Welcome back, readers.
Hey! Just in case you missed it, a few days ago we published a killer Critical Compilation on Kentucky Route Zero by Nicholas O’Brien. Check it out!
I’m now simultaneously exploring Koholint, Azeroth, and Erdrea. I’ve never stopped to wonder why I can juggle multiple game worlds without much difficulty, but struggle to keep up with more than one book at a time. Material for the dissertation?
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Climates of Change
We open this week with three authors who all work from forward-thinking questions in relation to games. What does gaming look like in a world where climate change is an increasingly urgent and immediate threat. What exactly needs to be preserved about games in our capitalist, data-hungry world? And what have games been telling us about those intersections for years?
- Video Game Companies Vow Action On Climate Change, But Critics Say They Need To Do More | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio takes stock of the state of climate action in the games industry.
- Mirror’s Edge and Platform Capitalism – YouTube
Talen Lee revisits a data dystopia that has maybe kind of already come true in the ensuing years.
- Game preservation and the quest for immortality – Historian On Games
Seva opens a discussion on the nature and meaning of preservation, its messy entanglement with capitalism, and how the aspects of games most in need of preservation aren’t physical or monetary, but personal and emotional.
“this, finally, is where my underlying anxiety about preservation rests – I commend its desire to ignore profit as a motivator, and I believe in its mission of promoting the importance of the past, but I don’t think we need to be striving for immortality.”
I think one of the richest and most important topics in critical games discourse is that of who is included and who is excluded in game makers’ design considerations. Communities of play are incredibly diverse, but many games and game-adjacent experiences still overwhelmingly target very narrow (and privileged) demographics. Two authors this week peer into this status quo and offer their thoughts.
- Sayonara Wild Hearts Exudes Queer Energy | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor celebrates all that is queer and feminine and motorcycle-driven in games.
- Meet Virtual Mate, the Porn Game With a $30,000 Crowdfund | Daily Dot
Ana Valens examines the latest in sex tech and finds it representative of its industry: technologically impressive, and overwhelmingly cis, het, white, and masculine-focused.
“Virtual Mate is a turning point in sex tech, but it’s also a reflection of its biggest problem: The industry is dominated by white, straight, cisgender men. The Virtual Mate’s marketing copy says it’s “designed for male users” with a “female-user version” in development, implying masturbation sleeve users are entirely “male.” Trans women and gender nonconforming people can and do use sleeves, too, although it’s unclear if the Virtual Mate was even tested on trans users. The entire Virtual Mate intimacy system prioritizes straight cisgender men’s desires, with the “female-user version” mentioned as an afterthought “in development.” The system assumes cis men and cis women’s bodies are default, and it prioritizes cis men’s desires over any other gender.”
Two rad authors this week examine the relationship-building experiences in and around games.
- Laura K Plays 14: Digimon World/Partnership – ZEAL – Medium
Laura Knetzger reflects on the lessons and experiences from early relationships with virtual pets.
- Witch Weapon Came Out of Nowhere and It Rules – Timber Owls
Nadia M. revels in some, and I quote, “trashy gender fun.”
“I won’t get too in the weeds with it, but it basically feels like the writers went, “what magical excuse can we use to justify the protagonist’s gender change,” and developed outward from there until they had a complex, bizarre world completely defined and controlled by mysterious SCP-like entities.”
A pair of authors this week offer some design reflections on games, concepts, and genres.
- Blood Pac – “EAT GIRL” | RE:BIND
Emily Rose offers some design notes on a spooky spin on an already-spooky game.
- Death Stranding’s difficulty settings made news, let’s change the discussion – Polygon
Jennifer Scheurle brings in Dark Souls and Death Stranding to revisit the difficulty discussion from a design and developer-focused perspective.
“Game designers don’t actually talk that much about difficulty; we talk about things like progression systems and mental load. None of these things are strictly questions of “difficult” versus “easy” — they’re more about how we guide players to greater competency, and what that journey should be like, ideally.”
Saturday Morning Silliness
Here’s a pair of fresh critical perspectives on some fresh and popular games.
- ‘Code Vein’ Injects Anime Into the Heart of Dark Souls – VICE
Aevee Bee spends some time with the most extra soulslike in a good while and maybe ever.
- River City Girls (review) – DEEP HELL
Skeleton meditates on the airy, Saturday-morning silliness of a beat-em-up revival done right.
“River City Girls won’t entirely re-define the wheel: it is yet another nostalgic throwback to the BEATEMUPS of yore. I think the thing I love about it the most is that it can exist in the same world that we get games like The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa. A note-similar game that takes a very similar premise and uses it to meditate on being young.”
As always, some fun stuff to close out the week.
- I Wasn’t Expecting This New Fashion Game To Be So Political | Kotaku
Gita Jackson dresses up a House Representative, a Supreme Court Justice, and more.
- Untitled Goose Game is the Colin Mochrie of Video Game Comedy | Fanbyte
Davis Cox breaks down how the goose capitalizes on improvisational comedy.
“It’s a game that knows how to say “yes, and” — yes, you stole the shopkeeper’s canned goods, and now she’s going to grab the broom to shoo you away as you find a spot to hide them.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!