It’s been a good week for topics that definitely deserve more attention – I was excited to read pieces that pick up on how the movement of the player-character’s body intrinsically affects the narrative meaning of a game, and also gratified to see criticism of redemption arcs in dad games. There’s also incredibly insightful work being done on the context of criticism and game development, and the role of hindsight when reviewing re-released or updated games. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Designers and Auteurs
In writing about criticism, two pieces provide extremely useful background on how games are talked about.
- Gamasutra – A reading list for game designers looking to expand their conversations
Last week, Eron Rauch published a primer for game developers on critically evaluating games.
- Auteur Theory and Games | Unwinnable
Malindy Hetfield outlines the history of auteur theory, and its application in games criticism, and explains why it is sometimes a bad fit for the circumstances of game development.
This week it struck me how strange it is that so little is said about the bodies of videogame protagonists, after two pieces expertly highlighted the way the body’s movements convey narrative meaning.
- Shenmue’s World Is Full Of Wonderful Junk | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra describes the importance of material objects and heavy bodies in a recently re-released Dreamcast game.
- Opened World: Fragility – Haywire Magazine
Miguel Penabella sees the spectre of death in not just Hyper Light Drifter’s videogame cycles of death and respawn, but its portrayal of physical traces of life-threatening illness.
“At points throughout the game, the drifter will hemorrhage blood when health is low, leaving behind red tracks that remind players of death’s unbroken pursuit.”
Two pieces highlight factors making it remarkably difficult to improve videogames’ workspaces.
- Unions aren’t the only way to give developers leverage | GamesIndustry.biz
Kate Edwards discusses some of the challenges for achieving leverage for games industry workers, and argues that adopting the film industry model of unionization might not end crunch.
- We Can’t Fix The Internet | Kotaku
Gita Jackson describes poisonous dynamics that seems endemic to the internet itself, stretching back years and transcending platforms.
Two writers picked up on the problems with a particular gendered narrative trope that has received relatively little focused attention in the dad-game boom.
- On the Conflicts within Forgotton Anne – Historian On Games
Seva Kritskiy critiques the redemption arc in a game about political oppression.
- Eugénie DeWitt: Temperance, Incest and the Shock of the Biological
Amsel von Spreckelsen crystallizes how male redemption arcs come at a cost to female characters.
“redemption is shown to be a process of the rehabilitation of a man through his labour and industry, into a viable patriarch capable of disciplining and controlling the sexual lives of his wife and daughter”
Two critics look at how recent updates and iterations on games that have been loved for years prompt a reexamination of how they achieve their effects on the player.
- ‘World of Warcraft’ Has Finally Left Me Cold – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman argues that WoW is like a mirror, its apparent contents only a reflection of the desires of its player.
- Illumination and Occlusion | Dark Souls Remastered | Heterotopias
Brent Ables evaluates how the visual remastering of Dark Souls retains important ambiguities and re-emphasizes the dualities that underpin the game’s cosmology.
“By leaving so much of Dark Souls dim, the remastering artists emphasize that the game’s many mysteries were never really meant to be solved.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!