Welcome back, readers.
I don’t have any major site updates to share this week, but if you aren’t doing so already, give Uppercut a dang follow and maybe check out their Patreon. Reporting often falls slightly outside our scope at Critical Distance, but their coverage of Activision Blizzard’s abusive workplace culture has been essential, and they do it all on a shoestring budget. So yeah.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We open this week with a pair of industry-minded critiques: some theory and some practice (I refuse to call it praxis here godsdammit).
- AGAINST WHOLESOMENESS – DEEP HELL
Matteo Lupetti examines what wholesome games as a discourse erases and leaves out by situating them in a larger framework of meme apolitics, social algorithms, and pol(wh)ite neoliberal society.
- Assuming Control | 4xisblack
Brendan Vance proposes alternative tactics to personal boycotts in light of the Activision-Blizzard revelations.
“I don’t think Boss Guy cares whether he loses you to boredom or to disgust; it’s possible he only cares about the newly-acquired eyeballs who are more likely to pay him than you are, & so frankly I think he’d love for the players who most care about workplace abuses to go off & care about something else. That’s why, if you really want to fuck with him, exodus might not be the answer; maybe instead you can hang around as long as it’s still bearable, trying your best to make it so all the new players hate Boss Guy too!”
The Test of Time
Next we turn to legacies, and games which over time have made lasting impressions–some good, some not-so-good, but all of them influential.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s secret strength has always been Hyrule | NME
Dominic Preston locates the ways in which both space and time inform a world with lasting appeal in Ocarina of Time.
- 1998: Photopia | 50 Years of Text Games
Aaron A. Reed looks in on what has grown to be one of interactive fiction’s keystone works.
- The Simpsons Arcade Game Was Never Good, We Just Liked The Characters | TheGamer
Roxxy Haze is here with a perspective on a canonical classic as contrarian as it is earned.
- Tower Of Druaga  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury positions Tower of Druaga at an influential crossroads between many different genres, trends, platforms, and media.
“it’s the hybridized synthesis of instant-gratification arcade games and longer-lasting computer games, which is the traditional territory of the console game since Adventure . Some would argue it wouldn’t find its proper home until it hit the Famicom. Tower Of Druaga being spiritually a console game in the arcade (and Pac-Land  too) feels indicative of a change in the weather, maybe even a passing of the torch.”
Next up, three pieces on worldbuilding, narrative themes, and storytelling tools.
- Destiny 2: Beyond Light has set up a compelling political allegory | Polygon
Kaile Hultner looks in on some of Destiny 2‘s recent storytelling successes by examining its political landscape and its treatment of xenophobia, refugees, and cults.
- The Dreadful Weight of Feeling Seen in Nier Replicant ver. 1.22 – Uppercut
Trevor Richardson relates Emil’s character arc, transformation, and bodily experience to tensions of queer experience, trans euphoria, and visibility.
- The Uncanny Deck: Co-authoring with GPT-2 – Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling
Emily Short offers some designer reflections on interactive fortune-telling/story-telling via Machine Learning with a hint of unpredictability.
“I wanted to expand the expressive capacity of the system in directions that would be more surprising and less effortful. And I also wanted the project to acknowledge the way that these iconographic systems are never just one person’s invention.”
Three more in-depth and wide-reaching interviews this week.
- Impossible Steam Achievement Has A Great Story | Kotaku
Ash Parrish talks to Johnnemann Nordhagen about the importance of leaving Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, in a sense, uncompletable.
- Genshin Impact Interview: Corina Boettger on Voicing Paimon, TikTok Culture, And Acting With A Disability | TheGamer
Jade King sits down for an interview with the voice of Paimon about the industry, the art, working with disability, and more.
- Behind Linda Guillory’s Huge World Record Gaming Collection | Kotaku
Ash Parrish chats with engineer and collector Linda Guillory about loving what you collect, salvaging and reclaiming old tech, and more.
“I do not lack for strong women in my family to look up to (hey, Ma!). But so often, Black women and women in general are often taught that the strength we need to survive must come at the expense of our humanity and the things that bring us joy. If we must work twice as hard for half the credit, then there is no time for games. Ms. Guillory’s Black womanhood matters because not only did she make time for games, but used her experience with them to forge life and career that’s made her happy—a story she hopes will inspire others.”
There and Back Again
We return now to the topic of legacies, but this time we do so in relation to games with remakes, re-releases, and updates. How do these games make the transition? How do they continue to speak to us in their original form?
- The World Ends With You: What We Lose When We Remake Games | Paste
Grace Benfell describes what survives the transiton–and what doesn’t–when it comes to TWEWY‘s style, storytelling, and uniquely tense dual-screen battle system.
- Nostalgia Remade: The Past and Future Connections of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl – Uppercut
Adanna Nedd relates the childhood nostalgia encapsulated by Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, past and present.
- Games Don’t Need “Director’s Cuts” and Auteurs, They Need Innovation and Accountability | Paste
Jessica Howard situates the recent trend of “Director’s Cut” editions of games as a troubling extension of the already-fraught auteur theory in games.
“Ultimately, a director’s cut only greatens the disparity between the “artist” and the team that is also creating the art. Quite simply, auteurs couldn’t create their works without money, a team, and somebody helping to manage the whole thing, and more often than not it feels like that goes unrecognized. In addition, they fail to recognize how much it would help if they stood aside and lifted up names other than their own at times. They fail to realize that diversity and uplifting in the games industry isn’t done by creating characters and telling stories, but by including and supporting those around you.”
A little poetry to close out the week.
- I Know This Place But I’ve Never Been Here | Videodame
Rachel Tanner: Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town.
“I’ll find a wife within reach and
we’ll get married while
all our neighbors watch, all hoping
that they’re next. Hoping that love
is just formulaic”
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