January 24th

Welcome back, readers.

A new American administration takes charge, but the offices and infrastructures that facilitate systemic racism remain unchanged or even strengthened. The immediate threat of a fascist insurrection seems to have diminished but there’s little else to celebrate when Black creators continue to experience harrassment and vitrol for speaking truth. So, as always, continue to seek out ways to support Black causes.

Around the site, we’ve got a new video roundup, courtesy of Connor! Please check it out.

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

Big Picture

We’ve got a wide spread of pieces in our opening section this week, all looking at industry trends in some shape or form, be it topical genres, the AAA/indie landscape, the influence of meme culture on game design, or reflection on the states of representation and criticism.

“The trans critic begins to be refigured into the industry rhetorically. As normalization takes the form of assimilation, the trans critic functions as a discursive object that should serve the hegemonic assumptions of games and their players. No epithet progresses this project so much as “this writer is trans.” Cis writers and editors invoke “this writer is trans” to share work that they (may have commissioned but more often) took no part in materially supporting. I hear “this writer is trans” like an admission. “This writer is trans” is often not followed with the presumed clause: “and they agree with me.” “This writer is trans” is not taken up when the writer argues a dissenting opinion from cis perspectives. “This writer is trans” does the work for cis writers, so that they can continue to be complicit in their own criticism. The trans critic is used by cis people, wielded as a sword when a game is too polemical to ignore and sacrificed like a shield when, finally, their voice reaches a general audience. This is how trans voices are brought up, and how they disappear. We don’t exist when there is no AAA discourse for clicks, we are put back into a utility closet for the next big release that raises concerns.”

But Think of the Children!

So I guess the New York Times tried to do a moral panic last week with an article about kids playing too many videogames during, hold on, *checks notes* a global pandemic. Here are two responses from people with media literacy.

“There are so many different devices, and so many different ways to engage with them, that it borders on absurdity to lump them all together under the only attribute they universally share and then apply a single label to cover every possibility afforded by their use. And, since video games are apparently supposed to be the primary culprit here, the same thing could be said about them as a medium. In the relatively short period of time games have been major players in the cultural sphere, they’ve demonstrated an inexhaustible variety of genres, mechanics, and ways of making worlds come alive.”

Horrorscapes

Our next section takes a look at horror games, with an emphasis on the emotional and narrative command of space that these games wield.

“Game worlds can be so much more than just “a space”. The way smaller indie games interpret that never ceases to amaze me.
The ongoing boom of horror games on itch.io kind of demonstrate a lot of that.”

Status Affects

Next up we’ve got three pieces on the emotional consequences of play, how these affective experiences can be designed, and how they can change over time as we change as players.

  • Command and Control — Real Life 
    Jeremy Antley explores how the real value of tabletop wargames comes not from their simulation complexity, but in the affective responses they can elicit from players–as well as the values they can instill.
  • Looking Back at If Found in 2021 | Gayming Magazine 
    Waverly returns to If Found five months later and finds that what you take from the game has a lot to do with where you are on your own journey of self-discovery and self-determination. Depending on where you are, returning can be hard.
  • Digital Prophecies – New Rules 
    Anna Kate Blair introspects on online divination as escapism, as play, while dwelling on breakups in a time robbed of the possibility of physical intimacy.

“I know that pining for somebody who doesn’t want me isn’t cute and that if I chase somebody who doesn’t have time for me—even as a friend—I’ll just hurt myself. I know that I’ll be okay indoors, socialising on FaceTime, that I’ll adjust. I know, too, that my angst is minor and a greater grief is looming, both globally and in my own life, as acquaintances, a close friend and an elderly relative fall ill. It is easy to know these things, but hard to accept them, and I let the Oracle feed my delusions, sometimes, as a temporary escape from the pain.”

Play Archives

In our next section we look at museums, curation, canon, and fanon.

“Real-world museums and libraries often supplement formal education. They have classrooms, teaching resources, and educators. However, while some institutions play a growing role in their community, some are also losing staff and resources. This particularly true for rural libraries. The Stardew Valley Museum and Library can be seen as an example of this real-world dynamic, neatly encapsulated in video game form.”

Binary Space Partitioning

Queer critics were wary of Cyberpunk 2077 well in advance of its release, in no small part due to its edgelord PR campaign that used queer bodies for shock value. With the game now out in the world, a critical image is starting to take form of surface-level queer representation that shows hints of promise but is marred by fundamentral structural problems in how queer bodies, identities, spaces, and lives are understood by the writers and developers.

Cyberpunk 2077 is just so frustrating. It makes strides towards inclusivity that feels intentional, but absolutely trips at the last second. Even as Judy’s story feels very real and relatable with her childhood crush, realizing she doesn’t like boys, loving her family and community, and having it ripped away, V doesn’t get that same treatment. And it makes sense, of course. V can be moulded to fit (almost) anyone’s image, but these little quips and jabs against queer spaces, fat people, and more builds-up and it shows a complete lack of understanding of the choices that a queer player wants outside of romantic and sexual interest.”

Players and Characters

Here we’ve got a spread of articles that look at games along different narrative axes, looking at themes, structures, and characters in fresh ways.

“What might be interpreted as moral complexity in a man can easily become aloofness in a woman. These games send the message that you aren’t entitled to these characters’ favor. You have to work for it. It takes time and effort to make them like or trust you, just as it would with any real person.”

Critical Chaser

Poetry Corner returns courtesy of Rachel Tanner.

“I am suddenly transported away from my hospital bed
into a world where golf can cure all ills. I use golf
to solve problems that have virtually nothing
to do with golf. I use golf as an escape from knowing
that in a few hours, Hot Doctor will come by my room
to try and induce another episode.”


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