This week’s games criticism takes us to world’s of economic disparity, both imagined and real, and introduces a slew of writing on Tacoma, Fullbright’s spiritual successor to Gone Home. Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging!
Economics as usual
How we experience games is informed by our various lived experiences, and narratives in games can explore conditions and circumstances players may be far removed from.
- Tacoma Review | Zam
Let’s begin with Steven Strom who reviews the follow-up to Gone Home, Tacoma, which finds economic oppression in what appears to be a society free of bigotry.
- Suburban Decay | Yuuyami Doori Tankentai | Heterotopiaszine
Elsewhere, Brian Crimmins takes us to the fictional city of Hirumi in Yuuyami Doori Tankentai, which explores the after-effects of Japan’s post-eighties economic boom.
- Night In The Woods Treats Depression Like A Part Of Life | Kotaku
Chloe Spencer explores depression in Night In The Woods, and how it can be exacerbated by the environment in which one lives:
“The characters’ hometown of Possum Springs also impacts their mental health and access to care. Possum Springs is a former mining town that is facing economic decline. Mae is infamously known for beating up a boy for seemingly no reason when she was in high school. At the time, she was reacting to an episode of depersonalization that caused her to see the world in “shapes” and disconnect from reality.”
From the cultural to historical, these writers explore the connections between play and aestheticism, abstraction and subversion.
- The Poetics of Form and the Politics of Identity in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation | Kinephanos
Soraya Murray discusses cultural context and aesthetics in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and how the character of Aveline de Grandpre connects to it.
- Notes on Gradient Addiction: Deciphering The Pastiche | Sufficiently Human
Lana Polansky ruminates on the aesthetic world of Gradient Addiction, which is at once “terribly alive, shrieking and gibbering” while its inhabitants “[stand] in place with a fixed expression.”
- Opened World: Metafictional Warfare | Haywire Magazine
Over at Haywire, Miguel Penabella talks Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and its “conflict of internal struggle [and] self-critique.”
- Tracing the Panoramic Obsessions of Destiny | Eurogamer
Meanwhile, Gareth Damian Martin examines the Destiny 2 beta, “a bloodless heart, waiting to begin beating.”
- Mafia III and the Soundtrack of History | Ontological Geek
Harry Mackin talks the subversion of music on cultural and historical context, and how Mafia III uses music in a way no videogame has before.
“In a postmodern, media-dominated world, it can feel as though cultural memory is history – or at least, it’s replaced history. Historical truths are fluid and complicated; hard to pin down. Narrative isn’t nearly as difficult: America’s lost innocence, the end of an era. Juxtaposed with the dramatic imagery and music of the era, the symbolism becomes so tempting that it’s difficult not to be taken in by it.”
- Nicky Case’s New Game Examines Why We Should all Stop Being Such Bastards | Vice Waypoint
Over at Vice’s Waypoint, Kate Gray compares Nicky Case to Jesus Christ:
“There is an underlying theme to all of Case’s games, and that is kindness. But not kindness as an altruistic ideal, nor as a sickly-sweet alternative to protests and being vocal about injustice—the flower in the gun barrel, the band-aid on the open wound—but about kindness as a provably smart move. Case backs up their hypothesis with simulations, experimentation and simple step-by-step explanations of even the more complex ideas.”
- Yes, ‘Wolfenstein 2’ Is About Trump and the Alt-Right -Even If It Was Never Supposed to Be | Mic
Meanwhile, Mic’s Jacob Kleinman draws uncomfortable parallels between Wolfenstein 2 and America’s current political climate.
- The Tangled Mess that is Dishonored’s Morality | Unwinnable
Sarah McGill delves into a post-Bioshock morality system in Dishonored, which appears broken at best:
“You might still decide not killing your enemies is the right choice, but if you’re locked into that decision because you want an achievement, the morality is no longer playing a part. And when the game still tries to suggest that it does, you’re left with the message that torturing people is what a hero would do.”’
What occurs outside of the scope of the narrative is just as interesting as what happens within it, which can be anything from the way we input to the impact virtual locations have had on our collective consciousness.
- Queering the Controller | Analog Game Studies
Elsewhere, Miguel Sicart brings up the need for innovation in controller design:
“… video game controllers have a very limited expression palette and that there’s very little that controllers make us feel. Emotions such as desire, longing and arousal are always expressed through game mechanics and narrative; they are not embodied and felt viscerally, and this is a problem.”
- Breath of the Wild and Telling Stories Through Archaeology | Eurogamer
Eurogamer’s Philip Boyes looks at Breath of the Wild through an archaeological lens, finding patterns in the landscape itself. “It doesn’t matter whether this theory’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong” says Boyes, “the environment was created in such a way as to suggest connections and prompt these kinds of interpretations.”
- ‘Pyre’ Sees Exploitation Where Sports Meet Faith – Vice Waypoint
Rob Zacny writes about Pyre’s connection to the fans faithful to bad sports teams, and the “porous” boundary between sports and religion.
The action may be over, but there’s more interesting discussion to be had!
- Tracing The Social: Lessons from Firewatch and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture | Presura
Daniel Muriel follows the theoretical footprints left behind, or traces, after the action has ended in Firewatch and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
- In Tacoma, the creators of Gone Home tell intimate stories at a galactic scale | A.V. Club
Clayton Purdom reviews Tacoma, Fullbright’s spiritual successor to Gone Home, which subverts the expectations of the “walking simulator” genre.
- The Cultural and Personal Legacy of Gone Home | Paste
Ed Smith dives into Gone Home and its “rejection of pure escape” in favor of a painfully recognizable aesthetic that few games have recreated faithfully since:
“Popular games were talking about sex, violence and politics; reviewers were doing the same. When I played Gone Home, it felt like one of the most cogent examples of these new trends and discussions, emerging among videogames. It seemed safe, as in not-at-all-silly, to describe this videogame as “adult” and “observational.” And for the amateur critic that was emboldening.”
- The First Few Lines Of Final Fantasy VII Are A Little Different In Japanese | Kotaku
Tim Rogers looks the differences in English and Japanese text in Final Fantasy VII, which really imparts a sense of appreciate for the nuances of language.
- Deus Ex (Spoilers)
YouTube channel Errant Signal looks at Deus Ex and its smart world-building, pop culture indulgences and so, so much more.
- In Defence of Metal Gear Solid 4
Still on YouTube, The Gaming Brit Show examines how Metal Gear Solid 4, despite its quirks and many missteps, is actually astoundingly good at meta-commentary.
- We Are Building Histories: On the Need for Feminist Games Studies | Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Alisha Karabinus discusses the need for more feminist game studies and to recognize marginalized voices:
“Games, from development and design to communities to mainstream writing to scholarship, have traditionally privileged not only certain intersecting identities, but even certain definitions, boundaries, and standards that exclude, overlook, and circumscribe those on the margins of the dominant groups. While we want to be careful not to appropriate the struggles of Black scholars for recognition, there’s a lot we can learn from critiques like Royster and Williams’, and from the foundations of critical race theory, as we look for ways into a more expansive view of games studies.”
- Just Games – Game Studies Elsewhere, Editor-in-Chief of Game Studies, Espen Aarseth, is looking for articles on games, no matter the definition:
“Other fields, from literature and media to planetology and even biology, cannot sufficiently define their central objects either, and they are none the worse for it. The day we can formally define what a game is, that is the day games become uninteresting for intellectual inquiry.”
They’re also looking for submissions from academics of diverse backgrounds …
“The special issue editors welcome submissions from scholars from a variety of backgrounds, including those from game studies, queer studies, science and technology studies, cultural studies, and beyond. We hope to hear from authors who are new to the work of queer game studies, as well as those who have already contributed scholarship in this area.”
- Here’s More of the Best Writing on Games and Prison – Vice Waypoint
Lastly, our partnership with Vice Waypoint takes a look at games within the U.S. prison system, which you do not want to miss!
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