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This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We begin this week with an interview and a commentary, respectively, centred on industry practices and trends.
- The OPUS Games: An Interview with SIGONO | Video Game Choo Choo
Elvie chats with SIGONO co-founder Scott Chen about melancholic, hopeful space games, standing out as Taiwanese sci-fi storytellers, and more.
- Ori And It Gets Results – Punching Robots
Rob is unwilling to quibble over results when the enterprise of making games entails human suffering.
“I’m not willing to concede that traumatising, upsetting and otherwise abusing workers is worth it if you get a decent videogame at the end of the process because there hasn’t been a videogame yet worth all that. There will never be a videogame worth all that, sorry.”
We move on now to a trio of pieces that all invoke design along different axes: mechanical, narrative, and thematic/structural.
- Let’s have a party with Lost Dimension’s traitors! | Pixels For Breakfast
Rowan Carmichael identifies a tendency among RPG players to lean on a favourite party out of a wider cast and looks at a game that encourages you to invest in everybody–even after they’ve been dusted.
- Apex Legends’ Unmissable Queer Love Triangle Is A Triumph | Kotaku
Emily Berry differentiates Apex Legends from its contemporaries in how it centres the queer relationships of its characters in regular play rather than hinting at it through supplementary materials.
- Max Payne shoots to the heart of how video games work | Gamepur
Grace Benfell looks back at the original Max Payne‘s balancing act between straightforward, uncomplicated videogame-ness and its broader strokes of self-scrutiny and metacommentary.
“The game’s inciting violent encounter with the military world turns Max’s life into a video game. The life before his wife’s death is only rendered in hazy photography; it’s only after her murder that Max’s world becomes grey, pixelated hallways. The game explicitly ties military tech with Max’s own video game hell.”
Rising Action, Falling Action
Both of our next featured authors played, by their own assessments, good games. But the context of play leaves an indelible mark on the play itself. In the former case, a culimination, a catharsis; in the latter, a weariness, a resignation.
- Beat Saber | The White Pube
Gabrielle de la Puente describes the catharsis of coming back to Beat Saber, years later, after Long Covid lets up enough to allow her to do so.
- Review: Destiny 2: The Witch Queen – No Escape
Kaile Hultner surveys Destiny 2, with its practice of vaulting off prior incarnations of itself, mountains of plot-critical lore and all, and asks, even at its best, who is this game for anymore?
“We already know that the next expansion is going to be called Lightfall, and the one after that is The Final Shape. This gives us a pretty decent understanding of what’s going to happen, barring any superficial twists. We also know that there will continue to be Destiny 2 well after these expansions, which unfortunately kind of sucks the tension out of the room. Coupled with the apparently new policy of vaulting entire expansions after just three or four years, I’m genuinely of the opinion that it simply doesn’t matter anymore, if it ever did. It’s just a premium content veneer they place over a live service package every year or so at this point. It’ll continue to make them money.”
Huge Tracts of Land
This week we’re splitting the Elden Ring selections up into four sections. First off we have a pair of critical reflections on the outcomes of From’s shift to a larger open-world design.
- Souls as a service | KRITIQAL
Axe Binondo sees Elden Ring‘s increased scope as putting it more in line with the logics of service games that seek not just to invite you to their worlds but keep you there to the exlusion of others.
- Coming to Terms with Elden Ring and Open Worlds | Paste
Rosy Hearts observes that Elden Ring doesn’t really undo any of the more fraught logics of open world design, even as it enacts some of them more gracefully.
“This is one of the goals of corporate videogame development: to not challenge the player’s agency or ideals, but to create a smooth, immersive, computational environment that is seemingly infinite. It is because of this complete awe-striking mass that the ludo-ecosystem obfuscates the code, the labor which created it, and even ourselves as it begins to normalize not playing for the sense of value, but playing for the sake of something empty. Something that does not bring us anything, aside from endless completion, endless tick boxes to check, and a clouded sense of play and work.”
The Painted World
Our next two Elden highlights examine art, religion, and culture in the game world and our own.
- The Boschian Horror of ‘Elden Ring’ | ArtReview
Gareth Martin examines the artistic and religious traditions which influence the painterly vistas of The Lands Between.
- Next to God | Bullet Points Monthly
Yussef Cole unspools Elden Ring‘s critical perspectives on religion by way of its material, embodied, and highly nihilistic cosmology.
“How do we relate and negotiate our place in this Order? How do we deal with a God who is real but does not care? How do we assign meaning, whether to the alluring promise of a bright and welcoming heaven, or to the wide open possibilities of a life of free will, naked and alone, in the cold, beckoning darkness.”
Next, we stop to discuss the social elements at play in From’s asynchronous multiplayer approach.
- Understanding The Surprisingly Hilarious and Thought-Provoking Player Messages in ‘Elden Ring’ | Epilogue Gaming
Flora Eloise unpacks both the sillier and more cryptic player messages she has encountered in The Lands Between.
- Elden Ring’s messages make the game feel like a conversation | Polygon
Cass Marshall situates Elden Ring‘s player messaging system as an important part of what makes an oftentimes grim and intimidating game feel silly and welcoming.
“It certainly feels good to see the Enemy Felled message and pick up new weapons or trinkets. But I truly relish the glowing white runes that signify a message from another player, or the spectral image of a friend from another dimension running ahead in a dungeon or clambering through rocky terrain.”
No Fun this week, only Serious Methodology.
- Rating Elden Ring and the Souls games by their poison swamps | Eurogamer.net
Caelyn Ellis identifies the Peat to Beat amongst FromSoft’s myriad swampy slogs. Sorry.
“In order to complete this arduous, malodorous task, I needed the right tools for the job. To that end, I have devised the SWOMP system to rate a poison swamp from each game.”
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