November 10th

Welcome back, readers.

There’s a lot going on this week! I should have come to expect that by now, given how the big releases tend to pick up around this time of year, but it’s hard to keep track of it all. The critical focus this week is Disco Elysium, but I’m sure we haven’t read the last about Death Stranding, or Control, or the many other critically fascinating games we’ve gotten this season.

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

Bad Cop

Disco Elysium has been making waves–as a storytelling engine, an ideology machine, a misery simulator. A pair of critiques this week size the game up and explore its possibilities..

“The world of Disco Elysium’s Revachol is a deeply cynical, shitty place, and you are given the option to respond in kind, continuing your trash fire of an existence in spades. But there’s beauty and redemption to be found at the game’s core, too, an underlying message that there’s value in both accepting and letting go of the past as you try to reflect what you want to see in the world.”

Gummi Ships

A trio of perspectives this week all weigh in on the relationships explored and developed on both sides of the screen.

“The welcoming atmosphere that encourages players to build their own levels is one of the main draws of Super Mario Maker. Even if you buy the title only to try other creator’s levels, there is a draw to try to make your own stages with a simple and friendly interface. The interface is even easy for children to get into and play around with, letting them create what could be their very first levels.”

Hello World

There have been some particularly powerful pieces this week relation the play structures of game worlds to the ideological structures of the material world. Gathered here are three of the best.

“Marines and special operatives to appreciate the cynicism of their horrorshow version of appalling real-world events; another, with just as much justification, may dismiss whatever message is trying to be conveyed because the medium of an action-packed war game starring Western soldiers (complete with multiplayer modes!) is too symbolically loaded to seem worthwhile.”

Retro ‘Spectives

Am I going to get dragged for grouping Dragon Age: Origins under the banner of “retro?” It’s becoming more difficult to keep track; getting older is weird, do not recommend.

“I had always related to Lewis Carroll’s Alice – the little girl lost in a fanciful world – and I then related to American McGee’s Alice – an adolescent girl lost in the horrors of her own mind.”

New Horizons, Old Conflicts

A pair of experimental perspectives this week each tie into a peculiarly circular experience of time in games. In an industry that favours sequels and repetition, what are the challenges in saying something new, or holding onto something old?

“The pressures of console exclusivity and the stakes of franchise making ensure that Gears will remain familiar, but that it will also escalate. In the age of Disney owning Star Wars and Marvel, capitalism’s mythmaking is self perpetuating. The “dark side” will always rise again. Yet, Gears of War does hint towards a different way.”

Press Start

Two authors this week offer personal perspectives on established games and genres.

“I’ll probably be playing roleplaying tabletop games for the rest of my life. If it helps me to navigate my traumas, as well as have fun and make new friends? Well, I see nothing wrong with that.”

Metacritiques

Two excellent articles this week each look inward at how this whole games writing thing is done, looking at the mess without and the mess within.

“There was one thing Roger Ebert was completely in the right about, however. “Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?” This statement is as true today as it was then, not because games aren’t art or any such silliness, but because we shouldn’t care, we never should have cared what some schlock loving movieman thought about our medium.”

Critical Chaser

This feels extremely on-brand for the developers who made Old World Blues.

“I’m writing this almost-confessional from the front seat of my ambulance (where I volunteer a few times per month). I’ve done nothing wrong, you see, but The Outer Worlds—the way I’m playing it and the sheer amount that I’m playing—has instilled in me an instinct I’m not entirely proud of. A desire to loot the ever loving crap out of every room I walk into.”


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