October 21st

The conversation on labour in games continues with undiminished momentum, in part because Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser has volunteered himself to be the one to really step in it this week. There’s no positive way to spin 100-hour weeks, period, but I’m optimistic about the staying power of the current conversation. I take it as a sign of hope that things can change.

That being said, all of this has made the discourse a bit more emotionally draining to read lately, and I don’t want to let this single topic drown out all the other great criticism going on in games writing right now. This week there are some absolutely fantastic articles on colonial rhetoric in games, feminine queer sexuality, trauma and recovery, and much, much more. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Human(e?) Capital

This week I was pleased to see authors extending the ongoing conversation of labour in games beyond development to include meditations on emotional labour, and some much-needed self-reflexivity on how journalists cover these topics. These four articles are well worth your time.

“The bigger the product, the more that is asked of employees, and the deeper that common denominator sinks. Both ArenaNet and Riot, which create and curate vast online worlds, unambiguously allowed the worst of their communities to dictate staffing decisions. Rockstar’s Houser attempted to use crunch as a sort of implicit come-on to the player: Look at how willing my people are to kill themselves for your pleasure!

(Multi)cultural Capital

Four authors and one interviewer this week continue the ongoing project to push and prod at the marginal boundaries of identity and inclusion in games, both through reflection on what cultures and identities are being included in games, and of those which are, how they are being represented or misrepresented.

“In the pursuit of portraying a realistic world, The Last of Us Part II actually reproduces a version of the world dreamt up by colonial administrators and the academics who aided in their destruction of cultures around the world.”

Feminine Sexuality

Two authors this week offer some valuable insights on feminine sexuality in games–be it by the recuperation of its representation in historical/mythological interactive fiction, or by the unflinching portrayal of contemporary queer feminine sexuality in one of the year’s most interesting (and macabre) puzzle games.

Guenevere gives you an impressive array of options, meaning that when Arthur and I found ourselves in the bedroom on our wedding night, I didn’t just have the choice of “jump into the sack” and “turn him down.” Instead, I was offered the possibility of telling him yes or no, but with the nuances of not being interested in men, not being attracted to him, wanting to use him for political power, or wanting to ravage one of his other courtiers.”

Mass-Market Affect

There’s lots of great writing this week that pays particular attention to the affective relationships we have with the games we play. This week’s five standouts alternately look at desensitization, self-care, recovery, nostalgia, and comfort.

“At a time when so much of the world seems set against kindness, finding these tiny pockets of joy folded beneath the skin of a game with “Assassin” in the title, is something to relish.”

Just for Fun

My snark-sense is tingling this week.

“Currently on its tenth main series entry, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the Odyssey series has been around almost as long as video games themselves. Named for its main character, John Odyssey, it’s spanned countless platforms and generations, all in the name of telling one of gaming’s most fascinating and coherent stories.”


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