Welcome back readers.
First, the most important stuff:
- Check out the ways in which you can support protests against anti-Black and Brown police violence in the US and abroad.
- Thread collating ways you can support Mi’kmaw fisheries.
- Legal Fund for organizers fighting commercial exploitation of Haudenosaunee lands.
Two new updates from around the site this week. First, we’ve got a new episode up of Keywords in Play, this time featuring indie designer and artist Mal Abbas! Be sure to check it out!
Second, Critical Distance is hosting a Bitsy Essay Jam in collaboration with Emilie Reed! This is gonna be hella cool. Follow the link for details and dates.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Scary Month, Scary Year
Still Scary Month, eh? Here are five more horror-themed highlights from around the Internets.
- Creature Feature: Halo’s “The Flood” | Gamers with Glasses
Heather Lamb presents a brief history of monstrous anthropomorphic plants in games–and examines how the Flood from Halo are not that at all.
- The Unkillable Beast that Lurks Among Us | Medium
Taylor Hidalgo weighs the potentialities of Among Us’ crafted horrorscape against the coldwater necessities of its structural design as a game.
- How the Heroines of Horror Games Helped Me Explore My Sexuality | Gayming Magazine
Brandon Trush describes finding an alternative path to cis-heteronormative patriarchy alongside the likes of Jill Valentine and more.
- Should you hope to survive, hold Baroque inside. – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi tackles an all-time great in the much-vaunted “tf did I just play” subcategory of horror.
- Mother of Empire | Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter positions the true horror in Amnesia: Rebirth as the cyclical violence of colonial empire.
“Everywhere in the latest Amnesia, empire and birth are twisted together to form new, diseased monuments to the worst of humanity. The game, as oppressively pessimistic in tone as it is aesthetically dark and brooding, suggests that our species moves inexorably toward evil and self-perpetuation. It’s our defining animal trait, Rebirth posits, as uniquely a part of us as our too-big brains and opposable thumbs.”
The Girl Who Was Plugged In
Three articles this week look at parasociality and fandom within games, as well as how brands leverage both. Maybe this was the horror-themed section this week all along…?
- The Branding Behind Seraphine, the New League of Legends Champion, Is Gross | Fanbyte
Natalie Flores reflects not just on Seraphine, but on the social media culture that makes her possible in the first place.
- The dog pile: How I Infuriated A Few Hundred Final Fantasy Fourteen Fans To Death Threat Levels
Brendan Caldwell chronicles a narrative arc of fan toxicity, the gaming PR circuit, and asking an inconvenient question.
- Why is a League of Legends character Tweeting about her depression? | AIPT
Maya Thornton tries to make sense of Riot’s cynical marketing sleight-of-hand.
“This wouldn’t be an ethical hot ass mess if Seraphine had a social media identity similar to that of the Animal Crossing social media where, depending on the time, Animal Crossing fans receive dispatches from either Tom Nook or Isabelle. While not at all encouraging such parasocial interactions like Seraphine, the tweets are written in the voices of Tom Nook and Isabelle, but that account still has the fourth wall firmly intact. Riot, however, crafted a persona that was seen at one time as independent and genuine and continues to foster such an intense relationship with her fanbase that some underpaid Riot employee took tweets from real people to covered them in translucent tulle and placed them above fictional characters wishing another fictional character well. I say this emphatically and academically: Yuck.”
Text to Hellworld
Three writers this week look at simulations, simulacra, and satires, and their allegorical implications for the present moment.
- Video Game Review: Democratic Socialism Simulator | Socialist Alternative
George Martin Fell Brown takes a look at Molleindustria’s Reigns-style political un-simulator.
- A video game vision of Britain, from Fable to Watch Dogs Legion | Thumbsticks
Hannah Copestake considers ludic depictions of Britain through time, from colonialist fantasies of the past to bleak dystopias of the future–as well as hopeful sparks of riot and rebellion in the present.
- DIRTY, BROKE, BEAUTIFUL & FREE | DEEP HELL
Catherine Brinegar delves into the deep hell of roguelikes under capitalism, while playing one that might just be in on the joke.
“you take a bite, tentatively. you don’t want to give this your all. rooms/chambers/levels/bites wash over you. a decent/ascent through things you’ve done a million times. you accumulate whatever meaning there is here to gather, hardly stopping to savor the taste, and eventually: it’s done. you die/finish and it’s time to start again. the leftover refuse? toss it in the pile growing in the corner.”
Games in Time in a Year Out of Time
This section brings together thoughts and words on hacktivist dev circles from the 80s, legacy content and platform, yesteryear’s indie darlings revisited, and a really cool interview.
- Cynthia Harrell, The Woman Who Sang ‘Snake Eater,’ Is Ready To Be Heard Again | Kotaku
Ash Parrish is here with one of the coolest interviews I’ve read during my time here.
- The PS3 and Vita Are Being Buried Alive | VICE
Dia Lacina digs into the money and politics behind Sony’s efforts to kill of legacy content and platforms.
- How Indiana Jones, Rambo, and others ended up in 1980s Czechoslovak text-adventures | Ars Technica
Andrada Fiscutean presents a deep dive on a history of hacktivist game development from behind the Iron Curtain.
- 2020 is the year of the Nintendo DS Lite | Medium
Cole Henry finds that the byte-sized gaming offerings on a Nintendo handheld are just what the doctor ordered in the Year of the Brain-Worms.
- The Teenage Solipsism of “Bae or Bay” – No Escape
Ruth Cassidy revists Arcadia Bay five years later, five years removed from her own teenaged experience with the game.
“Replaying the game as an adult, I can’t find the same emotional weight in this ending. It shows me two traumatized teenagers deciding that their love will destroy their town, and says “this is true, actually.” It’s a tragedy they reach that conclusion, in the face of violence and police corruption, but it’s baffling that the game world bakes it into its reality. Life is Strange isn’t only played through the viewpoint of a teenager – it requires that lens to hold.”
Queer Bodies and Tensions
We’ve got three more quality critiques examining queer issues in popular games since, by Jove, is it Wrath Month already?
- Cloudpunk touches on gender and race with messy sci-fi allegories | Gayming Magazine
Chris Compendio wonders if fantastical settings generally and cyberpunk trappings in particular just get in the way of what a story really wants to say about oppression and identity.
- Hades Reminds Us That, Now More Than Ever, the World Needs Hunks | Fanbyte
Grace Curtis may have just established Hunktopian studies as a subdiscipline in games crit and frankly I’m here for it.
- Where Are All The Fat Queer Video Game Characters? | Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart identifies a representational gap in otherwise progressive spaces in games.
“It’s 2020 and people are still arguing over whether Mei from Overwatch is fat or not, whether fat people have the right to exist and be represented in video games in the first place. That is not only ridiculous, but it further shows that we still have a lot of work to do when including fat characters in video games, particularly when it comes to queer games.”
- Ghost Stories | Unwinnable
Diego Nicolás Argüello anthologizes some timely tales of terror.
“You will read a lot about myself yet again, but this story is different. In fact, you could consider it an anthology of sorts – one on my relationship with horror games, and on ghost stories. I’ll let you decide if they’re fictional or not.”
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