Games critics are always exploring new ways to talk about digital media, be it genre, narrative structure, architecture or the material thinginess of computers themselves. The latest This Week in Videogame Blogging features artists, journalists, and historians trying out new perspectives on interactive art.
A major theme this week was familiarity – places that you know well, cultures that feel like your own, and people who you recognise and remember.
- PaRappa and Me | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole finds something deeply relatable in this 1990s classic game’s inauthentic treatment of hip-hop culture.
- Loneliness, The Open Road, And ‘Where the Water Tastes Like Wine’ – Waypoint
Danielle Riendeau’s review of this storytelling game questions what it means to hear someone’s story but not build a relationship with them.
(Disclosure: I did a small amount of work for this game, and I’m friends with a bunch of people who contributed stories to it.)
- Dujanah Shows the Cowardice of Gritty Realism – Cliqist
Nic Reuben examines Jack King-Spooner’s antimilitarist game through the lens of Viktor Shklovsky’s concept of defamiliarization.
- A Foreigner at Home | Persona 5 | Heterotopias
Gregorios Kythreotis reflects on the processes involved in becoming familiar with a place, and how those processes can be reproduced and disrupted in game design.
“Disruption of the routine the game settles you into is as important as establishing it. It helps to crystallise what values you assign to a space.”
Three critics look at the effort and affect of bringing things back from the past.
- The SD card and the vintage video game revolution • Eurogamer.net
Simon Parkin sheds light on not just the technology, but the work, that goes into resurrecting old games.
- History’s Creed: Episodes 6 to 10 | Play The Past
Gilles Roy’s series of video essays examines cultural differences in how games address historical themes such as religion and propaganda.
- Opened World: Kentucky Route Zero Act I – Haywire Magazine (Spoilers)
Miguel Penabella summarizes the theme of historical reckoning in the first of Cardboard Computer’s series of games.
“ghost stories are not so much scary as they are sorrowful and tragic. These wayward spirits have been wronged in their past life, and their inauspicious presence is simply a call to remember that something must be fixed.”
In three pieces of writing and video, games are considered in the context of genres, mediums, and subcultures, highlighting how difficult it is to move from one space to another, as well as how hard it is to contain something within a single, defined category.
- Okami Analysis – What Is a 3D Zelda Clone Anyway? // HeavyEyed – YouTube (video: auto captions)
Mitch Cramer looks at several implications of calling a game a clone of another, or saying that it is heavily influenced by another, or simply recognising that it shares genre traits with other games.
- The quiet need for Chinese indie games | GamesIndustry.biz
Gao Ming explains the major cultural barriers preventing games from flowing between China and the rest of the world.
- Gamasutra: Richard Hamer’s Blog – The Subjective Shot Storytelling & The First Person
Richard Hamer details the difficulty in creating a true first-person perspective in any media form.
The feeling of interacting with something is highlighted in three pieces, demonstrating that games and digital art are not just about spectacle, but also about learning how something works.
- 81 Year Old Commodore Amiga Artist – Samia Halaby (4K UHD) – YouTube (video: auto captions)
Bill Winters presents the digital work of world-renowned Palestinian painter, who discusses the aesthetics and experience of creating art with computers.
- Cadences: Finding the Voice of Any Level’s Design – The Game Design Extracts Episode 2 – YouTube (video: subtitles)
Patrick Holleman defines cadence, or the overall shape of a level, and finds examples from Mario games, evaluating how each cadence affects gameplay.
- The Sims’ Insane Trait Sucks (Content warning: discussions of ableism)
Gita Jackson critiques a feature that not only reproduces stigma against mental health issues, but also leads to frustrating gameplay.
“the Insane trait doesn’t fit with The Sims’ whimsical sense of humor, like the freeze ray or the talking skeletons. It doesn’t fit with the game mechanics meant to replicate human behavior, either. It feels like a lazy joke”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!