Welcome back, readers.
Some great writing this week–worth, as always, fending off the ever-encroaching brain fog to read, collate, and present. Hope it helps you start your week off with the ol’ neurons firing away in a. . . good way? (Note to self: don’t write the intro more than eighteen hours out from my last meal)
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Our opening segment this week unpacks colonial ideologies both in and out of games, looking alternately at story worlds, simulations, and the studios that make them.
- Sifu’s Kungfu Brawling Is Made By A Studio Of White Developers | TheGamer
Khee Hoon Chan is nominally talking about one game here, but the subtext here highlights an uncomfortable industry trend at western developer studios.
- Searching for Post-Colonialism in Civilization | Historical Games Network
Nikhil Murthy studies the attempts–unsuccessful as they seem to be–Civilization VI makes to look beyond its own fundamentally colonial framework.
- Far Cry 6’s Vision of Queerness Is Embarrassingly Limited | Fanbyte
Grace Benfell concludes that individual queer representation in Far Cry matters little in the face of how those characters are used to support an overarching US-imperialist worldview.
“Far Cry 6’s imagination of queerness is limited entirely to bigotry and struggle. A better world is far off and only found in the global north.”
Time and memory go a bit funny in this next set of three pieces working through nostalgia, genre, media consumption, and more.
- Dragon Quest  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury ponders genres and legacies in a game situated at a crossroads between them on several levels.
- Sharp Edges: Diablo 2 and Nostalgia | Ludosynth
August Smith chronicles the uncanny contours of going back, in Diablo and elsewhere.
- NO FEAST FOR THE UNDERFED – DEEP HELL
Karin Malady muses on a collapse of knowledge and memory in an increasingly circular media ecosystem.
“There are countless franchises that love to claim there are rewards in exchange for the time sink. It cloyingly promises fulfillment, enlightenment, “fun”, blowjobs, emotion. Every bit of it amounts to ash slipping through your fingers. The Backrooms creepypasta isn’t scary or interesting, but it does get one thing right. This place we’re stuck is about as spiritually nourishing as a rancid highway motel.”
People of Earth
Next up, two authors situate games in larger philosophical and ethical contexts. The Earth thing is just a happy confluence in two pieces both fundamentally concerned with how people treat one another under late capitalism and how they can (or cannot) come together as communities.
- Part Time UFO Reflects the Undocumented Worker Experience – Uppercut
Monti Velez contemplates the precarious, exploitative labour conditions of being a Part Time UFO.
- Stars Die | game curator
Naomi Norbez plays some speculative fiction that asks some big tangled questions about our ability to work together as a species.
“If anything, we have to acknowledge that the eldritch seems optimistic about repairing humanity. But optimism is not enough to change a species that is bent on conflict.”
The linking thread here–sociality–is admittedly a loose one, as both authors have very different critical objectives, but there is commonality as well in how these very different games are framed by social play, whether it be alone on social media, or together with friends.
- The Rot of Candy Crush and The Rest of Wordle | Culture Study
Anne Helen Petersen thinks through distraction, sociality, and control in our relationships with small daily games.
- Apex Legends | The White Pube
Gabrielle de la Puente comes away with new ideas about the flexibility of genre and storytelling after 557 hours with a game you might not expect to cultivate those ideas.
“Apex is designed with enough space, time, freedom, communication and randomness that it is not only possible for the player to generate their own story as they play, but to have that story develop into a different genre every single time they do. Now, the first half of that statement is nothing new — there are plenty of sandbox games that give players enough to be getting on with to create their own fun. It happens in Minecraft but it also happens on playgrounds and in dollhouses too. What I actually care about is the second part of what I said because it is the reason I can’t stop playing.”
For the Love of Jank
While I appreciate that these games have very, very different reputations, both authors have in fact found things to admire and appreciate about their respective object texts here, as we close out the week.
- “Toutius Sextius, do you know him?” – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Super Chart Island
Iain Mew contemplates freedom in a forest of systems.
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy (Game.com) – Bad Game Hall of Fame
Cassidy reviews Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and perhaps more broadly, the outcome of tasking a single development team with producing all the software for a moribund hardware platform.
“When looking at these Game.com cartridges in detail, you begin to get a sense for what Tiger prioritized when it came to their development: Making sure they looked the part for screenshots and commercials, while often allowing gameplay to fall by the wayside in the pursuit of that.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!