Welcome again, readers.
On this edge of the world we’re entering the last warm days before torpor. My houseplant collection seems to be growing at an alarming rate, beyond my input or intention. Also, there were many fine video essays to watch in February – thank you to the many recommenders.
Around the site, there’s a new ep of Keywords in Play! Also – the List Jam roundup is live! It’s a beautiful thing to behold.
This Month in Videogame Vlogging is a roundup of the best vods about videogames from the previous calendar month.
The Fluid Zone
These essayists each considered the way identities are variously performed and constructed, for better or worse, in videogame communities.
What is a “ReAL GaMeR”? | How this Social Construct Marginalizes Women & Minorities – Asmara (39:44)
Asmara looks at how and why the “gamer” identity label has come to be associated with particular (antisocial, exclusionary, sexist, racist) attitudes, and particularly with young white cis-het men, rather than simply describing someone who enjoys playing videogames. (Manual captions)
Identity, Gender, and VRChat (Why is everyone in VR an anime girl?) – Straszfilms (59:07)
Strasz looks at how VRChat may provide a meaningful space for some users to play with gendered aspects of identity. (Autocaptions)
Your Favorite Game is Irrelevant – Heavy Eyed (15:17)
Mitch Cramer discusses how partisan fandoms in gaming obscure the broader market realities, labour conditions and environmental impacts of the industry at large. (Autocaptions)
The extent to which elements of particular videogames seem true to life thematically ties this trio of thoughtful video essays.
Playing with Death: The Long Dark and Pathologic 2 – Pixel a Day (20:59)
Kat demonstrates how the drawn out inevitability of player-character death in both The Long Dark and Pathologic 2 can bring the player to consider the meaning and impact of death beyond its mechanical in-game role. (Manual captions)
A Thousand Ways of Seeing a Forest – Jacob Geller (30:29)
Jacob Geller takes the depiction of forests across various videogames such as Ico and the Zelda series, to think about the inevitably fickle and personal nature of (all kinds of) translation. (Manual captions) [Contains embedded advertising]
Death Stranding, The Stand, and Liberal “Unity” – Huntress X Thompson (32:02)
With typically persuasive attention to detail, Huntress X Thomspon argues that, despite predicting many of the specific real scenarios that played out after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Death Stranding fails to adequately grasp the structural issues that cause them. (Autocaptions)
“In Death Stranding, America cannot fail its citizens – it can only be failed by them.”
After over a year of this column (ignoring? missing? discounting?) avoiding nearly all phone games discourse, here are two pieces that are about phones and games.
The Games of the Nokia 225 4G – Folks, It’s Video Games – Joe Bush (27:52)
Joe Bush breezes through the eleven games of “feature phone” Nokia 225 4G to try and understand what purpose they serve as part of the throwback hardware package. (Autocaptions)
how dating apps keep you single – Sabrina & Friends (14:58)
Sabrina goes to the trouble of making a dating simulator to try and demonstrate the choice overload principle, aka why dating apps often feel so oppressive and unhelpful. (Manual captions) [Contains embedded advertising]
Good Good Great
Finally, we finish February with a suite of paeans singing the praises of various games and genres, all trying to understand, at the bottom of everything: what makes it good?
Eyes On Me — Gaming’s Greatest Love Song – Game Score Fanfare (11:19)
Matthew Dyason tracks the use of original pop song and leitmotif “Eyes On Me” in Final Fantasy VIII, and how its intricate weave of both diegetic and non-diegetic encounters expands the player’s understanding of narrative and game world. (Manual captions)
Bad Bosses, Beautiful Vistas, and Baffling Mysteries: Blips Episode 8 – Errant Signal (25:25)
Chris Franklin’s Blips series presents a handful of short recommendations on interesting games that have launched somewhat under the broader hype radar. (Autocaptions)
Why 2D Souls-Likes are So Great – MidnightCowboi (32:14)
Midnight Cowboi looks at how 2D “soulslikes” Hollow Knight, Hyper Light Drifter, and Lucah, have each innovated on elements of Dark Souls’ game design and narrative integration. (Autocaptions) [Warning for flashing lights]
Why Fatal Frame III: The Tormented is Secretly Genius – Ragnarox (47:24)
Ragnarox looks at how the third entry in the Fatal Frame series smartly builds on elements of gameplay and narrative from its predecessors. (Manual captions) [Contains embedded advertising]
Sonic, the Most Sincere Hedgehog in the World – siegarettes (8:42)
Amr Al-Aaser finds something redemptive in Sonic’s seemingly endless refusal to deploy reflexive irony. (Autocaptions)
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!