Welcome back, readers.
I haven’t got much in the way of updates today, but before we get into the swing of things this week, let me take a moment to re-plug our annual year-in-review. There’s lots of great work in here, so give it a browse 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.
Adventures in Genre
We’re bookending this issue with Zelda–you’ll see later–but this section more broadly explores and interrogates genre, key works of genre, and how our understanding of genre is complicated by our experiences with said key works.
- The Legend Of Zelda  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury identifies the original Hyrule Fantasy as another nexus point of genre and form, putting the action very firmly in action-adventure while keeping deliberately rough around the edges.
- Why I Don’t Like Metroidvanias | Epilogue Gaming
Flora Eloise marks the Metroidvania as a genre she wants to love, rather than one she actually does.
“There are so many games that I’ve purchased and played that, on paper, I felt like I should love. Metroidvanias happen to populate the largest percentage of false positives that fall into this category.”
Our next two selections this week centre developer perspectives on striving for and achieving better in readability and representation, respectively.
- How to remove the frustration of reading in games | Game Developer
Jack Yarwood talks to three different studios about how they made their in-game text more intuitive, navigable, and enjoyable to peruse.
- Black Hair in Video Games Is Terrible. These 3D Artists Are Changing That | VICE
Trone Dowd looks at the artists and efforts involved in building the tools for better Black hair representation and expression in games.
“By recruiting all Black artists and making the database free, Darke plans to create an anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and feminist approach to the portrayal of Black hair as well as a sense of unified ownership and investment in how the hairstyles are used.”
Nier to One Another
Two meditations this week on Nier, frendship, family, and fate.
- The Replicants and their Friends Between Apocalypses – Uppercut
Trevor Richardson studies the non-normative, found families of the Nier series and their resonance with queer players.
- D(E)fiant Love | Unwinnable
Melissa King reflects on how the Nier series’ themes of rejecting fate for friendship come full circle in Replicant ver.1.22~ ‘s expanded ending.
“Replicant’s Ending E ties all of Replicant and Automata’s defiant love together to show the importance of the people you care about when you’re up against a system you can’t control.”
Speak Your Mind
Next up, critical discussions of mentality both in and out of game worlds.
- I’m addicted to a game | The White Pube
Gabrielle de la Puente muses on addiction’s peculiar status in gaming, and the life that happens around it.
- Game Studies – “The hardest battles are fought in the mind”: Representations of Mental Illness in Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Jodie Austin offers a richly critical analysis not just of the structural challenges of thoughtfully and sensitively representing mental illness in games, but of articulating those challenges in academic game studies.
“Although I maintain that Hellblade is a sophisticated representation of a character experiencing a form of one what might call psychosis (Arciniegas, 2015), I also argue that challenges remain in representing specific mental disorders in videogames — a medium that, by definition, actively subverts distinctions between reality, fiction and personal agency.”
We move now to a pair of spatial meditations, looking alternately at the familiar and mysterious.
- The many meanings of home in video games | Eurogamer.net
Malindy Hetfeld dwells on comfort and capitalism, virtually and materially, in domestic spaces.
- The Soul of Place: My Favorite Dark Souls Sites – No Escape
Ario Barzan tarries awhile and puts language to the places in Lordran that test the limits of language.
“But how to describe, really, the way a stretch of wall recedes? the height of an archway? the situating of some windows relative to the floor? We could measure each of these things, perhaps saying this and that about proportionality and the human body as a metric; but even then we would, I think, find ourselves at a loss for what the total composition stirs in us.”
Now, two pieces exploring how characters are written and conveyed to the player, and how they resonate with their games’ wider thematic structures.
- Red Dead Redemption 2’s In-Game Journal is an Underrated Mechanic | Sidequest
Melissa Brinks ponders the implications of putting much of your character development into what’s often treated as the supplementary content.
- How the Dragon Age series queers faith through Leliana | Gayming Magazine
Sara Khan studies how queerness of faith in Dragon Age is expressed not just in terms of identity, but structurally, thematically, and temporally.
“Leliana is so compelling to me not only because the very fact of being a queer person of faith is an underrepresented experience, but because it’s characterised by Dragon Age in a refreshingly sensitive, nuanced, and compassionate way. It doesn’t fall into tired tropes that represent faith as inherently queerphobic, it doesn’t depict Leliana rejected by a faith community or a religious family, and it even conveys her finding and navigating faith rather than losing it. These aspects of her are not in opposition, but irrevocably connected; it’s complicated, certainly, but faith offers genuine meaning and empowerment to Leliana.”
- A Special Little Guy Running Around: Collecting Compliments in Ocarina of Time | The Chatner
Daniel Lavery remarks upon the peculiar amount of non-threatening pull possessed by one Hero of Time.
“Almost every woman you exchange more than four words with eventually admits she’s got a massive crush on you but her devotion to her duty means you can never truly be together, which only makes you more handsomely intriguing, and then gives you a beautiful jewel (the Zora’s Sapphire, the Silver Gauntlets, the Forest Medallion, a spirited mare) to remember her by. It’s the Pretty Pretty Princess game for non-threatening boys. “Everyone wants to date me! But they can’t! Everyone is pining for me at a safe distance and offering expensive in-kind donations!””
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!