February 28th

Welcome back, readers.

Plugging these again this week in case you’ve missed them:

Also, Connor’s latest roundup of video content is here! Please take a look!

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

Blackness in Games

Uppercut ran a pretty rad slate of articles over the past week, ranging from interviews, to critiques, to frameworks, to looks ahead at what Black representation can and should be in games. Check ’em out!

“Marcus isn’t a white person in blackface or a Franklin in hacker’s clothing, but a Black character with a thoughtful understanding that Blackness isn’t as simple as Rockstar would have us believe. And more than that, he actually mirrors plenty of Black gamers who pick up the game. Not all of us, to be certain — but with countless Franklins on the table, Marcus expands veritable representation in the industry.”

State of the Art

Okay. Bear with me a moment. This is, by my own admission, a loose association of pieces with different angles and perspectives. While Kaile Hultner is responding directly to the proposals and ideas laid out by Ed Smith, beyond that this is a much broader conversation on how, through the specific framework of games, we experience art, how we talk about it, and how it is mediated through capitalism.

  • IT DOESN’T MATTER WHEN YOU KILL ALL THE CIVILIANS – RESTLESS DREAMS 
    Ed Smith questions the assumptions that underlie how we talk about the link between player and player character, and the idea that a game’s narrative or choices have any bearing on a player’s morality.
  • Lifespan [1983] – Arcade Idea 
    Art Maybury explores art, Art Games, and their intersection in an early, allegorical, not-necessarily-originatory example.
  • On Forced Empathy in the Magic Circle – No Escape 
    Kaile Hultner asks if an unmoral framework for play experience forecloses the possibility of player reflection.
  • Goon Squads — Real Life 
    Vicky Osterweil breaks down how Cyberpunk 2077–and its marketing campaign–are emblematic of a longstanding approach by triple-A publishers to keep critical discourse in a circular, toothless holding pattern while weaponizing reactionary gamer toxicity to enforce an ongoing status quo of larger and larger games unambitious in all respects but profit motive.

“Game developers toss red meat to their army of online Pinkertons and crumbs to the rest of us, knowing full well that the games press, no less obsessed with appearing respectable and serious, will pretend that the crumbs are true progress and artistic achievement. If Cyberpunk 2077 hadn’t been so hilariously broken, it would have been just another blockbuster title playing out the same logic. Game critics would have praised it, wrung their hands about the transphobia, dutifully put it on their game-of-the-year lists, and drowned it in unearned superlatives. Fascist gamers would have flexed their disciplinary power where necessary to keep prices low, story lines conventional, and critics cowed, while reasserting their model of gamer identity as the “real” one.”

Making It

Our next section brings together ideas and critiques on design philosophy, localization, designer’s tools, and the act of creation.

“While these specific mechanics have nothing to do with Sayonara Wild Hearts, the overall design philosophy is similar – specifically, that anything goes, that you can explore as many corners of game design as you can fit within your chosen template and do so fearlessly. There really is a fearless atmosphere in the design itself, unafraid to take sharp left turns in trying different mechanics and giving them the space to breathe before moving on to the next one.”

Realms of Reverie

Next up, we’ve got two examinations of two indie RPGs, each difficult to categorize, each with a lot to say, each with a lot to take away from them in how we relate them to our own messy lives.

“What is a human without dust or air or water? How can we define ourselves without the homes in which we have lived or the food that we have eaten? Tomorrow Won’t Come Without ____ forces us through hallway after hallway, because it knows that those repetitions are the things we are made of. “

Historical Process

Continuing on from a theme we observed a short while ago, these three authors are interested in revealing–and filling in omissions and obfuscations, where necessary–the history behind key moments, works, and authors in games.

Snake was a milestone moment for the mobile gaming industry, and much of what we see today can be linked back to the dawn of the cellular serpent navigating the small, black-and-white screen. It brought smiles, happiness, brain stimulation, and it was just something to do now and then – or better yet fill the time on a drab afternoon bus ride back from school. It also showed us what can be done on a phone, perhaps making us a little bit more demanding for future years to come.”

Only What You Take With You

Our next section this week brings together pieces on social play, queer representation, death, and Dad Games.

“I feel sorry for this poor little Bowser Jr., terrified of his daddy’s anger problem, trying to navigate Bowser’s volatile mood swings, and asking Mario for help. While admittedly it is a problem that children, likely the target audience, would identify with, it’s also tragically one that they should not have to. What a depressing theme for a child’s game.”

Genre Play

Coming from a game studies background myself, I’ve read a lot over the years about the association between games and cinema. Our next two pieces update this framework with new critical interventions, reiterating that the comparison has never been a perfect one.

“like a game, a play is an intricately planned, live, continuous experience, full of hundreds of unseen moving parts. Each show follows the same script, but no two performances are the same. There’s a million spanners that might clog up works.”

Critical Chaser

Good night.

“The neon-future of pan galactic boning is that even the whole species dedicated to lubing up every other type of alien in the galaxy is extremely interested in penetrative sex in the missionary position. There’s no Asari – on – Krogan sadomasochism despite the setting being rife with the implication that that’s what everyone really wants to see anyway.”


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