Welcome back readers. Sorry if I’ve kept anyone in suspense with the late-ish post; my schedule is getting progressively weirder the longer I’m stuck inside. But I’m still here, still reading and still sharing the best games crit on the web each week, and that isn’t changing anytime soon!
I’m also proud to announce the beginning of a new interview podcast series: Keywords in Play! Straight from the tin:
“‘Keywords in Play’ is an interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association. As a joint venture, ‘Keywords in Play’ expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.”
Check out the first episode, featuring an interview with Dr. Elizabeth LaPensée, here!
These cool people did the things and made this happen:
- Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed
- Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart
- Double Bass: Aaron Stewart
Final Fantasy VII is out, err, again, or rather, part of it is, and I somehow got through this week without giving the game its own dedicated section in the roundup, but there’s no shortage of really interesting pieces here that intersect with the game all the same.
As for me, I finally made it to the heart of the galaxy in Elite: Dangerous after 3 weeks of on-and-off play. After a brief sojourn to see how high I could take my ship above the galactic plane (not high enough, need to come back with a beefier frame shift drive) I am now headed to Colonia. Wait, did they, *squints tiredly at notes* did they really call it that? I’m going back to bed. Stay safe, all.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Our opening section this week is all about looking back at games which are themselves preoccupied with looking back–whether in a critically provocative way, like Heather Alexandra finds with Metal Gear Solid 2, or to overall self-satisfied detriment, as Reid McCarter finds with Doom Eternal.
- Remaking the Past: Final Fantasy VII and the Psychology of Nostalgia | EGM
Paul Walker-Emig invokes Final Fantasy VII as a lens for understanding both our desire to return to the (imagined) past, and the cynical cultural and marketing reverberations which exploit that desire.
- Eternal Content | Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter characterizes Doom Eternal as overwrought with a desire to please in all the wrong places, and in doing so illuminates a thematic link to the Doom novels hiding in plain sight. . . well, plain, I guess, if you are also a weirdo like me who read the Doom novels.
- Final Fantasy 7 already warned us once, will we listen in 2020? – Polygon
Carolyn Petit wonders if Final Fantasy VII‘s ecological messaging will find a more receptive audience the second time around.
- Metal Gear Solid 2 Retrospective: Be Careful What You Wish For | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra explores the conflicting deconstructive priorities of the least-loved and most-admired of the Metal Gear games.
“Sons of Liberty isn’t a story about espionage and betrayal. Not really. It’s about one person learning to be his best self. The most dangerous threats to our lives aren’t bullets or bombs or government censors, even if those things are undoubtedly vile. The most dangerous things are the things we do to ourselves. The lies we tell ourselves, the love we deny, and the dignity we trick ourselves into thinking we don’t deserve.”
Though by no means the sole focus of these selections, a linking thread running through all three is a conversation around of the tensions between Japan and the West in terms of how games and their attendant media apparatuses are marketed, sold, adapted, and critically understood and examined. And hey, I’m always down for some critique of the commonplaces enshrined by western game studies.
- In Midgar’s Shadow | EGM
Patrick Holloway considers Final Fantasy VII‘s influence in terms of its marketing, as a game that made RPGs a viable business decision in the West.
- The Metal Gear Solid Novelization is a Modern Classic | Fanbyte
Blake P thumbs through a print adaptation that knows exactly what it’s doing in fluidly bridging Kojima-brand bullshit with Tom Clancy-esque-political-spy-thriller-brand bullshit.
- Hashihime of the Old Book Town – Emilie M. Reed
Emilie M. Reed finds a lot over overlap between how Western media and critics talk about Visual Novels and how game studies tries to talk about everything.
“Wanting to write about Hashihime as a videogame despite its structure made me think of how even positive discussions of visual novels tend to apologetically preface that these games are “mostly reading,” don’t have much “gameplay,” or “are mostly bad, except—.“ Game Studies also seems to struggle or outright reject the idea that many people play visual novels, see the activity as “playing a game,” and that these works have their own mature approaches to form, gameplay and interface. It kind of brings into question even calling it “Game Studies” in the first place, if it is so ill equipped to deal with a number of not insignificant genres and subcultures within gaming.”
Gathered here are a variety of insightful articles revolving around the attitudes, perspectives, and feelings we bring to games, as well as the tensions games in turn provoke with our inner selves and identities.
- The old-fashioned joys of journalling, and the modern comfort of maps • Eurogamer.net
Jennifer Allen weighs the accessibility of modern game navigation design against the thrill of exploration and discovery.
- Playing with Loss in Kentucky Route Zero | Sidequest
Zora Gilbert finds the value in riding the Zero without looking back.
- Sim Games Do Not Make Me Feel Good About My Gender – Uppercut
Caitlin Galiz-Rowe documents how opening up the customization options only gets you so far when all the choices draw from the pool of the gender binary.
- Why Final Fantasy VII’s Trans Story Resonates – Uppercut
Grace Benfell looks beyond the surface, beyond the dress, at what Final Fantasy VII actually has to say about identity transformation.
“Cisnormative culture wants both trans and cis people to believe that their bodies are not their own, that every person must conform to the whims of “biology.” Sephiroth’s dire proclamation of Cloud being “a puppet” is an echo of this. As is young Cloud’s anxiety about weakness. There is an inevitably to masculinity that FFVII captures at an apocalyptic scale. However, at every turn, the game affirms Cloud’s power to determine his own identity.“
Careful readers may have noticed an uptick in Dragon Age 2-related content in our closing segment. To this I say: yeah, well, so? Let me live.
- Here’s Why You Should Play Dragon Age 2 Like, Right Now – Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart lays down some correct hard truths.
“Dragon Age 2 is possibly the most political game of the series, but it’s also got an incredible cast of characters, an interesting, personal story, and is one of the best games to deconstruct ‘The Hero’s Journey’. It’s also got Isabela, Varric, and Merrill as main characters, which I feel is reason enough.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!