June 19th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

It is hard, in the context of this week, to feel able to do justice to many of the themes that come up often in these roundups: queer liberation, decolonization, safe spaces, and of course, the fraught relationship between violence and media. I feel aware today more than ever that games are at once liminal spaces that allow us to escape from the world, and also an intrinsic part of the world. Games are one of many places where we reflect on the things that scare us and the things that we long for.

The blogs have seemed relatively quiet. Part of that may indeed be a respectful silence as people take time to make sense of their place in a troubled world. However, part of it is a normal thing that always happens during E3: the games press is flooded with product announcements, and there isn’t much space for critical writing.

This means a shorter roundup, but it also means I had a bit of extra time, so I took the opportunity to look at blogs in languages other than English. You’ll find those at the bottom.

Bosses

Amid the hubbub about product announcements, there is still writing to be found that contextualises the industry, often with a critical lens informed by labour politics.

“It’s a dark irony that this supposedly pro-play industry is ultimately about disciplining play, rather than liberating it, by putting play and players into their “proper place” as controllable and measurable commodities.”

Monsters

Where can we find compassion amid the power politics of games? Critical writing can allow us to find ways to humanize the people we fear and those we desire, through our relationships with fictional characters.

“the strength of the Witcher series neither lies in its fantastic monsters nor its richly drawn peasants, but somewhere between. It finds the monstrous, the ugly, and the grotesque in humans, and the redeemable, expressive elements of monsters, and in doing so it bridges the gap between them.”

Dungeons

Two video essays this week look at the spatiality of level design and play dynamics, to highlight how games relate to the history of their own franchises.

“[…] the original DOOM is basically a first-person Robotron: it’s a game of projectile avoidance as much it is a game about shooting things. To facilitate this projectile avoidance while keeping the action up-tempo they gave you the ability to run crazy fast […] Falling back on those old tropes would not only look really weird in 2016, but it would also put the game in this sort of boring, well-tread space play-wise. [DOOM 2016’s] response to that conundrum is to keep the gameplay movement-focused, but shift the way movement is used.”

BONUS!!! Non-English writing

Finally, a section on writing in languages other than English! I have a follow-list of blogs in Spanish, French and Japanese, but we can also accept recommendations in other languages, so please feel free to submit non-English articles any time.

“Videogames pursue the adolescent thirst for excitement, impossible speeds and Hollywood epics, but now they are also aware of those players who have already reached or surpassed their thirties, those belated youths who are suffocated by worries of vital importance, by the anguish of responsibilities and by the fear of more loss and failure than falling in a hole or being killed in a street fight.” [translation my own]

“Reading Churchill, I struggle to satisfy myself with the few cards I am dealt; I want to try living out the things that Churchill portrayed, the things that made this game possible. Conversely, the game feeds me little references throughout the play — the fall of Hong-Kong, or diplomatic manoeuvres with the Soviets — which have taken on a different meaning for me now, stronger, more ingrained.” [translation my own]


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