In this week’s roundup of the latest critical writing on games, critics delve into fantasy worlds and explore unrealities, bringing back insights into how fiction and truth intersect.
First, two critics use ideas from psychology to look at how games affect players.
- For Many Players, Lootboxes Are a Crisis That’s Already Here – Waypoint
Ellen McGrody has carried out research into how gambling-like systems in games have negatively impacted players through addiction-forming design patterns.
- The Appeal Behind Yume Nikki’s Unplayability | Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan visits the often-discussed topic of surrealism in games, bringing in the concept of “meaning threat” with reference to psychology studies carried out at UC Santa Barbara.
“when you’re exposed to a meaning threat–something that fundamentally does not make sense–your brain is going to respond by looking for some other kind of structure within your environment”
Two musings on the politics of game design touch on group dynamics and economic realities.
- The Extreme Cost of Game Development Might Be Unfixable – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman responds to Raph Koster’s analysis of the cost of game development.
- Riot: Civil Unrest review | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Dante Douglas addresses the political implications of portraying crowd dynamics as one of the challenges to protest movements.
“At its best, it feels like a fantastical reimagining of protest dynamics, where players can act as an omniscient conductor of a torrential cascade of crowds, laying down waypoints and rally zones and directing the flow of movement.”
In more writing on the politics of games, two critics look at diversity and the kinds of bodies that are portrayed and played with.
- How video games demonize fat people | The Outline
Anshuman Iddamsetty links nuance-deficient character designs to poor labor conditions and low workplace diversity.
- Artificial Identities: An Essay – PLAYTIME
Katherine Cross explores the ambiguous space of personal exploration that gaming offers queer people.
“When you play a game like this, the gulf between who you are and who you want to be becomes painfully evident—and yet it’s the pocket of netherspace you dwell in.”
In writing on spaces in games, critics wind through dungeons and consider the cosmos.
- The Doom Mod That Best Describes Our Uncanny Reality – Waypoint
Liz Ryerson surveys the spatial narratives and remarkable subversions that have been created through Doom mods.
- How Dark Souls, Bloodborne and more imagine the cosmos • Eurogamer.net
Andreas Inderwildi offers a richly-illustrated account of the cosmologies of a number of lore-heavy games.
- In praise of video game castles • Eurogamer.net
Phillip Boyes surveys the history of castles in games, from their roots in Tolkienesque D&D to their subversion in mid-1990s Final Fantasy games, to their relative denouement as a trope in game design.
“As every reader of fairy-tales and portal fantasies knows, it becomes harder to slip between worlds as you grow up.”
Shadow of the Colossus
A remake has spurred some novel approaches to the question of how game programming, narrative, and aesthetics intersect, and where the original work of art can be found.
- The question of fidelity and Shadow of the Colossus • Eurogamer.net
Gareth Damian Martin argues that high-fidelity graphics have resulted in a remake that lacks fidelity, or faithfulness, to the spatial feel of the original.
- Shadow of the Colossus review – Polygon
Chris Plante argues that the remake reifies the mechanics of the original game as essential to the work, and positions the visual style as more malleable and superficial.
- Shadow of the Colossus, Remade, Reviewed | digital love child
Reid McCarter contrasts two understandings of the remake in this review – on the one hand, a sacrilegious mark against the original work of art, and on the other, a kind of public performance that restates the original work’s meaning.
“Here is a work of art that’s been deemed not good enough in its original form, only to be exhumed and made up into something more palatable for contemporary audiences.”
- Yoshi’s Halcyon Music | Game Score Fanfare – YouTube
Game Score Fanfare looks at the use of orchestration and intertextual references in music written for Yoshi across different Mario games.
- Harmonic Relationships in the Music of Disasterpeace – YouTube
8-bit music theory looks for narrative cues in chord progressions.
Finally, two critics consider games that seem to be terribly self-aware about their own nature as texts.
- The Virtual Frame | Gorogoa | Heterotopias
Nicole Carpenter analyses Jason Roberts’ latest game through the media theory of Anne Freiberg.
- Doki Doki Literature Club! Part 1: Capitalizing on the Visual Novel Medium – Not Your Mama’s Gamer
Amanda Luginbuhl discusses the fourth wall and easter eggs in Doki Doki Literature Club as well as other recent indie titles.
“in recent years the power of metafiction has expanded in games to the point where it’s not just a reference to an object or person in reality, but it goes so far as to challenge the very foundations of gaming conventions.”
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