Happy Sunday, readers!
First of all, if you haven’t already seen it, we’ve got a new Critical Compilation this week–this time on the Mass Effect Trilogy, courtesy of Emma Kostopolus. She’s gathered a bunch of great writing on how the series intersects with queer romance and representation, so check it out!
With that out of the way, this week’s topics run the gamut from online radicalization, to masculine vulnerability, to colonialism, but they’re also nearly all about communication, too. This could be how we communicate to one another in multiplayer games; how we communicate ideas and themes, or even whether studios choose to accept responsibility for how (and what) they communicate.
So this week, like all weeks, let’s keep the conversation going. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
The terrorist attacks in Christchurch have instigated a period of reflection regarding the extent to which our media institutions–game companies included–are complicit in promoting and/or abetting white supremacy. Two writers this week break down these relationships and begin the work of charting a path forward where we reject bigoted hatred and the violence it encourages.
- Community management post-Christchurch massacre | Opinion | GamesIndustry.biz
James Kozanecki calls upon the games industry to take action in rooting out hatred and toxicity in gaming communities.
- 8chan, Which the Mosque Shooter Used, Has Its Roots in Gamergate | Daily Dot
Ana Valens traces a timeline of white-supremacist radicalization on the Internet.
“If you believe women like Sarkeesian are ruining gaming, it’s easy to believe feminism is destroying Western culture. If you believe journalists of color in the gaming industry are being “reverse racists” toward white men, you could easily come to believe that Muslims are destroying white, European culture. Over time, “shitposts” about white nationalism turn into “effort posts” that lead to real-life violence against the most marginalized groups. All it takes is a userbase ready for indoctrination.”
I’ve had the pleasure of reading and sharing a great deal of writing on large-scale multiplayer and online games, but this week I’d like to shift some attention to the sociality of more intimate game spaces. Two writers this week discuss the exchange between the games they play and their close personal relationships.
- The Stillness of the Wind Is My Cat’s Favorite Game | Paste
Holly Green describes how the peaceful relaxation offered by games isn’t limited to players–or even humans.
- How D&D Brought Me and My Mom Closer Together | Fanbyte
Carley Fockler reflects on the ways in which games can build relationships and cross generational gaps.
“D&D has allowed us to come back together and reshape our relationship with one another in a way that is open on both ends.”
The Hearts of the Matter
There’s some great writing out there this week on affect and empathy in games. Also, more people have now made it through Kingdom Hearts III and are distilling their thoughts on why it warms our. . . cardiovascular systems. Check out these three excellent pieces.
- Gamasutra: Jori Hamilton’s Blog – Can Video Games Be Used to Teach Children Empathy?
Jori Hamilton connects the research on empathy and games to child development and pedagogy.
- Kingdom Hearts’ True Magic Isn’t Disney, It’s Men Showing Vulnerability | Waypoint
Patrick Klepek celebrates the boys of summer.
- Kingdom Hearts 3 Works Emotionally, Even With Its Story Disappointments | DualShockers
Chris Compendio meditates on the sheer affective strength of the Kingdom Hearts series.
“As someone who thinks critically about video games (and other media) in terms of stories, character development, writing, and arcs, Kingdom Hearts 3 fell short to me in many ways—even so, there were times where I felt oblivious to its flaws whenever it struck a chord of high emotion.”
Words on Words
A trio of authors this week all reflect on communication in some capacity–via our technological practices and our vocabulary frameworks, respectively.
- Opened World: With Strangers – Haywire Magazine
Miguel Penabella resists the trend of lumping Apex in with hero shooters and battle royales and instead finds the roots of its ping system in Journey.
- The Importance of Phones in Devil May Cry 5 – Timber Owls
Lilly positions the humble phone booth save point as an acknowledgement of and counterpoint to DMC5‘s absurd, anachronistic protagonists.
- The Colonial, Non-colonial and Decolonial in Video Games | Why Not Games
Nikhil Murthy proposes organizational frameworks and nomenclature for studying colonial elements in video games.
“There are a lot of things that get rolled up in colonialism, such as industrialization, capitalism and modernization. While the history of colonialism is deeply intertwined with all three of these, I feel quite strongly that they are different concepts.”
Storied Successes–and Failures
Ubisoft and Marshall McLuhan be damned, the medium is not always the message–or at least not the whole message. What your game and your story have to say matters, and is always informed on some level by politics and ideology. That goes for self-important “auteurs”, too. On the bright side, KoToR 2 gets some love this week! Please enjoy these three great articles.
- The Division 2 review – a game with nothing to say but plenty of tactical bumbags – VG247
Kirk McKeand surmises that in its attempt to say nothing The Division 2 merely relinquishes control of its political message.
- Game Pile: Braid | press.exe
Talen Lee unpacks Braid‘s, umm (forgive me), braided misogyny.
- Star Wars and the Pitfalls of Telling Adult Stories in a World Built for Children | Fanbyte
Gretchen Felker-Martin looks back at Knights of the Old Republic 2‘s moral complexity and weighs it against The Last Jedi‘s contemporary efforts in the same narrative neighbourhood.
“For decades the idea of the Jedi has thrilled kids in movie theaters and living rooms around the world; The Sith Lords is what happens when you pull that idea into the exhausting and complicated light of adulthood. It can’t survive the transition, but there’s wonder to be found in its disintegration.”
Just for Fun
Just because I put something in the fun section doesn’t mean it lacks a strong critical argument. Natalie Watson’s piece this week makes an excellent point about design practices. But yeah, this game looks silly and fun and is free.
- What if a Friendly Game of Golf, But You’re a…Gun? – Waypoint
Natalie Watson muses on the payoff of iterating upon clear, established design. With guns.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the golf games I’ve enjoyed over the past few years (Golf Story, Infinite Minigolf, Golf With Your Friends), it’s that the fundamentals of the sport are solid enough that getting creative with them often pays off.”
- Intersexionality and the Undie Game – First Person Scholar
First Person Scholar’s series on queer game studies continues this week with an excellent article from Sabine Harrer. Check it out! In the interest of disclosure, I am an editor for First Person Scholar.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!