This week, a number of games critics looked at the agencies and capacities of female characters, and examined stories that center women. We’ve also got some discussions of cops and hackers, and puppets!
Reforms to a character’s abilities and the launch of a new esports league has brought Overwatch back into focus for some writers this week.
- An Overwatch Women’s League isn’t the answer – Polygon
Ashley Oh summarises and refutes some of the reasons that have been given in attempts to explain away the lack of women being included in Overwatch League teams.
- Why Does Everyone Hate Mercy, Part 2: This is Not The End
Apple Cider Mage explores the cultural biases in FPS games, patriarchy, and the mechanical design of Overwatch that combine to make support characters an ongoing fraught issue.
“Mercy herself, mechanically and culturally, represents Blizzard’s fumbling with their own desires as designers of a game that is both for fun, casual competitive play and now is moving speedily towards a marketable esports package. Resurrection is the place where these things wage war […]”
Sad, strange games about exploring memory and personal effects are examined by two critics this week.
- Digital Voyeurism – A Familiar, if Strange Game | Unwinnable
Alyse Stanley compares the ethical implications of two different approaches to narratives that center on a fictional character’s personal communications.
- What Remains of Edith Finch and losing someone you love – Polygon
Simone de Rochefort discusses personal spaces and grief in an account of playing a game about loss while one is mourning the passing of a loved one.
Literary analysis is front-and-center in these three pieces that look at character development, agency, and intertextuality.
- Life is Strange: Nightmares – YouTube (video: auto-captions. Content warning: sexual coercion)
Critique Quest emphasizes the narrative impact of juxtaposing passivity against the audience’s expectation of action and adventure.
- Games as Lit. 101 – Female Agency in Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild – YouTube (video: auto-captions)
Games as Lit compares two character arcs that both pivot on a dramatic reversal in how leading women view their own agency.
- Because Everybody Loves Puppets — Persona 4: Teaching All Night
Rory Griffin examines Persona 4 using some of the Jungian ideas that it heavily references, focusing in particular on the teaching techniques and character development of Mr. Hosoi.
Four articles look at different ways that games have engaged with systems of power, and explored the possibilities for subverting them – or even the pernicious reverse fantasy, held by those who wish to benefit from systems of power without hearing voices of dissent.
- Off Grid is about the principles of hacking • Eurogamer.net
Chris Tapsell interviews developer Rich Metson to unpick how games such as Watch Dogs compare with the historical and material realities of hacking.
- (29) Stealth Game Protagonists And The Ultimate Modernist Man – Sneaky Bastards – YouTube
Daniel Hindes reads a 2012 essay by James Patton on the modernist aesthetics of stealth and the fantasy of achieving tactical mastery within a complex system.
- Unreal: How a Survivor Parody Explores the Artificiality of Games and Reality TV :: Games :: Features :: Survivor :: Paste
Dante Douglas examines the rhetoric of a game that reflects contemporary media issues around participation and spectatorship.
- How Sierra and a Disgraced Cop Made the Most Reactionary Game of the 90s – Waypoint (Content warning: racism)
Robert Zacny reports on a harrowing story of racism in the police force and grim wish-fulfillment in game desgin.
“The game that resulted is a pathetic piece of wish fulfillment from a man in disgrace: A roiling, inchoate scream that blue lives matter, and they shouldn’t have to hear any criticism.”
Finally, the “plugs” section this week is a little longer than usual, as I have a few things I want to share separately to the roundup itself.
- The cost of games – Raph’s Website
First of all, Raph Koster has aggregated quite a lot of rather difficult-to-find data on how much games cost to make. I think this could be a useful reference resource.
- Other roundups
Our podcast pro Eric cam across another games writing curator producing weekly roundups – with a roundup of 2017 to boot!
- Watch: Inside the Museum of Pop Culture’s unique games exhibit | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
The last entry in this list is a straightforward act of self-promotion – I’ve directed a series of minidocs about people who curate, archive, and collect games, which is being published by ZAM, and the first one came out this week!
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