Does it matter what console you play a game on? This week a number of writers look at the significance of platforms and ports, and how games deal with their cultural context. This roundup starts with reports on the conditions in which games are developed.
In two fantastic pieces of investigative journalism, labor conditions past and present are revealed, with nuanced and even counterintuitive conclusions.
- Made in China: every new video game you love | The Outline
Michael Thomsen’s story about outsourcing and labor conditions in China explores games industry stakeholders’ subjective feelings of growth and stagnation in different parts of the world, painting a negative picture for the US in particular.
- Sex, Pong, And Pioneers: What Atari Was Really Like, According To Women Who Were There | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio’s article on the sexism of Atari’s culture before its corporate acquisition deftly navigates the apparent contradiction between stories of harassment and women’s fond memories of working at the company.
“If it isn’t the women of Atari who paint a bad picture of Nolan Bushnell, it’s the culture he created there that, decades later, has mushroomed into something else.
Two writers look at colonialist storytelling tropes used in videogames.
- Savage Beasts – First Person Scholar
Alex Duncan studies how quest design frames the landscape of Skyrim, and finds connections to postcolonial theories about the cultural construction of cities.
- “Villains” | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole critiques the trope of tragic mercy killings, which too often frames women of color as sacrificial lambs.
“Videogames need to stop asking the player to put down the equivalent of an injured horse, or a rabid dog – especially when it’s an act of cruelly punching down in the interest of some abstract utopian future.”
Two critics this week looked at how games relate to the tropes that define their genres, demonstrating the benefits that come from understanding the place of a game in larger cultural developments.
- RUN=DIM: Return to Earth | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent K. reflects on the difficulty of reading media that is deeply memetic and relies upon the repetition of tropes.
- ‘Doki Doki Literature Club’ Fits in a Tradition of Subversive Visual Novels – Waypoint (Spoilers for Doki Doki Literature Club)
Amr Al-Aaser surveys a history of indie games that subvert their genre conventions.
“DDLC is hardly alone in the way it combines the cute and the disturbing. Rather than seeing the game in opposition to its medium, it might be more useful to see the ways that it is part of that ongoing conversation.”
In a fascinating set of articles on porting, remakes, and emulation, critics engage with the technology on which games run, asking how it should affect our reading of, and concern for, their cultural significance.
- The retro gaming industry could be killing video game preservation | Eurogamer.net
Damien McFerran reports on the legal issues being created by predatory companies profiting from the work of emulation enthusiasts.
- Earthbound Across Platforms and Emily Dickinson: An Unlikely Comparison | The Non-Playable Critic
Matt Schmalzer argues that games should not be assumed to always read the same regardless of which port is being played.
- The Shadow of the Colossus Remake Isn’t Quite The Same | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra makes a similar argument to previous writing on this remake, but specifically highlights the use of lighting for narrative communication.
“Games are a collection of lighting, character models, music, animations, textures, and action that create a complete package. Changing any one of these things fundamentally alters the composition of the work and transforms it into something different.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!