December 16th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

As we approach the end of the year–err, the Western colonial calendar year at any rate–the discourse of critical games writing naturally makes an annualized turn toward reflection on the bigger picture–be that via industry trends, communities of play, genre shifts, or other benchmarks of the state of games and play. Read on and you’ll find discussions of all of these topics this week from talented authors.

This reflection is healthy and important! How else are we ever going to make sense out of nonsense like this? This week’s first selection was just the kind of critical antidote I needed after reading about Capcom’s latest in-game advertising antics, and I hope it helps you, too.

This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

(Re)Viewer Discretion

Two phenomenal game reviews this week use their objects of study as springboards for wider critical discussions about what we are and aren’t willing to tolerate in the games we consume, both in terms of content and how they are sold to us.

“if we play AAA games to enjoy polished mechanics while ignoring some of their terrible politics, we should play and celebrate games like The Missing for their beauty, for their humanity, for their politics – while ignoring the at times frustrating mechanics.”

Fan Fare

Two authors this week take a close look at fan communities in, around, and adjacent to games, pulling no punches at the ugliness they find but also finding some sparks of hope and joy along the way.

“It was the best of fandom: a bout of creativity powered by pure, unfiltered horniness. Nintendo has made some unusually horny characters of late, but this fan-made version appealed so acutely to a wide swath of fan communities—furries, gender swap fans, people who want to be stepped on—that it could only have come from fandom.”

Choose Your Destiny

What’s in a choice? By now the body of criticism around the notion of choices in games has been around the bend and back more than a few times, but this week’s pair of authors bring fresh perspectives to games old and new.

“I chew fingernails over my choices. I make strategic cups of tea to stare out of the window pondering the metaphorical existence I’m screwing up. And only rarely (very rarely now) do I look things up online.”

Recovery Mode

In what ways do games explore recovery? In what ways can they facilitate it? Four authors this week explore these questions via their own experiences.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a member of the game press, or maybe it’s because I’m pretentious, but I don’t look to videogames for escapism. Like books, movies or music, I play games to engage with them mentally (which, admittedly, can be hard because most games are stupid). Spider-Man, though, was different.”

Welcome Home

What are the consequences of looking back, of returning? What is the cost? What feelings are involved, or at stake? This week’s pair of authors find out.

Night in the Woods filters the world through the perspective of the naïve Mae as a way to carefully unravel and critique nostalgia and the privilege that accompanies it, steadily undercutting its own autumnal aesthetic of warm, homespun imagery as concealing the underlying hurt that the protagonist fails to see clearly.”

Genre Grind

Two authors this week reflect on properly venerable genres, and the ways in which modern spins keep old conventions fresh and viable.

“Games take themselves entirely too seriously these days. We need titles like The Haunted Island to remind us that it’s OK for humor to be your whole shtick; making people laugh is valid in its own right.”

Fast Travels

This week a pair of articles look closely at the implications of space and place in big games.

“Open world games want us to love their worlds as much as Spider-Man loves New York. Even though they’re mostly just amusement parks than they are real places. The best of these amusement parks allow you to learn landmarks and understand the world for what it is.”

Just for Fun

Two articles to close out with this week! I apologize for nothing.

Of course, being the absolutely awful dork-child that I was, my first thought was not a tiny-fist-clenched, all-consuming need to make the sims fuuuuuck. Instead, I decided that I would make an accurate representation of the Ancient Greek pantheon of gods, writ small in janky AI humans.

I mean, there was fuckin’. But at least I had the flimsy excuse that this was sort of educational.


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