December 20th

Welcome back, readers.

Last week I plugged this bundle of cyberpunk-themed games by queer and marginalized independant creators, as well as an upcoming analogue cyberpunk game jam for Asian creators. If you haven’t already checked them out, please do so! This week, I’m happy to have found out about this nifty bundle as well, riffing off the idea that games don’t have to be billion-dollar prestige affairs to be great, and that maybe they shouldn’t!

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

Industrial Crit

We’re opening this week with four very different pieces, each of them turning an eye inward to the industry and its tensions–be it labour exploitation, indie coverage, gatekeeping, or journalistic practices. Each of them, from a different angle, expresses a hope for better, and contributes a little bit towards getting us there. Turns out there are, in fact, ways to engage in productive industrial critrique without punching down. Wild, isn’t it?

“When you’re reviewing a game, that is a bit different and allows for creativity. When interviewing a human, you are THEIR pen. You are THEIR words that they cannot find.”

Links to the Past

An entire block of Uppercut pieces? You love to see it. We’ve got three articles here each involved in some capacity with looking back, at past lives, past selves, past mistakes, and how games alternately capture these sentiments anew and take us back to our own pasts.

“The person I am now does not replace you, but has grown from you–and it’s embarrassing to think that perhaps there is some wisdom I neglected to take with me as I did. While I believed I was considering your feelings as I processed the pain of “losing” my Final Fantasy VII, I was forgetting something very important–I was forgetting that you’re goddamn fearless.”

Links Between Worlds

Topographical tensions guide our next section, as a pair of authors scrutinize the affordances and limitations at stake in virtual spaces.

“At their most expressive, the depths of Beyond Light are necrotic seas, half-relics of Clovis Bray’s hubris, half-skeleton of Bungie‘s ambitions, until eventually both morph into a single, nebulous entity made up of the game’s stark expanses, constantly trying to decide on a version of itself as we move in between its layers. A composite Leviathan.”

Debt Stranding

Three authors this week situate friendships in time in space–as liminal, as temporary. In two of these pieces, this is a consequence of capitalism, in the third, it is itself a refuge from liminal times.

“Helplessly careening through the night at the whims of strangers who do not care about you is not a flowery metaphor or allegory, it’s not a neat bit of storytelling. It’s not game designers going “hey let’s make our next game protagonist a character who was classically an NPC type in older games.” They’re drawing from experience in their own lives.”

It’s Party Time

2020 didn’t give us a lot of gifts, frankly, but Blaseball was definitely one of them. Check out two cool critiques here investigating the game’s design workings, its participatory culture, and more.

“Blaseball shows us you don’t need characters or even graphics to make a game queer. All you need is an idea and a story that people can latch onto, and a development team who embrace that. By centring fan culture, Blaseball shifts the game from a product fans consume into a shared story that everyone helps create together. It’s a weird utopian cosmic horror crowd-controlled splorts saga — and what could be queerer than that?”

Critical Chaser

How about an interactive essay to see us out this week? This piece was submitted as part of our recent Bitsy Essay Jam. Hope you like it!


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