Welcome back, readers.
First off, new TMIVGV! Keep sending Connor your video recommendations as we continue our work rounding up cool, interesting, and noteworthy crit across media.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We’re starting things off this week with three pieces on games that put our feelings through the wringer in exploring their respective thematic tensions.
- This World Is Not Your Home – No Escape
Trevor Hultner wrestles with Kentucky Route Zero‘s despair and its hope, evaluating the limits on player agency in the overall experience.
- Huddled Together | Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter, in an ongoing issue on winter in games, looks at the tension and strain between survivalist pessimism and the persistence of social bonds in The Last of Us.
- The Bittersweet Journey Of A Short Hike | Kotaku
Narelle Ho Sang unpacks shifting player expectations in approaching a Journey Of A Short Hike and synthesizes those thoughts with the game’s overall messaging.
“In this game about the things we miss in life, even if it’s due to being consumed by valid worries, we sometimes neglect the good and others who may be fighting their own battles, too.”
Though games have inherited the body of narrative tools developed in prior media forms, the implementation of those tools necessarily differs, evolves, and diversifies until it becomes something new. What’s an ending look like for a game? What makes a villain work when pitted against a playable protagonist? Two authors this week explore these questions and more.
- Kingdom Hearts 3 Reminds Us Why Video Games Need Epilogues | Fanbyte
Alicia Haddick asks what endings, epilogues, and aftermaths even mean in the context of interactive media.
- Tony Hawk’s Underground gave us gaming’s best villain – Polygon
Xalavier Nelson Jr reflects on what goes into successful villainy via PS2-era Tony Hawk.
“I’ve had the opportunity to write (and delete) a lot of hyperbole about Eric Sparrow while working on this article. I am not exaggerating when I say that I sometimes lie awake at night and consider the fact that Eric Sparrow will never go to hell, because he is not real and therefore cannot die.”
Two pieces this week situate games in wider contexts of community and history, respectively.
- No Man’s Sky’s Interstellar NIMBYs Clash With a Would-Be Railroad Tycoon – VICE
Gita Jackson recounts the galaxy-spanning community conflict in a game that launched with no multiplayer (but plenty of colonialism).
- The Best Board Games of the Ancient World | Science | Smithsonian Magazine
Meilan Solly takes an inventory of our species long-running, multifaceted fascination with board games.
“From Go to backgammon, Nine Men’s Morris and mancala, these were the cutthroat, quirky and surprisingly spiritual board games of the ancient world.”
Stakes of Play
Three of the week’s best pieces on what’s at stake for players from underrepresented and marginalized communities.
- The Unpredictable Challenges Of Gaming With Cerebral Palsy | Kotaku
Jane Humen demystifies some of the barriers to gaming with a disability.
- PAGAN: Autogeny and Queering Online Space | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor explores what makes online space–ephemeral as it is–valuable and vital for queer communities, through the example of an allegorical dead MMO.
- Blizzard’s Long History of Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls and Fear of Women – VICE
Nico Deyo examines Blizzard’s dehumanizing trauma-to-antagonist pipeline.
“When there’s nothing left about their bodies or minds to burn away, they get tossed, their usefulness spent. There’s no ending where their anger catches up to them, or they are granted redemptions, because they are never given enough time or sympathy for this to happen. At best they will be recycled for Heroes of the Storm, doomed to live in the purgatory that is a MOBA.”
Finally–an article with a little something to antagonize everybody.
- What Your Least Favorite Final Fantasy Says About You | Kotaku
Mike Sholars pens the only listicle I have read (and screamed at) three separate times this week.
“Upon reflection, a story about the tragic burden of a coddled Fashion Prince with Nightcrawler powers and retainers who literally die for him doesn’t feel so noble during late-2010s peak capitalism.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!