Welcome back, readers.
At the time of this issue’s publication, you have a few hours (about 8?) left to pick up the Queer Games Bundle over on Itch if you’ve been meaning to but haven’t yet!
Around the site, Connor’s back with the latest issue of our video roundup, so check that out if you haven’t already!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Pride Before Wrath
I quite liked the series Eurogamer ran this past week on queer games and gaming–bringing together tabletop, live play, as well as digital topics–so they’re all here this week headlining our latest roundup.
- Pride Week: Queer play is everywhere | Eurogamer.net
Jay Castello recounts how communities of play reliably fill up the margins that popular games leave open with queer characters and continuities, in Blaseball and beyond.
- Pride Week: Dicebreaker recommends Monsterhearts 2 – an RPG about being queer and loving demons | Eurogamer.net
Alex Meehan takes a look at a Powered by the Apocalypse-powered TTRPG that centres messy queer characters and keeps their lives interesting.
- Pride Week: Finding Queerness in Larp | Eurogamer.net
Evan Torner chronicles the long, queer history of live-action roleplay.
- Pride Week: Hunky Dads & Voxel Flags – Video Games and Our Queer Future | Eurogamer.net
Sharang Biswas identifies a real need amd value for hopeful queer escapisms and utopias alongside stories that capture queer adversity and struggle, in games and in all media.
- Pride Week: Twine Games and the Trans People Who Love Them | Eurogamer.net
Eli Cugini surveys the state of trans-authored Twine games, and the kindness and connections they foster.
- Pride Week: A Summer’s End – Hong Kong 1986 is a tale of lesbian romance and coming out | Eurogamer.net
Lottie Lynn reflects on A Summer’s End search for the authentic self, and chats with the game’s developers about the vital need for Asian LGBTQIA+ representation.
- Pride Week: Disidentification and Lady Dimitrescu – Taking Pride in Queer Thirst | Eurogamer.net
Dr Lloyd (Meadhbh) Houston offers a disidentifying read of Resident Evil Village, contextualizing the queer desire that has catalyzed online around Lady D.
“The seductive fascination vampires such as Carmilla, the Deneuve-Bowie-Sarandon sex hydra, and our very own Lady Dimitrescu exert on audiences and protagonists alike is a key component of their disidentificatory potential. It tempts us, against the normative flow of the narrative, to envisage forms of desire and pleasure divorced from the logic of reproductive heterosexuality. It calls us to join a community defined by strong aesthetic choices, a propensity towards polyamory, and a vexed relationship with the dominant culture. It invites us, in short, to be more than a little queer. And isn’t that what Pride’s all about?”
Our next two sections are all close reads of individual games, and I could have arranged these a few different ways. What I’ve settled on here is putting these first three together for their emphasis on intuitive and relational connections to the material world, with particular focus on sensation, pattern relation, and meats.
- I Am So Excited for Shredders | In The Lobby
Cole Henry recounts the spatial and sensory pleasures of snowboarding games in general and the upcoming Shredders in particular.
- Mini Motorways Is Helping Me Get Through The Year – Uppercut
Monti Velez untangles traffic–and life–with a soothing mobile puzzler.
- I’M THINKIN ARBY’S – DEEP HELL
Skeleton relates the visceral simulacrum of killing in Cruelty Squad to the simulated viscera for grilling in American fast food.
“Cruelty Squad doesn’t care about the human body, and neither does the person who decided I should be able to buy Monster™ Brand Energy Drink and partake in “a spicy Greek.” In its own way, the locus of punishment from Cruelty Squad has a specific and hideous analogue in the real world. It is no less neon-coated here then it is there.”
Next up, a trio of extended analytical reads unpacking each game’s critical themes. Yes, that includes King’s Quest. Good stuff here!
- King’s Quest  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury visits the kingdom of Daventry, and gameworlds begin to complement their simulations with texture, inhabitants, and (idiosyncratic) ideology.
- Umurangi Generation, Spoiled (Part 2) – No Escape
Kaile Hultner, continuing from last week, peers into the unseen corners of Umurangi Generation, teasing out the hidden depths of its world, its inhabitants, and its culture.
- Killing Our Gods: Keeper of the Flame—On Dark Souls, Losing Faith, and Divine Empire – Uppercut
Grace Benfell makes the undead pilgrimage and studies the ecclesi-classtical power structures of Dark Souls and its Fire Keepers.
“There are two kinds of faith in Dark Souls. The literal stat and the abilities it grants you of course. There is also the faith in Fire. There is the belief that by linking the flame, you will free the undead, you will make things right. By the end of Dark Souls 3, this is impossible to believe. The embers of the flame resurrect the souls of the dead to die again and again. The hollow eyes of the Fire Keepers stare at their successors. However, the warmth of Firelink Shrine remains. The faith of the Fire Keeper pledges you to relink the flame. Ann’s faith pushes her on through fights with the Gods.”
Art-themed indie Chicory is picking up a lot of critical traction, so here are two more of my favourite recent pieces!
- In Chicory, you fight the embodiment of self-destructive thoughts | Polygon
Autumn Wright weaves through Chicory‘s allegorized and not-so-allegorized meditations on mental-illness, panic attacks, and self-doubt.
- Chicory and the Work of Art – Indie Hell Zone
Leaf articulates how art and doubt go hand-in-hand–in Chicory as in all things.
“You need to be able to make something to tell me I can make something, because otherwise, what do you know? You can’t make things, either. Come back when you’ve made something yourself. Except, don’t, because then you don’t know what it’s like to not be able to make things.”
Yesterday and Tomorrow
All three of our next featured pieces this week spin along industry axes of one form or another, looking at past failings and injustices and looking as well to the future.
- Necrobarista, money, and the miserable business of artistic games | screenhub
Jini Maxwell profiles the precarious, contract-dependant development of Necrobarista, talks to contributors to the project who have yet to be paid for their work in full, and analyzes the real harms possible when indie studios don’t go in with the business acumen to match their creative ambitions.
- What I Learned From Near, an Emulation Legend and Real Person | VICE
Patrick Klepek recounts his personal history with one of emulation’s most remarkably gifted programmers (content notifications for suicide and online harrassment, and I think I should specify out loud here that the article’s subject, Near, recently passed as a consequence of said online harrassment).
- Hello Kotaku, It’s Me, Your New EIC | Kotaku
Patricia Hernandez reflects on the state of games media publishing, asking what function it serves, who it’s for, and what it could look like in the future.
“At some point, having to explain power dynamics over and over again is not a question of informing the readership. It is a tacit acknowledgement that our audience likely has a specific background. And consequently, that reality means that even as we cover more mainstream subjects or marginalized identities, the writing is not truly for that wider audience. This haunts me. The presumed reader looks or sounds nothing like me, and yet here I am, leading a video game site.”
Moving along, we’ve got a genre-specific segment here, this time focused on RPGs along historical, conventional, and formal axes, as well as disruptions therein.
- Everything We Know About 1970s Mainframe RPGs We Can No Longer Play | The CRPG Addict:
Chester Bolingbroke gathers together just about everything known about an array of some of the earliest computer-based role-playing games, from a weird time when computers were byzantine humming behemoths and largely the property of university campuses.
- Wildermyth Rethinks the Stories We Tell in RPGs | Paste
Waverly contemplates the steps Wildermyth takes away from the structural privileging of player characters and power fantasies enshrined by the RPG genre.
“There is no main character, but a group of characters that the player is managing over the course of the campaign. Some leave to go chase their dreams, some die and others disappear by the most unruly means. All that to say that there is nothing sacred in Wildermyth; the game doesn’t prioritize the characters but the story which their actions tell, a story passed down for generations.”
I need two this week, so here’s two!
- PRIDE 2021: The Definitive List of Queer Video Game Characters – 2021 Edition — startmenu
Oma Keeling definitively provides the definitive list of all the definitive queer characters in videogames.
- Sephiroth Would Definitely Be a Better Husband Than Cloud | TheGamer
Roxxy Haze… [placeholder summary]… actually know what, go read the dang article.
“I mean, he did burn Nibelheim to the ground, killing its residents (including Tifa’s father), attempted to kill Tifa, tried to get Cloud to kill Aerith only to then kill her himself, killed Cloud’s mother, haunted and tormented Cloud – the list goes on. But, Sephiroth was not always evil and his descent into madness was caused by outside influences, namely finding out he’s not really a human. Even though this may sound strange, I believe that Sephiroth would be a better husband than Cloud.”
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