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.
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.
- The Weirdest Blockbuster Game Ever | Vulture
Lewis Gordon clicks with Alan Wake 2‘s meditations on genre and metafiction.
- Alan Wake 2 review – incredible style, overbearing writing | Eurogamer
Alexis Ong sums up Remedy’s latest as well-made but self-reflexive to a fault, sure to please many but overly committed to its own bit.
“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.
- The Shortness of Horror Game Demos Makes Them All the Sweeter | Uppercut
Jess Reed makes the case that the questions that go unanswered in demos make them a particularly good fit for horror games.
- Nanatsu no Hikan Senritsu no Bishou: Not all main characters are created equal | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi comes away disappointed with a Dreamcast-era survival horror game that undermines its leading lady at every turn.
- Don’t Fear the Reaver | Unwinnable
Phoenix Simms reflects on energy vampires, false binaries, and Legacy of Kain’s Raziel.
“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.”
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 Will Come Up With a Punny Title I Promise | Unwinnable
Maddi Chilton weighs the notion of a house style against having any kind of style or design ethos at all in a postmortem on Redfall.
- Overthinking What It Means to Make Things on The Internet Again | cohost
Chris Franklin weighs the oppositional needs of criticism and curation in how we talk about small games.
- A Different Sort of Vampire: The Endemic Issue Behind Redfall’s Critical Flop | Unwinnable
Emma Kostopolus focuses on the structural problems in games industry and media landscape that lead to Redfall as both an inevitable and overlooked outcome of unsustainable comsumerism.
“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.
- Mediterranea Inferno captures the collective trauma of COVID-19 | Gayming Magazine
Matteo Lupetti plays a game that cuts deep on the anxieties of a 2020 we never really left behind.
- CRYMACHINA: An Antihumanist Plea for Life and Liberation | Minidoshima
Kastel checks out a game that posits something better beyond the imaginative limits of colonial-capitalist humanism.
“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.
- Thirsty Suitors Review | IGN
Saniya Ahmed finds a lot to like in Thirsty Suitors‘ relationship-writing and authentic portrayals, outweighing at-times chaotic pacing and tone.
- Artificiality Be Damned, My Boy Can Cook – Lies of P Review | Gamesline
No lies detected in Maverick’s glowing review of the sleeper soulslike-like hit.
“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.
- Marvel’s Spider-Man Portrayal of Harry Osborne Highlights Key Issues for Disabled Adults | Gamepur
Chris Edgerton finds thoughtful representation in Harry Osborne’s arc.
- Now Is The Time For Universal Gaming Accessibility Guidelines | Kotaku
Levi Winslow calls for the industry to knock down the remaining barriers that keep gaming a private, able-bodied party.
“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.
- Final Fantasy IV Pixel Remaster | Have You Played?
Bijan Stephen homes in on some of Final Fantasy‘s early narrative successes.
- 20 Years Ago Final Fantasy XI Messed Me Up Completely | Paste
Dia Lacina recounts her first forays into Vana’diel, and the liminal dot com world that birthed it.
“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.”
Spine keeps hitting.
- Confronting Calamity | Into The Spine
Athalia Norman contemplates letting go and living on in Breath of the Wild.
“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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