Welcome back, readers.
Hey! Connor’s back with a new TMIVGV, and this issue’s positively packed. Check it out!
Elsewhere, the folks over at KRITIQAL recently wrapped an essay jam centred around forgotten games, producing a bunch of cool, offbeat, and interactive works. A few highlights show up in this week’s roundup, and since I haven’t read everything yet, expect to see more here in the next week or two.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Observing a Creamy Moral Centre
A few different themes run through our opening section this week–videogame morality, branching paths, player choices, and observation are the big ones–as our first three selected writers unpack the deeper ideological nuances in popular games.
- How Disco Elysium’s Centrist Path Observes the Player | Unwinnable
Ruth Cassidy reflects on Disco Elysium‘s heightened awareness and commentary on different moral play paths in games.
- Some Thoughts On Some Undertale Articles | The Overflow Chute
NARFNra engages with key texts in Undertale‘s critical discourse to argue for why the game’s genocide run is an important keystone for understanding its larger moral framework.
- Game Studies – Observant Play: Colonial Ideology in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Rachael Hutchinson documents what The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild‘s open world environment can teach an Observant player about the land’s monster inhabitants, their spiritual practices, and their cultures.
“The “monsters” which we have been instructed to attack and kill, by King Rhoam, Prince Sidon and Princess Zelda (not to mention the loading screen), are revealed as civilized beings. This realization brings more self-doubt to the player. Overall, narrative and environment work together to challenge the player’s assumptions, on the positioning of the “hero” vis-à-vis creatures in the gameworld, and the binary system of civilized/uncivilized in which that positioning takes place.”
Next up, we look at player communities and maker communities, respectively, as games and the early Internet bring people together in new ways.
- Made With Love and Sparkles: Purple-Moon.com by aeta | itch.io
Caroline Delbert reminisces about the games-for-girls-focused point-and-click adventure site Purple Moon.
- 2007: El museo de las consciencias; Lieux communs | 50 Years of Text Games
Aaron A. Reed documents a project to bring together different languages and regions of interactive fiction communities in the name of exploring and ultimately critically interrogating the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
“Fear of the unknown has often kept creators working in different languages apart. Fear of not understanding, of looking foolish, of making mistakes, or—worst, for a creator in a fragile bubble—of being ignored. Yet as Melitón noted, perhaps this flavor of fear is one we ought to leave in the previous century.”
Which critical flaws are we willing to overlook in isolation in service to the game’s larger goals? Conversely, which ones are we unable to look past, which ultimately sink the ship? Our next section wrestles with these questions by way of three different authors and three different games.
- Kena: Bridge of Spirits | The White Pube
Gabrielle de la Puente concludes that in the case of Kena, a subpar story sinks an otherwise polished package.
- Deathloop’s big twist is unearned and underbaked | Polygon
Maddy Myers concludes that Deathloop‘s back half trades satisfying answers for cheap twists and frustrating character arcs.
- A sincere attempt at interpreting YIIK: A Postmodern RPG – Indie Hell Zone
Dari finds some critical substance in YIIK which is nonetheless marred by an unenjoyable surface experience and unearned character arcs.
“The problem is that the base story of the game is still bad and the game’s messaging to look beyond the base story is poorly conveyed. And in the end, I think that engaging with the meta narrative actually undermines one of the gane’s messages. And to be honest? I’m mad, but not in the way this game originally made me. I’m frustrated, because I actually see what the game is attempting to do and say, but it feels bungled.”
Moving along, this next segment nominally brings together a pair of detective games, but both authors ultimately peel away the surface trappings to reveal games with different ideological concerns entirely.
- Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury comes away from this famous detective game with the impression of a surprisingly uncurious game ideologically fixated on the immutability of data.
- Nancy Drew: The Final Scene Review | wowgoodname
wowgoodname looks at one of the earlier Her Interactive Nancy Drew games and finds it to be both reflective of and highly thematically critical of the capitalist machine in which it is both set and produced.
“Her interactive did not intentionally make a scathing indictment of our entire social and economic world order, they just made a game set in it, starring a person whose values conform to its popular values, and unfortunately it’s really hard to do that WITHOUT making it come off as a scathing indictment.”
Next up we have three JRPGs unpacked along very different critical axes, looking at narrative structure, queer community, and marketing trends, respectively.
- More important than the leading man – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi breaks down why it’s narratively and thematically important that Final Fantasy XII‘s two principal leads are just. . . kind of unremarkable.
- Exploring Queer Identity in Final Fantasy XIV – Uppercut
Sam Hentschke muses on gender expression and euphoria in Eorzea.
- The Dissonance of Tales of Arise: Why Do We Keep Making Games So Grim and Gritty? | Paste
Waverly considers the turn towards grim and grit in contemporary games, even in formerly brighter franchises like Tales, and asks if all of these bleak games are starting to run together.
“Part of the reason games take the “gritty” direction is because technological advancement in the games market encourages it. Rather than investing in experimental ideas of games, game designers (who are scraping by the edge of their seat or having their game refunded for not being designed around tradition) invest in recreations of reality. But these recreations are not reality, rather, they are apocalypses for the majoritarian games audience to indulge in and then obsess over in reality. Piles of corpses, burning buildings, and trauma-soaked violence give the impression that enough pain somehow validates the medium as art.”
This week we close out with two final pieces; a zine and a poem respectively, both about old, largely forgotten games. Enjoy. Or have weird, timeworn feelings. Both?
- FOLKLORE – FORGOTTEN GAMES by DEEPHELLDOTCOM | itch.io
Skeleton contrasts the real and the unreal in Folklore‘s setting of Doolin, Ireland.
- Game Enjambment: Restoring Order to a World Hooked on Strangeness | Sidequest
Katherine Quevedo, Shining the Holy Ark.
“With names like Desire Village
and the Kingdom of Enrich, this RPG
setting begged for betterment.”
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