September 1st

There’s no shortage of essential, boundary-pushing critical games writing these days, and that’s no less true this week. I’ve said before that it’s a pleasure and a privilege to curate this work, and I mean that.

(Content Notifications: physical/emotional/sexual abuse)

I had a series of links prepared pointing to some of the Twitter posts women and people of other marginalized identities in games have come forward with concerning the abuse they and others have experienced at the hands of influential figures in the games industry. I was going to ask readers to read these stories, if they could, before going forward.

Some of the survivors have since deactivated their accounts to protect themselves from harassment.

Lots of well-meaning people ask how marginalized voices, people, and communities can be included in games and gaming. Fewer ask how to retain the people that are already there, and how to stand up to the people pushing them out of games in the first place.

Listen to women. Believe women. Listen to survivors. Believe survivors.

For some practical advice beyond that, here’s a good starting point.

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

Against Empires

Speaking out against abusers and predators in the games industry has been a focal point this week, but that also isn’t the only reckoning that’s needed. Three authors this week all look at stories and trends of abuse, under-representation, and exploitation in the industry, reflecting on where we’re at, what work needs doing, and the way things could be if those with power and influence are pushed to commit to doing that work.

“While the open worlds of Minecraft and Roblox are sometimes touted as an opportunity for children to learn programming skills and develop an aesthetic sensibility, they have also become indoctrination into entrepreneurship for children, shaping their creativity and passion before they have enough life experience to know the alternatives or the consequences of it.”

Taking Space

A trio of writers this week all describe how space is being made/taken/reclaimed in games and play communities for marginalized and or under-represented groups of people. I’m glad people are pushing back on all this Dad Build stuff. I can’t remember ever needing specifically gendered language for wanting to play Diablo II with as few clicks as possible.

“The Wine Aunt sneers at the “Dad Build” talk, Dadification, and the burgeoning someday-Dads who are already upset when they’re not exclusively catered to, when marginalized non-Dads dare to ask for inclusion in this hobby, in more thoughtful ways than they clamored for a new Mass Effect 3 ending.”

Storytelling by Design

I’m always interested in the small and large ways that stories are built into games and all their myriad systems, as well as how players alternately experience, challenge, and sometimes usurp those stories. Presented here this week, then, are impressions from a brand new big-budget experience and reflections on a long-running actual play tabletop podcast.

“Tabletop roleplaying games are at their best when there is a dialectical tension between the GM and the players. The GM rules the world. She sets up situations, guides the players through them, plays the people they encounter, and enforces the rules. The players take control of one person within the world, embodying them to the best of their abilities. When they press hard enough, the world breaks.”

Games Left Behind

Two writers meditate on two old games–one that’s aged gracefully, one that still has some growing up to do.

“Despite its attempts to grapple with questions of gender head-on, some of Catherine’s more sexist and gender essentialist ideas are still given far too much breathing room in Full Body, and the way Vincent is positioned as a white knight for Rin feels gross.”

Worlds Left Behind

This week a pair of authors think through the different kinds of apocalypses that appear in games. It’s an increasingly popular theme and topic in games, but as is showcased by the titles and writers on display here, it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. There’s hope, too.

“On its surface, Shadowbringers is a story of scheming villains and a sweeping clash between light and darkness. Underneath, I find critiques of power, themes of innovation destroying the planet, and what it means to live during the end times and beyond them.”

Lives Left Behind

Where the previous two authors meditated on apocalypses, their posts, and their post-posts, the following two reflect on a smaller-scale kind of ending–that of childhood, the games we enjoyed way-back-when, the difficulty or impossibility and going back, and the comforting and frightening feelings we all have about change and growth.

“Things are about to change. But there’s one precious week of summer left. Knights and Bikes seems to say “You don’t have much time. Make the best of it.””


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