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.
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.
- The Black women of the fighting game community are pushing for true inclusivity – Polygon
De’Angelo Epps talks to FGC members fighting for a better, more just, more inclusive scene.
- What Killing Eve Can Teach Video Games About Writing Complex Queer Characters – Gayming Magazine
Celia Lewis examines the ways in which queer narratives in games are still playing catch-up to other storytelling media.
- The Gaming Community Still Isn’t Ready to Talk About Race – Gayming Magazine
David André Jarrett takes stock of the state of systemic anti-Black racism in gaming along all its axes.
“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.”
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.
- Early Assess: Ooblets Breaks Through the Corny Barrier With Sincerity | Fanbyte
Jay Castello makes the case for Ooblets as an earnest, silly game.
- Ooblets is part farming sim, part Pokmon, all cute | Eurogamer.net
Malindy Hetfeld comes away from Ooblets feeling that maybe it’s a little too cute, and too shallow.
- What’s Cookin’?: Pokemon Cafe Mix is a Perfect Example of Weaponized Cuteness | Uppercut
Ty Galiz-Rowe observes that cuteness ain’t all it’s wrapped up to be when at the end of the day’s it’s really just cuteness capitalism.
“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?).
- Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 and An Ode to Knockback | Jeremy Signor’s Games Initiative
Jeremy Signor makes the case that games can have infuriating knockback that is also purposeful in design.
- Platforms and Pitfalls Episode 24 – Double Jumps in 2D — Idris Effect
Rowan and Blue put the tried-and-true double jump under a design microscope, looking at Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Sonic, The Messenger, and more.
- The Grind | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole meditates on what makes the gritty grind at the heart of the Souls games so appealing.
“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.”
Here we’ve got three longer-ish pieces delving deeply into specific games to unpack their themes, tensions, and time periods.
- Robert Yang’s ‘Hard Lads’ Identifies Sadism in Viral Video Voyeurism | ARTnews.com
Michael Thomsen studies the tensions at play in Robert Yang’s Hard Lads.
- Beneath a Steel Sky | The Digital Antiquarian
Jimmy Maher chronicles the genesis of Beneath a Steel Sky in a detailed retrospective.
- A PC Engine encore – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi hangs out in the Falcom PC Engine back-catalogue, this time looking at The Legend of Xanadu II.
“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.
- Absent Mothers | Bullet Points Monthly
Natalie Flores studies how The Last of Us Part II continues the dadification trend of ignoring the stories and legacies of mothers.
- The Not So Hidden Israeli Politics of ‘The Last of Us Part II’ | VICE
Emanuel Maiberg traces thematic connections between the cycle of hatred and violence in The Last of Us Part II and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and find the treatment to be less than evenhanded.
“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.”
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.
- Bird Alone Diary: Part One | Fanbyte
Natalie Flores documents her time getting to know a friendly, supportive birb.
- Let Me Tell You About My OC: Elaine Morrigan is Terrible | Sidequest
Zora Gilbert dishes on their tabletop OC.
“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.”
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.
- 7 Games for Managing Distress and Regulating Emotions | Fanbyte
Kim Key compiles games to soothe, to relax, to re-balance.
- 3 Samurai Game Soundtracks to Bump Instead of Playing Ghosts of Tsushima – Paste
Dia Lacina’s recurring soundtrack column dips into the samurai games of yesteryear. Gosh, remember Seven Samurai 20XX?
“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.”
This is one of the weeks where I put funny stuff at the end. Enjoy.
- Yoshi’s Tax Fraud Story: A Hardboiled Detective Tale | Kotaku
Ash Parrish did this.
“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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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!