Welcome readers! Last week I was delighted to present a whole bunch of writing on queer game studies, but since no amount of queer games writing is too much (or let’s be real, enough), this week’s roundup opens with a section focused specifically on queer masculine sexuality.
Bodies in general are a recurring theme this week: queer bodies, Black bodies, bodies in love, bodies in grief, bodies in laughter, bodies and interface devices. . . bodies are important! We only get one each, after all.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our annual roundup by Eric Swain, as well as Dan Parker’s Critical Compilation on The Last of Us, the first in a series of seven upcoming compilations we will be publishing.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Men at Play
A recurring theme among authors this week is a focus on queer masculine sexuality, the representation of which often lags behind queer feminine sexuality in games. Three writers this week take stock of the situation with different games.
- Everyday bisexuality in video games | GamesIndustry.biz
James Batchelor interviews Mata Haggis-Burridge about bisexual perception, performance, and erasure.
- Sexy Medieval Men Are Waiting For You In Robin Morningwood | Kotaku
Kate Gray profiles an upcoming queer indie game and contextualizes it against the recent chill on games with sexual content on major platforms.
- To Be Gay in Mass Effect Is An Act of Rebellion – Into The Spine
Kenneth Shepard re-examines Mass Effect‘s long, long road to a place for gay men in the galaxy.
“Getting through Mass Effect 1 and 2 with your identity intact as a gay man is an act of resistance. It’s to look a heteronormative world in the face and say “no, you will not define who I am in this universe.””
Please Check Controller Port 1
Four authors this week investigate the myriad intersections between our messy bodies and our often just-as-messy game controllers. I’m also feeling a little called out for owning a Power Glove.
- A Love Letter to Beat Saber – YouTube
Jacob Geller talks about the disembodied fun of accidentally working out with an extensively fan-supported and modded VR rhythm game.
- Old is the new new – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi, with a Game Gear in hand, rediscovers fun by eschewing the always-connected chase for progress and content.
- Hardware Digital Body | Unwinnable
Eron Rauch visits an interactive exhibit on sports games and is starkly reminded of just how weird the relationship between bodies and interface devices really is.
- The Power of Glove | Unwinnable
Megan Condis explores fan nostalgia for an old Nintendo peripheral that was, quite objectively, never good. It was, in fact, “so bad.”
“What possible futures might we be able to build if we do not limit ourselves to the past that existed but instead to the past we choose to remember?”
Have I used that subtitle before? Quite possibly. I’m always keenly interested in critical writing exploring and/or critiquing the role affect plays in game experiences, and these four examples offer some top-notch interrogations.
- How games can help to explore the many colours of grief • Eurogamer.net
Jason Coles weaves narratives of grief in games with his own story of loss in order to advocate for greater emotional relatability in games.
- Afterlife | Problem Machine
Problem Machine is tired of the faulty rationalizations and false moral binaries behind violence in games.
- Willow | Unwinnable
Deirdre Coyle, while aware of its problems, finds a relatable metaphor in Don’t Starve‘s sanity meter.
- 2018 Honorable Mentions: Heaven Will Be Mine :: Games :: Features :: Heaven Will Be Mine :: Paste
Dia Lacina finds in Heaven Will Be Mine a game that gets the intimacy, isolation, and lethality of space in a way few other titles do.
“This is my Game of the Year that couldn’t make my list. Sometimes there’s just too much to hold it all together, and Heaven Will Be Mineunderstands that. It understands the year I’m having, the impulse to throw the towel in, but also it wants to remind us of the importance of connection, of new ways, even if they’re unsuccessful. But maybe this was a game I wasn’t supposed to play until after this year ran its course. Maybe this was exactly when I needed to play it, floating adrift between the last year and the next, just wanting someone to hold these pieces together with me.”
Gated Play Communities
Games continue to lag behind their player communities in terms of representation, and many of those players are tired of waiting for developers to play catch-up. Two authors this week highlight the push for play spaces that better represent the players who inhabit them.
- Overwatch Fan’s Letter To Jeff Kaplan About Black Women Gets Heartfelt Response | Kotaku
Gita Jackson takes stock of an industry dragging its feet on the inclusion of Black women, and of the players who won’t just sit and wait for that inclusion to happen.
- Trans Identity in Eorzea – ZEAL – Medium
Jamie Geist reflects on exploring her gender identity in Final Fantasy XIV.
“My identity was shifting and changing, trying out words like bigender and genderfluid, yet scared to settle on being a trans woman. To me, they were still the ‘other’, a group that I couldn’t possibly be a part of, yet I somehow knew was real. The people in that community didn’t want the change either. They were more comfortable with a trap, a femboy, something they didn’t have to bother understanding or learning to respect.”
Gathered here are three articles that apply novel critical approaches to established games to say something new about them.
- The JRPG Startup Cost « Significant Bits
Radek Koncewicz offers a fascinating and exhaustive data-based approach to figuring out why JRPGs seem to be so hard to commit to these days.
- Good For What Ails You – Timber Owls
Lilly zeroes in on Red Dead 2‘s uncritical, ahistorical representation of patent medicine and finds it reflective of Dan Houser’s uncritical, ahistorical representation of his development studio’s labour practices.
- Metal Gear 2 Retrospective: The World Spins Without Snake | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra investigates how Metal Gear 2 de-emphasizes player subjectivity–mostly intentionally.
“The game’s narrative frame lays the groundwork for a proper Metal Gear timeline and introduces the idea that the world has been marching on without Solid Snake (or the player), which plays into Metal Gear 2’s core theme of undermining any sense of success that Snake or the player felt after the end of Metal Gear. Sequels often undo the tidy endings of previous games in a series, and Metal Gear 2 is no exception.”
How do you design for humor in a game? Two authors this week look at very different games to establish frameworks for going from fun to funny.
- BadCupid: Procedural romance in a digital world • Eurogamer.net
Emily Gera studies Kitfox’s latest to divine how procedural generation and comedy come together to interrogate romance.
- “Splitting Sides,” by Ed Smith – Bullet Points Monthly
Ed Smith studies the comedy of Hitman as an expression of juxtaposition, of dissonance, and of exploding rubber ducks.
“Hitman takes something primal and dramatic—murder—and asks that you regard it as a logic puzzle. It feels right, or at least not as incongruous as if you were discussing a stand-up routine or a cartoon or a doctor, doctor joke, or something, to try and work out exactly the ways that this game generates laughter.”
Just for Fun
I’m not deliberately curating bad RollerCoaster Tycoon ideas in this section, but if the bad ideas keep coming, I’m probably going to keep sharing them.
- RollerCoaster Tycoon Ride From Hell Lasts 12 Years | Kotaku
Ethan Gach documents a possible crime against amusement.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!