The holidays strike me as a reminder that things are always in motion.
Whether we’re trying to recapture the lost magic of yesteryear with loved ones, or navigating new challenges or traumas, the holidays remind us (or me, at any rate, if I’m being honest) that time won’t wait, regardless of our efforts.
That sounds a little fatalistic, and perhaps that tone is informed by my own struggles this year with my mental health, but I don’t mean it in a strictly negative way. Reflecting on the state of games at the end of 2018, lots of writers are taking stock of where things stand: tallying the small victories and weighing them against the setbacks when it comes to things like labour rights, gender representation, and the critical discourse itself. As I suggested last week, this introspection is healthy and valuable–a useful reminder for how far we’ve come, and how far we can still go.
I think there’s inspiration to be had there, if you approach matters with an open mind.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
To the Victor
Three articles this week look at historical representation, cultural appropriation, and the colonialist ideology that so often fuels both.
- Battlefield V: A corruption of history – Ruben Ferdinand – Medium
Ruben Ferdinand dives deeply into Battlefield V‘s colonial reinforcement and mealy-mouthed both-sides-ism.
- How Historical Accuracy Became a Euphemism – Waypoint
Justin Reeve analyzes what’s actually at stake when players cry foul about who is represented and included in games set in the past.
- Well Played: Battle Royale — Real Life
Vicky Osterweil positions Fortnite‘s dance emotes as a microcosm for a cycle of cultural appropriation and colonialism endemic to games.
“Seized as a form of intellectual property by a now multibillion-dollar company, the emotes have in turn been brought back to the streets as a symbol of riotous joy and liberation.”
What’s in a perspective? This week’s selection of articles each interrogate viewpoints, either by way of the camera lens or the vantage points involved in the production and consumption of games.
- Subliminal Murder: Why Hitman 2 Should Arm Agent 47 with a Camera | Paste
Dia Lacina wrestles with the relationship between photography and violence, and finds the perfect object text to pursue those linkages.
- Let’s Place: A Play in No Acts – Haywire Magazine
Daria Kalugina presents a dramatis personae of watchers and watched in game development.
- A Game’s Photo Mode Isn’t Just a Feature, It’s My Way of Seeing the World – Waypoint
Dia Lacina asks whether a dedicated photo mode strips a game experience of emotional honesty.
“With “real” photo modes, a large degree of control is given to players. A quick press on the thumbsticks and time and movement become frozen. Players are then able to rotate, zoom, and change exposure. Maybe they can pose characters, vehicles, or props, or even erase them all together. But what is gained in technical control can, and often does, come at the cost of emotional immediacy and honesty.”
Three authors this week take stock of where games, the industry, and play communities are headed–and how much farther they need to go.
- Esports’ urgent need for visible gender diversity | GamesIndustry.biz
Rebekah Valentine charts out how far Esports still has to go.
- First Person Games Are Changing. But Into What? – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman traces the lines of genre, and looks to today’s irreverent indie titles to divine what’s next for first person games.
- In 2018, Video Game Developers Took Unionization Seriously – Waypoint
Dante Douglas reviews the past year’s developments regarding the state of labour in games.
“Video games have, by and large, avoided or brushed past the question of labor rights for years, yet somehow, 2018 was the year where the nucleus of change began to form.”
From the Margins
More and more indie successes are making space for underrepresented voices and perspectives–and two authors this week weigh in on especially successful examples.
- Butterfly Soup is Writing at Its Best – Videodame
Andrew King maps out the narrative successes of Butterfly Soup.
- The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Ownership of Identity – Timber Owls
Nadia M. makes the case for why, against the odds, The Missing gets its trans narrative right.
“Revealing a character to be transgender is always a risky move, and almost never a smart one, but here, it works due to the sincerity and empathy of the game’s writing. It’s not a shocking twist, but a revelation that’s slowly built up to through a fragmented, surreal plot.”
Storied Successes (and Failures)
It’s my (hopefully not uncommon) view that quality criticism on games will synthesize rather than separate narrative and mechanical perspectives. For my money, these four authors know the score.
- Skeletons of the Adventure Genre Make Grim Fandango Crumble – Into The Spine
Zsolt David examines how Grim Fandango fails to live up to the ambitions of its own anticapitalist rhetoric.
- Games of 2018: GOD OF WAR – I Need Diverse Games
Tauriq Moosa takes Kratos’ measure after a long history of banal violence and misogyny.
- Gingy’s Corner: Seiyuu Danshi | Unwinnable
Gingy Gibson parses out how a VN about being a voice actor successfully balances the tension of time management with the pleasure of choice.
- The Contradiction of Language in Subserial Network | Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan reads between the lines in Subserial Network.
“Phrases like “boolean”, “circuitry” and “ocular recalibration” are repeated liberally; they’re words that, in our own reality, has a note of impersonality and detachment. But in here, they carry a different connotation. They are infinitely more intimate, familiar terms used by synthetics to describe their own bodies.”
Play by Feel
Three powerful articles this week examine how games make sense of messy human feelings–and how we use them to make sense of our own.
- World of Warcraft is my home from home at Christmas • Eurogamer.net
Jennifer Allen reflects on WoW as a comfort against a tide of change and holiday stress.
- *Mute and Suicide – ZEAL – Medium
Sinclair August talks through autonomy and suicide via the work of Christine Love (content notification: suicide).
- Florence finds emotional power in how we use touchscreens – Polygon
Ashley Oh puzzles together how Florence wordlessly maps out the tensions of love and loss.
“I wondered what they were fighting about — was it about what to eat? The proper way to cook something? But it hardly matters what they were fighting about. I realize it’s never really about the tomato sauce or the party they didn’t want to go to, it’s about learning and adapting to who this person is and how they fit in my life.”
Just for Fun
Admit it: if you played RollerCoaster Tycoon back in the day, you fondly remember doing way worse to your park-goers.
- I Accidentally Made A Nightmare Coaster In Parkitect | Kotaku
Gita Jackson precisely pinpoints the optimal amount to make her park patrons vomit.
“My guests lined up in the dozens to try this coaster out. They did still vomit en masse at the exit, but I just hired a janitor whose only job was to sweep the paths in that small area.”
- Unwinnable Holiday Madness | Unwinnable
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!