Welcome back readers.
No major news from around the site today, though I have realized it may be a good idea to occasionally bump our own Patreon up top here, as opposed to just quietly linking it at the bottom every week. Every little bit helps, you know?
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Bringing Down the Walls
We don’t reblog a ton of academic game studies material, partly owing to a problem many authors in this issue point out: it’s paywalled, or otherwise inaccessible. Right now, however, the doors are open, and the whole issue is worth a read. This is just a taste; I’ll be coming back to this in subsequent weeks.
- The future of media studies is game studies | Critical Studies in Media Communication, Volume 39, Issue 3 (2022)
Shira Chess and Mia Consolvo observe an increasingly interdisciplinary relevance of games to media studies in a broader landscape of corporate convergence and political practice.
- Too close, too intimate, and too vulnerable: close reading methodology and the future of feminist game studies | Critical Studies in Media Communication, Volume 39, Issue 3 (2022)
Sarah Stang articulates the value of–and barriers against–close reading and the writing of the self into the research as tools in feminist games scholarship.
“We need to work to show why subjective analysis is not a problem and explain why no research can ever be “objective.” This might involve more carefully explaining how issues of media representation are tied to broader social structures and systemic oppression, and more collaboration between scholars using different methods to argue the same points. I am not suggesting that close reading needs to be “proven” by other methods, rather I feel there is no need for methodological divisions when it comes to feminist intervention—we should use whatever tools we have to communicate with the public and dismantle oppressive systems.”
Time and Place
Next up, two lookbacks at games from the 2000s where context is key, and understanding the movements both in the industry and wider popular culture at the time is vital to really getting them.
- “Ladders are a socially acceptable way to reach a roof” – Assassin’s Creed | Super Chart Island
Iain Mew revisits the original Assassin’s Creed as a game of interesting but ultimately noncommittal contradictions.
- Racing Line: The Bling Era | Haywire Magazine
Miguel Penabella locates racing game Midnight Club 3 at the centre of a precise mid-2000s cultural moment where videogames and Black American Hip-Hop were aligned in values and partnership.
“Midnight Club 3 captures a very specific moment in time. In 2005, hip-hop was reaching new commercial peaks. Its ties to car culture could be seen everywhere, from shows like Pimp My Ride to the pages of DUB Magazine, but Midnight Club 3 was its videogame champion.”
Sarah Stang’s article above argues for the importance of writing the self into research as part of a feminist practice. While she’s talking from an academic context where there remains much resistance to this idea, it’s a well-loved genre in other spaces–though you don’t need me to tell you that toxicity isn’t exclusive to the domain of the ivory tower, either! Anyway, here are two fine pieces that do just that–weave the self into a compelling meditation on a game.
- The Roar of the Plane, The Stir of the Trees – Into The Spine
Mik Deitz reflects on conservative hometowns, origin stories, and Tell Me Why.
- Don’t Look Back: You Can’t Save Love | Paste
Madeline Blondeau muses on the tension between looking back and moving forward, as allegorized in a Flash game about Orpheus (content notification here for references to rape and abusive relationships).
“Orpheus fails. He looks back at Eurydice and dooms her soul to eternal captivity. In his grief, he plays a mournful song and is torn apart by beasts—damning himself to the underworld. Don’t Look Back, meanwhile, reveals the player’s quest is a fantasy. There is no saving your love. There is only the acceptance of your own isolation and loss.”
The Way We Play
Here, I’ve brought together a variety of pieces–a how-to guide of sorts, a critique on gacha, and an interview touching upon genres, art movements, and playstyles–because they’re all about, well, play! That is to say, they’re about what motivates us, what entices us, and what we do to make games our own.
- The what, why, and how of playing arcade games at home – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi breaks out the JAMMA cables and breaks down how you, too, can have Puyo Puyo at home.
- Does Anyone Really Like Genshin Impact For The Gameplay? | TheGamer
Jade King maintans that no matter how good its production values, in the end Genshin Impact can only ever come down to the gacha grind.
- Catharsis through Carnage | Unwinnable
Phoenix Simms reflects on (and chats with her dad about) how edgy flow-loops like DOOM can offer the same kind of serene refuge we more commonly associate with “cozy” games.
“As much as a lot of us (including me) love games that can fall under the increasingly popular and valid categories of “cozy” or “wholesome,” sometimes the best mindful games are the ones that resemble the golden age of edgy comics and rock music.”
Human After All
Now, we’ve got two articles approaching the question of what it means to be human, from both bodily and emotional standpoints.
- Gnosia: Everyone Lies, Everyone Is Human – Uppercut
Diana Croce spends time with a visual novel in the form of a social deception game, which unpacks what it means to live, to lie, to be human, even when we’re not.
- Tracing a Body | Bullet Points Monthly
Grace Benfell considers the freedom, attention, fascination, privilege, and care dedicated to the body of one Sam Porter Bridges in Death Stranding.
“Looking at Norman Reedus’ bare ass reminded me of the ease with which my straight friends could inhabit the world, an ease that I could access in flickers and spirits, until that part of me died.”
This is cheeky and I like it.
- It should have been a walking sim | A Trivial Knot
Siggy proposes a playful (playless. . .?) thought experiment.
“What if we removed all the combat, the platforming, skill-based anything? What if we only had press w to move forward, mouse to look around, dialogue, environmental storytelling, audio logs, item descriptions, cinematics, choices that matter, and a dash of light puzzling to taste? Walking sims are so simple, surely it should be easy, right?”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!