December 2nd

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Happy December, readers. Has it really been three months already?

There’s a whole lot of quality writing this week on Red Dead 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me: both have been out for a few weeks, and it only makes sense that deeper, fuller critiques are starting to emerge. Not that there weren’t some great articles out of the gate–because there absolutely were–but the longer a game is out, the more players have time to really dive into them and produce thoughtful, boundary-pushing criticism. So a bunch of that is on display this week!

Of course, that’s far from everything happening in the discourse right now. I’m always on the lookout for work reaching beyond the chart-toppers of the moment, and there’s an excellent piece this week on 2014’s Sunset Overdrive, which in a total coincidence I played for the very time this week. With whispers of Metroid making some kind of appearance at The Game Awards, now’s also a great opportunity to remind readers that the series absolutely supports a trans reading of Samus.

So dive in, readers! This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Storm the Gates

Five outstanding pieces this week alternately critique failures of representation in games and carve out spaces for diverse identities.

“From its inseparability from 19th century American theater to later Hollywood films, (usually, but not exclusively) white actors have been pretending to be Black and Indigenous, typically as radically offensive stereotypes. Now, with digitally created characters, we’ve shifted from the makeup and costuming to their CG counterparts. Mocap actors inhabit and voice constructs of Blackness and Indigeneity. It’s a violence that continues to dehumanize and perpetuate racist ideas about people of color.”

Looking for Group

Four quality articles this week reflect on how games alternately help, hinder, and allegorize our fundamental need as social beings to make and maintain connections.

“We don’t always need stories with good people in them. Now more than ever, we need to be reading stories about horrible people doing truly awful things, and people deciding to fight against that by building and utilizing their own bonds of love.”

Design Flaws

Five articles this week zero in on the sometimes-rough edges where mechanical and narrative design goals of games brush up against one another.

“Under other social regimes, games might offer a window onto liberated play, creativity, and pure joy. But video games under capital are instead used to degrade “creative agency” to rote, controlled manipulations, which allows managers to represent repetitive, deskilled work as a fun and fulfilling competition, while senseless, cutthroat entrepreneurial and corporate jockeying become playful maneuvers and displays of creativity.”

Over Worlds

Games are very often pocket universes, microcosms for the conflicts and anxieties that were salient at the time of their production. How do these worlds relate to their material inspirations, and how do those relationships change over time? Three authors this week investigate these questions.

“A newly-vampiric doctor tormented between following his oath to do no harm and satiating his bloodlust offers a neat parallel to current worries regarding ethical consumption. I’m typing this on a sleek MacBook with my iPhone close at hand and what of it that the factory where they’re made features suicide-prevention nets, I guess. I give money to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. I deserve this Apple Watch.”

Open World Enough and Time

Three articles this week consider the tethers games maintain with the historical past, both in terms of representation as well as their status as material commodities.

“If there’s anything I learned studying Classics at university, it’s that our respected ancient ancestors were total horndogs. That’s why I’m so happy Assassin’s Creed Odyssey embraces historical bonkery to the extent that it does.”

Just for Fun

Yee-haw.

“Suddenly, he was back on the road, Jamie riding full-tilt ahead of him. And then he was crashing into that godforsaken fence again. Arthur crashed into it from multiple angles, at multiple points. He and Esports tumbled and thrashed into every conceivable tangle of human and horse.”


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