Investigative reporting on games culture has had a strong week, as well as histories of game design, development, and criticism. Our weekly roundup of critical writing on games, This Week in Videogame Blogging keeps you up to date with the most fascinating work exploring the medium, the field, and its communities.
A veil of jokes
Two pieces consider the practice of writing on games at major outlets – in particular, the kind of emotional labor or work of self-presentation that goes on when trying to portray the right kind of approachable personality.
- How Giant Bomb Ten Years Later is Still Changing the Video Games Media – Variety
Luke Winkie has a deep dive into how one site’s successful approach influenced the video and audio content strategy of major games press for a decade.
- It’s Not Easy To Write About Funny (But Creepy) Sex Games | Kotaku Content warning: harassment
Kate Gray talks about the role of humour as a self-defense tool when writing about games and sex.
“Generally, I’ve found that writing light-hearted or humorously about these issues results in less harassment, but it also feels like I’m hiding my true feelings behind a veil of jokes. Yes, I don’t like being mobbed by people who feel wronged if I so much as suggest that bikini armor is ridiculous, but I’m also a journalist, so I like to be able to have and express my own opinions.”
New game plus
Games history gets some fascinating treatment this week, with pieces surveying a host of technical and cultural developments.
- DF Retro: The history of water rendering in classic games • Eurogamer.net
John Linneman studies the technological history of visual effects that give the impression of fluid surfaces.
- Nintendo’s Offensive, Tragic, and Totally Legal Erasure of ROM Sites – Motherboard
Emanuel Maiberg reports on the current role of ROM emulations in the study of the game design and history, and why its loss would have a significant impact on education and knowledge.
- Sneaking Things Into Games | Unwinnable
Steven Thornton has created a dense survey of homages that have been hidden in games as easter eggs.
- Minimalism and Collage in Minit | Unwinnable
Andrew Bailey brings together recent writing on Minit, looking back through key moments in the modern history of time loop stories in media.
“Although new game plus is relatively common mechanic that has been used to great effect within From Software’s recent games or older time-themed classics like Chrono Trigger, there are other lineages that Minit seems to be drawing from that many critics have referenced within their responses.”
Two writers look into psychological issues expressed in and engendered by games. This section comes with a content warning for discussions of mental health problems and sexism.
- Inside the rehab clinics treating gaming addiction disorder • Eurogamer.net
Phil Iwaniuk investigates how gaming addiction is to be treated, now that problematic gaming has been recognized internationally as a medical issue.
- Procreation of the Wicked | Unwinnable
Astrid Budgor discusses what horror is capable, of, where it can meet BDSM, and why a game about bleeding vaginas is not very interesting.
“it’s hard to imagine a little rough play shocking anyone who’s likely to come across Agony, but it, and other would-be extreme games of its ilk like Lust for Darkness or Outlast 2, are at their core afraid of sex.”
Thank the fans
Three reporters look into game cultures, including a landmark piece of reporting breaking open the problems at one major workplace.
- Inside The Culture Of Sexism At Riot Games | Kotaku Content warning: sexual harassment, workplace abuse
Cecilia D’Anastasio investigates company culture at Riot, not only reporting on horrifying stories of sexism and harassment, but also unpicking what constitutes the idea of culture in a workplace such as this.
- Want to yell like a real chef in Overcooked 2? These restaurant workers share how | The OP
Ana Valens researches workplace culture in restaurants, and how it is represented in a game about cooking.
- The Super-Fans Of Detroit: Become Human Hate Most Of The Game | Kotaku
Gita Jackson reports on a kind of anti-fandom, or perhaps a group of fans of two characters and their actors’ rebellion against director David Cage.
“If Cage and Quantic Dreams knew what was good for them, they’d thank these fans for the free advertising. Unfortunately for them, this fandom doesn’t seem to care about Cage at all.”
Three writers look at videogame narratives, spanning cartoonish portrayals, absurdist interpersonal dynamics, and sensitive reflections of real-world pain.
- Two Very Different JRPG Approaches To Old-Fashioned English | Kotaku
Gita Jackson discusses language tropes with a professor of English (also her Mom) and demonstrates the role of stereotyping and caricature in storytelling.
- ‘Captain Spirit’ Tells a Fictional Story of Abuse. These People Lived One. – Waypoint Content warning: abuse
Patrick Klepek talks to survivors of abuse about why Captain Spirit seems like such an authentic representation of trauma.
- “Exorcise the Demons,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter says that, far from wanting to talk to the player, the monsters of DOOM are animated in a way that suggests a joy in being annihilated.
“The game’s silent, “Doom Marine” protagonist and the demons are like soul mates—anti-love lovers whose entire raison d’être is the extermination of one another.”
Two designers offer helpful ways of looking at expression and interaction in games.
- Gamasutra: Krzysztof Solarski’s Blog – ADAPTIVE GAMEPLAY AESTHETICS (PART 1): A Disruptive Game Design Framework
Chris Solarski shares the first part of an extensive foundational text on game design that has been in development for many years.
- Gamasutra: Fabian Fischer’s Blog – Diagnosis: Phantom Depth
Fabian Fischer discusses techniques for keeping a system opaque, on the basis that when a player “sees through a system”, it no longer appears to have any depth.
“Adding new game elements or regularly changing existing ones will guarantee that players never truly see through a system. It becomes a constantly moving target.”
All assets are created equal
Bodies morphed into surreal spatial objects are explored in two very different pieces, one looking at contemporary art and one an icon from the videogames canon.
- Game Art: Lu Yang’s hysterical game worlds – GAMESCENES
Matteo Bittanti reports on an exhibition of one artist’s work in game engines and images of gamelike surrealism.
- Gamasutra: Justin Reeve’s Blog – Half-Life 2’s Animated Architecture
Justin Reeve looks at bodies as a form of architecture, and the place of representations of the body in the design of buildings.
“Video games are produced under the assumption that all assets are created equal. This means that people are thought about in terms of their function.”
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