting the video with my other games criticism, although the format is very different. I talk about game history, highlight lots of cool feminist games and writers, and enter discussions with my audience. I hope you like it!

Video games could use more feminism and you have the power to help

If you're not a fan of feminism, know that this a departure from my usual style and the majority of my critique will remain focused on game mechanics and design principles. However the movement is important to me and I'll be writing more of this type of thing. Choose whether or not to read it, but please don't throw out the rest of my writing. We good? Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2015, 06:36:51 pm »

Hey i havent watched the video on feminism in video games yet, but could you give a short TL;DR on what its about? i can imagine its something about enhancing the use of female characters or something? idk, just curious Smiley
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2015, 06:22:52 pm »

Yeah sure! Smiley

TL;DR on my talk:

I start by explaining I decided to focus more on positive things in my talk rather than a full appraisal of the negative. There are much more comprehensive resources out there on the weaknesses in game culture.

The first game I discuss is Spelunky, and how my 13-year-old cousin's attitude towards damsels in the game represents the result of overuse of harmful gender roles in games. I talk about the change in my own shifting attitude towards the diversity of player characters in the game.

Then I get into a little of games history, discussing the first female game developer, Carol Shaw, and the importance of her work. From there I move onto more modern games, highlighting some of the most important feminist games to date. A lot of them are free and a lot are Twine games. You've probably played a couple of the more popular ones, like Portal.

After highlighting many great games I explain how audience members can send support to their developers through Patreon and on social media. Then I list good resources for learning more about these issues (Feminist Frequency, Offworld, Innuendo Studios, S.EXE).

Finally I explain a few ways audience members can start making their own games with little to no programming knowledge.

TL;DR on that TL;DR:

I talk about Spelunky, the first female gamedev, a lot of feminist games, and stuff to go read/watch.
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2015, 04:44:34 pm »

I wrote a tiny piece about Endless Train, a PICO-8 game. I took a different approach from my past pieces, adopting a narrative second-person tone to describe the game in a more pretentious way. I don't know if it's any good--certainly I didn't get as in-depth with my criticism as usual--but I hope I highlighted a quirky little experience.
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2016, 07:30:49 am »

For Christmas my parents bought me How To Talk About Videogames by Ian Bogost (which I asked them for—the day anyone who buys me a gift knows me that well is the day I settle down Tongue)

It's an excellent book of academic essays on video games. The writing flows beautifully and Bogost's points are very well-developed and original. I finished the book in just a couple days. It's short and lovely. I'll definitely read more of Bogost's writing, as it's totally an inspiration for the kind of critique I want to write. The main difference between his critical goals and mine, though, is that as he explains in the introduction, he writes criticism for the sake of criticism. To get to the bottom of things and what they mean. I admire that goal, but as a game designer the point of my criticism is to express ideas, opinions and observations that I think will help other designers make better work, and shape the future of games. There's a big difference there, but I highly highly recommend the book to anyone who's following my critiques. (It's better than anything I've written by a long shot.)

I'll give a little overview of a couple ideas that stood out to me:

  • Words with Friends is more than a shameless Scrabble clone. It represents an underrated design methodology Bogost refers to as "iterative design." Starting from the proven formula of Scrabble's crossword gameplay, Zynga with Friends has slowly changed the way the game is fundamentally played by adding features that were only made possible by new internet technology. For example, the new matchmaking systems which pair players of similar skill levels, and the way asynchronous play removes the pressure of real-time Scrabble and lets players find new words instead of relying completely on existing vocabulary.
  • Ms. Pac-Man is one of the first feminist video games. The marketing materials show Ms. Pac-Man as a glamorous independent woman, while the game itself shows her finding love and giving birth, showing her as a strong character who can truly have it all. What's more, modifications on the mechanics of Pac-Man make the spin-off more difficult, inverting the formula so the game is centered on a skilled and clever female protagonist facing greater challenges Pac-Man himself who is reduced to a cutscene character.
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2016, 07:59:49 pm »

I finally wrote a new piece! It's about a specific quest in Avernum 2: Crystal Souls, and how the lack of explicit responsiveness to player actions allows players to feel their own emotional response.  Coffee
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« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2017, 11:38:30 am »

I'm starting a Patreon campaign to resurrect this dream of weekly design criticism to help game developers (including myself) get better. Please give it a look, especially if you enjoyed my previous essays! There will be more to come by the end of the week.  Hand Metal Left
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« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2017, 12:23:21 pm »

I just made my first Patreon post. I talk about minimizing cost, recent goals and inspiration, and where I'll be going next. (With good luck, the first new critique will be out by Sunday for y'all!)
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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2017, 05:39:30 pm »

And here it is! For the first time I also bring TV and comic books into the analysis, showing 3 different examples of how you can use size to convey fear, weakness and other strong emotions.

Spoiler warning for Metroid Prime, Steven Universe, and Saga.

Hope you enjoy!
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2017, 10:18:24 pm »

I got this week's essay done in the nick of time. I'm very proud of it:

Pancake does one-button nihilism better than Flappy Bird




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A well-muscled, disembodied arm holds a frying pan in a field of emptiness. An egg appears, cracks open, and a pancake flops out. This is a game about nihilism.

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Take Flappy Bird. All you’re really doing when you play is holding a block of metal and plastic in your hand, tapping it repetitively. I’m not bashing on Flappy Bird, or any other game, for that matter. Games like Flappy Bird are about building the ability to survive inside challenging systems that require great, endless precision in the face of ultimate futility. Little mistakes can have huge costs. Isn’t that what life is? You’re learning how to live with some of the most fundamental frustrations of being alive.

Pancake is the same one-button nihilism of Flappy Bird by way of flipping a pancake with a tractor, or an emaciated arm whose owner (?) should probably eat something instead of just flipping, flipping, flipping the damn pancake.
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2017, 08:04:09 pm »

Last week's post which I forgot to share here was about classic horror literature: Darker and Edgier: Existential Horror from Mary Shelley to H.P. Lovecraft. It's an essay I wrote for school (convinced the prof to let me work outside of the given prompts) so it's a PDF you have to download.

This week I cranked out a quick post about Dropsy and other games that convey information in clever/new ways: Dropsy: nonverbal storytelling.

Enjoy.
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2017, 02:41:21 pm »

Sorry I don't have any new posts for you from the last couple weeks. I decided to tone the project down to 3 essays a month instead of 4 to make school more manageable and leave time for actual gamedev. Last week was supposed to be my one week off of the month, because I was showing my games at an event, but it turns out this week is another week off because I have finals coming up blaaaarrgh.  Tired

I promise I'll write you something else soon!
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2017, 03:46:27 pm »

This month's longform piece is up! April 2017 Ludum Dare roundup

I realized I had too many games from April that I wanted to talk about, so part 2 will arrive next week. I'm on summer break starting Tuesday so posts will be consistent again!
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« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2017, 09:22:42 am »

Here's Part 2 of last week's April game roundup!

Next week I'll be back to focusing on individual games with in-depth criticism and analysis.  Hand Fork Left
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nathy grrrl
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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2017, 08:40:23 am »

OK, here's the latest iteration of me trying to make this project sustainable. I did a Twitter thread on the new Archie comics, and used Storify to compile it in a post:

Cri-tweet-que: The new Archie comics and why Betty & Veronica is terrible

This also marks me branching out and admitting my interest isn't in games criticism alone. I spend too much of my time studying other media to limit myself so heavily to writing about just one of them!
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