It’s been a good week for analyses of how gender is portrayed in games, with critics looking closely at stories with female protagonists as well as critiquing toxic masculinity. It’s also been a remarkable week for discussions that don’t often appear, such as how to study games history and what we can do with marketing materials.


In-depth looks at how games are marketed don’t exactly appear every week. This week I’m featuring two: one is a series of three articles that I missed when it first came out, and one is a nuanced account of some beliefs about realism.

“What is marketed is player experience within a world that is familiar, can be supported as authentic by players’ access to/of cinema, while also retaining its appeal to “Max fans” already acquainted with the franchise’s own history, and Rockstar as a brand that promises cinematic action.”

Trapped by systems

Three analyses of narrative-driven games dig into the strengths of the form, and how stories that are designed to be excavated by players can handle ambiguity.

“As a player, you feel more trapped by those systems than Phelps. Even the few times he does voice his concerns, he backs down quickly, disallowing you to prod further.”

Alternatives to the strong men

Writing on gender and games this week touches on the empowerment of women and the importance of valuing vulnerability in men.

“By cultivating rather than ridiculing or avoiding flaccid masculinities, from the queer packy to the homoerotic digital jouster, we can find an alternative to the strong men and hard bodies that compose our current nightmare of toxic masculinities.”

The New Colossus

The latest Wolfenstein game continues to generate a lot of discourse; this week, there’s been more focus on masculinity and the portrayal of the protagonist.

“While most shooters trade on “certainty” The New Colossus gives us a hero who is uncertain. B.J. hardly knows how to be himself, preferring to wear the mask of a singularly motivated killer of Nazis. He’s a man who enters a destroyed city and spends a moment eulogizing the innocent dead before embarking on a quest to kill those who are not so innocent.”

Our existence is not a mistake

In writing on emotional well-being and games, two pieces look at portrayals of pain and survival in a hostile world.

“If the universe has sprung a gear over the continued existence of one young queer woman, then the universe is broken and it can stay broken. I will run and I will fight until it sorts it shit out or it takes me out itself. No acceptance. Our existence is not a mistake. We are not mistakes.

Call of Duty: WWII

The latest Call of Duty game has, unsurprisingly, sparked the interest of historians.

“The nuclear bombings that ended World War II are seen, by many artists and theorists, as the beginning of the end for any claim to a rational future for humanity. But, in a strange way, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are protected in memory in a way that the comparatively “low-stakes” slaughter preceding them is not.”

Market logics

History also comes up in writing on how best to do games criticism this week, alongside a study of design strategies.

“It’s time we document our personal histories as a part of video game historiography, so that future game historians may have access to the informal play practices and circulations of games outside the business and market logics.”



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