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.
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.
- The History of Games Could Be a History of What Play Felt Like | ROMchip
Austin Walker describes, via Morrowind, why a comprehensive history of games must include experiential histories as well.
- Outside of the Folder, the Box, the Archive | ROMchip
Whitney Pow proposes a shift in curating games history from archives to actions.
- Games Aren’t Special | ROMchip
Mia Consalvo suggests that we can diversify game studies by looking beyond just the exceptional stories to study ordinary games and players in everyday life.
- The Triumphal Procession | ROMchip
Soraya Murray identifies game histories as written with a futurist bent lionizing greats and giants propped up by an unwritten majority of silenced voices.
- Video Game History and the Fact of Blackness | ROMchip
TreaAndrea M Russworm recounts ongoing black erasure in games history.
- A Path to Our Futures | ROMchip
Mary Flanagan proposes game design as a tool for modeling and designing our potential futures.
- Other Games, Other Histories | ROMchip
Jodi A. Byrd reminds us that games, their histories, and their studies have always been plural, and that the way forward is to seek out and highlight underrepresented perspectives.
“Let a history of games be one that focuses on those submerged and contrary stories that counter the possessive logics of colonialism and imperialism.”
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.
- Prey (2017) as a Teacher and Tester of Player Empathy | DualShockers
Steven Santana investigates whether Prey–and other games that hinge upon choice-based play–can teach genuine empathy.
- Blood Pact Review: Sex and Excess | Autumn Wright
Autumn Wright thinks through trans desire in Ana Valens’ latest game.
- I Never Want to Wake Up – Reviewing LUCAH: Born of a Dream | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar considers pain, struggle, and self-determination in a tough-as-nails indie action-RPG.
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Trauma, and the Power of Editing – Grace In The Machine
Grace works though the problematic linkages between trauma, suffering, and empowerment for women in Hellblade and other contemporary games. You know how many people recommended this one to us? A lot. And it’s good, readers, so good.
“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.
- Stop Normalizing Nazis – Socially Conscious Game Design – Extra Credits – YouTube
Extra Credits requests that developers put a little more thought and care into how white supremacists are represented in games.
- Why Now Is The Perfect Time For The Final Fantasy VII Remake | Sidequest
Nola Pfau discusses how the Squaresoft classic has held up and even remains timely.
“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.”
We round out this week with a trio of examinations focused on the successes and failures of design in mechanical, artistic, and other permutations.
- Tortured Video Game / Music Comparisons | Why Not Games
Nikhil Murthy traces parallels between popular games and pop. . . music. No, really! Just read it.
- Labor and Capital | Unwinnable
Justin Reeve examines an animation oversight and its consequences in Dishonored 2.
- CASTLEVANIA: STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR TOYS – DEEP HELL
Skeleton, in trying to figure out what draws players to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, looks back to an example of Castlevania done wrong: Lords of Shadow.
“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.“
I’m getting flashbacks of a thing called the Superpad 64. That’s normal, right? Right?
- An Oral History of the Third-Party Video Game Controller | Fanbyte
merritt k walks all the younger siblings and best friends through a series of anecdotes recapping the Dark Times of gaming peripherals.
“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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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!