Welcome back, readers.
I’m in the middle of my first summer doing this Senior Curator thing, and truth be told, I was a little worried that critical games writing would slow down a bit in these months. I’m used to an academic schedule and I’ve been at this grad student thing so long I don’t really know what to expect elsewhere. While it’s true that there was a definite lull right after E3, when I presume that lots of writers were (understandably so) recovering from the relentless coverage cycle that follows that event, in recent weeks it seems like there’s actually more great writing being done around the web.
I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s a pleasure and a privilege to read it all and select highlights to share with y’all each week.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We’re opening this week with a pair of wider-angle summaries of the games industry at large, and triple-A development in particular. Both of these pieces do an excellent job conveying what is at stake in the biggest and most prominent titles, as well as the companies behind them.
- The Video Game Industry Can’t Go On Like This | Kotaku
Joshua Rivera summarizes the state of contemporary triple-A development along axes of business practices, labour organization and conditions, and environmental sustainability.
- Gamasutra: Jori Hamilton’s Blog – Female Representation in Video Games: How Are We Doing?
Jori Hamilton performs some data analysis on feminine representation–or really under-representation–in games, and offers some concrete actionables going forward.
“Players crave power, agency, and empowerment, especially if they lack it in the real world. Personalized gaming solutions can overcome some of the bias inherent in video game design.”
The world is an increasingly stressful place to live. How do games deal with that, and how do they represent that? Two authors this week examine.
- On Panic and Persona 5 – Videodame
Jeremy Signor mines Persona 5‘s imperfect, incomplete depiction of agoraphobia.
- I Finally Understand The Appeal Of Escaping Into A Video Game To Cope With Stress | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra discovers value in a temporary retreat into the fantastic.
“Sometimes, things just fall apart, and one of the ways that people can deal with that is to put buffers between us and the bullshit. Fight a boss and actually achieve victory, command an army and actually have some sense of control. Video games can offer us a very particular solace when everything is crumbling: they make us feel like we have power again.”
Circles of Protection
Two authors this week each examine the relative safety of identity exploration within the magic circle of play, whether that be exploration of a vulnerable part of the self, or a more extensive task of (re)identification.
- Affection: A Touching Lesson in Vulnerability | Sidequest
Angie Wenham explores a card game that both facilitates emotional intimacy and reminds the player of the worthwhile work that goes into its practice.
- Let Me Tell You About My OC: I Want To Be An Elven Princess | Sidequest
Kaitlyn Lyons discusses identity play in tabletop and the constructive affordances of being your best fantastical self.
“As I’ve played Belegerwen, and used her voice to shatter the world’s worst case of writer’s block, she’s developed into the kind of woman I daydreamed of becoming back before I knew that HRT and transition were even options. She’s strong, and even though she’s frequently afraid, she doesn’t back down. She shares a lot of my weaknesses, but they don’t hold her back. Her fear of letting down her friends drives her to be fiercely protective of them—recklessly so, sometimes. I wanted to be that kind of woman.”
Players on the Line
Two articles this week each explore online toxicity in play communities: how to make sense of it, and how some are challenging it.
- Young Women Are Reclaiming The Word ‘Egirl’ | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio investigates the state of misogyny in streaming, as well as the women pushing back.
- Heart Of Corruption – Online Toxicity’s Roots | RE:BIND
Emily Rose studies Rust to extend the discourse on how games deal with and think through warfare to those games’ communities and community management strategies.
“Prior to asking how complicit the industry is in normalizing physical violence, we should ask how much of a role it plays in ripping apart social bonds and the individual’s capacity to relate to their humanity.”
Care and Compromise
This week we’ve got a pair of articles looking at queer games and gaming along separate axes of navigating microaggression and the uncommon experience of a game that gets everything right.
- Microaggressions | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor describes the ways in which queer players are conditioned to shrug off slight after slight in the interest of enjoying a bigger–yet still compromised–picture.
- Blood Pact Does ‘Sexy Succubus BDSM Game’ The Right Way | Kotaku
Kate Gray emphasizes the importance and value of care–and aftercare–in erotica.
“Blood Pact is more than just a sexy fantasy: it’s a sexy fantasy where you are wanted. You are loved. You are enough.”
Sober Second Thoughts
The five articles gathered here are longer, more meditative examinations of their object games, most of which themselves are quite a bit older but have all been available for at least a month. These perspectives, some quite contrary to the popular discourse, are the kind that can only really be achieved with a bit of time and distance, and I love them for that.
- That forbidden word: “F-U-N” – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi warns against invalidating the value of fun in the quest for legitimacy in games via an obscure Japanese party game.
- Why Final Fantasy 7’s Midgar is one of the most politically-charged video game locations ever – VG247
Nic Reuben mediates on how the messaging behind Square’s urban dystopia seems only to get sharper with age.
- ‘Samurai Shodown’ Could Be the Breakout Game at Evo. Here’s Why. – VICE
Aevee Bee describes the goofy, gory brilliance of getting bisected by Toshino Mifune.
- Heaven’s Vault (inkle) – Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling
Emily Short offers a deep, deep dive on linguistics, archaeology, procedural generation, and more.
- Why Banjo-Tooie is a True Adventure | Fanbyte
Carmilla Morrell presents a terrific travelogue of Rare’s underappreciated follow-up, emphasizing its continuity, consequence, and permanence.
“In Banjo-Kazooie, returning to the top of Grunty’s tower automatically triggers a replay of the final cutscene. In Banjo-Tooie, you don’t get finality twice. You can only walk around the empty, hallowed arena and think about what you’ve done.”
We’re closing out the week with three more lighthearted articles this week, because I need them and I suspect I’m not the only one.
- Sigma vs. Sigma: The Comparison We Had To Make | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra is out here asking the hard questions about undercover reploid supervillains.
- Video Game Characters Are Terrible At Archery | Kotaku
Calypso Mellor corrects the technique of some of gaming’s most prominent protagonists.
- What Does Your Favorite Galar Pokemon Say About You? | Fanbyte
Kara Dennison performs astrology for Pokéfans.
“You’re currently wrapped up in a blanket in your den reading this on your phone. You haven’t moved in two hours. You were supposed to go buy groceries but your mobile games are full up on energy again and you decided to check on them really quick. You left a cup of tea in the kitchen.”
- Agniq Suannaktuq and Kisima Innitchuna (Never Alone) – First Person Scholar
Kateryna Barnes examines how Kisima Innitchuna (Never Alone) reframes the relationship between player-protagonist and environment through a decolonial perspective.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!