July 7th

Welcome back, readers.

This week sees the launch of the inaugural issue of ROMchip, an open-access, history-oriented journal of games. I, umm, think this is pretty cool? And it’s amazing to see so many of games crit’s finest writers in one place. Once you’ve gone through the selections I curated this week, I highly recommend going to the source and checking out the whole dang issue.

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

Play Histories

Given the often-ethereal nature of digital media, the question of what constitutes a history of games is a perpetually urgent one. The seven authors included this week each occupy different spaces in that question, but all of them, I think, share a desire to broaden our scope and attention to consider more overlooked and underappreciated voices, experiences, and methodologies.

“Let a history of games be one that focuses on those submerged and contrary stories that counter the possessive logics of colonialism and imperialism.”

Empathy Gains

Four articles this week each look at games rooted in wrestling with–and working through–difficult feelings of empathy and compassion: directed at the self, at those we care about, at the world itself. And games don’t always accomplish this messy work successfully, especially if they perpetuate trope-laden narratives about the function and value of suffering.

“It’s a game that wears the clothes of progressive politics, centering a strong female character, touting its research and care, but that uses the same worn story of trauma being equal to strength. To borrow a framework from Eden Zinck, Hellblade is exploitation without honesty.”

Out in the World

This pair of selections has me thinking about the impact of games. Sometimes, as in the case of Final Fantasy VII, it takes decades for a game’s messaging to be fully appreciated. Alternatively, plenty of titles come out where the developers don’t appear to be aware or paying attention to their own messaging. A little critical awareness goes a long way.

Final Fantasy VII is about us, even more so than it was in 1997. The world of Gaia is our world; we may not have real kaiju or long-haired pretty boys with weird alien virus moms, but we do have a world in which corporations view us only as assets to further their profit. We do have governments who stage displays of military might in front of apathetic townsfolk even as they crush the local, sustainable economies of those towns. We do have warm, summery resorts where people pretend nothing’s wrong.”

Design Documentation

We round out this week with a trio of examinations focused on the successes and failures of design in mechanical, artistic, and other permutations.

At the halfway point of the game, after every Woman has died, the Abbott has revealed himself a coward and the vampires finally bare their fangs, I finally realized: Lords is a game for Serious Men.

Men can be sad and the only thing they can do about it is force the rest of the world to pay for it.

Critical Chaser

I’m getting flashbacks of a thing called the Superpad 64. That’s normal, right? Right?

“We all had at least one controller reserved for guests — a plastic accident with sticky buttons, unresponsive joysticks, and an ironic name like The Dominator or The Professional.”


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