March 28th

Welcome back, readers.

First things first, I will once again link this extensive and detailed resource if you would like to find out more about how to support Asian-American communities near you.

That’s it for updates this week! Hope you enjoy this week’s selections.

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

Less as More

Our opening trio of selections this week all to some extent discuss a minimalist approach to design, be it in storytelling, online platforms, or elsewhere. Each in some way pushes back against a tendency towards overdesign, oversaturation, or overexplanation in contemporary games and media.

“There’s an earnestness to PlayOnline that’s missing from the web now. And I guess maybe that’s because it’s missing the “web.” It doesn’t exist here. This is a cyberspace portal that never concerned itself with what was beyond. It had games, email, and chat. What more did you need? No, it was less cyberspace and more cyberplace. This was a haven in a vast agglutination of internet services. And who knows, maybe it could still be.”

Passwords

Our next two selections diverge wildly in their subjects: cultural tensions in gaming and the puzzle-platformer Lode Runner, respectively. But both are united by a careful scrutiny of the language we use–even take for granted–to describe games, play, and the cultures built up around those things.

  • The Idea of the Gamer | Eric Stein 
    Eric Stein, in participation with No Escape‘s reading club, begins unpacking the opening movements of Amanda Phillips’ Gamer Trouble.
  • Lode Runner [1983] – Arcade Idea 
    Art Maybury unpacks some of the most commonplace language we use to describe games and gameplay experiences to arrive at a more meaningful description for what it feels like to actually sit down and play some Lode Runner.

“Fun can not be produced as a sure thing at industrial quantities, a state of sheer joy can not be maintained for hours on end, much as an industry would like us to believe they can sell us that. Lode Runner [1983] has one hundred and fifty levels.”

Environmental Angles

These next two authors each situate their respective subject games–one pretty old, one as-new-as-it-gets–in the context of material-world tensions of climate change and environmental exploitation.

“The tropical island setting, the happy inhabitants, the holiday destination feel. How could I not think of Mauritius? I return to my very own Delfino Island of a home country every other year – apart from last year for the obvious reasons. And this is where it gets spooky. It may be a stretch to say that a decades old Mario game predicted exactly what happened in Mauritius last year, but the more I look into it…?”

Design Antecedents

Next up we’ve two fresh perspectives on design, looking at tabletop inspirations and the localization process, respectively.

“So, as a second-generation son from a bilingual family, I wanted Emilio to speak Spanish to a certain extent as well, but he’s a little more hesitant with his code-switching. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s when you switch between two or more languages during a conversation with others who are familiar with the same language. Bilingual friends and family will often do this. I do this a lot, and wanted to explore this with our cast to a player-accessible level. I wanted there to be meaning in Emilio’s code-switching.”

Fail States

Each of our next three featured authors seeks to examine some kind of critical fault or flaw in their subject game or series. These flaws span failures of design, narrative, theming, or understanding how to make characters and relationships work.

The Medium seems to understand that what we experience can make us monstrous, but not how we can put in the work to overcome that darkness within ourselves and others. Our parents and our pasts may make us who we are to some degree, but we are not slaves to them. Our trauma, our pain, doesn’t have to be our curse.”

Play in Perspective

Play in quarantine is a common theme in these next two pieces, but that description is too reductive, too simplistic. In both cases, the play experience reveals something to the authors about their lives on the other side of the screen.

“I used to be fiercely opposed to marriage and family. In Story of Seasons, I discovered a longing, I never knew I had. After many “lost years”, of suppressing and denying my lesbian self, and a range of grim to traumatic experiences dating men, this lockdown feels especially hard. My virtual wife, and queer life, in Mineral Town, provides a way to live the future, I long for.”

Critical Chaser

We close out this issue with a letter addressed to one two of Bloodborne‘s central characters.

One of you lost your way and gave your humanity up for power. A corpse protecting another corpse to the undeath.

The other? Well, you had no shot at humanity in the first place. An object first and foremost, a servant second.


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