Greetings, Offworlders! We're proud to team up with our friends at Critical Distance to bring you a special digest edition of their popular This Week in Videogame Blogging feature, showcasing games discussion from all around the web. This week, a therapist shares her successes getting through to young patients through Mario Kart, actor Wil Wheaton discusses a possible union strike by industry voice actors, and we explore Line Hollis's mixtape of games that break the fourth wall. — Leigh
First up, at Ontological Geek, therapist Kim Shashoua shares a couple of experiences where videogames became an essential tool for reaching young people in group therapy:
I finally thought, "screw it, I'm just going to talk about Mario Kart.” I asked everyone who had played Mario Kart to raise their hands. The response was universal. Okay, already we had a better recognition rate. I asked about a time when they were doing great in the game, and if a friend had ever done something that left them feeling betrayed and angry. Their immediate answer: the blue shell. And there it was. A simple term we could use to parse the mire of childhood friendships.
Instead of tearing up the floorboards and replacing all of our current analogies with gaming references, I suggest that we recognise video games as a font for cases where kids have already encountered (and often triumphed over) real-world issues. Mario Kart wasn't just a thing that those kids knew -- it was a place where they felt anger and betrayal. It confronted them with the fact that their friends don't always support them. For those kids, a reference to Mario Kart was an acknowledgement of these complex experiences.
At Playboy, Jake Muncy looks back on the critically-panned The Order: 1886 and attempts to salvage one of its few redeeming features:
If major game scripts have rules, then rule one seems to be that something needs to explode in the first five minutes. [By contrast,] The Order's first level seems like an antidote to the hurried, restless pace of most mainstream action games. It's careful and deliberate in its pacing, attempting to draw the player into a world before they start blowing it up. [...]
There's something conspicuously like an idea there, shining through the rest of the game's mediocrity, and it's worthy of excavation and defense. It concerns the way we pace blockbuster, action-packed media, games and film alike, and it suggests that maybe, just maybe, it's okay to hit the brakes now and then.
You may have heard murmurs this week about videogame voice actors potentially striking over issues of compensation and workplace safety. Actor Wil Wheaton has taken to his blog to share his own take, as a voice actor who voted in favor of a strike. While compensation is a major bone of contention, worth particular attention are his comments on safety conditions during motion capture:
It can be dangerous work, especially when there are fights involved, so when we work in live action film or television, there is always a trained, qualified, professional stunt coordinator on set to ensure that nothing goes wrong and nobody gets hurt. The performers who work in those scenes [in game motion capture] should be afforded the same protection we get when we're on a traditional film or television set.
Finally, a couple interesting game collections for you. At her own site, Line Hollis shares her latest 'MIXTAPE' curating several lesser-known games around a theme -- in this case, games which break the fourth wall. Her list includes Milk, in which players break the boundaries of literal desktop windows, and Math Land, a game designed to crash from bugs.
As a counterpoint to Hollis's mixtape the Group Show tumblr has rounded up a collection of games which, in the blog's own words, "try to translate our understanding of the natural to the technological word." While you might expect an entry like Maxis's SimPark to be found here, some others -- like the Pokewalker, a pedometer-driven Tamogatchi-type device packaged with some of the recent Pokemon games -- take us a little further afield.
Want more? You can head on over to our site Critical Distance for the full version of this roundup, as well as original features, critical compilations on some of your favorite games, twice-monthly podcasts, and fabulous special prizes.*
(*The special prizes are more cool things to read.)