Welcome back readers.
Before we get into today’s textual business, can I interest anyone in some new TMIVGV?
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week we open with a segment on interactive fiction, looking at a pair of landmark games with very different reputations.
- Ferret (1982) | Renga in Blue
Jason Dyer digs into an IF game whose massive scope is matched only by its extraordinarly long development cycle.
- Agency, Empathy, and the Call of the Other in AMFV | Gold Machine
Drew Cook proposes simulation, subjectivity, and empathy for the Other as a keystone of interactive fiction, parser-based and beyond, turning to one of IF’s most distinct and realized protagonists up to that point: Perry Simm.
“What could be more modern, more immediate, than Perry Simm’s inability to console his wife? Or than the deterioration of his relationship with his son? He does not need to speak of his horror when the armed thugs of the immigration police kick in his door. It is our horror, too. We are called to feel it, and it is A MInd Forever Voyaging‘s lasting triumph that we must answer its call.”
Next, we have a trio of feminist critical perspectives on games both popular and offbeat.
- Elden Ring’s Malenia embodies FromSoftware’s problems with women | Polygon
Nico Deyo contemplates the constraints around femininity in FromSoft games, either in-universe or within fandom.
- A Rain to End and a Flower to Begin | No Escape
Alephwyr applies a xenofeminist critical lens to Drakengard 3 and one of its key progenitor texts, Hybrid Child.
- D&D’s Obsession With Phallic Desire | Traverse Fantasy
Marcia B. ties colonial and misogynistic structural elements of Dungeons & Dragons to its ever-moving goalposts of desire (content notification here for a brief reference to rape in the context of Greek Mythology).
“For the Gygaxian adventurer, there is always another dungeon to loot. In the same way, the phallic drive always ensures that in the subject’s imagination there is always another thing to desire. For the traditional male subject, there is always another woman to fuck.”
Two very different pieces now, united by a focus on videogame cities and a desire to move beyond colonial-capitalist frameworks.
- Beneath a Village’s Surface | Unwinnable
Saniya Ahmed identifies a colonialist bent to Outriders‘ architectural storytelling and worldbuilding.
- The Rally Point: Ostriv, Workers & Resources, and where town builders ought to go next | Rock Paper Shotgun
Sin Vega seeks out city builders working beyond the strucutral and historical framework of SimCity‘s strict neoliberal template.
“Workers & Resources isn’t harking back to a golden age, it’s just working from a shared history most of us in the West are unfamiliar with, and tend to dismiss as somehow separable from everything else that makes up a culture.”
Ok I know the tarot-themed anthology piece is a bit of a stretch fit here but bear with me.
- An Introduction and Manifesto | Unwinnable
Emma Kostopolus proposes a time and control-based theory of horror in videogames.
- Intuitive Reading | No Escape
Jess Elizabeth Reed anticipates the arrival of the anthology format into games with recent examples like the tarot-themed Cartomancy Anthology.
- Rigged Game | Bullet Points Monthly
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell identifies the backbone of Dead Space‘s body horror aesthetics and labour politics in equal measure.
“All told, Dead Space’s suit design is a nicely unnerving depiction of capitalism’s warped, self-contradictory attitude toward the spine. On the one hand, capitalism needs the figure of the upright human to justify humanity’s separateness from other creatures and thus, its right to carve up and profit from them, while raising its own social hierarchy within the category of the human. On the other, capitalism wants to collapse all such distinctions in the name of circulation, to level everything down into readily tradeable fluid units.”
Up next, two reflections on games, both general and specific, in play and in execution, as they weave into the fabric of our late-capitalist existence.
- The Steam Deck Hasn’t Helped Me Tackle My Backlog But Touching Grass Has | TheGamer
Lex Luddy interrogates who, or what, she has been playing games for under pandemic conditions where discourse has all-too-often been the only available stand-in for human interraction.
- “The golden twilight of Western civilization” – Grand Theft Auto IV – Super Chart Island
Iain Mew looks back, from across recessions, at GTAIV‘s narrative ambitions.
“The driving force is sharpened to the idea that the American dream is a disease, as characters explicitly say. Taking the piss out of America has always been a big part of Grand Theft Auto, but this is a much more crafted and grounded version of pisstaking.”
Here we’ve got two authors unpacking a pair of cute games with a bit more going on beneath the surface than their sunny dispositions might initially suggest.
- Ooblets Is Just Unsettling Enough to Love | Paste
Emily Price looks to Ooblets‘ weirdness as a recourse from burnout amid an upswing in more straightforwardly Wholesome games.
- Acquiring Phantomilian | Unwinnable
Phoenix Simms wends through the ontological implications of Klonoa‘s dreamworld artlang, Phantomilian.
“Perhaps the reason this artlang, for all its silly babble, stuck with me over the years is because it perfectly reflects how ephemeral and changeable our dreams and our relationships to others can be. Or how dreams and reality are intertwined, like Huepow and Klonoa once were.”
This week we close the issue with a pair of reflections both meditative and melancholic.
- Killing the Mystery – No Escape
Taylor Hicklen meditates on grief, his grandfather, and the inability of algorithms to reconcile the human (content notification for death).
- End of Zelda | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole recounts a brief time when father and sons came together for adventure.
“We were, all of us, growing older, and growing apart; inevitably leaving the adventures behind and learning how to live in the world alone.”
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