Welcome back readers.
A non-negligible part of that work that goes into producing these weekly roundups is organizing the week’s selections by theme–studying each article and understanding the ways in which it rhymes with some of the others. As an organizing structure, the categories are useful in both immediate ways, such as making the roundup more navigable and helping y’all find the topics you’re most engaged with, as well as bigger-picture ways, such as being a useful barometer for trends in The Discourse. At the same time, however, this categorization is in effect a kind of artifice–it’s rare that any one article, no matter how narrowly focused, is truly only about one thing and one thing only.
Sometimes–often, even–articles resist categorization, or defy it. The point I’ve been circling here is that while on one hand this week’s selections are divided as usual into navigable categories, on the other, through no deliberate action on my own part, most of these articles relate in some way to the building and experience of worlds in games.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week’s opening selection of five articles are diverse in their angles and their object texts, but unified in their examination of worldbuilding and design.
- It’s not easy being green: a brief history of orcs in video games • Eurogamer.net
Nic Reuben recounts the long and fraught history of fantasy’s perennial heels, from faceless colonial boogeymen to reclaimed yet still-problematic faves, in games and beyond.
- How Christian Games like ‘Captain Bible’ Reduced Faith to Facts | Fanbyte
Benjamin Morgan dips into the Christian gaming market scene of the late-80s and early 90s and demonstrates how the vast majority of these titles were hollow cash-ins with surface-level worldbuilding exploiting a captive market.
- Games Are Discovering an Expressive New Tool: Internet Grammar | EGM
Jay Castello studies how evolving online semantics are influencing the culture and worldbuilding behind contemporary games, throwback and otherwise.
- Jesse Faden from Control | Unwinnable
Deirdre Coyle invokes Jesse Faden to discuss the serial skepticism of protagonists in fantastic stories.
- Why ‘Loom’ Remains the Hidden Gem of Lucasfilm Adventures – VICE
Clara Fernández-Vara delves deeply into a forgotten Monkey Island contemporary, discussing its worldbuilding and intuitive diegetic navigation tools.
“Loom challenges us now because it is literary, it demands our attention and our time in ways that are unusual nowadays. But it also rewards the player who takes the plunge to follow the story through an original, dangerous world until Chaos is unleashed.”
These three pieces each have some kind of focus on the spatial aspects of game worlds and their creation, thinking through inspirations, analyses, and implications of those worlds.
- As Above, So Below: Touring Mammoth Cave with Kentucky Route Zero’s Jake Elliott | EGM
Dan Solberg connects with one of KRZ‘s creators by exploring the cave that inspired it.
- Why the Unexplained Unreality of Death Stranding’s America Is So Frustrating – Paste
Dia Lacina thinks through how the conspicuously un-American American landscape of Death Stranding defies critical analysis and hot takes in equal measure.
- On the Lonely, Gentrified Streets of Neo Cab – Paste
Holly Green applies the theory of Second-Wave Gentrification to the isolating, indistinct streets of Los Ojos.
“At the end of the day, Lena could easily be replaced by any other driver, or perhaps one of the robot drivers at the competing cab company, and no one would even notice. Like the streets she drives every night, the appearance of community and habitation is just an illusion.”
Made for Whom?
Who are games made for? I won’t draw out the suspense–at the top-most commercial end, the answer is most often white, masculine, able-bodied, and neurotypical players. The indie scene, however, offers more diverse options. Two writers and players this week explore titles with a more thoughtful eye towards speaking to play communities beyond the walled garden of the hegemony.
- She Dreams Elsewhere Feels Like a Game Made Specifically for Me | DualShockers
Cameron Hawkins looks at an RPG with a mental health theme that provides some much-needed black representation and focus.
- The Grizzly Reality Of Social Anxiety – Just, Bearly | RE:BIND
Emily Rose takes a look at a game that thoughtfully and productively examines social anxiety.
“‘Bearly’ isn’t about clawing your way to the top or having other people fix your problems, it’s about taking things on with confident humility, to own your flaws without succumbing to them.”
We spend a lot of time inhabiting virtual worlds. What legacies do those sojourns leave behind, and who will see them? Two authors this week explore different answers to these uncomfortable questions.
- Ghosts in the Machine | Unwinnable
Jason McMaster Muses on the impressions left behind by players on the digital landscapes we inhabit.
- DRAGON QUEST BUILDERS 2 – DEEP HELL
Skeleton wonders out loud who we’re spending all this time making stuff for when we play sandbox building games by ourselves.
“Gamification of creativity is something that will never go away. If anything, I have a deep set fear that the geniuses and surely bleary eyed staff at Square Enix may perfect it. It all hurts though, it all takes so much fucking time. Why build a castle for an audience of no one when we may be better served building experiences we can share?”
Maybe you can go home, after all–but at what cost?
- Revisiting Animal Crossing: New Leaf Was A Mistake | Kotaku
Narelle Ho Sang recounts the horror of coming back years later to a game and a town that never stops counting the days you’ve been gone.
“Reflecting on it now, having seen my hideous town in 2020, I can’t help but be amused. As it turns out, I was a misguided mayor who lacked a cohesive plan despite my good intentions.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!