Happy International Women’s Day, readers. Oh, and welcome back. 🙂
Some news on the docket: this Wednesday (March 11) we’ll be announcing our 2019 Blogger of the Year–the writer we feel has made the most important contribution to critical games writing over the closing year of the decade. It’s taken a little longer to get this out, and I apologize and take personal responsibility for the delay.
Without further ado, the discourse never sleeps and I have some excellent authors to share with you this week! Don’t forget to keep the recommendations coming, as always, since individual article submissions help us find new outlets, new communities, and new ideas to share.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
I’m anxiously running out of ideas for Kentucky Route Zero-themed wordplay in section titles each week, but the critical insights brought forth by the conclusion of the series don’t seem to be dwindling proportionally. Here are two of this week’s finest samples.
- Leaving Home | Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter weights the late-capitalist post-apocalypse of Kentucky Route Zero against the Toronto housing crisis and the people it has pushed out and left behind.
- Opened World: Kentucky Route Zero Act V – Haywire Magazine
Miguel Penabella watches the sun rise on a community beaten, but not yet broken, by the storm of capitalism.
“From the very first scene of Kentucky Route Zero, the story has been steadily transitioning from individual to collective. Beginning with the limited point-of-view of Conway and his dog, each act shifts our perspective outward as we connect with other lonesome drifters mired in debt, until by Act V, a tangible community emerges. Being alone, the game suggests, leaves individuals both vulnerable to capitalist exploitation and selfishly competitive for fear of obsolescence, but solidarity—through unions, communities, congregations, families, friends—can withstand any storm.”
Two articles this week bring to light the relationships at stake in games at play, whether between players and characters, or between co-players.
- Game Studies – “I Harbour Strong Feelings for Tali Despite Her Being a Fictional Character”: Investigating Videogame Players’ Emotional Attachments to Non-Player Characters
Jacqueline Burgess and Christian Jones investigate the attachments players form to NPCs, and how those attachments differ along gendered lines.
- What’s Cookin’?: Shockingly, Overcooked has Only Made My Relationships Stronger – Uppercut
Caitlin Galiz-Rowe breaks the mold in Overcooked discourse by describing how the infamously-stressful game can be… actually kind of nice to share?
“Overcooked’s controls aren’t exactly precise, and there’s a lot for a newbie to manage. It seems like the perfect situation to tank an evening spending time together, but it didn’t. Instead, I got to enjoy teaching my mom how the game worked, and watching her begin to understand its mechanics and best practices for each level. Did we end the night with our entire kitchen on fire and both of us screaming as we tried to put it out? Yes. But did we have a blast while doing it? Definitely.”
Problematizing the Past
Three authors this week explore some of the difficulties and challenges at play when games invite players into a (mediated) window into the past, as well as highlight some valuable interventions and circumventions.
- Game Studies – Playing Virtual Jim Crow in Mafia III – Prosthetic Memory via Historical Digital Games and the Limits of Mass Culture
Emil Lundedal Hammar traces the pitfalls and problems with playing a past the player has not lived.
- Suzy Q – Football Game | RE:BIND
Emily Rose digs into a game that dodges the usual nostalgia of its 1980s setting in favour of demonstrating how things were always already getting as bad as they are now.
- Game Studies – Liminality and the Smearing of War and Play in Battlefield 1
Debra Ramsay investigates the tensions at stake in playing through World War I in Battlefield 1.
“What happens when the spaces and temporalities of two liminal phenomena merge in Battlefield 1? What affective intensities are generated in the play with cultural notions about WWI, and what emerges in the tensions between game form and historical content?”
As a complement to the previous selection, this pairing of articles look at how our games, communities of practice, and media ecosystems intersect with contemporary challenges of inclusion and existence.
- How Pokémon Is Tackling The Plastic Pollution Crisis | Into The Spine
Stacey Henley breaks down examples of climate change allegory in Gen 8.
- THAT’S PROGRESS! – DEEP HELL
Skeleton describes the ways in which games journalism has become a more insular and damaging space for survivors and marginalized communities post That-Hashtag.
“The way a website writes about and uses cosplayers is directly indicative of how it will sensationalize any community it tries to champion. Hows our standard of journalism doing if we still use reduce talented creators to skin to sell clicks?”
The two articles gathered here both perform some cross-media analysis, whether by interpreting a game through the Tarot, or proposing how another game (or an actual-play podcast thereof) might be translated to another medium entirely.
- Greenlight This, You Cowards: Roll to Fall in Love with Dames and Dragons | Sidequest
Alenka Figa discusses her favourite actual play D&D podcast and proposes how it might work as a dating sim.
- Wandersong & the Major Arcana — KRITIQAL
Nate Kierman draws upon the Tarot to guide and structure a thematic analysis of Wandersong.
“In resurfacing many foundational narrative archetypes, Wandersong led me to interpreting the game not through modern storytelling expectations but with the aid of a tarot deck. In particular, I wanted to understand how Wandersong’s themes would map to the 22 major arcana, a series of cards which each symbolize a foundational aspect of the human experience.”
Queer, Mad, Crip
A trio of authors this week contemplate games large and small along vital representational axes.
- Eliza Explores the Benefits and Imperfections of Therapy – Paste
Holly Green explores how Eliza deconstructs the nature and boundaries of therapy, its human and inhuman elements alike.
- Game Studies – Sick, Slow, Cyborg: Crip Futurity in Mass Effect
Adan Jerreat-Poole critiques sci-fi Crip representation in the Mass Effect series.
- Losing My Religion Part 1: FAITH | RE:BIND
Mx. Medea, via indie game FAITH, contemplates the allegorical implications of exorcism when you don’t fall within the narrow bounds of acceptable humanity decreed by religious fervor.
“There is horror in a monster bearing down on you, splayed on all fours, ready to rip you apart with its gnashing teeth, but it’s a comparatively small horror compared to every aspect of the world it exists within, one that’s full of men in black raiments and white collars who want nothing more than to be your judge, your jury, and if they have their way, your executioner.“
I think this is the first time I’ve placed a journal article in our closing segment and I am not sorry.
- Game Studies – I’d Like to Buy the World a Nuka-Cola: The Purposes and Meanings of Video Game Soda Machines
Jess Morrissette takes inventory of, well, I honestly don’t have a better paraphrase to offer here on this article that you really, really should read.
“soda machines serve a crucial purpose in grounding video games in a world we recognize as like our own, while simultaneously reinforcing the consumerist values of modern capitalism.”
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