Welcome back readers.
Long issue this week–lots of good stuff to read. If you want to make my reading list even longer, you are very welcome to come hang out with us on our Discord server. Since Twitter ceased to be a good space for connecting with critical writing, community-driven curation has become that much more essential to our ongoing mission. So come hang out!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Let’s start things off this week with a pair of academic pieces on the warped and racialized perspectives which remain prevalent in western game dev, with a focus as well on the reverberations and harms that cross from digital back to material reality.
- Imagining Latin America: Indigeneity, Erasure and Tropicalist Neocolonialism in Shadow of the Tomb Raider | Game Studies
Yoel Villahermosa Serrano details the othering tropes, white saviors, and Indigenous mouthpieces that continue to dominate western gaming’s engagement with Latin America, in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and elsewhere.
- Killing the Black Body: Necropolitics and Racial Hierarchies in Digital Gaming
Kishonna L. Gray unpacks the digital patterns of antiblackness in games which continue to oppress and imperil Black lives in real life.
“So necropolitics continues to help us understand the targeted ways that Black bodies experience death in both physical and digital spaces. These systems of social control extend far beyond the physical spaces of jails and prisons, and these practices underscore how carcerality is embedded in and sustained by a range of processes and dynamics, including creating stereotypical characters (Blackness as criminal), the limiting of the Black expression in games (Blackness as the help or sidekick), and the devaluing Black life (Black death as seen in Battlefield 1). And the justification of Black destruction in the media is a part of the process to justify the continued destruction of Black bodies IRL (in real life).”
Next let’s look at a pair of conversations featuring critics and developers.
- We Gain When We Create: Elevating Criticism A Pixel a Day | Aguas’ Points
Luis Aguasvivas chats with Kat about the video essay format, criticism as a side-hobby, and more.
- A new kind of history lesson: Mexico, 1921: A Deep Slumber makes you a journalist during a revolution | The Guardian
Caitlin Cooper delves into a game about the pivotal role of journalism in post-revolutionary Mexico, and talks to the game’s creators about their journey, outlook, and goals.
““In 1920, the press was fundamental for shaping the conversation,” Pérez says. “Our main character being a journalist opens the door to those spheres.””
Now let’s explore broader conversations on art, digitization, and exhibition as they (sometimes) relate to games.
- Danse dans les Nymphéas : Immersive Exhibitions, Multimedia Art, and Making Impressionism Fun | Bump Combat
Joey Wawzonek compares contemporary efforts to digitize art gallery experiences for an Instagram audience to the slower, more intentional CD-ROM-based efforts of the late 90s.
- Classical Cats | CD-ROM Journal
Misty De Méo checks out a purrfect CD-ROM art gallery from 1994.
- Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction | Death is a Whale
James Tregonning muses on the ways in which games have altered our wider relationship with and expreience of art.
“The Rain Room simulates the experience of a natural real-world event, sanding down the rough edges of reality to make a play-space for self-expression, for performing and curating identity. All I’m saying is that in the broad view, there’s not much difference between that and Call of Duty.”
Featured author Bigg this week is right to identify a paucity in critical writing (and attention on that writing) when it comes to adult and porn games. By the same token, there’s an opportunity to right the ship; here’s two picks to start conversations.
- A leisure suit journey to what Pocket Party was and could have been | mupf.dev
Michael Fitzmayer recounts the troubled effort(s) to bring Leisure Suit Larry to the N-Gage.
- Porn Games And Writing About Porn Games | cohost
Bigg asks: where is all the good writing about porn games?
“I worry about a future where porn games don’t exist, where all the games that exist now and the experiences of the people who played them are easily memory-holed by a puritanical monoculture that despises erotic art and sexual exploration. In a way the culture of silent sneering ignorance towards porn games and porn game developers makes it feel like we’re already living in that future. I find this state of affairs repulsive as someone who enjoys porn games, and embarrassing as someone who enjoys critical writing about games. So, finding the body of critical works regarding porn games and porn game culture so thin, we must set out to nourish it.”
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
There’s a new Prince of Persia out in a couple of days and it looks. . . interesting? Here are a couple of early impressions on the series’ pivot to the Metroidvania format. Looking forward to the longer-form critical distillations will follow as well.
- ‘Prince of Persia: Lost Crown’ Review: A Fantastic Platformer That Doesn’t Stick the Landing | Inverse
Robin Bea finds strong ingredients but an uneven mix in the latest Prince of Persia.
- Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is pure Metroidvania bliss | Polygon
Maddy Myers is enthusiastic about Lost Crown‘s fresh and even slightly subversive approach to the PoP format.
“Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown may seem like a bit of a strange digression in the long-running series, especially considering the Sands of Time remake that’s been delayed and rebooted and remains an unknown quantity. But it’s a fantastic Metroidvania about a character you wouldn’t expect in a series that desperately needed somebody to blow the dust off.”
We’re moving a little outside the strict purview of games again here but that’s okay. Here are two pieces which explore connectedness and ephemerality.
- Sports fandom deepened my friendships and gave me the superpower of small talk | Polygon
Simone de Rochefort explores the social dimensions–on and off-line–of Getting Into A Sport.
- Inside the online communities trying to preserve our digital memories | Dazed
Günseli Yalcinkaya sits down with Ruby Justice Thelot to talk about ephemeral third spaces on the margins of YouTube and the folks working to preserve them.
“Thelot looks at the communities that form around these pit stops, and the individuals working to make sure these moments aren’t forgotten. Their sudden deletion, Thelot suggests, serves to remind us of the ease with which digital memories can disappear completely on third-party platforms.”
I’m playing a little fast and loose here with topic organization, but this section brings together writing about cyberpunk worlds real and imagined, retro and contemporary.
- Belzerion: Retro future cyberpunk | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi digs into some ambitious CD-ROM cyberpunk fare emblematic of its experimental era.
- Ubisoft’s experiment with NFTs in Ghost Recon Breakpoint was a catastrophic failure | TapTap
Ian Boudreau surveys the ruins of Ubisoft’s abortive venture into NFTs.
- Nothing’s Shocking | Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter juxtaposes the transgressive deployment of violence in Robocop the film with its comparatively banal and desensitized context in Robocop the game.
“A movie where Robocop splatters a new room with the blood and crumpled bodies of dozens of enemies would be noteworthy if for nothing else than the amount of attention given to the act of killing. In a videogame, spending an hour gunning down a few hundred goons means nothing if it isn’t portrayed with weight or flair.”
This week we’re closing things out with a pair of crunchy lists.
- Ren’s Top Video Games of 2023 | Remap
Renata Price recounts bright spots in a clouded year.
- The 7 Best Games I Played in Response to 2023s Best Games | Paste
Dia Lacina sits down with the games that lay the groundwork for–and sometimes continue to outshine–the landmark titles of the present.
“I’ll be real with you. I love Armored Core. I love Mechwarrior. I love Virtual-On. I fucking owned the Steel Battalion with the controller. I have big opinions about mech games. I have complex and layered thoughts about every game in the Armored Core franchise that I’ve played. So it’s with all of that history and understanding that I say to you…Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner might be the greatest mech game ever made.”
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