Welcome back, readers.
First of all, if you haven’t already checked out Gilles Roy’s stellar Critical Compilation on Assassin’s Creed III, I can’t recommend it enough! After so many sequels, III remains a sort of critical flashpoint for the series, so there’s some invaluable reading here.
Speaking of older games, a lot of authors I read this week are also looking back at retro stuff. If you’re anxious about the always-moving goalposts for what we call retro, well, me too reader, me too.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
As Austin Walker suggests, there’s a case to be made for simply treating and writing on games as art rather than affording the naysayers the privilege of a debate. But what’s the throughline to that goal? Understanding the terms is probably a good part, as well as appreciating the genre intersections games share with other media. Three authors this week offer thoughtful and provocative contributions to this ongoing conversation.
- Theater of Mechanics, and in Mechanics, a Movement. | RE:BIND
Mx. Medea suggests that, in critiquing the idea of games as art, we might not have any fucking clue what art is in the first place. This one’s Real Good, readers.
- We need more cosmic horror in games – I Need Diverse Games
Tauriq Moosa pushes past the racist window dressing of Lovecraft to get at what really makes cosmic horror work and why it’s uniquely suited for gaming experiences.
- Grow Up: Marvel’s Spider-Man Proves We Need Real YA Games | Sidequest
Melissa Brinks positions Marvel’s Spider-Man as a work of New Adult fiction while making the case that games would benefit from more true YA examples.
“Calling Spider-Man “young adult” suggests that games that follow this mold are serving an audience that they are not—teenagers are a not insignificant portion of the gaming audience, regardless of gender. If games are for everyone, as we often argue they are, where are the games specifically for them? Not the games that can appeal to all audiences—Mario, Fortnite, even Pokémon—but the games that are made specifically for teenagers?”
A trio of articles this week each perform rich thematic analysis of the mid-generation Final Fantasy games. Incidentally, V is the hill I’m prepared to die on.
- Final Fantasy V Reminds Me Of What I Loved About The Series | Kotaku
Peter Tieryas muses on the generational trauma of Square’s SNES-era middle child.
- We Need To Talk About How Bra Sizes Work – GameSpot
Kallie Plagge puts the latest Final Fantasy VII dust-up to rest with some beginner-friendly lessons in bra measurements and *checks notes* basic anatomy.
- Revisiting Final Fantasy 8: Yep, This One’s About Trauma Too – Timber Owls
unhaunting dispels the notion that Square’s PS1-era middle child doesn’t know exactly what it’s doing with its mashup of wartime trauma and high school drama.
“For the most part, FF8 doesn’t sit you down and explain to you that war is hell, because it assumes you’re coming in with that knowledge already. Instead, it backgrounds many of the darker aspects, or hints at them, or shows them through characters’ mental states rather than on-screen events.”
Two (!) authors this week are examining the work of LucasArts, who did in fact make more than just Star Wars games! But also Star Wars games. Some were good? Anyway, enjoy these deep dives.
- The Amazing Story of The Dig – YouTube
Pam presents a deep historical dive on LucasArts’ grandest, most forgotten adventure game.
- Where Should LucasArts Take Star Wars Video Games? | Fanbyte
Gretchen Felker-Martin, reflecting on Fallen Order, posits that Star Wars games are woefully safe and white, and in doing so looks for alternatives.
“Where could Star Wars games go if they weren’t tethered to this numbly impersonal aesthetic? What’s out there that might be more of a storytelling risk, that might ruffle feathers and disappoint expectations? What is there beyond reskinning Battlefield with Stormtroopers and Rebels or giving us yet another photorealistic white guy chopping up his enemies for twenty-two hours?”
Two authors this week take recent developmental controversies as jumping-off points to discuss harmful practices in the industry.
- Pokemon, and Why The Games Industry Needs To Be Less Secretive – Timber Owls
Lilly ties a lack of transparency in game development to both miscommunication with fans and the continuation of labour exploitation in the industry.
- Games Have Always Tried to Whitewash Nazis as Just ‘German Soldiers’ – VICE
Rob Zacny ties EA’s latest blunder to a long history of white supremacist revisionism in wargames.
“EA’s flagship shooter might be on the cutting edge of mainstream video gaming, but its naive politics are years behind the state of historical research. The argument that a character fought bravely and heroically for Germany, but not the Nazis, isn’t just naive, but it’s one that was aggressively promulgated by German war criminals themselves.”
A pair of articles this week examine the simulation properties of games–be for large-sale systems like climate change, or more intimate affairs like sexting.
- Smoggy Pasts: Strategy Games and Ecology | Play The Past
Peter Christiansen offers a brief history of ecological mechanics in strategy games, observing a pattern of gradual simplification that has been broken by Civilization VI‘s latest expansion.
- Sexting With A Robot Is Just About As Weird As You’d Expect | Kotaku
Kate Gray rediscovers the frustrated, janky art of bot sexting via Kara Stone and Nadine Lessio’s Cyber Sext Adventure.
“Cyber Sext Adventure is neither a bot nor generated content; it is a Twine game, authored to look like a bot, sound like a bot, react like a bot. It does an incredible job, to the point where I can’t even tell if its bugs — of which there are a few — are intentional or not.”
This week we’ve got three excellent interior examinations broaching how games–and game cultures–inform and respond to our imagined selves.
- An identity crisis in Observation: Exploring dissociation with science fiction • Eurogamer.net
Sam Greer contemplates a game which interrogates our sense of self by way of connections to real-world mental health struggles.
- How games can lend us their sense of movement • Eurogamer.net
Emad Ahmed reflects on the little ways in which we map game spaces onto our embodied lives.
- Gaymer Pride | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor thinks through reclaiming the notion of being a gamer from the gatekeepers who have sullied the word through years of toxicity.
“This kind of harassment is nothing new to people who have been gatekept from their hobby for years before this named campaign began, but it’s safe to say that Gamergate represents the absolute worst that gaming contributes to the world.”
Gotta sketch ’em all.
- Here Is What Happens When You Try To Create A 3D Pokémon In 5 Minutes | Kotaku
Natalie Degraffinried presents a horror show of half-baked creations to reaffirm a point about the labour that goes into game development.
“Here is the number of important things I can do in five minutes: zero. There are zero things that will truly matter to me or anyone else that I can do in five minutes. This is probably true for a lot of people, but it hasn’t stopped Pokémon fans from trying.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!