Welcome back, readers.
April was a relatively quiet month for critical videos, which was frankly relieving after the madness of March. Still, there’s a lot here that I’m pleased to share with you. My boundless thanks, as always, for your many submissions and recommendations.
This Month In Videogame Vlogging highlights the most compelling critical videos about videogames from the previous calendar month.
Designs on Dystopia
To start with this April, two essays on how politics subtly-but-tangibly influence the design of videogames.
The Late Capitalism of No Man’s Sky – laborkyle (19:21)
Laborkyle sees No Man’s Sky’s offering of a lonely exploration of a universe full of endless permutations of collectibles as reflective of the sublation of boredom by technology in late capitalism. (Autocaptions)
Unboxing the hidden politics of SimCity – Polygon (13:21)
Clayton Ashley looks at how games in the SimCity series return to certain assumptions about social modelling, and how these assumptions have demonstrable real-life consequences. (Autocaptions)
Tarot People, Dear Reader
There’s really no other way to put it – the following pair of videos both featured tarot reading as part of their discussion.
Animal Crossing and Climate Change – Red Letter Daze (14:20)
Deanne uses Animal Crossing: New Horizons and a tarot reading as launching points to recognise some of the ongoing and future horrors of climate change in the real world. (No captions)
Gris as a Barnum Statement | Story Without Killing – Micah Edmonds (25:15)
Micah Edmonds chats to Tarot reader Bridie O’Dare about the affective power of vagueness in Gris. (Autocaptions)
Style and Substance
Our next picks were more difficult to classify, deep dives with insightful analyses.
The Style of Bayonetta – eurothug4000 (20:09)
Maria explores how a ‘camp’ aesthetic – following Susan Sontag’s definition – is conjoured from the mix of fashion and historical reference points of character and environment designs in Bayonetta. (Manual captions)
Frictional Games Reviewed: From Overture to Rebirth – Pim is Online (1:59:49)
In chronological order of release, Pim talks through each of Frictional’s games to date – from Penumbra: Overture through to Amnesia: Rebirth – along the way touching on issues like puzzle and narrative design in horror, the importance of soundtracks, and the recurring use of problematically gendered tropes. I like Pim’s consistent comparisons to other media alongside references to other critics and even historical events to illustrate their analysis here. (Manual captions)
This hefty chunk of videos have a lot to say about breaking with expectations, whether that be tropes in game design, the aura of poor reviews, or declarations about who did what first.
Evil Races are Bad Game Design – Bioessentialism & Worldbuilding – Extra Credits (8:17)
Extra Credits argue that denoting ‘evil’ as an individual moral failing is always better game design than as something inherent to (fantasy) race. (Manual captions) [Contains embedded advertising]
Games That Save the Best for Last – Jacob Geller (26:46)
Jacob Geller recounts a few games that break some game design rules by one-upping themselves right at the end. (Manual captions) [Contains embedded advertising]
Ready Player One Was Wrong: Video Games First Easter Eggs – A Critical Hit! (12:14)
A Critical Hit! works backwards from Ready Player One’s plot-involved ascription of the supposed first ever easter egg in videogames to find some more likely candidates of that title. (Autocaptions)
You SHOULD Consider Playing Balan Wonderworld – Review Response – One Controller Port (6:42)
Benjamin Yoder argues that Balan Wonderworld’s inventive costume mechanic makes it more worthwhile to play than some negative reviews have suggested. (Autocaptions)
The New Flesh | Tiny Terrors – Soft & Hollow (6:52)
Soft & Hollow can’t speak highly enough of the melding of aesthetics, obtrusive gameplay and jank in indie horror The New Flesh. (Manual captions)
Lastly for April (though certainly not leastly), a couple of nice vids look at the way game stories can help us change for the better.
UNDERTALE: Determination & Personal Growth – Screen Therapy (33:05)
Courtney Garcia talks through the psychological benefits of meaningful engagement with making pacifist choices in Undertale. (Autocaptions) [extensive Undertale spoilers]
Celeste Might’ve Changed my Life. – Leadhead (17:00)
Leadhead argues that Celeste portrays Madeline’s journey to become her own best friend, before considering what lessons we learn by going through this with her. (Autocaptions)
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