This is my fourth week as Senior Curator for Critical Distance, and I am at once in a never-ending state of learning and growing, and having the time of my life. I’m beginning to recognize patterns and trends in games discourse–not only within the confines of a week, as I trace linkages between different voices–but also from week-to-week, as new games replace the old (faster and faster these days, as Cameron Kunzelman observes), while themes recur and gain traction.
It gives me hope, for example, that there’s so much quality writing these days talking about inclusion, accessibility, and diversity in games. I’m also delighted to see much-needed critical introspection this week on dadification, Nintendo, romance games for women, spatial design, and more. So join me on a trip through this week’s roundup, keep thinking, and keep playing. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
I noticed lots of writing this week on making game spaces–be they game worlds, workplaces, or sites of competitive play–more inclusive and more accessible, and I’m always excited to see this stuff, as it’s a cause close to my heart. Here are five of this week’s finest examples.
- The need for visible women in esports | GamesIndustry.biz
Ian Dransfield interviews Cordelia Chui and Amy Snowdon about the challenges of access and acceptance women face in esports.
- Gamasutra: Larry Charles’s Blog – Committing career suicide, telling true stories about game development
Larry Charles reminisces about quitting his job in games–and risking future ones–to try and help save the industry.
- “Companies really need to ask themselves if they’re serious about diversity” | GamesIndustry.biz
Ian Dransfeld talks to Phoenix Perry about problems facing the games industry that threaten to undo what progress has already been made towards inclusivity.
- ‘Madden 19’: How EA Sports made Shaquem Griffin look like himself – SBNation.com
Kofie Yeboah offers an in-depth look at how the Madden team have faithfully recreated an amputee player.
- Esports still need to become more accessible to casual spectators • Eurogamer.net
Malindy Hetfeld compares esports to conventional sporting events and discusses how the former need to become more inclusive, more accessible, and less toxic.
“Those who don’t watch esports bring up another important aspect: the issue of animosity and toxicity. Still part and parcel with large areas of the gaming community, esports players are not yet held to the same standard of professional behaviour that exist for other sporting events.”
Next to Nookliness
There was a lot of writing on Nintendo this week, some of it pretty strange, but what stood out for me the most was the way in which authors closely examined both Nintendo’s unique proximity to the warm place in our hearts, and in turn, the unrivaled dedication its fans can give back. This is not an endorsement for getting warm fuzzies over a corporation, but I do find it interesting how Nintendo has capitalized upon the particular affects of its customers. Here are four examples of writers exploring these ideas in interesting and important ways.
- Why the return of Animal Crossing feels so good – Polygon
Mike Sholars situates Animal Crossing in a wider body of media that are just… well, nice!
- Mario Kart Has Voice Chat Now And It’s Very Wholesome | Kotaku
Maddy Myers tries out voice chat in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and manages to not have an awful time.
- Tom Nook Needs to Get with the Times | Kotaku
Gita Jackson maps out a post-capitalist utopia in Animal Crossing–to the exclusion of one notable character.
- Meet the Meticulous Fan Behind the Internet’s Most Meticulous Mario Blog – Waypoint
Patrick Klepek profiles the author and fan behind one of the deepest dives on all things Mario on the internet.
“Whatever the ups and downs, Broth is able to come back to his love for Mario, a passion that goes beyond the intricacies of platforming and into the world, characters, and overall aesthetic.”
Protagonists in games are often a locus of power, and that power is often violent–physically, emotionally, culturally, or otherwise. I came across two thoughtful articles this week which scrutinize the institutional power wielded by protagonists in big-name titles.
- BLOOD AND VIOLENCE IN THE STREETS OF LONDON – DEEP HELL
Skeleton takes a look at the violence of predatory power dynamics in Vampyr.
- The Computer and the Orient | Assassin’s Creed: Revelations | Heterotopias
Zsolt David examines how Assassin’s Creed‘s most beloved protagonist hijacks entire cultures to perpetuate an Orientalist narrative framework.
“Revelations follows the Orientalist tradition of homogenising Eastern cultures to establish a dichotomy between East and West. This stereotypical depiction is highlighted by Ezio’s success: the game suggests that a Western man’s expertise and hard work is all it takes to train inexperienced men and women to the point of independence.”
Friendships, romance, and family ties all went under the critical lens this week, in four really successful thinkpieces.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man: The Realest Dad Game | SideQuesting
Erron Kelly draws upon Otto Octavius and his own experiences to critique an overly sunny bent to the dadification of games (Content Notification: domestic violence).
- “Love and Hate in Kamurocho,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter distills the didactic moralizing of the Yakuza series as a whole and Kiwami 2 in particular.
- Team Ico: How Bad AI Makes Good Relationships • Quillstreak
Cian Maher finds thoughtful design and intent behind the imperfect companions in Team Ico’s games.
- How the Creators of the Otome Genre Bring Romance to Modern Audiences – Waypoint
Anne Lee interviews pioneering developer Mei Erikawa about the genre she helped establish–Otome, or dating sims for women.
“there was definitely some resistance within our own company—people firmly believing that games made specifically for female audience just would not sell. However, Ms. Erikawa was firm in her beliefs, insisted that “there are just as many women in the world as men, of course there can be a separate market,””
Space and Place
What goes into the design of a virtual space? And how, in turn, can that space be made to feel like a lived place? Two authors this week answer these questions by looking at two very different games.
- Gamasutra: Justin Reeve’s Blog – Realism and Legibility in Open-World Level Design
Justin Reeve uses Kevin Lynch’s theories of urban mental mapping to describe why Breath of the Wild‘s Hyrule is such an intuitively navigable space.
- Shenmue Has Aged Poorly, But It Is Still Special To Me | Kotaku
Keza MacDonald reflects on Shenmue‘s remarkable and enduring ability to convey a sense of real place when nearly everything else about it has aged so poorly.
“If you’re generous towards Shenmue’s intentions and strengths, you could say it is a game about being somewhere.”
I encountered two very different articles–one working from game design, the other from distribution–that both touch upon some common anxieties of being a player/consumer. Here they are.
- Nudging Moral Choices in Games | The Psychology of Video Games
Jamie Madigan proposes a more player-centred approach to designing moral choices in games.
- The Endless Stream of New Game Releases Is Exciting, but Also Exhausting – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman draws upon Paul Virilio to make sense of the never-ending acceleration of game releases.
“In that culture of production, what Virilio would call a war, the fans get to scream at each other about what game is going to “win” E3. Or they can debate over whether Red Dead Redemption 2 or Battlefield V is going to be the “better” game of 2018. We can discuss, seriously, whether a lack of puddles demonstrates a “downgrade” of a video game. What unites these video game culture questions is that they all assume that we are living in a ruin made of things to come.”
Just for Fun
Once again, I couldn’t help myself this week. Incidentally, I also couldn’t help pre-ordering the PlayStation Classic.
- Seven Ways To Make The PlayStation Classic Feel Like The Real Thing | Kotaku
Mike Fahey proposes that Sony’s new stocking stuffer might just be a little too good to be true–or at least too good to be authentic.
“Why don’t those controllers have analog sticks? The original PSX didn’t get dual analog sticks until 1997. If Sony were to give those to us immediately, it would sour the experience. Wait a couple of years, then charge us $50 apiece.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!