March 22nd

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Before I get going, I just want to stop and give a big shout-out to Connor, who has been working to deliver thorough and really valuable roundups on games crit on the video side of things on a monthly basis. The latest TMIVGV is live, and I highly recommend checking it out.

The last week has given me a lot of time to think–literally, since all of my professional commitments have now moved in with me. While we’re all worrying about the immediate thing, I can’t help but also cast my attention to the next thing. As those of us still lucky enough to be doing our jobs find that those jobs are now our roommates, I wonder if this is just the next evolutionary phase in capitalism, where the shaky distinctions between work and home are obliterated altogether. When the pandemic passes–hopefully with a minimum cost of lives and livelihoods–what comes next? It’s a question, I think, that runs through Trevor Hultner’s article below, too. In a time where we are increasingly seeking support at the local level as corporations and governments leave people high and dry, it’s my hope that those new community bonds can mean something positive in the days to come, beyond this period of crisis.

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

Urban Legends

There were a bunch of really strong pieces this week on virtual spaces, and especially urban virtual spaces, what they mean, and how they relate to our contemporary anxieties, both immediate and longer-term. Here are three of the best.

“Sometimes it feels like Raccoon City is more real than ever: We watch our cities and neighborhoods be consumed by corporate investment and restaurateurs from New York. It’s not Umbrella but our faceless corporations are the same: and they’re all telling us what they’ve got to sell is good for us.”

Allegorical Analyses

In a time of uncertainty and upheaval, it makes all the more sense that we’re turning to the popular media we’ve cloistered ourselves in with to understand our world as it was, is, and may come to be. Err, was that almost a Galadriel quotation? Four writers this week examine the critical lenses popular games offer on our own worlds large and small, and not just in relation to the crisis-of-the-moment.

“When I think about the period when video games discovered empathy and “meaningful choice” I think that maybe folks all learned the wrong lesson from it. That maybe they all learned that it’s profitable to sometimes show their human side, to engage in behaviors that consumers might identify as sensitive or kind. That maybe it’s beneficial – financially, to the brand, et cetera – to foster “communities” of supporters and create workplace environments that are superficially positive for employees.”

Designed Experiences

There have been a bunch of really satisfying design dives this week looking at some of the fundamentals most taken for granted in games. Here are three standouts.

“In the end, conflict is an active factor in world-building. When you watch those TV programmes and Youtube videos of even just a year in retrospective, we’re never talking about how our world works, but what’s changed, and it’s only then I realise that even for the real world, I don’t exactly know how everything works. In the end, your active part in matters is always more important than knowing all the details. The world is a big place, after all.”

Take Care

In something like a dozen articles I read this week, writers used the same word to summarize the state of the world mid-pandemic: strange. This perhaps feels like a polite euphemism for another word: scary. In 2020 we’re not used to living quasi-unified in our normally-fragmented neoliberal world by a common threat, because capitalism is so good at inventing new divisions between people and communities, but here we are. The reparative or therapeutic implications of games feel increasingly relevant right now given that so many people are dusting off their consoles and computers to ride out quarantines. The four authors gathered here this week touch upon these topics and intersections in I think valuable and important ways.

“I’ve had to be patient through my difficult adjustment to my medication, and Celeste has given me something to focus on that isn’t my side effects. Celeste has forced me to slow down and learn how to enjoy the process of moving forward, even if you don’t always know exactly where you’re headed.”

Critical Chaser

I have saved what I feel to be a much-needed pick-me-up for last this week.

“Experiencing the expansiveness of Thedas sent me reeling; not even Breath of the Wild, one of the best games I’ve ever played, matches the details in Dragon Age. The depths of the character arcs had me in awe. I couldn’t believe I had played so many hours and experienced only a fraction of the content within.”


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