Welcome back, readers. Hope you’re taking care of yourselves as best as you can.
Before we begin, check out this list of national and local bail funds supporting anti-racial-injustice protesters across the US. Yes this is still really important!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
New Game Plus
Our opening segment this week is more about games writing than games themselves, with a critical focus on both industry and personal practices, injustice, and roadmaps to better futures.
- Some Thoughts About A Website With A Fake Japanese Name | Natalie Degraffinried
Natalie Degraffinried names the patterns of systemic–not just managerial–racist and sexist abuse at Kotaku specifically and games press generally that routinely push marginalized writers and editors out of these spaces and obstruct meaningful change.
- Games Journalists Shun Adult Games. We Must Fix That | Daily Dot
Ana Valens shares some actionable ideas for how games press can do a better job covering porn games.
- Learning How to Share | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole and Vivian Chan explicate the sometimes-fuzzy boundary between author and editor, the need for proper credit, and the easy trap of invisible, unrecognized labour.
“I didn’t realize how important being able to claim ownership over my work was to me, until I started writing for an audience. And I think I unconsciously resisted having to share my name, share my ownership, because I was so used to doing so in my day job.”
Games-as-platforms (in this case referring to player interactions rather than business models) are a topic of increasing focus while material presence is in many ways constrained and people increasingly seek virtual alternatives. But it’s also an ongoing topic and tension that precedes and exceeds the scope of the current docket of crises. Three authors this week look at some of theses spaces, tensions, and struggles.
- Waking Dreams and Wish Fulfillment in Animal Crossing | Into The Spine
Hannah Copestake discusses how New Horizons blurs reality and fantasy, creating a space where players can dream about something other than the many nightmares of contemporary existence.
- Islands apart: Keeping social-but-distanced during COVID-19 | Videodame
Renate Plehwe documents New Horizons‘ transformation into a social platform and talks to some of its players about how the game is helping them keep connected.
- Black ‘The Sims 4’ Players Are Changing One of the World’s Biggest Games | Vice
Gita Jackson talks to players and modders who have fought–with success–for better Black representation in The Sims.
“Black Simmers have created a vibrant and passionate community to fill this gap, making incredible hair, makeup and skin tones to make up for what the game lacks. But the point of The Sims is to be able to make anyone and live out every kind of lifestyle. What use is a dollhouse that can only support one kind of doll?”
Chillin’ Like a Villain
We’ve got a pair of pieces this week examining how villainy in games can code Otherness, queerness, and/or relatability.
- Video Game Baddies and the Power behind Reclaiming Queer Villainy | Gayming Magazine
Taryn Urban delves into what draws queer kids to misfit, nonconformist villains in games and other popular media, especially in the days when there was even less overt queer representation.
- Join or Die | Bullet Points Monthly
David Shimomura studies Ghost of Tsushima‘s villain Khotun Khan as an example of the “cultured Other” trope.
“This archetype exists because it presents a particularly heightened threat to the ordered hegemony of our lives. It is easy to stoke nationalistic fervor around a barbarian. But there is an elevated level of danger to an opponent specifically interested in countering your tactics.”
Two articles this week looking at very different games converge in their examination of the practice of deliberate censorship, omission, or obscuring of images or words in games, finding alternately that the act conceals layers upon layers of interpretation, or nothing at all.
- Cruelty and Handheld Lo-Fi Filmmaking in Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days | Cole Henry
Cole Henry makes sense of the formal and technical framing of Kane & Lynch 2‘s senseless meditation on violence.
- PISSF****T: about a jacket in Disco Elysium | Zoyander Street
Zoyander Street unwraps the layers of meaning and allusion at stake in Disco Elysium‘s use and treatment of the one word it chooses to censor (Curator’s note: Zoyander Street is a current board member and third senior curator for Critical Distance).
““F****t” has an embodied effect on Harry, and a thematic connection to how the position of homosexuality in Revachol demands that one develop a high degree of composure in order to survive, and this pulls me toward identifying in Harry a special connection to queerness – but any attempt to form a specific sexual identity is troubled by the “homosexual underground” thought cabinet quests, which states that obsessing about sexual identity is not a helpful activity. “Flaubert” forces me to confront not only the deep emotional significance of Harry’s problematic relationships with women, but also the ways that the game formally and narratively portrays the obliteration of identity itself.”
Three articles this week looking at art in games along axes of production, technical constraint, and technical breaking points.
- “Mythic Quest” and the Pursuit of Anti-Capitalist Media | Current Affairs
Ciara Moloney looks at Mythic Quest‘s portrayal of the production (and compromise to integrity) of art in what could be any commercial industry, but in this case is videogames.
- How ’80s House Came to Define the Sound of the Sega Genesis | Paste
Dia Lacina sets the sonic stage (lol) for Streets of Rage and other bangers.
- The Beautiful Rebellion of Video Game Bugs (how simulated worlds express malfunction in their own way, and that poetic digital decay…) | Nathalie Lawhead
Nathalie Lawhead finds artful purpose in the many ways that game worlds break (and in making them break on purpose).
“Errors make computers interesting.
It’s like they rebel and express a voice of their own for a brief moment, before things return back to normal and you’re expected to pretend like that didn’t just happen, as you’re working your way through the tasks between cut-scene to cut-scene.”
Two pieces this week focusing tightly on the sensations and stakes involved in player experience. Shades of Sudnow?
- Galaga  – Arcade Idea
Arcade Idea takes on Galaga, resisting the easy enrapturement of beautiful, distilled, morally stark violence.
- Play Recursion | Into The Spine
Oma Keeling thinks through dissociation and play in the unsettling patchwork 3D dreamscapes of the original PlayStation.
“Thinking about thinking. Thinking about thinking about thinking. Thinking about thinking about thinking about thinking. That loop would really freak me out as a kid, I’d get stuck peering down into my mind’s own fractal splitting. For, if I’m playing Action Man, and Action Man is playing a game, then who is playing me?”
Really loving the Animal Crossing stories coming out of Sidequest.
- Anabelle (A Tribute) | Sidequest
Emily Durham shares a little bit of Animal Crossing fiction.
“I won’t say I was heartbroken, because I had long since moved on. I’d met new villagers, ones who were starting to heal my wounds with their gifts and kind words. But I was disappointed. Disappointed that Anabelle didn’t remember the times we shared, the intimacy we’d formed. It was as though she had completely wiped me from her mind, reset her memory. I went home to my island, defeated.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!