Welcome back, readers.
I’ve got a couple of updates from around the site before we get going this week. First, there’s a new Keywords in Play! This episode’s guest is April Tyack, and the topic is the research around different kinds of player experience, and especially the ideas around ordinary player experience. Check it out!
Additionally, I’d like to pass along this Call for Papers for an upcoming publication on Local Digital Game Production, in which our own Emilie Reed is involved as a co-editor/organizer. If you think your research intersects with this topic, please do check out the CFP for more details–the submission deadline for abstracts is March 1st.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Text and Context
Our opening section this week tackles appropriation, colonialism, and Orientalism in the industry–topical this week on account of the recent relase of Sifu, but always a topic warranting critical attention.
- Sifu’s Brawler Is A Soulless Caricature | TheGamer
Khee Hoon Chan reflects on Sifu, a wider industry and press that remain locked in a holding pattern on how to talk about appropriation, and the extent to which we overvalue mechanical soundness at the expense of other contexts.
- Critical Role’s Third Campaign Can’t Hide Its Colonialist Roots | Kotaku
Jenna Yow explains why Critical Role, no matter how respectfully well-intentioned, cannot consult their way out of Orientalism.
“Even though they hired consultants to help build the world of Marquet, the consultants aren’t the people through whose eyes we’re seeing that world. We will only ever experience Marquet through the lens of the Critical Role cast members, who have already positioned themselves as outsiders. As Orientalism has proved, the reality of who made a culture has less control over how it’s portrayed than the ones who hold the power. Consultants may have helped shape the world, but they will not be the ones to guide us through it.”
A ‘Pocalypse on all Our Indies!
Indiepocalypse–the ever-shifting assertion that there are simply too many games and/or that people should just stop making them–is trending again this week, which is bad, but the articles it has produced in response this week are good.
- The Anarchy of Play – No Escape
Kaile Hultner responds to the latest flare-up in indiepocalypse discourse with an anarchist’s perspective on why we need the imagination of diverse designers for the past, present, and future.
- ¿It Takes Two si merece ser considerado el GOTY o mejor juego de 2021? | GamerFocus
Julián Ramírez explores the industry culture around awards nominations and wins, and why it’s important that a game outside the AAA won the top award at the most recent Game Awards (Spanish-language article).
- There Aren’t Too Many Indie Games, Actually | TheGamer
Khee Hoon Chan talks to indie developers about discovery, sustainability, and making space for art and experimentation.
“The games industry is perhaps due for a shift of perspective, and for us to reconsider indie games as the antithesis of triple-A games, rather than just the conditions under which they’re made: games that break conventions, games that are deeply experimental and weird, games that look like they have been put together under a week instead of years, and games that simply don’t fit the strict confines of what constitutes a video game. In that sense, it’s easier to see that we still don’t have enough indie games, because there are so much more that can be realised.”
Stay Awhile and Listen!
There have been some really good interview-focused pieces lately, with topics ranging from labour conditions, climate sustainability, MUDS, and more. Here were five standouts that I came across in my travels this week.
- Jim Sterling: From YouTube Games Edgelord To Wrestling Princess | Kotaku
Isaiah Colbert chats with James Stephanie Sterling about their arc as a person, as a critic, and as an entertainer.
- Inside Team17, following the Worms NFT firestorm | Eurogamer.net
Tom Phillips talks to Team17 employees about poor working conditions in the wake of the management’s recent attempt at an NFT push.
- How the video game industry is reducing its impact on climate change | Polygon
De’Angello Epps talks to climate researchers, industry analysts, and executives about what the games industry (and wider tech sector) can and should be doing to transition to sustainable energy practices and reduce their carbon footprint (Curator’s note: one of the primary interviewees, Ben Abraham, is the founder of Critical Distance and a current member of its advisory board).
- A Fondness For Low Poly Graphics Formed A Beloved Community | Fanbyte
Jay Castello looks in on the community and culture around low-detail assets in otherwise high-production games.
- The Story of Arkadia, the Witcher Game You’ve Never Heard Of | Fanbyte
Jack Yarwood chats with the developers behind a Polish-language Witcher MUD going strong for the last 25 years. I thought this was cool as heck.
“Arkadia may not have been an official adaptation, and it may not be as widely celebrated or as well known as the recent Netflix series or CD Projekt Red’s games, but it was and continues to be beloved by those who played it. It paved the way for later adaptations of Sapkowski’s world and is still a unique experience for Witcher fans, letting players step out of Geralt’s now-familiar shoes and become rebels, peasants, and wizards instead — provided they can read the original language of the series.”
The list is a critically under-appreciated genre, I think. Here were three, on a range of important and relatable topics, for your more concise reading pleasure.
- 10 Black Women in Gaming You Need to Know | Gayming Magazine
Latonya Pennington offers a brief introduction to 10 really cool developers, designers, critics, organizers, and more.
- These Chill Apple Arcade Puzzle Games Shut My Brain Up | Sidequest
Madison Butler presents a brief rundown of noteworthy games on the Apple Arcade platform, which remains a critically neglected site overall.
- 6 Video Games to Play During a Chronic Illness Flare | Sidequest
Zainabb Hull discusses the criteria for and types of games that help get them through it.
“For me, a good flare game needs to be calm, with easy controls that won’t put a lot of pressure on my hands, where my pain’s often pretty bad. That also means I need to be able to play the game with a controller, although many of the games on this list can also be played with a keyboard and mouse, and a few are available on mobile. Outside of controls, a good flare game lets me feel like I’m actively engaging in some way, whether by solving puzzles or completing quests, but at a low level of difficulty so I can comfortably play with brain fog.”
With apologies to Art that genre is so often the critical thread I pull out of their writing, when naturally there is a lot more at stake in both of these pieces.
- HUTSPIEL  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury exposes the attitudes and ideologies revealed in the machinic determinism of Iron-Curtain era computerized wargame HUTSPIEL.
- Grow Up: Unlikable Characters in Jenny LeClue: Detectivú – Sidequest
Melissa Brinks meditates on the metatextual genre-reflection at play in Jenny LeClue‘s character-writing.
“Jenny LeClue: Detectivú is not only a middle grade game because of its young protagonist, its bildungsroman structure, and its themes; it’s also a game about children’s fiction. It’s explicitly about what young people can handle, a question we grapple with every day as today’s youth experience climate change, violent insurrections, a pandemic, threats of fascism, and all the regular teen and tween concerns on top of that.”
A fairly heavy story this week, but a very worthwhile one, too.
- It’s Not Over Until You Leave His Animal Crossing Island | Longleaf Review
Kimberly Rooney 高小荣 tells a story about a bad relationship, pandemic life, and virtual grief (content notifications here for abuse and transphobia).
“I didn’t mean to stay for this long. I might have left the island like my ex did, by omission, if there hadn’t been an update. Stepping foot on the island once more, I found it overgrown with weeds and my house overrun with roaches. As it turned out, much of the update didn’t affect me since I was not the resident representative: the first player to arrive on the island. Still, islanders could now invite me into their house and even enter mine. I could stretch with them in the town square with light, although surprisingly involved, calisthenics. I could still see smoke rising from the chimney of my ex’s house, although I knew if I went inside, it would be empty.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!