Why Valiant Hearts is a Mixed Bag and Kim Kardashian Feasts on Your Tears

Kris Ligman

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Why Valiant Hearts is a Mixed Bag and Kim Kardashian Feasts on Your Tears


Hello, Escapist readers! As part of our partnership with curation website Critical Distance [http://critical-distance.com], we'll be bringing you a weekly digest of the coolest games criticism, analysis and commentary from around the web. Let's hit it!

Let's start with the lady of the hour: Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is a massive moneymaker, poised to bring in millions on the socialite's name alone, and that's provoked quite a bit of discussion. On The Daily Dot, Samantha Allen lauds the game and its central figure for flouting the highly gendered negativity being directed at it [http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/hating-kim-kardashian-makes-her-stronger/]:

Kim Kardashian is surfing this wave of male tears all the way to the bank. In a world with limited opportunities for famous women as they age, Kardashian broke the Internet simply by lending her likeness to a single mobile game. And to read Kardashian as a vapid figure who does not deserve her fame is to fundamentally misunderstand the ways in which women exercise agency within the sexist constraints of celebrity culture.
Shifting gears from mobile to console and PC games, in the latest Errant Signal video (above right), Chris Franklin contends that while Valiant Hearts: The Great War is at times successful in striking a balance in gameplay and tone, it ultimately shows no confidence in the story it wants to tell [http://www.errantsignal.com/blog/?p=667]:

[T]here's this whiplash inducing indecision between "Let's make this a moving, powerful game about a small number of characters" and "Let's make this a super fun video game that people want to spend fifteen dollars on" and you never know which direction the next scene's going to go.

[...] The game demonstrates that it's perfectly capable of being maudlin without ever falling into mawkish or manipulative but also without attempting to overreach and deliver a story deeper or more complicated than its lush drawings and simple mechanics can tell. It knows how to be a quiet, somber eulogy those we lost during the Great War punctuated with warmth and humor to remind you why we should mourn and what we lost. It just, for whatever reason, doesn't or can't commit to that vision.
On the subject of a small game's bottom line, Simon Parkin has turned up in The New Statesman to discuss why framing independent game development in terms of financial success is a dead end [http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/07/why-indie-gaming-s-obsession-moneymaking-hurts-us-all]:

If the incentive that we present to young people for making games is predominantly a financial one [as in Indie Game: The Movie], then we are all the poorer. Video games allow people to express themselves and present the ways in which they experience and interact with the world and its systems in a unique way to others. [...]

This focus on financial gain rather than artistic gain is, arguably, at risk of turning video games into a cultural backwater. The big business side of the industry is characterised by creative conservatism, sure-fire bets based on bankable precedents.
Want more? Be sure to swing over to Critical Distance [http://critical-distance.com] to have your fill!

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Albino Boo

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In shock news journalist writing in the New Statesman says profits aren't important. Not surprising really the New Statesman hasn't made profit for 20 years and just been the financed by Labour supporting millionaires.
 

Queen Michael

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I read that Dailydot article, and there were more than a few leaps of logic. WHen it comes to games, the writer says "It?s this same principle that allows male video game reviewers to take killing seriously but to dismiss feminine activities like shopping and socializing as vapid." Well, so? Shoppin is vapid. It's buying things simply for the pleasure of buying. And killing people is serious stuff, unless you've got no repsect for human life. Which is kind of uncouth.
 

VanQ

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I love that Daily Dot article, if only because it thinks males honestly give a shit if women are wasting their time on a game about shopping.

I'll just sit here and enjoy wasting my time on a game about killing shit. It's honestly no less a waste of time.

Guys honestly don't give a shit.
 

Falterfire

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Queen Michael said:
I read that Dailydot article, and there were more than a few leaps of logic. WHen it comes to games, the writer says "It?s this same principle that allows male video game reviewers to take killing seriously but to dismiss feminine activities like shopping and socializing as vapid." Well, so? Shoppin is vapid. It's buying things simply for the pleasure of buying. And killing people is serious stuff, unless you've got no repsect for human life. Which is kind of uncouth.
That's relatively unimportant though - Killing a cop in Payday or a nazi in Wolfenstein or whatever isn't really a serious thing, either in terms of what you've actually done (Reduced a variable to zero in order to remove a game piece from play) or what it means to the story (killing a nameless character who is virtually identical to the other seventy you've killed this level). It's not about respect for human life if you aren't really fighting humans, and rarely does a game treat every single enemy you fight as a human being whose life you should take only in the most dire of circumstances.

Shopping isn't inherently vapid either, it just needs a context. Carefully choosing what to purchase using the limited resources at your disposal can be a tense moment in games even when the game isn't directly about shopping. "Can I afford to put off buying more health kits in favor of a weapon upgrade, or will that just get me killed?" is the sort of question that a well designed game might force you to ask yourself while at the store.

I'd still agree with you that the article is wrong, but not because digital killing is inherently more meaningful than digital purchases. It's because building a game system around violence is a lot easier than building a game system around shopping or socializing. It's not impossible (See: Recettear, an assortment of simulation games) to make an interesting game around such things, but it's not as simple.

And that is why the 'male game reviewers' aren't taking Kim Kardashian's game seriously: Not because it is about things seen as feminine but because it doesn't make those things interesting to the gamer. According to the review the author of the DailyDot article linked, the Kim Kardashian 'game' is just literally tapping the 'do next thing' button when prompted.

UNRELATED: I enjoy channels like Errant Signal that pick games apart in detail. If anybody knows of any others they'd recommend, I'd be happy to hear them.
 

Objectable

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I am addicted to the Kim Cardassian's game. And I don't know why. Its just... I need to be A-List.
Also, I'm glad that you can date both men and women in the game.
 

SacremPyrobolum

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Didn't know there was an uproar against a Kim Kardashian app past a few rolled eyes. I guess it doesn't matter, the important thing is that she managed to get her little dig in.

Objectable said:
I am addicted to the Kim Cardassian's game.
You mean these Cardassians?

http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Cardassian
 

Nikolaz72

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This is the -second- time you've drawn attention to how this puzzlegame about WW1 from Ubisoft was overrated.

Is it really that big of a deal that people like it? Although I have to give credit, this review is at least less wanna-be edgy than the first one. Not that I'll bother go reading it in its entirety (Unlike the first one) fool me once and all that, won't fool me twice that's for sure.
 

Matt_LRR

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Falterfire said:
And that is why the 'male game reviewers' aren't taking Kim Kardashian's game seriously: Not because it is about things seen as feminine but because it doesn't make those things interesting to the gamer.
The hundreds of millions of dollars this game is making would tend to contradict that assertion.

Clearly some gamers (millions of them, evidently) find it compelling.


-m
 

Falterfire

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Matt_LRR said:
The hundreds of millions of dollars this game is making would tend to contradict that assertion.

Clearly some gamers (millions of them, evidently) find it compelling.


-m
Technically?

I mean, obviously making money is making money and if all your game aspires to do is make money then Dungeon Keeper Mobile and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood are just as valid of games as any other.

I'm not sure compelling is quite the right word. It's difficult to figure out a way to criticize click-wait-click games without sounding pretentious or leading into ever more pedantic arguments about either what makes a game or what constitutes gameplay, but I personally believe there is a fundamental difference between a game designed to engage the player and a game designed to trick the player into paying money for as little content as possible.

There are people fascinated with Kim Kardashian. There are people willing to fall into the same endless trap of 'spend money to eliminate an arbitrary timer' that so many mobile games abuse. Even Cow Clicker, a game made expressly to parody such games, ended up making money from people who paid for it anyways.

And here I enter into that same cycle of what is a mental trick and what is legitimately engaging gameplay. I don't think Farmville and DUngeon Keeper Mobile are legitimate games (or at least they are bad games). I do think Banished and Dungeon Keeper 2 are legitimate games. I'm not sure exactly how I would word the distinction though.

But I'm digressing. The original point was not whether people were willing to give it money or not, but the scathing reviews of the game and whether or not it was directly due to a belief that the things being simulated by the game are vapid and shallow.

Based on reading the reviews, I believe that Samantha Allen was incorrect and the problems stem from the reviewer's belief that the gameplay was not engaging rather than a disgust with the material being portrayed.
 

Insanity_Incarnate

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Falterfire said:
Queen Michael said:
UNRELATED: I enjoy channels like Errant Signal that pick games apart in detail. If anybody knows of any others they'd recommend, I'd be happy to hear them.
Mathewmatosis is a great one. He doesn't update very often but they are some of the best video game critique on the web.

OP: I agree that Valiant Hearts needs more confidence it seemed almost schizophrenic in its goals at times.
 

Matt_LRR

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Falterfire said:
You're right there's a rabbit hole of arguments to be had here, but the long and short of it is that no one puts money into a F2P game they don't like. That's one of the defining aspects of the F2P marketplace - games are literally disposable, and the second a player decides they don't like your game, they're gone. Compared to other games of its sort, KK:Hollywood is obviously giving players some kind of enjoyment value, or they wouldn't be playing it like they are. (the source of that enjoyment value is maybe a more interesting discussion to be had)

You can argue that people are being "tricked" or "manipulated" or whatever - but there are obviously a large number of people out there who are sufficiently engaged by this game that they're willing to pay into it.

-m
 

Bedinsis

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Falterfire said:
UNRELATED: I enjoy channels like Errant Signal that pick games apart in detail. If anybody knows of any others they'd recommend, I'd be happy to hear them.
Well we have the usual suspects; I suspect you have already heard of some:

Super Bunny hop on youtube, in particular its series Critical Close-up(probably my best suggestion on this list).

Sequelitis also on youtube, but he focuses more on the mechanics.

Extra Credits also on youtube occasionally ventures into game analysis from "literary" perspective, though they tend to focus more on mechanics/aesthetics. They started Design Club some month ago which is all about this.
 

Evil Smurf

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Matt_LRR said:
Falterfire said:
And that is why the 'male game reviewers' aren't taking Kim Kardashian's game seriously: Not because it is about things seen as feminine but because it doesn't make those things interesting to the gamer.
The hundreds of millions of dollars this game is making would tend to contradict that assertion.

Clearly some gamers (millions of them, evidently) find it compelling.


-m
I find it interesting, the micro transactions turn me off a little, but it is fun.
 

Lunar Templar

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Because she is a vapid waste of news space, who has no business being the subject of any story on a site like this.
 

Eternal_Lament

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...you know, it's hard for me to take any article seriously once they use the term "male tears" in an unironic way. It doesn't help that said article makes a big deal out of something that, outside of one Escapist thread on the matter, I have not seen anywhere. Even then the issue wasn't "MY GAWD, A WOMAN IN A VIDJA GAME?!?! EWWWWW!" but more "This game wouldn't even have any traction had Kim not provided her likeness."

The more I see these Critical Distance articles, the more I wonder why I even bother to read them. At this point it almost seems like I just take a look to see what new issue is being drudged up this week.