How can I express my excitement over the past seven days? This has been an incredible week for writing in games. This week’s banner release is Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and leading the charge in critiquing that game’s failure to tackle its own colonialism is Dia Lacina with one of the finest reviews I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
But that’s not all that’s going on in games writing! Writers this week find feminist themes in unlikely places (Leisure Suit Larry?!), take Riot and CD Projekt Red to task for their toxicity, explore worrying crediting practices in remasters, tackle cross-cultural accessibility for developers, gush about Eevee, and so much more.
I hope you enjoy exploring these articles as much as I did collecting them. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Resisting the Colonizer
Four authors this week produce outstanding content on how games alternately perpetuate and push back against colonial themes.
- Fake Plastic Futures | Wipeout Omega Collection | Heterotopias
Devin Raposo examines the colonial consequences of Wipeout‘s haphazard, uncritical cyberpunkification of urban spaces.
- ‘1870’ Reclaims a Cyberpunk Future from Colonial Wreckage – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman highlights a cool and good anticolonial, Indigenous cyberpunk game you can enjoy (and support) instead of Tomb Raider.
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s Immersion Mode is a big missed opportunity – Polygon
Chris Plante discusses how an “Immersion Mode” option in Shadow of the Tomb Raider completely backfires and achieves the opposite effect it intends.
- ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’ Tries, but Fails, to Tackle Its Own Colonialism – Waypoint
Dia Lacina pulls no punches in articulating Tomb Raider‘s core ideological problem. If you read one review this week–or hell, this year–read this one.
“while an after-credits sequence tries quickly to quell Lara’s more destructive impulses and instruct against the violence of colonialism, anything it manages is far too little, and much too late. No matter how much Lara changes in the course of this adventure, she’s still an instrument of hegemony. This world remains a constructed fantasy, one designed specifically for her.”
Sex, Feminism, and Gender(ings)
Four writers this week reflect on feminism in games past and present, how relationships are gendered, and how development studios have a long way to go to create safe and equitable workplaces for women.
- The Surprising Feminist Overtures of a Leisure Suit Larry Retrospective
Rachel Presser finds positive messages about consent and feminine agency in the Leisure Suit Larry series.
- How The Walking Dead gave birth to a feminist icon • Eurogamer.net
Sian Bradley finds a lot to love in the character of Clementine.
- Riot Games Says It Wants To Clean Up Its Mess, But The People Who Made It Are Still There | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio provides an in-depth update on the state of Riot, and finds that things leave a lot to be desired.
- My Favorite Final Fantasy Taught Me Some Bad Lessons About Love | Kotaku
Monica Uszerowicz reflects on how Final Fantasy VIII genders relationships and romance in an insidiously toxic way.
“When I replayed Final Fantasy VIII earlier this year, it became clear that Squall was comically mean to Rinoa, even as she Manic Pixie Dream Girled her way into his life. Their romance was a big, cinematic lesson in unavailability and emotional labor—Rinoa provided endless, giggling support; Squall rebuffed it almost throughout.”
Two articles this week alternately examine escapism in games and why social media engagement needs to check its cis/hetero privilege.
- The Gay Normalcy Fantasy | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor extols Dream Daddy‘s strengths as escapist fantasy, while foregrounding that the queer utopia it envisions does not yet exist.
- Cyberpunk’s transphobic tweet is part of a much larger issue with game marketing – Polygon
William Antonelli delivers a much-needed postmortem on the stakes CD Projekt Red’s transphobic social media presence.
“These accounts aren’t just any rando making jokes; they represent popular companies with cultural weight in gaming, and they’re choosing to reinforce existing negative stereotypes in front of a large, receptive audience. These companies have a wide reach, and through their use of familiar language and humor, are effective at influencing thoughts and actions.”
Author and Text
Three articles this week take a look at authorship, citation, orality, and literacy in games both new and renewed.
- Why Don’t Remakes And Remasters Always Credit the Original Developers? – Waypoint
Patrick Klepek pushes back against shoddy citational practices in games.
- Crossings | Unwinnable
Corey Milne meditates on the relationship between orality and literacy in Pyre.
- Spider-Man and the question of, whose story is this? • Eurogamer.net
Christian Donlan cites Spider-Man as an example of a game that successfully expresses all of its moving parts as functions of its main character.
“How many games are you playing where you find yourself mowing people down and parkouring all over the shop just because that’s what you do in games? In Spider-Man, it’s all an expression of character.”
Two journalists this week speak with developers from the Middle East and listen to their perspectives on accessibility, inclusion, and indie scenes in Jordan and Lebanon.
- Player Two: An Interview with Hosni Auji – Invalid Memory
Miguel Penabella chats with indie developer Hosni Auji about boredom, relaxation, and anxiety in games, as well as the indie dev scene in Lebanon.
- Lowering the language barrier for aspiring Arab developers | GamesIndustry.biz
Brendan Sinclair profiles Fawzi Mesmar, a Jordan-based game developer working to make instructional writing on game design accessible to speakers of Arabic.
“To this day, Mesmar’s reading on game design has come entirely in English and Japanese. While he was fortunate enough to be able to learn both languages, he didn’t think that should be a prerequisite for Arabic speakers interested in more in-depth writing on game design.”
Two articles this week scrutinize institutions of power in recent games.
- Spider-Man’s Take On Police Feels Out Of Touch | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra critique’s Spider-Man‘s decidedly privileged and uncritical relationship with law enforcement.
- ‘Graveyard Keeper’ Is About Losing Your Future to Your Present – Waypoint
David J. Lumb unearths a chilling commentary on the displaced temporality of labour in Graveyard Keeper.
“Keeping your eyes on the prize doesn’t just require discipline—it demands conviction that your efforts are paying off. So long as that’s the case, people can put up with some pretty horrible conditions. Even if that means dismissing the here and now, who cares? You’re going places.”
Five articles this week showcase what it means to play–and design–critically.
- Gamasutra: David Ferriz’s Blog – Using austerity as a creative tool
David Ferriz speaks frankly about surviving on paid commissions as an small indie studio and how practical necessity helped inspire his studio’s latest game: Path to Mnemosyne.
- Wayward Manor | Unwinnable
Deirdre Coyle finds a big mood in a sentient haunted house that just wants to be left alone.
- Eevee Is What Pokémon Is All About | Kotaku
Gita Jackson makes the case for Eevee’s limitless potential being emblematic of the Pokémon games’ ethos.
- Due Diligence: Never bet your head (A tale with a moral) – Haywire Magazine
Leigh Harrison demystifies Bloodborne’s grueling reputation to speculate on how our online culture of collective wisdom and fourthhand memes may have predicted the likes of Filip Miucin.
- Gamasutra: Justin Reeve’s Blog – Space, Place, and the Art of Designing Deep Levels
Justin Reeve dissects the political arguments evoked by spatial design in Dishonored 2.
“In creating Karnaca, the development studio responsible for Dishonored 2, Arkane, put together an elaborate critique of class-based societies. Things like wealth, status, entitlement, and corruption were made manifest in a way that seemingly transcends level design.”
Just for Fun
Just as we play, create, and consume critically, I think it’s vital that we remember to laugh. By that token, please enjoy the following.
- Wake Up Sheeple: Luigi Is Still Dead | Kotaku
Nate Jonah Graymeson uncovers the deep-state conspiracy around Nintendo’s greenest, deadest mascot.
“The man you saw today, readers and lizard-hating ultra-patriots, is not Luigi. He’s a body double. It’s clear as day.”
- DED LED by DED LED
A curated and collected volume of fine writing from the now-defunct Kill Screen.
- Gaming 4 Good: One Simple Wish (October 6, 2018) – NYMG
Not Your Mama’s Gamer is running a 24-hour gaming marathon on October 6. Please check it out!
- From Passion to Power – First Person Scholar
Oscar Moralde looks at contemporary trends in the unionization of games labour through an historical lens of media industry practices. (Disclosure: I work for FPS as an editor)
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!