Worlds are created and destroyed within computers. Spaces are created through code and protected through play. Many videogame critics take on the role of observing and examining these new and fascinating modes of being. This Week in Videogame Blogging brings you a roundup of all their most insightful writing.
Moral choices and norms
Two writers look at morality this week: one contemplating moral choice in game stories, and one making a case for moral complexity in games criticism.
- Twee Nihilism: Thoughts on Life Is Strange Three Years Later
Ashley Minor argues that the problem with the ending of this game is not just that only the final choice matters, but that no choices matter.
- Curating Steam: Moral Complexity versus Automatic Norms – Pixel Poppers
Doctor Professor looks at a number of articles we included in a previous roundup, and calls for nuance in the discussion of Steam’s new policies.
“The ability to recognize and carefully consider moral complexity is vital. We should fear those who find every moral question simple and easy.”
Two pieces look at the kind of mental states or roles that games put the player into.
- Encountering the wanderer in where the water tastes like wine | Videodame
Rachel Watts examines attitudes toward agency and the journey in this game’s vignette stories.
- Descending Into Madness with Cultist Simulator | Unwinnable
Rosh Kelly examines the qualities of the mental state this game simulates, and finds something very relatable.
“the madness behind the cultists doesn’t feel so alien. The all-consuming nature of their study becomes almost sympathetic. Cultist Simulator is not just a game, but a thought exercise.”
Get on with it
Dare I say it, “gamer identity” was examined through three very different lenses this week, generating new perspectives on this fraught category.
- Deodorizing the Geek Gamer – First Person Scholar
Aaron Trammell critiques changes to geek culture, particularly the loss of any hope of geekiness functioning as an alternative to normative masculinity.
- COD BLOPS III (free for playstation plus wow!) – DEEP HELL
A mournful, honest rumination on the role of first person shooters in modern life.
- As EA backtracks on loot boxes and pay-to-win, I’m left wondering: what about FIFA? • Eurogamer.net
Wesley Yin-Poole draws attention to an elephant in the room, highlighting a social boundary that’s often missed around gaming as an identity.
“Mainstream gamers tend not to take to Reddit and Twitter and all the rest of it to complain about video games. They tend to accept the way video games work and just get on with it.”
Two pieces discuss videogames’ approaches to religious and philosophical questions about how the world is made and how it could be unmade – a kind of cosmology, but maybe instead of a big bang we just have a system churning on and on.
- Horizon Zero Dawn — A Technotheological Beauty – YouTube
Mark Ariev cites philosopher Mikhail Kurtov in his examination of a kind of technological cosmology to program code.
- Why Are There So Many Apocalyptic Video Games? – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman forms a quick picture of the meta-cosmology of videogame universes.
“It is easier to imagine an eternal loop of building and destroying than it is to produce an actual future.”
Do we always need to tell stories about how things could be versus how they are? Is it possible to imagine other ways of creating narratives? Two writers ponder conflict this week.
- Conflicted | Problem Machine
problemmachine argues that the overlap between two truisms about storytelling and game design leaves a needlessly narrow possibility space for creators.
- Twinkle Star Sprites | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Meanwhile, Vincent K. looks at conflict in terms of systemic stability and design polish.
“the way things are isn’t a brute fact, but something constructed as such, meaning it can always be constructed some other way”
Simply a vessel
Liminal spaces are explored in two very different ways this week: from a postmortem of a jam game about queer spaces, to a photo essay about the mythic in-between places in Bayonetta.
- Radiator Blog: Dream Hard as queer brawler defense
Robert Yang talks about adapting the brawler genre for queer liberation.
- Architecture as Character | Bayonetta | Heterotopias
Devin Raposo explores purgatory as container and non-place.
“We’re able to revisit Vigrid through a different lens, but in the process are shown something similar to the original Bayonetta’s portrayal of Vigrid: simply a vessel by which more violence perpetuates itself.”
- HIRING: Could you be our next Senior Curator? – Critical Distance
I’m moving on from this role – are you interested in taking my job? Do you know someone else who you’d like to see doing this next?
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!