May 12th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Welcome, readers (and Happy Mother’s Day to those who observe it today!).

In reflecting on the major labour stories in games news this week, I think it’s important to keep in mind that while everyone under abusive management suffers, women, queer, and poc labourers at large games companies very often have it even worse. Even when a big developer or publisher isn’t explicitly crunching (or, at least, isn’t the latest subject of an exposé on Kotaku), work culture in these places is often steeped in gatekeeping, institutional bigotry, and harassment. This is normalized. So as the industry lurches toward (hopefully) greater organization and oversight, I think it’s important to consider how to overhaul labour practices in games in a way that protects and benefits the most vulnerable members of the industry, too.

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

The Garden Overrun

This week’s labour-centric selections all bring in other angles in addition to the ongoing narrative movement concerning crunch and labour organization. Each is forward-looking, seeking to make sense alternately of individual titles and broader industry trends, in an effort to forecast where unsustainable labour practices will inevitably take the industry–and what will emerge in the aftermath.

“Let’s get used to hearing about abused employees and crunch time when every big-budget game is released. I say that not because I’d like to see it normalized, but because we (the people that’ll be stuck writing about it) should have some trepidation about the market being used to create entertainment.”

Playing at Representation

A pair of authors this week each look at representation in games, alternately looking at how diversity can enrich play communities and how big titles that merely play at inclusion do a disservice to the very communities they purport to acknowledge.

“By focusing on the introduction of some minor queer content into otherwise typical titles, these awards risk celebrating safe corporate inclusion at the expense of games created by and for the LGBTQ community.”

Level Up

Progression is one of the key “hooks” that keep us playing a game, and that hook is ever more-relevant as design goals shift toward keeping players paying into systems. Two authors this week explore these linkages between progression and modern game economies–especially gacha.

“I am a friggin’ dope who loves the big numbers. Don’t just give me Excalibur, give me Excalibur+1.”

A Room, a View

Two authors this week look at space in games and beyond: one looking toward the spaces we inhabit and must live within, the other looking instead to the very act of looking itself, and the design challenges that ensue.

“I used to think of the mood boost that Sims got in the game was just a mechanic to give you an impetus to continue to buy them more things. As I get older, I also discovered that I’m just happier in a place that looks nice and feels nice, that has my art on the walls and is arranged in a way that feels cozy.”

A Dull Blade, a Sharp Thorn

A pair of selections this week offer deep critical dives on the narrative themes of two very new, very different games.

“Despite efforts to ward off the pits of depression with good company or concerted efforts to find joy, some days will still be unbearably hard.  But knowing that you’re not alone in that struggle might make it just a smidge more bearable.”

Critical Chaser

I swear I was just thinking about that Yeti a couple of weeks ago. . .

“Maybe it’s because I was really invested in Hawke and my favorite Origins character was Zevran, but I consider telling the player to fuck off to be a franchise tradition.”


Plugs

  • Write for us | Into The Spine 
    Diego N. Argüello has recently started an awesome new site for critical games writing, and they are looking to support new and developing writers. Check them out.

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