Welcome back readers.

This week’s plug: the Games for Gaza bundle on Itch is still going for a few days. They’ve smashed all their goals, which is great, but I’d like to see how much further this one can stretch. Check it out if you can, ok?

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

Discourse Elysium

In spite of my dubious choice of section titles, this opening segment is actually about Alan Wake 2. The parallel I see with Disco is in that game’s evergreen capacity to get smart writers to fundamentally disagree with one another, as is the case here with these well-considered oppositional arguments.

“When it comes to recycling without revelation, Alan Wake 2 has studied the blade. It wants you to know that it is aware of its own medium: that games are a unique hydra of technology, cinema, theatre, music, hypertext, architecture, and so on, and that Alan’s magical metatextual adventure hinges on the player’s participation as a reader but also a writer (the game will remind you, of course, that the writer is also the reader) working within a preset narrative. Alan Wake 2 is acutely aware of its lineage – it is a game that will launch a thousand lists about every piece of art and literature and film that came before it – and it’ll surely dominate discussions about game narratives for the foreseeable near future. Most importantly, the player must understand that the story of Alan Wake 2 can only be told through the interactivity of games. But the metanarrative is only fascinating if you’ve never paid attention to these things before, which is hard because the game spells things out for you at every step of the way.”

Spirit of Halloween

Let’s keep the horror theme running a bit longer with a calendar-flexible approach to the spooky season and three selections about other games in the genre.

“I cannot say forgiveness is the sole thing that could unmake an energy vampire. I do think, however, that being able to reconcile oneself with what made them one could ameliorate one’s circumstances considerably. Kain and Raziel taught me about boundaries and respecting one’s right to free will, while recognizing that championing free will alone does not make someone morally right in every instance it’s invoked.”

Vampire Killers

There’s still vampires aplenty in this next section, with two pieces on Redfall, but here we’re also moving into broader meditations on both game dev and games crit.

“I believe that Redfall is an excellent test case for how capitalist gamer culture has turned some gaming consumers into a particularly odious, never-satisfied group of soulsuckers that game developers are forced to kowtow to. In other words, vampires. Mechanical issues like those that happen with Redfall occur because of toxic crunch culture, which occurs because the consumer base constantly clamors for shiny new toys at beyond the speed of light, and game devs regularly receive death threats for things like announcing project delays. The gamers help create the conditions for shoddy game releases and then throw fits because devs could not do the impossible. Capitalism, at its heart, tells us that we can demand miracles at the bargain price of the health and wellbeing of the worker, and gamers appear to have swallowed this idea whole.”

Past and Future

These two games and authors look backwards and forwards, respectively and interchangeably, as both examine the fraught mechanisms that prop up an unjust society.

Crymachina sketches a speculative answer: it envisions a world without humans as liberatory. Laws disappear, harm withers away; there is no need to create legal categories because differences are no longer the building blocks of society. There are no humans or automatons or animals, only loving beings.”


Next up we’ve got a pair of satisfying catch-ups with recent titles.

“Collodi’s wooden puppet learns to be real by following the expectations that society at the time demanded of him. Neowiz decided to do the exact opposite, and as a result Lies of P lives as a real game; they aren’t imitators in a genre with a perceived ceiling, but rather fans of the works that are proudly worn on their sleeve while eagerly showing just what else could thrive in this game space beyond the gates of Yarnham and the towers of Anor Londo.”

Disability in Play

This section focuses on disability, looking at both character analysis and player angles.

“If the industry hopes to cater to everyone, as is often touted, then disabled players need to be considered and heard more consistently, or gaming will remain an elitist club. Now is the best opportunity we’ve ever had to make a universal accessibility standard a reality. So let’s seize it.”

The Guys are Back in Town

A Final Fantasy section? Yeah, let’s do a Final Fantasy section.

“I won’t sugar coat it. Final Fantasy XI was kind of a rickety piece of shit. Like our Angelfire pages, and phpBB sites, and the way we ran our IRC channels, Final Fantasy XI was people absolutely on the bleeding edge of their bullshit, creating something that barely held together at the best of times, but deep in its calamity was the spark of a profoundly beautiful pre-Web 2.0 world.”

Critical Chaser

Spine keeps hitting.

“In my experience, as a caregiver for my grandma after her Stage IV cancer diagnosis, the best teacher was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Though my loss is recent and this game is over 5 years old, I recognize the insidious muck of Calamity Ganon for what it is: an analog to cancer.”


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