This Week in Video Game Blogging we take a more theory-oriented and sensitive turn. The main themes in writings produced this week revolve around how video games adapt and appropriate styles and genres; how we perform our identity and gender as game-players and game-creators; and what expectations we have when it comes to our play experience. There is also a video on Detroit: Become Human, which is a game I haven’t played yet but really want to, and didn’t want it spoiled, so I just watched the video with my hands covering the screen while fast-forwarding through the spoiler-y bits. Please don’t be too mad, I think I still got the gist of it.
Style and Genre
These pieces all speak to how video games approach the questions of style, language, and meta. Horror, the macabre, punk, surrealism, even – through what means are these achieved?
- Astrid Budgor : Dream on the Screen | Paratopic | Heterotopias.
Astrid Budgor unpacks what makes Paratopic a game indie horror fans will find refreshing, but gentle and easily shaken souls like me will avoid at all costs. Have a read for some juicy critical theory, pscychoanalysis, cinematic parallels, and plenty more!
- What Makes A Game Punk? – YouTube, Writing on Games
Writing on Games knows what they’re talking about. This video offers an info-heavy and thoroughly researched bundle of arguments for what ‘punk’ means when it comes to games. Is it something stylistic? Is it the message? Or the circumstances of production?
- When Is It Okay to Localize and Not Localize? | Legends of Localization
A best-practice guide to localisation, Clyde Mandelin’s piece also contains a handy list of links to other writings on localisation in games. Is language an integral part of the game, or can we allow translators and localisers some leeway?
- The indie story RPG and Fortune-499 | Radiator Blog
Level designer Robert Yang provides food for thought on how indie games can use their own game-ness as a metaphor for narrative effects. Particularly interesting is the concept of ‘encounters’ which he prefers over puzzles.
‘It’s about what our many “encounters” mean to us, and understanding that encounter-space means we understand ourselves better.’
- The Surreal Philosophy of Hollow Knight | Gamasutra
Tracing surrealism in visual arts and video games, Zachery Wolf expands on what this genre can offer its players.
- Notes on Eye Poppers: Delight in the Grotesque | Sufficiently Human
Eye Poppers is a free-to-play browser game which, Lana Polansky argues, offers a playground to experiment with our relationship to the grotesque and visceral.
Performing identity and gender
Queer-ness, woman-ness, and generally, human-ness in and around games.
- Where are all the Mothers in Video Games? | YouTube, Cannot be Tamed
A propos God of War, this video asks where, indeed, are all the mothers in video games?! Cannot be Tamed argues for three stereotypical states of mother-ness in video games. Without spoiling too much, Bayonetta makes an appearance. What a woman.
- How I Almost Gave Up On Games | Unwinnable
A heartfelt and honest contemplation on whether there will be a time, one day, oh lord, when women can just, you know, do the things they’re good at, without having to constantly perform some version of their woman-ness.
- Dungeons and Queer | First Person Scholar
Elise Vist forwards the concept of reparative play to refer to how games like D&D, in their design, could (and should) allow players to create and play queer characters. Her ‘Queer AF Character Sheet’ makes what once was a utopia a reality.
- The Game That Made Me Question What It Means to Be Me | Unwinnable
Kyle Bradford’s review of All Our Asias.
‘Defining your identity is a tricky thing. We rarely remain static, constantly engaging with and consuming information. The cells that form our masses of meat fade away over time and so too does our interpretations of ourselves. Our places within such generalizations like race can complicate things even further, making us question what it even means to be a part of something so varied and diverse.’
What do we want from games?
Chill? Mindless shooting and looting? Resurrecting good old times? Role-playing our darkest fantasies? Or just a good pirate game, please, pretty please?
- Our Stories in The Division – Historian On Games
A reflective piece on playing The Division, this article offers a poetically written series of emergent stories, lightly tinted with a socio-historical sensitivity so characteristic of the writer.
‘I crave that numbness The Division is known for, I want to displace my anxieties; this could not come at a better time. Character creator could be better, but whatever, I’m just looking for that loot grind… right?’
Introspective indeed. I’m sure we can all relate.
- Heather Alexandra – Dark Souls Remastered: The Kotaku Review
Did we need a remastered Dark Souls? Heather Alexandra argues we did, because it’s a great game, but the power of this remaster is twofold: what was good is even better, but what was problematic, well, … At the end of the day,
‘There are plenty of “Souls-like” games out there, aping mechanics and iterating on the original game’s design. But they are not Dark Souls and, like moths attracted to flame, the culture at large returns to the game that started it all once more.’
- Pillars Of Eternity II: The Kotaku Review
Nathan Grayson and I share our expectations when it comes to things we want ‘From A Classic RPG Revival That Also Happens To Be About Pirates’. Sadly, it appears we need to wait some more before our wish comes true, for while Pillars of Eternity II is a lovely game, it doesn’t quite make you feel attached to it.
- In Cultist Simulator, Death Is Only The Beginning | Kotaku
A short diary of Gita Jackson about trying desperately to build a cult, but forever dying, and how that’s a good thing.
And now on to heavier stuff…
- Why the Game Boy Camera remains Nintendo’s most whimsical gadget | Polygon
Jeremy Parish gives a historical overview of the Game Boy camera; what made it a hit, and how it captures that quintessentially Nintendo-ness when it comes to gadgets.
- No One Knows If People Eat Pokémon | Kotaku
In case you ever wondered if people ate Pokemon, Gita Jackson unearths the answer to this mystery. Maybe a good stepping stone to exploring the relationship between food and life in video games. Could Breath of the Wild, for instance, be completed successfully on a vegan diet?
- Urbanism City Building Games and Radical Simulations | Failedarchitecture.com
City builders can cultivate dubious priorities, often rooted in totalitarianism. This piece offers a few alternatives which still challenge the builder and manager in us, but either in lighter, sillier, or more realistic ways than say SimCity does.
- Detroit Become Human is Amazing, for the Wrong Reasons | YouTube, Writing on Games
This game was supposed to be about navigating a plethora of difficult choices. It would appear that it didn’t quite hit that note. Writing on Games arrives at the conclusion that with Detroit: Become Human game director and Quantic Dream studio lead David Cage ‘can’t actually decide whether it wants to tell you a story or impress you with its tech’. Sad.