Trauma, abuse, hell, and postmodernism are just some of the stops on this week’s journey through critical writing on games. Yet somehow, it’s a fun ride, with high-quality prose, a wide range of voices, and clear takeaways for anyone creating things in connection with the world of games.
Two video essays this week applied theories of narrative structure to videogames.
- Nabokov, Her Story and You (Three-Year Anniversary Special) – YouTube
Hamish Black brings to bear Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction in his reading of Her Story’s narrative techniques.
- The Difficulty with Linearity | Mini-Read – YouTube
Ludocriticism examines how story time and discourse time relate to one another in typical AAA videogame structures.
Living in the shadow
This week saw four articles published on architecture and the history and politics of space. Includes slums, gentrification, and actual hell.
- The road to video game hell • Eurogamer.net
Andreas Inderwildi puts videogame depictions of hell into art historical context.
- Can a Video Game Make You Belatedly Appreciate Brutalism? – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman relates the brutalist architectural ideal to hard game ideals reminiscent of Dark Souls discourse, along with the anti-interaction ideals that evoke walking sims.
- Cities: Skylines, Urban Planning, and a History of Gentrification – Timber Owls
Building on a piece last year by Dante Douglas, Lilly relates this popular city builder to the politics of transit planning and new urbanism.
- Technological Oppression | Remember Me | Heterotopias
Andy Moore dissects the architectural narratives of Slum 404.
“There’s a sense of mockery that comes from living in the shadow of a sea of highrises. Glimpses of a more comfortable life can be seen through the tangled web of cables and exposed machinery that drape across the fractured pathways and catwalks.”
Something of value
Two writers look at attempts to represent minority issues in games.
- A Researcher Is Digging Up Largely Forgotten Queer Video Games | Kotaku
Gita Jackson interviews Adrienne Shaw about her project documenting LGBTQ+ games.
- Detroit: Become Human Plays Into the Racism it Claims to Oppose | Unwinnable
Malindy Hetfield examines tonal and structural confusion in Detroit: Become Human, critiquing David Cage’s self-declared limited intentions for the game’s message.
“It wasn’t Cage’s intention to add something of value to racial discourse. He was primarily concerned with eliciting a reaction and, to achieve that goal, all you have to do is propose an idea.”
Nothing but human
Two critics investigate player interaction in games, relating it to 20th-century developments in creative practice.
- Gamasutra: Justin Reeve’s Blog – Breath of the Wilds Montessori Method
Justin Reeve looks at game design as teaching the player, from the particular angle of one popular philosophy of education.
- A Pace of Walking – First Person Scholar
Matthew Schwager examines gait in Silent Hill games through the lens of writing about trauma and the countercultural art of Butoh dance in Japan.
“the true center of trauma is not the assailing event itself. Trauma is not that the unacceptable occurs but that our responses ourselves cannot be monstrous, that we must remain nothing but human.”
These two pieces both require a content warning for abuse (online bullying, sexual misconduct, etc.) as investigative pieces looking and the causes and possible solutions for community problems in games.
- Game Companies Can Serve Communities or Customers, But Rarely Both – Waypoint
Christopher Williams writes from personal experience about the problems with moderating communities that are being cultivated for profit.
- Rebuilding MidBoss | GamesIndustry.biz
Brendan Sinclair interviews the people trying to rehabilitate and restore a games studio after sexual misconduct tore apart its team and community.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!