Welcome back, readers!
E3 is next week? I guess? We’ve got a very timely piece this week on the damaging effects of hype, which I enjoyed a great deal and which you can find below. On the academic circuit, it’s also conference season, and I’m looking forward to reading the thoughts and ideas that come my way from those venues.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week we’re starting with two selections on making games more inclusive, with both single-game and industry-wide perspectives accounted for.
- Anita Sarkeesian: “No more excuses for the lack of women at E3” | GamesIndustry.biz
Anita Sarkeesian, interviewed by James Batchelor, explains why it matters to hold E3 accountable for its lack of feminine representation in games.
- Hardcoded Has the Trans Representation We Need in Adult Games | Fanbyte
Ana Valens highlights the need for more trans representation and sex positivity in games and in porn by showcasing a successful example of both.
“It’s not just a porn game for trans women. It’s unafraid to embrace the messy, traumatic parts of trans love and sex because it fundamentally cares about me as a trans woman.”
In an medium that moves as fast as games, even the recent past can feel insurmountably remote. This is true in its literal sense when digital games are no longer available, and all the associated labour, art, and culture are lost. But this distance is also felt in the things we can go back to–be they yesterday’s classics, newly remade or rebooted, or yesterday’s social platforms and paradigms. Hope y’all enjoy each of these three pieces as much as I did.
- How Games Are Taking Us Back to the Early Days of the Internet | Fanbyte
Blake P thinks through the online dynamics of community and control through a series of indie experiences.
- Reboots and reimaginings – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi thinks through the design paradox of reboots by way of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and DmC: Devil May Cry.
- Preservationists Are Racing to Save Ouya’s Games Before They Disappear – VICE
Nicole Carpenter documents what is lost when a storefront dies–and what, perhaps, might be saved.
“It’s a familiar story in an area of e-shops for games. Early this year, Nintendo shut down the Wii Shop Channel. The company also intends to stop supporting all services for the Wii Shop Channel, which means that players will lose access to any purchased games that they haven’t already downloaded. And that’s how piracy has become necessary in preserving these games; there are just no other options in these instances.”
That’s not a typo, just a middling-to-poor attempt at a pun on hegemony (sigh), because that’s precisely what these three authors have in their sights this week. To elaborate, triple-A and indie spheres alike are vulnerable to the mainstreaming and elevation of more privileged voices at the expense of others, and that is all further exacerbated by hype culture in games. Read on to gain insights on this feedback loop from each of its three corners.
- “Duke Nukem Forever and Ever,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter argues that Duke Nukem Forever‘s enduring legacy is not in its unbearability, but in its unremarkability, when so many other games before and after have echoed its worst impulses.
- Witness Jonathan Blow – DEEP HELL
Skeleton delves into what it really means for an art form when one of its normative, radio-friendly creators comes out of the woodwork to complain about it.
- Val’s Hall: Kill Your Masters, or: Hype Train Derailing
SylvanFlux critiques the hype cycle in games as a ritual that furthers industry exploitation and absolves toxic creators.
“Pre-release hype needs to stop. We’ve already had consumer advocate movements against pre-ordering, and that helps, but.. we need to stop listening when corporations tell us, very loudly, that their new game is important.”
Since the binary days of BioWare and BioShock, games have continued to iterate and evolve in how they think about the juxtaposition of choice and moral consequence. Three articles this week look at some fresh developments, as well as a long-building culmination.
- In Don’t Wake The Night, You Have The Power Of A God Without The Omniscience | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra profiles a game inspired Guaraní culture which challenges traditional frameworks of interactivity in games.
- How Kingdom Hearts Reframed Darkness | Fanbyte
Angelica Frey presents an overview of Kingdom Hearts‘ complicated metaphysics.
- ‘Don’t Wake the Night’ Tackles Morality Better Than Any AAA Game – VICE
Cameron Kunzelman looks at a game that challenges the conventional wisdom: about gameplay, about conflict, about settler colonialism.
“Don’t Wake The Night, then, works to be a thing that can’t be fully absorbed. It works to not fit into a predictable model of games. When you make your judgment as a spirit at the end, you’re almost certainly not going to feel good about it. You didn’t have all the information. You didn’t have all the context. But that’s part of the power of the design of the game.”
There’s very often a strong case to be made for a game sticking to one thing, one idea, and nailing its execution of that thing. When handled with care, this can produce strong and provocative results. But such a design approach can also be blinding if something vital is left out of the equation–human experience, for instance. Two authors this week articulate thoughtful critiques that touch upon constrained design.
- A Plague Tale: Innocence versus the Black Death • Eurogamer.net
Andreas Inderwildi identifies a lack of meaningful attention to the depiction of human suffering and grief in A Plague Tale.
- Return of the Obra Dinn (Lucas Pope) | Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling
Emily Short finds a lot to like in Obra Dinn‘s commitment to doing a lot with constrained design choices.
“It is a collective rather than an individual tragedy, the narrative of a compromised and damaged group.”
Wait, hold on, Zelda wasn’t number one?
- Seven Videogame Chickens, Listed from Least to Most Likely to Kick My Ass | Unwinnable
Melissa King. . . lord, do I have to put something here? Just read the dang article. (Content Notification: absurdly powerful chickens).
“Did you ever hear about the chicken who killed a guy with a knife? As an ever-curious critic, this made a question bubble up in my brain: Which videogame chickens could kick my ass?”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!