Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

Ah, Labor Day weekend -- that special time when we celebrate the industriousness of the American worker by taking Monday off, sleeping until noon, and getting drunk before dinner. What a great holiday.

-The Beatles: Rock Band is the big story next week. CNN Money ran an interview with the founders of Harmonix, who explain how years of failure set them up for big-time success when the right opportunity arose. They could never have planned for Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but those games have allowed them to realize their original goals in an unexpected way. I'd bet many of the employees -- rockers all -- feel the same way.

-Speaking of The Beatles: Rock Band, we are not allowed to speak of The Beatles: Rock Band. There's a strict embargo in place until tomorrow night, to the point where I'm afraid to even speak the group's name out loud, as though they were Bloody Mary or something. Yet somehow the New York Times went ahead and posted their review, with a September 6 dateline. Crafty. Sadly, I can say nothing more at this point, lest you find my corpse floating in the Charles River, a microphone cord wrapped tightly around my neck.

-Two very interesting takes on Batman: Arkham Asylum from Travis Megill and Justin Keverne. Both are concerned with the game's portrayal of mental illness as something to be stigmatized, instead of the health problem it actually is. Although I did take note of the shrieking "Lunatic" enemy type, none of this occurred to me while I was playing. It's a fair point. Even though the majority of the foes are garden-variety criminals, Batman does lay a beating on a good number of inmates who've committed no crime, and may understandably be freaked out by a six-foot bat in their midst.

The argument you could make in defense of the game is this. Many writers in the Batman universe have explored the idea that Batman himself helps to foment the crime that he fights. Gotham City is often seen to be feeding on itself. Arkham, too, can be interpreted to be creating the dangerous, criminally insane element that it's ostensibly there to cure. In all likelihood, these inmates were less dangerous before they arrived there. This doesn't exactly play out in the course of the game, and I wouldn't hold it up as a bulletproof argument. But there is something to it.

-Another good critical compilation at Critical Distance, this time with a look at the strange saga of PixelVixen707. Part 1 is by L.B. Jeffries (himself writing under a pseudonym!), and part 2 is by Michel McBride-Charpentier. As an ARG, PV707 was undeniably well executed, although it was strange that this was not an opt-in game. Pen names are one thing, but misrepresenting oneself is another, even when it's not malicious. It still makes me feel a little weird. No one can deny that "Rachael Webster" was a valuable voice in the games blogosphere. Whether she was written by J.C. Hutchins or someone else, it's too bad that her contributions ran out when the marketing budget did.

-Chris Dahlen's awesome weekly Edge column continues with Dr. Demento's take on Kind of Bloop, the cover of Kind of Blue done entirely in chiptune. You read that right: Dr. Demento is still alive.

-Finally, Simon Ferrari created a very cool tool: a game bloggers search engine, which exclusively searches "independent, non-commercial game bloggers." You'll never guess who's the top result for "Fairway Solitaire."

Labor away, my friends.

1 comment:

Travis Megill said...

Hello Mitch,

Thought I'd address your point about the Batman universe being wider than just the Arkham Asylum game.

I think the game has to rely on what it presents without leaning on the rest of its material, at least in this instance. If someone created an American History X brawler without any of the film's context, could the developer point at the film as an explanation?

In this case, I think Arkham Asylum was a neat setting and basic plot: Joker lures Batman into a trap. The developers didn't really go much further with it.

Also, I've been reading the Batman comics associated with Arkham Asylum, and I don't think the way the Batman universe handles mental illness as a whole is particularly sensitive.