So to start off my thoughts leading into this week’s roundup, what the absolute fuck, Activision? There isn’t a lot I can say here that more articulate voices haven’t already said, but a coincidence of record profits and massive layoffs is never a good look for a company, period. That being said, I’m wary of other labour stories in games this week being drowned out in the wake of this infuriating news. Unionize, dammit.
The articles I had the pleasure of reading this week don’t talk squarely about labour in games as an at-large topic, but many do segue into this discourse by way of issues of representation in the industry. There’s also some great writing on new games, and, umm, something about Yoshi I’d rather not elaborate on here. You’ll have to see for yourself, readers.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
A Far Cry from Narrative Substance
There’s a new Far Cry out, and this one brings some post-apocalyptic trappings of the Annihilation-style variety. Critics, however, are less interested in the more alien stuff and more concerned with human representation in the latest open-world shooty-fest. Two writers this week discuss whether the new game actually has anything new to say.
- Far Cry: New Dawn – a Review – I Need Diverse Games
Tauriq Moosa reflects on new beginnings in the same old Far Cry.
- Kill for Prosperity and Not Much Else in ‘Far Cry New Dawn’ – Waypoint
Dia Lacina critiques New Dawn for reproducing the old order and for general narrative and political cowardice.
“There was no interest in redeeming or repositioning the Highwaymen and their leaders later in the story. They were cruel to dogs—to golden retrievers. This was a decision designed to communicate one thing, the Highwaymen aren’t just tacky, assholes with a different world view. To the creators of New Dawn, they were feral savages who had to be put down.”
Towards an Apex of Accessibility
Forgive my headings this week (or don’t). Apex Legends dropped on an unsuspecting community last week, and not only is it apparently pretty good, but also fairly forward-thinking from an accessibility standpoint. There’s always room for improvement, however, and two authors this week discuss where the game meets and misses the mark, respectively.
- Apex Legends’ accessibility settings are shockingly good – Polygon
Cass Marshall finds a lot to love in Respawn’s consideration of the needs of disabled players.
- Apex Legends Needs A ‘You’re Welcome’ Button | Kotaku
Gita Jackson positions a simple feature addition as an opportunity to promote visibility for–and gratitude towards–support players.
“When I can’t say it, especially when I’m playing with highly-skilled randos for whom pinging things is the only way I can help, I can feel my skin itching in annoyance. How can I show them that I am present, paying attention, and aware that they’re speaking to me?”
Partially Voiced Dialogue
Even when games make an effort to “include” marginalized identities they still run the risk of speaking around them, or erasing them. What, for example, does a game’s perspective have to do with which identities are given voice, and which are silenced? The same questions can be extended, of course, to the labour culture of the games industry. Six authors this week listen for the voices left out–or cut out.
- Jump Force’s lack of female playable characters is terrible – Polygon
Allegra Frank offers up some pretty harrowing stats on representation in recent fighting games.
- Radiator Blog: Thick skin: complexion, realism, and labor in games
Robert Yang muses on the labour that goes into representation in games–from both a technological and cultural standpoint–and how that labour is unevenly distributed. And, shit, this one is a hell of a read.
- Through Whose Eyes – ZEAL – Medium
Ashanti Fortson, in a beautiful visual essay, reflects on perspective and autistic erasure in To the Moon.
- Character before condition – looking at gaming and autism representation • Eurogamer.net
Laura Francis takes stock of the state of autism representation in games and proposes best practices and next steps.
- Weeks Later, I Still Can’t Find Kassandra – Videodame
Aimee Hart laments the callous stupidity of Ubisoft’s queer erasure.
- Gamasutra: Alexander Ruiz’s Blog – Gay in the Game Industry: Research from the Field
Alexander Ruiz shares some early findings in his extensive study of LGBTQ employees in the games industry, and finds that many organizations are paying lip service to court customers while continuing to marginalize their queer workforce.
“While LGBTQ gamers may feel particularly betrayed by these organizations’ lack of consist support for their community, these inconsistencies pose perhaps an even more urgent question: what is the climate like if you are a LGBTQ video game developer who works for one of these organizations?”
Games don’t exist in a vacuum: they are, of course, products of culture, and so draw upon a myriad of cultural inspirations in terms of the elements and ideas they represent. But what constitutes homage, and what constitutes theft? That last question need not be so difficult; give credit (and compensation) where credit (and compensation) are due. Two writers this week delve into the footnotes of popular games.
- The haunted origins of Pokémon • Eurogamer.net
Sara Elsam is on the watch for some Y?kai–but, err, in that other game.
- Fortnite’s Appropriation Issue Isn’t About Copyright Law, It’s About Ethics – Waypoint
Yussef Cole patiently explains why Epic should stop fucking stealing from black artists.
“Much of the discussion surrounding Epic’s appropriations is concerned with whether the lawsuits being brought by 2 Milly, Ribeiro, and others, are legally feasible; it centers the letter of the law, asking whether Epic is allowed to lift these dance moves. But this ignores the (at least) equally pertinent question of whether it should.”
Videogames have been described as a young medium for decades, but they’re not getting any younger, and indeed are continually accumulating a history and histories of their own. These histories can constitute the timelines (and myths) of their production and evolution, or perhaps they can constitute the personal histories that players and critics bring to games and associate with them. Very often both are involved in some measure. Five authors this week situate different games in different times, both public and private.
- Extra Lives | Unwinnable
Sara Clemens recounts coming around to Tom Bissell’s messy, problematic, accessible, and illuminating games criticism over the years.
- Why I’m still thinking about Final Fantasy 8, 20 years later – Polygon
Ashley Oh celebrates the weird, emotionally vulnerable middle child of Squaresoft’s PS1 days.
- Video game history is the future in The Eternal Castle • Eurogamer.net
Sam Greer delves into the future historicity of a game that’s probably a lot cooler than Bandersnatch.
- How This Game Mirrored My Own Reconciliation With Trauma – Waypoint
Natalie Watson situates recovery in a sense of home via Home Is Where the Hearth Is (content notification: sexual assault).
- CHOP TILL YOU DROP – DEEP HELL
Skeleton proposes that the even shittier mall in Dead Rising‘s Wii spinoff has simultaneously aged rather poorly and become even more representative of the late-capitalistic rot prevalent in real malls today.
“Something about Chop Till You Drop still tastes bad, even though it was released far before the current popularity of shootings in public places. Like playing through the fantasy of a right-wing adjunct, taking his frustrations out on the masses in a now mostly abandoned shopping mall. I can’t imagine actually going to play it again now.”
Just for Fun
I’m going to put a content notification here for Yoshi images of questionable canonicity.
- I Lost A Bet In Smash And Now I Have To Keep A Sexy Picture Of Yoshi On My Phone | Kotaku
God bless Cecilia D’Anastasio and the whole damn Kotaku team for living their weird-ass truth.
“every time I unlock my phone, I and everybody else in my vicinity have been confronted with a pornographic image of Nintendo’s Yoshi, wearing a thong bikini, under the words “hell yeah I’m a slut.””
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!