Welcome back, readers.
Hey! We’ve got a new TMIVGV, courtesy of Connor which you should check out! I happen to be mired in the depths of a very, very grindy game right now, so having some thoughtful games writing to listen to while I farm materials and try to remember why I’m still playing has been a comfort.
Ah, something else cool from around the web: the latest issue of Feminist Media Histories, which is on games histories, is currently available without a paywall. Absolutely check it out while you can!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
There was a lot of awesome writing on a few rad new indie games this week, to the point where it made sense to give two of those games standalone categories in our roundup. We’re starting off with four perspectives on the visual novel If Found.
- If Found Finds Liberation in the Painful Act of Erasure – Paste
Natalie Flores looks at a game with an evocative and affective approach to the experience of identity erasure.
- If Found Review: an emotional journey from start to finish – Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart thinks through relatability, identity, and love in If Found.
- If Found and Relatable Queer Alienation | Jeremy Signor’s Games Initiative
Jeremy Signor muses on the queer relatability at the heart of If Found.
- Dreamfeel’s If Found… Creates a Beautiful Story Through Its Destruction – Uppercut
Jess Cogswell appreciates a queer game that takes time to highlight the beauty of creation after the crucible of destruction.
“If Found is a game about the slow descent into a place without light- a place where pictures, stories, and people do not exist. But above all else, it is a game about reclaiming that light and our own agency. At several points within the game, it proclaims that names, genders, sexualities, bodies, and stories are our own to create, destroy, and inhabit. It asserts that our history does not define us, but rather exists so that we can use it to define ourselves. It reassures us that we, and the world, are constantly in motion- regardless of the forces that pull us.”
Two powerful perspectives on the evocative game about art at the end of the world.
- QUARANTINE GAMES: UMURANGI GENERATION – DEEP HELL
Skeleton muses on the unknowability of art, even, or especially, in a game that gives you time and space to make it.
- A Requiem for the Final Generation – No Escape
Trevor Hultner pens a beautiful review of a beautiful game.
“It is harrowing to consider that the last generation may have been born already, that a group of kids who should absolutely have a fucking future may already be growing up in a world in which they assuredly don’t. Umurangi Generation forces you to consider exactly that.”
These three authors are united by their retrospective looks at early examples in their respective genres/media, as well as by their intersections with adaptation.
- Of Rats and Men: How a Lurid 1974 Best-Seller Revolutionized Strategy Games – Uppercut
Alexander Chatziioannou peers into the story behind an experimental adaptation of James Herbert’s horror novel The Rats.
- Colossal Cave Adventure  – Arcade Idea
Arcade Idea delves into a design and genre study of interactive fiction via one of its conspicuously long-lived progenitor texts.
- The Street Fighter Movie is Perfect, Actually | RE:BIND
Emily Rose makes the case that maybe yeah, the Street Fighter adaptation–as well as 90s cinematic game adaptations in general–knew exactly what they were doing.
“Is it campy? Yes. Shlocky? Absolutely. Does it diverge from how we typically think of the implied universe of Street Fighter? Sure, but it knows it and relishes in the difference. It’s a film that knows how to capture the attention of audiences who have little to no familiarity with the video game, yet makes full use of the vivid cast of characters that the franchise was well-known for.”
Systems of Meaning
Four pieces this week all relate in some way to the thematic tensions provoked by mechanical design, be they in games or the players themselves!
- Here’s how Animal Crossing: New Horizons simulates the real-world economy | iMore
Rebecca Spear offers a deep dive on Animal Crossing‘s economic systems, as well as their pedagogical value.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses Review | calei2copi0
calei2copi0 posits that Fire Emblem, in its efforts to reinvent itself and experiment, has started to outgrow the structural limitations of its permadeath feature.
- Gatcha Game Superstitions – Uppercut
Jay Castello gets at the heart of the rituals we indulge to stave off randomized outcomes in games, looking here specifically at BTS World. Gosh, remember holding Down+B to catch Pokémon?
- Give peace a chance (even in action games) – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi celebrates the risks of experimental sequels via a bold early installment in the Front Mission series.
“Gun Hazard’s flagrant lack of concern with satisfying a standard checklist of mech-related tropes infuses the game with an electrifying frizz of wild possibilities – anything could happen without warning, and it often does.”
We’ve got three inspired pieces this week profiling studios and companies involved in development, distribution, and localization of games big and small, popular and forgotten.
- What to Do When Your Video Game Gets Co-opted by Neo-Nazis | OneZero
David M. Perry studies the niche of white supremacist fandom that has sprouted up around the Crusader Kings series and what steps the studio has been taking to uproot it. (content notification for forum post quotations from racist shitheels, etc.).
- Game Localization Is A Love Letter – Vista Magazine – Medium
Jahanzeb Khan profiles a localization studio specializing in Japanese indie games with evocative stories.
- When SimCity got serious: the story of Maxis Business Simulations and SimRefinery | The Obscuritory
Phil Salvador profiles the history and people of a sibling company to Maxis who pushed conceptual simulation games to the utmost limit, but whose products remain almost entirely unknown today.
“John Hiles knew about SimCity. He also believed in the power of building mental models, and he saw something in SimCity that was missing from the simulation modeling work happening at Delta Logic: it was fun. It had an intuitive interface and friendly graphics. That was the missing ingredient. Hiles believed that if they teamed up – Maxis’s style with Delta Logic’s systems – they could create simulations that were fun and powerful.”
A trio of quality readings on games and the feelings they leave behind.
- Heart Container-An Ocean Apart in Mid-Winter: How A Fold Apart and A Summer’s End Guided Me Through the End of My Relationship – Uppercut
Caitlin Galiz-Rowe talks through the hurt of long-distance relationships via a pair of affective and empathetic love stories.
- Mystery Dungeon Highlights How Pokémon Doesn’t Understand Pokémon | Into The Spine
Stacey Henley finds Pokémon‘s thematic messaging about friendship and loyalty at odds with its cutthroat mechanical design, but also finds an absence of that tension in spin-off games free from the min-maxing grind.
- Reading the Lines: Essays on Pathologic 2 – Grace In The Machine
Grace presents a series of lyrical vignettes on Pathalogic 2 and the feelings it stirs through its systems.
“Pathologic 2 is a performance without rehearsal. The game knows when you die and it marks it, even reprimands you. Deaths are not just mistakes and they are not false ends. Every death bruises you, changes your body. Every moment weaves itself into performance, into expression. The line between mistakes and perfection is thin. Thin as skin and blood.”
I am 30% more reassured that we’re gonna be alright after engaging with this Content.
- I Trained My Hair Like Sephiroth for 14 Days and Now I’m a Living Weapon | Fanbyte
Ginny Woo embarks on a noble quest and ofc I was going to include this.
- The Big Shark from Maneater is Gaming’s Newest Feminist Icon | Fanbyte
Natalie Flores is here with the kind of thinkpiece that I live for doing this job.
“When I saw that the title for one of your earliest grotto quests is called “Third-Cave Feminism,” I guffawed and knew this was intentional. I knew I wasn’t playing as any old female shark; I was playing as an intersectional feminist female shark. I was playing as Miss Shark.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!