We spend time in caves, bedrooms, and bathrooms this week as games critics discuss how to make games cute, politically relevant, and intimate. This week’s roundup comes a little late, but it’s a good one!

Back to the cave

We start with some thoughts on storytelling with regard to dire situations, and how visual and narrative techniques can work with the player’s desire to move ahead and explore.

“This isn’t like Drakengard 3, where the story loops back on itself but ultimately advances forward. Instead, Nier resembles a continual journey to and from Plato’s allegorical cave: having emerged from a world of shadow and into the light, the player treks back to the cave once again. While they’ve gained knowledge, they now find themselves powerless to do anything with it.”

Comical little wiggle-boys

This eclectic selection of pieces explores different ways that institutional and design tactics are opening up modes of resistance in the world of games.

There’s one more article I want to show you here, but it comes with a content warning for discussion of genitals that might not be suitable for minors or in the workplace.

Show me!

“It’s really important that dicks can be silly, cute, and fun in games, because it challenges the atmosphere of toxic masculinity that pervades the industry and the community. Wangs in real life are so often a symbol of power and dominance, so when they’re depicted as these comical little wiggle-boys, it takes away some of their authority.”

A force for greatness

Further building on political design practices in games, these pieces address how emotive uses of style can be important interventions in a broader context.

“Cuteness is a force for greatness. Cuteness represents so many things that have been undermined and undervalued for so long: femininity, childishness, being ourselves.”

Balloon in stature

Speaking of feelings, these articles all in some ways address how games (or things related to games) can make us feel in ourselves.

“The sen­sa­tion of growth from time spent on that men­tal tread­mill is ulti­mate­ly illu­so­ry; your avatar may bal­loon in stature, hoard all with­in reach, but you remain unchanged. In our iso­la­tion, the illu­sion construct­ed by the vir­tu­al, while appeal­ing, offers us a hol­low prize.”

Getting space

Finally, these last two pieces address space in games in very different ways: one much more formalistic, the other as part of an analysis of aesthetics.

“the big paradox at the center of Quadrilateral Cowboy is that in making its NPCs non-interactive, it allows them to become intimate with the player in a way that other games struggle with.”



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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!