This week’s games criticism offers insights with implications that go far beyond game design, touching on how we imagine ourselves, our models of morality, and how we organize our arguments and ideologies. Plus, critics offer some much-needed clarity on some of the controversies that have engulfed online discourse in recent weeks.
From “capital-g Gamer” grossness to theories of creativity, four critics address questions about how good work gets made, and what causes things to get muddled.
- Cuphead: The Fake Outrage – YouTube (video: auto-captions)
Shaun Jen explains how Cuphead became a talking point for angry gamers with a distrust for journalists and a distaste for social justice issues, and on the way reveals some qualities of far-right online discourse that make it so difficult to actually communicate.
- \\………..//: Here’s A List of Some Videogame Youtubers Who Aren’t Terrible
Liz Ryerson compiled a fantastic list of games video makers who are challenging the medium and making insightful arguments.
- Body of Knowledge | Problem Machine
problemmachine offers some advice on how to balance the importance of attributing the originators of ideas against the need to allow the creative process to do its thing without too much self-criticism.
- Paper Mario: Color Splash | Something in the Direction of Exhibition
Vincent K. compares two theories of creativity in this response to what he argues is a game with a muddled message.
“Where Saito portrays the creative process as a soliloquy, Kim portrays it as a dialectic. No action a player can ever take in a video game exists in isolation, because the player alone is incapable of supplying meaning to their own experiences. For this, they require a much larger context in which their actions are made sense of – rules and narrative and goals and a logic that will hold the player’s world together.”
Three pieces examine the narrative styles of games, particularly looking at the question of whether a game seems to be aware of its own context.
- ‘How Dark Souls II’ Revels in the Horror of Repetition – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman suggests that if this often-dismissed sequel sometimes seems tired and empty, it might be one of its strengths as a self-aware work of commercial art.
- Sonic, the Most Sincere Hedgehog in the World – amr al-aaser – Medium
Amr Al-Aaser makes a remarkable observation: that despite his affectations of of devil-may-care 1990s cool, Sonic might actually be among the least post-modern of all the platforming icons.
- If Shadowrun: Dragonfall is ‘grimdark,’ where does that leave us? | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Eron Rauch discusses genre snobbery across media, and how a distaste for certain subject matters might reflect culturally privileged beliefs about misfortune.
“When I stop and look across the increasingly vast areas of human life that fandom is so quick to label “grimdark,” I recognize something unsettlingly familiar. I see a list of all the things that the authority figures in my white, suburban, Evangelical upbringing taught us that only happen to sinful people”
In criticism with an eye on history, Wolfenstein continues to generate interesting discussion – but games with their own complex origin stories have also inspired critics to examine media in new ways.
- Halcyon Dreams: The Legacy of Dragon’s Lair – YouTube (video: auto-captions)
With characteristic humor, Harris Bomberguy tells the story of a game developer with absurd ambition, a doomed genre, and presents a sympathetic critique of auteur theory along the way.
- Point & Click Kafka and Stylistic Limitations | vextro
leeroy lewin reviews What Makes you Tick: A Stitch in Time, a game based on Kafka’s The Castle, and finds the quaint comforts of the point-and-click-adventure genre an ironic vehicle for modernist surrealist.
- Walking Among the Enemy: Wolfenstein II and Passing :: Games :: Features :: Wolfenstein II :: Paste
Dante Douglas relates the protagonist’s “stealth” position in a racist society to the ambivalent experience of passing privilege in real life.
- Wolfenstein: The Old Blood uses zombie schlock to talk about white supremacy | ZAM – The Largest Collection of Online Gaming Information
Justin Keever reads the latest Wolfenstein game against fascist portrayals of history and the post-apocalyptic media theory of James Berger.
“we can begin to understand the nature of the monster we must fight, not just in games but in the rest of our not-OK reality. It’s never just one thing, one ephemeral anomaly that disrupts an acceptable status quo. It contains myriad forms”
Business models have been under scrutiny in games of late; these two pieces add some texture to a discussion that can quickly become very repetitive.
- A Guide To The Endless, Confusing Star Wars Battlefront II Controversy
Gita Jackson summarizes the recent flare-ups around loot boxes, and in particular how it has put sales strategy at EA under scrutiny.
- Magic: The Gathering is Sesame Street | GamesIndustry.biz
Bruno Dias revisits some cherished assumptions about complexity and cliques that affect common perceptions of this collectible card game.
- The New ‘Need for Speed’ Sees a Future Where Loot Boxes Are in Control – Waypoint
Austin Walker shows that loot boxes can be read and critiqued like any other game mechanic.
“If, as Rowan Kaiser has argued, the old fantasy was about having power, the new fantasy is about accumulating power. The old power fantasy was invincibility codes and infinite ammo. The new power fantasy is the feeling that you’ve earned your success by your hard work alone.”
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