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.
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.
- Emerging from the shadow of GamerGate | Engadget
Jessica Conditt projects a positive path forward amid a long-gestating reckoning in the industry against abusers.
- Videogames Don’t Need Defending Because They’re Part of the Problem | Paste
Natalie Flores unpacks the racially-motivated El Paso shooting by documenting years of unchallenged Latinx erasure and marginalization in games.
- Open Worlds — Real Life
Alexi Alario studies how the creative freedom and nostalgia-by-design baked into Minecraft have mutated into more overt ways for subsequent studios to monetize their players’ creativity.
“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.”
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.
- Miku Created Minecraft: How queer Vocaloid fandom brought a parody account to infamy | Hard Noise
Victoria Rose recounts how a virtual idol and the community behind her cancelled one of the game industry’s biggest edgelords and pushed the culture in a positive direction.
- What To Do With All This Girldick | Unwinnable
Autumn Wright looks at how Blood Pact–and queer indie games as a whole–are challenging the narrative in big games on real characters and real representation.
- An Ode to the Wine Aunts: Enough with the Dad Builds and Dad Games | Paste
Dia Lacina pushes back from the edges against the industry-wide reflex to make everything in games for and about men.
“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.
- The Fonts In Control Make Its World Feel Way Creepier | Kotaku
Gita Jackson describes how Control spins discomfort out of the blandly, invisibly ordinary.
- Uninterpretative: Hieron and its Consequences
Bee Gabriel examines the critical, consequence-rich, deconstructionist, and ultimately gratifying approach to storytelling showcased by Friends at the Table.
“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.
- Strife – Ye Olde ZKVN | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar looks at probably the best commercially released idTech 1 game–yeah, that includes Chex Quest.
- Catherine: Full Body Adds New Puzzles And Characters But Retains Old Flaws | Kotaku
Natalie Degraffinried documents Catherine’s failure to grow up and get over its own gender essentialist bullshit.
“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.
- The Revelation of Link: The Legend of Zelda at the End of the World | Fanbyte
Moira Hicks meditates on loss, growth, and community in post-apocalyptic Hyrule.
- Final Fantasy XIV’s Depiction Of The World Ending Is A Bit Too Real | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra reflects on decadence, self-inflicted ruin, and hope in Shadowbringers.
“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.
- I Have Seen Hell and it is Nickelodeon Kart Racers | Sidequest
Madison Butler asks what is lost, and what can never be recovered, amid the contemporary trend towards remakes and reboots.
- ‘Knights and Bikes’ Is a Sweetly Scary Game About Childhood’s End – VICE
Danielle Riendeau reflects on how Foam Sword’s debut captures that bittersweet tension between loss and anticipation in the face of change.
“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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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!