Welcome back readers.

Around the site, we have not one, not two, but three new episodes of Keywords on Play for you to catch up on, featuring guests Felania Liu, Stephanie Harkin, and Xavier Ho. Phew! On to the written stuff!

This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

The Banished Vault

First up this week, bad time storytelling simulator The Banished Vault is making waves on the critical circuit. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

“I have littered the cosmos with men whose names I don’t remember, ones I didn’t make space for amidst my notations. Men who truly had bad times. Many never even managed to establish a colony to be lost. Never got to inscribe their first desperate “Croatoan” on some barren rock. Their exile ended abruptly and then in one click, any evidence of it ever existing vanished. Space is so hard it seems cruel. Both the Carpathia and I took to calling the game The Punished Vault because of this in our signals to one another.”

Barbie World

Barbie is also pretty topicial right now for some reason, go figure! And that’s giving writers cause to think back to some of the tie-in Barbie games of yester. . . decade. Decade-before-yesterdecade? My knees hurt.

“It makes me sad that so many Barbie makeup games are gone, not necessarily out of feminism, or a pious inclination toward art preservation, but because I loved these simple, pretty games that encouraged me to invent myself.”

First Edition

While we’re taking that trip down memory lane, let’s also stop to look at some of the peculiar print artificats that have emerged from critical and popular games culture, as well as the strange resonances their perusal can provoke today.

“In 1982 arcade games were trendy and seen as the future of entertainment. Nevertheless, this was also an unusual topic for a writer of Amis’ renown to write about, let alone write an entire book about. In 2023, forty-one years later, Invasion of the Space Invaders is now a relic, a nostalgia-inducing concoction. It is fitting that the book ends with pages of lines of code as video games are code, the essence of video games. Yet, the talk and mystique around this book are based solely on Amis’ reputation as a writer. Let’s not forget that on Mother Earth others were also writing about games in 1982.”


Next let’s look at two games separated by decades exploring different aspects of feminine subjectivity.

“Great art isn’t about trying to speak to the largest audience. It is about selflessly tearing pieces of yourself off and sending them into the world to be seen by others — with no guarantee that anybody will resonate with them. It is the desperate hope that while your experience is personal, others will accept you for who you are and what your art says. The openness of HFTGOOM is an exercise in radical healing for someone who has gone through Ann’s experience of being forced to close themselves off.”

Gems All the Way Down

As the most recent AAA forever game vying for mindshare, Diablo IV also continues to elicit valuable critical insights. Here are two highlights I came across on my travels this week.

“I’m all for class fantasies and designing to fit them, but I think saying “a fat Necromancer or thin Druid breaks my immersion” just makes the design team’s biases obvious. There is nothing natural or necessary about the connection between body type and character fantasy, and until we accept that and start moving beyond it, it’s likely that character design in games will keep retreading old, used ground, rather than moving forward into something new and better.”


Next up, we’re looking at both design and localization in established, yet malleable genres.

“A story that thrives on heightened depictions of real-world cultures and religions needed to be treated with more care. The game opens with xenophobic Christians trying to burn foreigners alive and a huge dollop of rival nobles pulling political strings in the background—this is not the time or place for a hero that says “Dude”. This game deserves better. Heck, any game deserves better.”

The Play’s the Thing

Finally, let’s close the week with a pair of, well, playful meditations on play.

“In spite of its vicious intensity and cruel aesthetic, Devil Daggers is kind enough to let the song of my muscles take control, to flow over hard stone like cool water – to dance among the damned. And when the Devil takes me to hell for my sharp edges, I know that I will feel at home on the stage.”


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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!