Welcome back, readers.
First, our usual starting point. You may not be reading about the protests against anti-Black police brutality in the headlines as often these days, but they go on. No justice, no peace.
Second, did you see our new Critical Compilation? This time around, Andrew Bailey takes a look at the Pathologic series. Be sure to check it out!
Third, while I have made a decision this week to showcase smaller sites and less topical games, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that mainstream gaming culture (and you bet your ass this reactionary repugnance is mainstream) has hit not necessarily a new low in abhorrence (if only because there are so many other literal crimes to choose from) but perhaps a new low in sheer stupidity. Threatening a voice actor in the most vulgar manner possible for, *checks notes*, the fictional actions of the fictional character she played?
And yeah, I know this one’s getting press because it’s a big name attached to a very big game. Lots of more vulnerable creatives get dragged through the mud and worse by Gamers on the daily without making the headlines.
So to the reactionary dullards, in the most diplomatic terms possible: Grow up. Log off. Play solitaire for a change. Jesus.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Industry Axes, or, Axe the Industry
We open this week with two essays on the industry and two interviews with creatives and creators. All four pieces plant the seeds for change, for a better industry.
- all our fantasies are colonial | lotusrootrecords
lotus asks for a little bit of critical self-reflection on the entangled systems of colonial production and consumption at play in games as we rev our engines for the next wave of nostalgia-laced hype for Pokémon Snap, and the next thing, and the thing after that.
- In Focus: Rohil Aniruth – No Escape
Kaile Hultner interviews artist/designer/cool person Rohil Aniruth on art, the industry, and more.
- A Poop Called The Sea Monster – A Sludge Life Interview With Terri Vellman & Doseone | Uppercut
Monti Velez chats with a pair of devs about the weird, relatable game what they done made.
- Sexism and harassment in the games industry isn’t just about big names: the entire culture must change • Eurogamer.net
Emma Kent draws on her account as a survivor of industry abuse and harassment to articulate how and why the whole industry needs to change.
“I think it’s clear it’s not enough for the industry to condemn the big-name abusers and continue as normal. This is an opportunity for everyone to think about what they can do on both an individual and organisational level, and act on it. We need to make it more than a moment.”
Yes, games are becoming more diverse in their representation of marginalized characters and identities. But who are these portrayals for? What ends do they achieve? And how can they be better? Three authors ask–and answer.
- The Cisgender Voyeurism of The Last of Us Part II | Paste
Waverly asks who trans characters in prestige games are actually for.
- How Do You Make an Autistic Video Game? – Uppercut
Gerry Hart traces the problematic contours of autistic representation in games over the years and looks to positive steps toward a better future.
- We Need More Stories of Trans Happiness – Gayming Magazine
Astrid Johnson seeks a shift in how–and why–we represent trans lives and voices in games, beyond the cycle of commoditized suffering that’s become vogue in the AAA scene.
“That’s the biggest issue that I have with the Triple-A scene. So many of the stories about us in bigger games often put our suffering before us in the order of priority. The violence and the bigotry inflicted on us is usually a bigger character than we are.”
Four authors this week study how current titles (or in Autumn Wright’s case, a long-running series) reflect contemporary tensions.
- 25 Years In The Making: The Strange, Real World of Ace Combat | Uppercut
Autumn Wright delves into the worldbuilding of the Ace Combat series, as well as its uncomfortable imperialist antecedents.
- Shutter Stroll, Time, and Quarantine | Vista Magazine – Medium
Taylor Hidalgo finds meaning in the silence, in-game, in our present moment.
- GROTESQUE WEALTH – DEEP HELL
Bryn Gelbart considers how Sekiro articulates ideas about health, wealth, and the ethics of immortality.
- The Reckless Gender Politics of Call of Duty: Warzone | Unwinnable
Porter Simmons looks at the crass, manly thrill of the Gulag and wonders if we might aim just a bit higher.
“In a year filled with pandemics, recessions, price wars, wildfires, riots, protests, impeachments and UFOs, the good folks behind Call of Duty: Warzone decided to resurrect the Gulag in its most terrorizing form and we, of course, took it in stride because there’s nothing left to scare us.”
Four blasts from the past this week, and yes I know Emily Rose keeps showing up in this section as the odd woman out with these retro-styled-but-not-actually-old close-ups but she’s got her finger on the pulse of that beat in a way nobody else does.
- Obsidian | The Obscuritory
Phil Salvador takes a look back at a weird and wonderful capstone on a series of financial misfires in the 1990’s heyday of the adventure genre.
- House Of Usher  – Arcade Idea
Arcade Idea alights upon an apt artifact for adaptation, hiding in plain sight.
- A sci-fi save ’em up – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi showcases Rescue on Fractalus! and excuse me how did they get this running on 8-bit microcomputers?
- Glover 2 – ULTRAKILL (Demo) | RE:BIND
Emily Rose learns this week that Blood Is Fuel and Hell Is Full.
- How Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne Perfected the Single Player RPG | Fanbyte
Aurora Brainsky-Roth takes a long and loving look back at a high water mark in the MegaTen metaseries.
“It is tempting to view Nocturne as a kind of death knell or hermetic logical conclusion for RPGs. It arrived at the tail end of the genre’s golden age at a moment of peak market saturation that would precipitate a drastic sea change in both the video game industry and player tastes, where single player RPGs diffused into popular action games and MMORPGs or retreated into a niche fan concern. But Nocturne remains a deeply beautiful, compelling work of art, and far from an esoteric dead end, it still has something generative and important to offer us today.”
Every Month Is Wrath Month
Four rad articles, each looking at different aspects of queer representation in contemporary games.
- Signs of the Sojourner and All the Pieces of Me | Jeremy Signor’s Games Initiative
Jeremy Signor writes on Signs of the Sojourner, and communicating and differentiating our many selves.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons Helps Queer Players Express Themselves | Kotaku
Hallie Lieberman talks with players who are taking space, coming out, and making noise in New Horizons.
- A Summer’s End is a rare queer romance that goes where most games won’t – Polygon
Bonnie Qu describes playing and feeling seen by A Summer’s End – Hong Kong 1986.
- The Power of Chosen Family: Kingdom Hearts’ Sea Salt Trio | Strange Horizons
Latonya Pennington presents a queer character study of everybody’s favourite nobodies.
“Through friendship and implied queer subtext, Roxas, Axel, and Xion have formed their own chosen family and allowed themselves to find their own purposes and define themselves on their own terms.”
To Drangleic and Back Again
This week I have the opportunity to showcase two articles in dialogue, trying to puzzle out the merits of world design in the Dark Souls series, with a focus on II in particular. Really cool stuff!
- Semicontinuity (A framework of analyzing videogame space) | ambient-melodic
Melos Han-Tani studies how Dark Souls II deliberately breaks rules of spatial continuity in order to abstract a larger-scale representation of its world, and why that makes II the good one, actually.
- Brick By Brick / Formalism, Dreams, Souls
Ario Elami wonders whether in the case of Dark Souls II the discussion is still entrapped within matters of the technical.
“I believe that the metatextuality of the Dark Souls trilogy varies by entry, and that what is different about Dark Souls 2 is that its responses are largely mechanical – more meta-mechanical than meta-textual –, with comparatively little emphasis placed on responding to the first title’s material, and with, as noted, little potential for growth allowed among its own institutions.”
I look forward to the weeks where I can showcase new poetry out of Videodame.
- I Was Eight and He Was Ten | Videodame
Rachel Tanner, on Ocarina of Time.
“I don’t remember how the N64 controller felt in my hands the first time I held it. What I do know is that Brian was carefully watching me.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!