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2020 in Videogame Blogging

…The Coronation of Meghna Jayanth | EGM Samuel Horti’s profile of Meghna Jayanth covers her work decolonising narratives in games such as 80 Days and Sable.


Content warning: discussions of possible future ecological catastrophes.

  • Let’s Place: Narratives of Rebuilding | Haywire Magazine Daria Kalugina’s almost poetic exploration of Death Stranding and The Last of Us evokes a phenomenology of climate collapse.
  • Sorry, Wrong Apocalypse: Horizon Zero Dawn, Heaven’s Vault, and the Ecocritical Videogame | Game Studies Megan Condis is critical of the way videogames’ speculative ecological futures are often blunted by an assumed…

November 18th

…inclusive games criticism is part of the much larger project of pushing back against narratives of marginalization and erasure in general–the narratives we are seeing more of in the news cycle these days.

Because messy people play games.

Because messy people make games.

Because messy people write about games.

And so I’ll allow myself a little messiness as I do my best to promote and honour all that messy writing.

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

Gaming Games…

August 19

…and designing a game.

  • The Dream IS the Product — Gamasutra Blogs Neil Schneider explains the expense of technology, and what drives companies to spend so much in search of technology that isn’t yet in reach.
  • What are we talking about when we talk about systemic narrative — Gamasutra Blogs A technical breakdown by Victor Sanchez of what system-generated narratives are, and how it differs from narratives already present in games.

    So, when we talk about Systemic Narrative, we talk about creating a system that provide the rules on how the narrative

October 7th

…tools and experiences.

  • Game Studies – No Straight Answers: Queering Hegemonic Masculinity in BioWare’s Mass Effect Theresa Krampe applies a queer game studies approach to the Mass Effect trilogy to examine its representations of queer masculinities.
  • Game Studies – “Why do I have to make a choice? Maybe the three of us could, uh…”: Non-Monogamy in Videogame Narratives Meghan Blythe Adams and Nathan Rambukkana examine representations of non-monogamy in AAA games.
  • “Do representations of non-monogamies in game narratives break with or reinforce mononormative and heteronormative tropes? How might challenging the normative dynamics of compulsory monogamy…

    The Last of Us

    …end, it’s Joel who is revealed to be the weaker character. He needs Ellie more than she needs him.

    Jason Killingsworth writes for Edge that The Last of Us writes female characters with agency, challenging the status quo when it comes to gender representation in games. But Carolyn Petit remains critical of this kind of praise.

    Simply presenting women as people is hardly something that should be considered incredibly praiseworthy. Rather, it’s the bare minimum that we should expect from our narratives. To shower a game with praise for doing the minimum is to set…

    Assassin’s Creed III

    …for the freedom of all men, the Patriots fought for themselves, and in this aftermath, Conner sees the futility of his fight and the Assassins’ fight.

    Despite AC3’s anti-colonial accoutrements, Adrienne Shaw asserted that the AC3 story could not deliver emancipatory narratives because its “realism” served up a teleological view of history, in which Native Americans were swallowed up by an “inevitable” historical process involving their defeat and dispossession: “The game ends ambivalently; all of Ratohnhaké:ton/Connor’s (and the player’s) work in the game didn’t accomplish much for him. The ending was most certainly realistic, but why did it…

    Kentucky Route Zero

    Critical Distance is proud to present this Critical Compilation of Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero, written by Nicholas O’Brien. Nicholas is an artist and researcher that makes video games, digital animations, and installations addressing civic history, urban infrastructure, and overlooked narratives of technology and labor. He currently lives in Brooklyn and is Assistant Professor in 3D Design and Game Development at Stevens Institute of Technology.

    When Kentucky Route Zero, the episodic magical realist point-and-click adventure from Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbitt), first reached players in 2013, critics were struck by its intricate narrative, distinct

    October 20th

    …beautiful pixelled beasts, evaluating them on their two most important attributes: How impressive they look in the game, and how closely these appearances stick to traditional sources.”

    Genre Royale

    Two articles this week take aim at grand narratives in games and games discourse–be it forever games like the battle royale, or the sorts of overarching narratives that emerge in the discourse like games-as-art.

    • Sexy Fortnite? Gamers Are Making Horny Battle Royale Games | Daily Dot Ana Valens examines the state of thirst in the Forever Game genre
    • Gamasutra: Sophia Gardner’s Blog – All…

    November 17th

    Welcome back, readers.

    I’m thinking this week, as ever, about The Discourse, and specifically how narratives coalesce around games at an ever-more-careening pace, often before they’re even out and available. It feels increasingly difficult, in the early stages at least, to shut out the noise and keep it from overwriting the discussion altogether.

    But that doesn’t stop so many talented writers who inhabit this discourse from pulling off that hard work every week, and it’s something I remain a little bit in awe of.

    This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important

    Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

    October 14th

    …that embody the very essence of Lovecraft’s revulsion, the troubled white male heroes that contain his arrogance and his gross simplification of mental illness are recreated in video games with no subversion, no critical thinking. In doing so they are breathing life, again and again, into Lovecraft’s hate.”


    Two very different articles this week tell very different stories about the storytelling process in games.

    • “The Nightmare Was Always the Same,” by Ed Smith – Bullet Points Monthly Ed Smith meditates on nightmares, dream work, recovery, and guilt by way of Max Payne.