December 13th

Welcome back, readers.

This week the thing I’m plugging before I get down to business is. . . this rad bundle of cyberpunk-themed games by independent creators! Get your punk on while supporting queer/marginalized creators!

Oh, but that’s not all, dear reader. There’s also an analogue cyberpunk game jam for Asian creators in the works! Given how deeply entrenched orientalism/sinophobia is in the western cyberpunk tradition, this is a cool and timely intervention. Check it out!

Lots of stuff around the site to go through this week. We’ve got both a new TMIVGV courtesy of Connor, a little early this month, as a treat, as well as a new Keywords in Play, this time featuring Sonia Fizek!

That’s still not all. I’ve got a few upcoming events and announcements too. First off, Critical Distance is hosting a micro-essay jam on Pandemics and Games! Details available here.

Lastly, it’s almost time for our end-of-year roundup. Whether it’s previously been featured in our weekly issues or not, if there’s a piece of writing (written this year, 2020 please!) you’d like to nominate, use the #TYIVGB hashtag or visit our Discord server and join the conversation there!

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

Save States

It’s been a busy week for industry discourse no matter what spheres of gaming you move in, to say the least. Here’s a snapshot, courtesy of four authors, of some of the stories that matter most in the long term, beyond the industry accolades and tentpole releases of the moment.

“If a trans person says something is bad for their existence, you, as a cis person, don’t have to tell them that it’s good, actually. You don’t have to convince them to play the game. You don’t have to defend and cape for a multi-billion-dollar corporation as if they’re some scrappy indie team. Every DM on every social media platform insisting that I give a company that crunches their employees’ bones into dust a chance just feels like the most desperate plea for attention.”

Welcome to the Cyberpunk Dystopia

There’s been a critical focus this week on just how long cyberpunk as a genre has been a thing. Along with that focus comes an examination on how things have changed since “MicroSoft” was sci-fi technobabble and a “megabyte” implied a theoretically ludicrous quantity of data, as well as how some things haven’t really changed at all. And of course there’s also the question of who is actually leading the changes and moving the genre forward. Three highlights this week to start us off, with more to certainly follow in the coming weeks.

“The origins of the cyberpunk genre involve Western anxieties about the East. Techno-orientalism is the use of Asian aesthetics in cyberpunk, futuristic, and dystopian settings. There is a long and deep Euro-American tradition of using Asian symbolism such as neon signs with Japanese and Chinese lettering to express those feelings about what the future holds, including globalization and the threat of a takeover from the East.”

Other Punks

Nothing more countercultural than the biggest release of the year, amirite? Anyway, we’ve got two cool articles this week looking at other games and genres along with some reflection on what it means to be punk in games and elsewhere.

“Punk isn’t made to be perfect. Punk is raw. And Extreme Meatpunks Forever is a sometimes brutally raw story about feeling like you don’t know what’s going on in the world or how to fix it, but you know that if you punch a fash’s lights out, you’ll feel better, at least for a little while.”

Other Dystopias

We’ve also got four pieces this week examining apocalypses in games along various axes beyond the neon-flavoured ones!

Death Stranding is trying to sew the world together, by establishing knots in a network of outposts that shore up the market driven economy through routinely exhausting actions. In The Last of Us Part 2, Ellie tears through the social fabric of deteriorating relations, eliminating every possible knot on her way.”

Changelogs

How do technologies, genres, design practices, and media landscapes influence games over time? In revisiting historical works, what connections can we trace to the games, practices, and traditions of today? Two authors this week examine a foundational scene and a genre-defining game, respectively.

“I have enjoyed my time with Moria and Angband, and I really do think they’re more fun than some of the more modern roguelikes I’ve played. But as of right now, nothing has come close to touching the place in my heart that Rogue has carved. Its simplicity is a huge boon; it evokes so many things while leaving you guessing about the details, leaving you with a really fascinating emptiness that I found really easy to immediately project onto.”

Unpacking Ideologies

Three authors this week examine the ways in which games of all genres and vibes reflect our contemporary ideological connundrums in larger and smaller ways.

“That a game has to look, and feel, like a serious gritty action film to provide social commentary on themes of authoritarianism, dictatorships, ethnic cleansing, disruptions to our environment, or the end of leisure is a misconception, one countered by Blue Tongue Entertainment’s De Blob, like Lois Lowry’s The Giver novel before it, an easy to access colourful children’s painting platformer or a tale of authoritative outside forces executing bleak hegemony onto a vibrant state and its innocent citizens. “

Beneath the Surface

Four disparate deep dives, deconstructing different games with theory, analogy, and lived experiences.

“To play Abzû is to remove oneself from the tension that underlines our experience of the ocean as humans. Its unknowable mass and mysterious beings become quantifiable, a series of vignettes in which nothing ever really lives or dies beyond the flight of our android.”

Queer Horizons

Here’s a trio of articles unpacking the state of queer representation and design in popular games and popular culture.

“Many of the real-life issues and traumas actual queer people have can also be traced back to queerness, and games want to be realistic and grounded, and relatable. But Bugsnax is a game where taking a bite out of a cheeseburger gives you curly fries for teeth. It doesn’t need to be realistic. It can just put the himbo with the mad scientist and tell you “they’re gay” and be done with it.”

Critical Chaser

We close this week, as is often the case lately, with some poetry! I omitted the pullquote this time because the typsetting is an important part of the experience. I mean, that’s kind of always the case with poetry, but, well, just read on.


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