The history of literature and politics blends with the history of games this week, as a number of critics examine games’ relationships to cultural works from across time. Meanwhile, God of War continues to inspire critical reflections, and developers are finding new ways to include gender diversity in their work. Let’s take a look at this week’s most insightful writing on games, in This Week in Videogame Blogging!
Three pieces this week highlight alternative ways of writing about games.
- I Wrote This So You’d Know I’m Smart: Games Criticism and The Beginner’s Guide – Pixel Poppers
Doctor Professor examines the issue of “signaling”, and the need for external validation, as they relate to the role of the critic.
- Video Game Choo Choo » The Hyperbole of Homogeny
Rose makes the case for game reviews by people outside of the core culture of gamers.
- Zerg Rush: A History of StarCraft AI Research – Tommy Thompson – Medium
Tommy Thompson provides a fascinating and readable summary of computer scientists’ explorations of RTS problem spaces.
“there’s a lot of fuss about StarCraft for AI research given the overall complexity of the problem space: it’s a multi-agent control problem with imperfect information (given the fog of war) and a large state space given the number of possible actions and world configurations”
God of War
People continue to talk about Kratos – this week, with more pointed criticism concerning his character depth.
- “Killing Gods, Feeling Great,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter argues that Kratos should not be taken at face value.
- The Meaninglessness of Maturity in God of War | Unwinnable
David Shimomura poetically critiques the underdeveloped moral frameworks undercutting the dadgame’s pursuit of a grown-up story.
“In the world of God of War all lives are not equal, some are more valuable than others. To kill a human is to take on a black mark onto one’s soul. To kill a beast is to be a conqueror.”
Two pieces blend games with traditional literature in order to better understand their themes.
- The Real Ancient Myth at the Heart of ‘God of War’ – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman examines the mythos of Baldur and world cycles.
- Rewilding | The Long Dark | Heterotopias
Ewan Wilson carefully studies the construction of a wilderness, with references to relevant literary works, including classic gothic novels and poetry, as well as visual arts.
“The game’s vibrant panoramas are a close match to the work of J.M.W. Turner. Turner’s ethereal watercolors and oils both evoke some of the game’s vital contrasts. Much of his work plays off of the elemental opposition of hot and cold light—fire and ice.”
Looking at how games play with political and historical context, two critics look at games that are overdetermined by things that came before them.
- Outside Your Heaven: Metal Gear Solid 2 Is Not About The Internet
Matthew “Sajon” Weise highlights some contingent, historical reasons why Metal Gear Solid 2 became such an important title.
- A Coda: Uncharted, the Crate Joke, and Rejecting the Drake Legacy | Midfalutin
Steven Scaife discusses how game design and character development move beyond the mould set by Nathan Drake.
“We can understand the game’s title in terms of how Chloe and Nadine handle the legacy of their fathers with Shoreline and the Tusk of Ganesh, but we can also understand it in franchise terms: the legacy of the Uncharted series.”
Two critics look at how themes of gender inclusion are covered in recent titles.
- The They/Them Option in ‘BattleTech’ Is About So Much More Than Choice – Waypoint
Patrick Klepek investigates the design and narrative techniques developers are employing in order to include a gender-diverse audience. (Content warning: some transphobic comments are quoted in this article)
- Far Cry 5’s Faith Seed Embodies An Evangelical Double Standard
Riley MacLeod explores the troubling construction of femininity that forms part of the culture of this game’s fictional religious cult.
“The cult seems to stem from a kind of Christianity that sees women both as the temptress who caused humanity to be expelled from the Garden of Eden and as subordinates to men.”
- April roundup: the long journey | Critical Distance
Taylor Hidalgo brought us a new roundup of writing responding to the monthly Blogs of the Round Table prompt. Be sure to check it out!
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!