July 19th

Welcome back, readers.

First things first: our usual starting point. The media coverage of protests against anti-Black police brutality in America and elsewhere is diminishing, but the fascist effort to thwart them is intensifying.

Around the site, we’ve got two new things to share this week. First, we’ve got a Critical Compilation on Resident Evil 2 for y’all to check out if you haven’t already. Additionally, the newest episode of Keywords in Play is live!

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

Making Space

Though we take time to celebrate the small victories, in many ways games are way behind when it comes to diverse and equitable representation, be it Black representation, queer representation, feminine representation, or otherwise. This is not just within games, but within all the circles of industry and media coverage and fandom which also comprise the industry. Three authors this week challenge this status quo, examining gaps as well as talking to the people pushing for something better.

“Why did it take this particular tragic event for the world to finally stand up and take notice? Why after so many BAME employees pointed out systematic injustices within their organisation and the world at large with worthless “think tanks” and feckless “diversity and inclusion” training meetings, lip service was paid, yet they were largely ignored when it came to policy changes? Was this simply another marketable event on corporations’ social media calendars? Another tax write-off masquerading as social responsibility? Or is this an actual watershed moment that will bring along tangible change in the studios, the media products they create and the fans that enjoy the entertainment.”

Wholesome Circle

Cuteness and wholesomeness have become particularly salient ideas in recent months, as players and writers find themselves in need of refuge and comfort from, well, *gestures vaguely at the entirety of 2020*. Studios have responded to that need with games that fill that wholesome niche, but there’s also space to critically unpack that idea, as the three authors gathered here this week do.

“Cuteness, like anything else when it comes to creating a product, is a tool, and can be used benevolently, or for darker purposes. In the case of Cafe Mix, it’s definitely a smokescreen for more dastardly practices.”

Jump Into the Grind

Three articles this week get into some of the nitty-gritty of mechanical design, looking at progression, jumping, and… falling (with style?).

“There’s a pleasure in getting measurably better at something, it scratches a very specific itch: to enter into a situation with total ignorance, unsure of the rules, unsure about the expectations, and to be able to come out vastly improved and full of confidence on the other end.”

Deep Dives

Here we’ve got three longer-ish pieces delving deeply into specific games to unpack their themes, tensions, and time periods.

“There was a time, long before Falcom games in English on Steam, PSPs, Vitas… even PlayStation 2s (remember Konami’s port of Ys VI?) were a thing, when to importers Falcom games were seen as PC Engine games and no PC Engine owner could possibly say they were serious about the console unless they had at least one Falcom title in their collection.”

Sins of the Father

I’m trying to be careful about how much The Last of Us Part II coverage shows up in our roundups right now, given that the discourse seems to have reached a point where most readers and writers alike are simply exhausted. That being said, a few strong critical pieces came to my attention this week, and two of them are gathered here.

“I suspect that some players, if they consciously clock the parallels at all, will think The Last of Us Part II is taking a balanced and fair perspective on that conflict, humanizing and exposing flaws in both sides of its in-game analogues. But as someone who grew up in Israel, I recognized a familiar, firmly Israeli way of seeing and explaining the conflict which tries to appear evenhanded and even enlightened, but in practice marginalizes Palestinian experience in a manner that perpetuates a horrific status quo.”

Character Interaction

A pair of articles this week look at the relationships we form with characters in the games we play, be they our own tabletop characters, or good and pure friendly birds.

“When Morrigan finally steps out of this period of her (un)life, she will shave her head. Her awful, matted, appropriative hair will still exist in memory, just as the memory of my own cruelties and mistakes follow me around like a useless guilt shadow. But casting them off is the chance to try again, to build a new identity that is based on collaboration and empathy, not just a facade based on ego and superiority. She will become a person who looks forward and listens, someone who learns from the past but does not dwell in it.”

Alt Plays

Maybe you’re seeking refuge from the Discourse, which has seen heightened amounts of aggression and infighting of late. Maybe you’re seeking refuge from, well, everything right now. Two authors this week have you covered with less-topical ways to spend your gaming time.

“I hear you, William Nioh. And fret not. I am here to help. I have the games, I have the soundtracks. I know you have a need for furious katana action. I have the power fantasies you crave. Put down the phone, turn off QVC. Don’t order that Dragon Sword.”

Critical Chaser

This is one of the weeks where I put funny stuff at the end. Enjoy.

“The following was a passage from the forthcoming book Mushroom Kingdom Confidential. The writer was found dead shortly before its publication, of apparent blunt force trauma to the head. Pieces of eggshell were found nearby.”


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