It’s been an intense week for games criticism, with important news stories as well as intriguing and troubling new releases. This Week in Videogame Blogging has you covered, with a roundup of all the most interesting writing and video.
A new announcement by Valve has triggered spirited debate about the responsibility of platforms and the power dynamics that support or undermine freedom of speech.
- Valve’s new content policy is a gutless attempt to dodge responsibility | GamesIndustry.biz
Brendan Sinclair explains and critiques these changes regarding what kind of thing can be sold on Steam.
- Itcho.io: Valve’s new stance on content “ridiculous” and “out of touch” | GamesIndustry.biz
Matthew Handrahan reports on itch.io founder Leaf Corcoran’s response to the news about Steam.
- Tobold’s Blog: True freedom is always the freedom of others
Tobold Stoutfoot articulates the freedom-of-speech defense of Valve’s decision.
- Radiator Blog: Why I’m not super excited about Valve’s new Steam policy
Robert Yang complicates the freedom-of-speech argument for Valves’ decision against the context of social dynamics that make some creators’ challenging work more dangerous to publish than others’.
“Conservative forces in games want to make the psychological burden of being on Steam as high as possible. This policy seems to encourage them to do that, and alt-right communities basically celebrated Valve’s decision.”
A deeply distressing and offensive title has received some interesting analysis this week. Content warning for extremely violent misogyny in this section.
- Your Critic is in Another Castle: Abdication
Kate Cox puts the release of Agony in the context of Steam’s policy shift.
- ‘Agony,’ a Game About Dehumanizing Women, Isn’t Just Bad, It’s Toxic – Waypoint
Patrick Klepek pinpoints the problems with this game in the context of a world where the far-right has growing cultural power.
“Agony is the kind of game conservative culture warriors will defend not because it’s good, but because it “offends” people. If someone’s upset over the way it depicts women, who cares if it’s no fun to play? In today’s Trump-fueled victimhood culture, that’s basically a win.”
Four articles this week look at gender and femininity – the first one is mostly about ponies though.
- Breath of The Wild’s horses are special: Here’s why – Polygon
Simone de Rochefort ties the portrayal of these majestic animals to their history in girls’ culture and toys.
- A Screaming Eye Cube Helped Me Learn About Gender | Kotaku
Kate Gray discusses the lovecraftian horror that is the attempt to get to grips with one’s own experience of gender.
- David Cage games keep treating women like shit | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra summarizes the deep issues that remain unresolved in David Cage’s work.
- She’s Not There – First Person Scholar
Brandi Billotte discusses absent characters as a particular mode of representation, with interesting but ambivalent advantages in a world where images of women are often fraught.
“Though we can hope that this trend toward empowered female protagonists persists, it is lamentable that these particular females can only seem to achieve agency by not being there.”
Discussions of queerness and inclusion continue in much of this week’s writing on narrative.
- The Mass Effect Issue: Romancing the Krogan | Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan considers what it would mean to enter a relationship with some of Mass Effect’s unromanceable, less-humanoid characters.
- Belonging Outside of Belonging: Avery Alder’s Dream Askew | Unwinnable
Sam Desatoff interviews Avery Alder and digs into different apocalypses and storytelling dynamics as a more complex issue than representation.
- Wallowing in Paratopic’s Inspired Mundanity – Sidequest
Liam Conlon shares a fascinating reading of Paratopic, a game that weaves under-explored cultural references with experimental postmodern storytelling.
“Even as we begin to piece together all the character and time jumps, the narrative folds in on itself, creating a kind of recursive Moebius Strip.”
Two pieces this week look at industrial structures around games, fandom, and marketing – apart from the issues going on at Valve.
- The Relationship Between Kpop and eSports – YouTube
Alexandra Orlando examines industrial connections that span the Korean media and technology industries.
- The Struggle over Gamers Who Use Mods to Create Racist Alternate Histories | Kotaku
Luke Winkie shares an in-depth exploration of the mechanics at work in Paradox Studios’ problematic modding community, and the response the studio has taken having recognized common issues with racism.
“Lind describes parsing the space between authentic and sarcastic hyper-nationalism as a “daily challenge” for Paradox.”
Two writers look at historical and contemporary protest movements in relation to videogames.
- The game developers telling their story of Nicaragua’s deadly crackdown on protesters • Eurogamer.net
Jay Castello reports on the story of Claudio Norori and Antonio Vargas, indie developers who have paused development on a game in order to respond to their country’s crisis.
- ‘Detroit’ Siphons and Squanders a History of Marginalized Struggle – Waypoint
Yussef Cole critiques some narrative oversimplifications that seem, at best, out of touch.
“Even if one were to embrace Detroit’s unironic cribbing from real movements with zero added context, the game mostly sidesteps the punishing and often unfair nature of nonviolent protest.”
A new title from Dontnod, the creators of Remember Me and Life is Strange, is quickly beginning to inspire fascinating analyses.
- ‘Vampyr’ Review: A Game Whose Messiness Doesn’t Weaken Its Bite | WIRED
Julie Muncy’s examination of this new role-playing game is nuanced and intriguing, discussing morality in terms of character motivation.
- “The Slow Death of the Imperial Vampyr” – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter looks at the political worldbuilding of this game that seems to faithfully reflect a legacy of Victorian Britain with ongoing relevance in contemporary struggles.
“The social fabric of Vampyr’s London, held together by a spiderweb of interconnected characters within each of the city’s districts, is made of tenuous fibre.”
Three articles discuss different forms of pleasure and ease.
- Let Us Submit Together – ZEAL – Medium (Content warning: discussions of kink)
Liam Conlon examines the dynamics of “subspace” (a mental state sometimes experienced during BDSM scenes) and aftercare in SOMA.
- I Don’t Know Anything About Rayman, and That’s Why I Love Him – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman delves into comfort, discussing the simplicity and earnestness of one game’s flow.
- Finding Comfort | Sufficiently Human
LanaP describes the spatiality of character growth and psychological states in games by Spacepuppy.
“It is inescapable, but it also implies an endless, unknowable realm of possibility, much like a self-delusion born from all-consuming grief.”
Finally, this piece about screenshot methods is just wonderful.
- Virtual Photography | Virtual World Photos
Eron Rauch’s history of screen photography is fascinating, and I am intensely excited to imagine it inspiring more creative approaches to videogame photography and video essays.