Welcome back readers.
Around the site, we’ve got a new Keywords for your listening pleasure. As a recap, Keywords in Play is running a mini-series over the next few issues highlighting Chinese-Australian collaborations in game studies scholarship. This issue’s guest is cultural anthropologist Dr. Tingting Liu, who studies digital intimacies, gender, platforms and gaming in China.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Eyes on Industry
This week we’re opening with a trio of industry-oriented perspectives on game dev, games press, and their popular depiction in other creative media.
- Why do games media layoffs keep happening? | GamesIndustry.biz
Khee Hoon Chan delves into an abundance of opacity and a dearth of accountability in a games press more beseiged by precarity than ever (curator’s note: Critical Distance alumnus Kris Lorischild is an interview subject for this piece).
- The untold history of Barbie Fashion Designer, the first mass-market ‘game for girls’ | Polygon
Nicole Carpenter profiles a game that bucked industry trends, and the people who brought it to fruition.
- Gaming’s warped mirror | Roadmap
Gita Jackson reads between the lines and into the omissions in Gabrielle Zevin’s popular novel about the games industry.
“Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a beautifully written novel that depicts the video-game industry in a way that is shockingly real. It also re-creates the games industry in a sadder way: In its invention of a brilliant woman game developer, it makes another brilliant woman game developer invisible. It’s a diorama of what I love and what I hate about video games—the joy of play and the horror of exploitation.”
This pairing on queerness in games looks beyond ideal representations (whatever that would mean!) towards imperfect stories (and tellings), problems with canons and fandoms, and the characters we hold onto in the compromised industry that we have.
- Danganronpa and the surprising joys of clumsy queer representation | Eurogamer.net
Eli Cugini makes, to my mind, the strongest written case for actually playing a Danganronpa game.
- I don’t really care if Xenoblade Chronicles’ A is nonbinary | TechRadar
Autumn Wright laments the puritanical approach to canon within popular fandoms that forecloses more imaginiative possibilities in the stories we play.
“So what would it mean to queer our relationship to abyssal media? It might mean to embrace reclaimed characters while still maintaining a skepticism towards developers and publishers who minimalize non-normative identities in their games and their studios. Both A and Juniper, a nonbinary character in the base game of XC3, are simply never gendered. And while many trans people in our world do simply not use pronouns, the pattern is already clear: This omission, which would’ve taken conscious effort among writers and translators, maintains a plausible deniabilty for conservative fans that has become the dominant (and they’ll hate me for saying this) headcanon among Xenoblade fandom.
Here we’ve got two selections unpacking contentious narrative choices in some of the biggest recent games.
- Sexo y violencia en Final Fantasy XVI | GamerFocus
Julián Ramírez evaluates whether Final Fantasy XVI‘s pivot to a more “mature” tone has any storytelling substance (Spanish-language article).
- Her Only Weapons Were Her Tears | dreamcastaway
Harper Jay asks whether Tears of the Kingdom is a story of our time.
“There will be a day when the demons and their kings are cast down but the scars of the rule will remain etched upon the land and found most painfully in the absence of those who made sacrifices along the way. The sorrow transforms victory but time does not turn back and no miracle is coming to rewind things until the blood is back in our veins and the tears flow back from where they came.”
Love and Loss
This next section works through both the more difficult feelings that come out with the loss of people and relationships we care about, as well as the catharsis.
- Breaking Up With a Videogame | Unwinnable
Matt Marrone says so long to a relationship he’s grown past.
- A piece about loss | Pixels for Breakfast
John memorializes friends and family lost in Team Fortress 2.
- A Ramble about Romance, Intimacy and an excuse to talk about my favourite game from last year | Carlito Calzone!
Nicanor Gordon thinks about the other side of romance, the side that doesn’t get so much play in popular games.
“‘10 questions’ makes me think about bodies and lives and the priest in high school who sat us down and told us divorce was a sin. Maybe he was onto something — our bodies seem eager to tie themselves into knots so tight you need to cut them off to get loose.”
Wake up, Sleeper.
- Tender Normalcy | Into The Spine
Evan Ahearne dwells on everyday nonbinary existence on The Eye.
“Seeing these vibrant characters helping friends, holding down a job, and dealing with their baggage really made me think that maybe I, too, can make this work. Maybe there is a place in the world where I can carve out a life of my own.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!