Welcome back, readers.
You’ll never believe what happened to me today, reader, for this issue to be going out so late in the evening. Well. . . actually, you would believe it. It’s all entirely believable, and not entirely interesting. Long story short, I broke my computer, fixed it (shoutout to my brother for help on that front), broke it again, fixed it again, and now we’re here!
While I’ve got you, now feels like a good time to mention that our annual This-Year-In-Videogame-Blogging submissions are now open! If we missed something over the past year (and I definitely do miss stuff, having four other jobs and a Ph.D thesis that I’m. . . working on) or if you just want to remind us how rad something you wrote or read was, let us know!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Working the Workers
This week we’ve got a lot of pieces that reflect on the industry in some capacity! To that end, I’ve decided to split them into two sections. This first bloc has more of a focus on workers, creators, failures of both ethics and imagination, and a call to envision better for the future.
- The Battle for Bungie’s Soul: Inside the Studio’s Struggle for a Better Work Culture | IGN
Rebekah Valentine profiles a studio which in recent years has outwardly projected inclusion and diversity but which inwardly has suffered for years from a culture of crunch, bigotry, and abuse.
- Why The Walking Dead: The Final Season encapsulates the tragic fate of Telltale Games – The Blogger On The Inside
Evan Jones unpacks how Telltale’s final game allegorizes their own collapse.
- White Protagonism and Imperial Pleasures in Game Design #DIGRA21 | meghna jayanth
Meghna Jayanth outlines the features of the colonialist-capitalist videogame–the default videogame in dominant western culture–and its protagonist, and challenges the audience to imagine more.
“I think of the role of the artist, of the opportunity of the artist, as to be able to say to the audience, hey, this dark dream you’ve been sold? It’s not the only dream in town, and here, dream a better one with me. Dream a hundred different ones. There is an alternative. Let’s imagine our way out of this reality together.”
Playing the Players
Continuing the two-parter, this next section focuses more on consumers, brand loyalty, and marketing.
- Are Video Games an Ethical Pastime? Activision, etc. | Gold Machine
Drew Cook urges against losing one’s valuation of personal ethics in the face of broader unethical systems.
- Fun, Games, and Extractivism | The Baffler
Dolly Church studies the ideological obfuscations and omissions at play when the extraction industry turns to games to promote their enterprises.
- Passion Play — Real Life
Josh Tucker looks at how big brands–Nintendo among them–have transmuted promotion into product and their fans into a radicalized faithful, all in perpertual pursuit of profit.
“The density of brand universes and their intricate interrelations with other franchises correlates to an emotional intensity of fan investment that can’t find sufficient outlet through simply consuming the products. On their About page charter, independent news site Nintendo Wire declares, “We want you, fellow gamers and our readers, to always know that gaming isn’t just a hobby in our eyes — it’s a way of living.” What more could a marketing department ask for?”
Continuing the theme, this next section also examines play, this time in shared contexts at two levels of scale–between loved ones and on streaming platforms.
- Playing videogames carefully | Eurogamer.net
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell thinks through performance, the value of shared play, and mortality (this article deals extensively with terminal illness).
- How trans women are finding safe spaces on Twitch and YouTube | Input
Jessica Lucas talks to a number of trans VTubers about the affordances–and complications–of using virtual avatars to stream.
“The VTubing space offers more than acceptance: It’s a world where trans women can transition instantaneously.”
Next, we’re bringing together four authors situating their games-of-topic in their wider critical contexts, unpacking ideologies of design, play, and reflection.
- Umurangi Generation, Spoiled (Part 3) – No Escape
Kaile Hultner warns against taking Umurangi Generation‘s doomer narrative and extrapolating a doomer message for our own agency and activism.
- Authoritarianism (In Frostpunk) Is Not Inevitable | Unwinnable
Ruth Cassidy reflects on how the brutal, difficult Frostpunk tells you all along that there is another way.
- We’re Being Toyed With | Into The Spine
Emma Kostopolus unpacks the implications of puzzle design in survival horror.
- OutRun  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury presents the eternal life and fast times of Dude and Babe.
“BABE: So what are we OutRunning  anyway?
DUDE: Death, baby.“
Now, let’s look back, be it one year or ten, as two authors examine what has changed, what cannot change, and what should change in our critical understanding of tentpole titles from yesteryear.
- One Year On, Cyberpunk 2077’s Biggest Issues Can’t Be Patched Out | TheGamer
Stacey Henley argues that, a year later, Cyberpunk‘s most enduring faults aren’t merely technical but fundamental to its design and creative vision.
- 10 years ago, ‘Uncharted 3’ stole its best idea from ancient Islamic myth | Inverse
Saniya Ahmed sets the record straight on the histories and mythologies behind Uncharted 3‘s uncredited setting.
“By connecting a real-life excavation with the vague and subtly overlapping scenarios presented in the Quran and Quran-inspired stories from One Thousand and One Nights, Uncharted 3 conjures up a perfect storyline for Nathan Drake. However, on the game’s 10th anniversary, the developers once again cited Lawrence of Arabia as their sole inspiration.”
Continuing a focus on the past, let’s now turn our attention to a very specific point in time and genre–RPGs in the early 2000s–as our three selected authors look at back at what these games mean today.
- No war crimes in chat | KRITIQAL
Axe Binondo, two decades and uncountable MMORPGs later, looks back at what the Dot Hack games have to say about the genre and about us through their eerie offline simulation of an online world.
- Was Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku 2 actually good? | Vidyasaur
Vidyasaur looks back at a Goku game that gets by largely without Goku.
- Der Wille zur Macht – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi looks beyond the Xeno metaseries’ reputation for heady religious and philosophical theming and strives to allow the first entry in the Xenosaga series to speak for itself.
“Sometimes fictional works include a religious reference because they’re trying to pass comment on the spiritual state of humanity and our need to find purpose within a vast and seemingly indifferent cosmos, and sometimes they do it because religion can be Mary Magdalene’s skull encased in a solid gold helmet with a glass viewing window and there’s nothing more to these echoes than copying a cool look. Xenosaga’s a bit of both, and that’s fine.”
- Cruis’n Blast Is Secretly The Best Switch Game Of The Year | TheGamer
Jade King is right.
“Freedom alleviates the frustration, or there’s never any to be found because games like Burnout and Blur understand that racing can and should be for everyone, regardless of skill level or familiarity with a genre that can far too happily leave newcomers behind. Cruis’n Blast is the perfect combination of these two factors, offering a simplistic racer with so much personality, so much variety, and so much unexpected brilliance that I can help but grin every time I find myself on the starting line.”
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