Welcome back readers.
Third long issue in a row! I do occasionally have to find a stopping point somewhere on busy weeks, but it’s always better to have more to choose from on my reading list. In the meantime, keep the recommendations coming on our Discord!
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 time around with some reviews–two new games and a book!
- Palworld utterly misses the point of being a good Pokémon-like | Rock Paper Shotgun
Katherine Castle looks past the hype and finds very little to be excited about.
- Review: Game Animals: Video Games and Humanity | Game Studies
Hanna Wirman reviews a cross-disciplinary approach to games that decentres human subjectivity, and maybe games too.
- The Last of Us Part 2 Remastered doesn’t get its own message | Digital Trends
Giovanni Colantonio approaches TLOU2‘s reissue of a three-year old game as already a work out of time.
“Druckmann has previously noted that his inspiration for the story came from the conflict between Israel and Palestine. A traumatic image moved him to write a story about two factions going to war with one another and destroying each other’s lives in the process. The 2020 release was removed enough from that geopolitical struggle to operate on its own terms, but it does not have the same luxury in 2024. It’s difficult to remove it from the current struggle overseas, which has reportedly left tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians — including thousands of children — dead.”
Now let’s look at some industry-level topics, with a running theme of access–access to games, access to audiences, access to distribution and discoverability.
- Gaming Needs To Expand Its Roster Of Male Voice Actors | TheGamer
Tessa Kaur remarks that the stakes for Troy Baker saturation are higher now that AI-soundalikes are also in competition.
- The loss of GAME’s trade-ins is a blow to video game accessibility | TechRadar
Cat Bussell reflects on the erosion of second-hand games availability in the UK.
- Baldur’s Gate 3 Director Proves There’s No Easy Solution For Game Subscriptions | Inverse
Robin Bea contemplates discoverability, gatekeeping, and preservation in a digital landscape increasingly dominated by subscription models.
- On Patreon, and the Taming of Erotic Game Development | cohost
Yarrun takes a (distribution) platform studies approach to the history and arc of adult games (content notification for brief discussion of sexual assault).
“Because Patreon is built around the developer instead of the game, the developer has to maintain a positive relationship with their audience in order to keep the cash flow running. Content – sexy, enticing content – has to come out at a regular rate, lest the subscribers start questioning the worth of their investment. This pushes the industry towards long-term projects developed over several years rather than the multitude of short, one-and-done games that permeated the 2000s, as new content is easier to provide when you’re building on top of an existing project rather than developing a new one entirely. As such, many major Patreon-funded erotic games are functionally live-service games, with no expectation of the game being complete any time soon.”
The Cop Place
Partly a section on Robocop: Rogue City, and partly a section on copaganda more broadly, these next few pieces explore distortions and limitations in nostalgia and storytelling alike.
- IN SYNDICATION | DEEP-HELL
Skeleton finds no basis for comparison–violence or otherwise–between Robocop: Rogue City and its endlessly marketed and misremembered filmic forebear.
- ACAB includes Saga Anderson | No Escape
Kaile Hultner challenges Remedy to put their storycrafting prowess to more structurally imaginative use (curator’s note: Kaile also works for CD).
- Playing with Toys, Smashing Plastic | Bullet Points Monthly
Yussef Cole reckons with the ways in which childhood nostalgia tilts our reception of retro revivals like Robocop: Rogue City.
“With Rogue City, we got to play with the toy, live in our memory, disconnected from anything real. But maybe it’s better, at times, to put the toys away. To see what exists beyond our nostalgia, beyond playing at cops, knocking plastic together, in our little bedrooms, blind to the world.”
Next up we have a few developer interviews concerning recent and topical games.
- In Stars and Time developer on why their RPG ‘has to be frustrating’ – ‘it is art, and art should be annoying sometimes’ | TechRadar
Catherine Lewis chats with developer Adrienne Bazir about structure, frustrating art, queer joy, and more.
- Townscaper’s developer on how its ‘radically casual’ design is inspiring a new wave of low-stress builders to adapt the blueprint | PC Gamer
Lauren Morton chats with designer Oskar Stålberg about the trend in builder games towards smaller, lower-impact designs.
- How the Prince of Persia can finally speak Persian | GamesIndustry.biz
Kamiab Ghorbanpour chats with actors, localizers, and developers about the effort to connect a more authentic Prince with Iranian players.
“Regardless of the outcome, everyone I’ve spoken to believes that The Lost Crown is a massive step forward regarding the representation of Persian culture despite criticisms and certain issues. A popular title with a blond-haired main character, navigating an insultingly orientalist One-Thousand-And-One-Night-esque environment, and being Persian only in name, is now taking steps to represent the culture it’s borrowing so much from and making hundreds of thousands off of.”
Here we’ve got a pair of critical meditations on trauma and grief as they relate to recent games.
- Digging out Love from Trauma in Thirsty Suitors | Carlito Calzone
Nicanor Gordon maps out the different languages for intergenerational trauma and healing in Thirsty Suitors.
- Grief and Grace Along Route Zero | Unwinnable
Perry Gottschalk offers takeaways on community from KRZ.
“The loss will always be there. The community you have will too. It’s the people who have been through it themselves, and it’s the people who love you.”
These following three play accounts have a common thread running through them about shifting and subverting expectations, whether in-game or out.
- I’m overcoming my fear of everything to play Lethal Company | Polygon
Ana Diaz observes how humour and multiplayer help take the edge off of horror.
- The Legend of Zelda The Minish Cap: Small but mighty | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi finds Minish Cap to be a refreshing reprieve from Zelda‘s usual script.
- Lil Gator Game and the Game of Life | Paste
Maddie Agne contemplates nostalgia for childhood, coming of age, and the changing priorities of friendships.
“The first time I played Lil Gator Game, I was mostly struck by how lovingly it frames the act of play and creation. As someone who also grew up playing with their older sibling and creating my own games, I felt connected to the little gator every time he invented a story or built something out of cardboard or begged his big sister to play with him. Lil Gator Game was, to me, a celebration of childhood and imagination. It still is but, coming back to it a year later, I find myself focusing on a different aspect: friends.”
Spine closes out the issue once again.
- Moondown | Into The Spine
John Sangster tells a short tale from Rain World.
“The environment of Rain World is harsh. At first, that’s all it was.”
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