Welcome back readers! Who’s ready for a bold and exciting 2019?
Okay, fair enough. We’re six days in and I’m already tired just thinking about all the things that could go wrong over the next 359 days. One thing I am excited about for the coming year is all the boundary-pushing writing happening in games crit right now. And what better way to start than with a whole pile of awesome articles on queer game studies?
Let’s keep hope alive. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Game Studies .org Special Issue: Queerness and Video Games
So Game Studies .org just published a special issue all about queer game studies. Am I going to curate all twelve contributions? You’re damn right I am. The pieces on display here–all of them excellent–push and challenge game studies discourse in new and exciting ways, and I give the whole issue my highest recommendation. Do we have some kind of ribbon for that? We should.
- Game Studies – Special Issue — Queerness and Video Games: Not Gay as in Happy: Queer Resistance and Video Games (Introduction)
Bonnie Ruberg and Amanda Phillips warn against the idea that queerness in games is a trendy new thing, and reiterate that queer game studies, like queer studies in general, must be founded on resistance.
- Game Studies – Queer Games After Empathy: Feminism and Haptic Game Design Aesthetics from Consent to Cuteness to the Radically Soft
Teddy Pozo probes the limitations and pitfalls of empathy games as a genre, and proposes new terminology and frameworks for future design and criticism by way of queer and feminist studies, as well as a consideration of the uses and meanings of touch and feeling in games.
- Game Studies – Time and Reparative Game Design: Queerness, Disability, and Affect
Kara Stone uses the experience of developing her game Ritual of the Moon to think through the temporality of queerness and disability, and to introduce her theory of reparative game design.
- Game Studies – When (and What) Queerness Counts: Homonationalism and Militarism in the Mass Effect Series
Jordan Youngblood critiques queer representation in the Mass Effect games as subservient to and commoditized by an overarching hegemonic colonialism.
- Game Studies – “theyre all trans sharon”: Authoring Gender in Video Game Fan Fiction
Brianna Dym, Jed Brubaker, and Casey Fiesler investigate fan fiction as a corrective and critical lens for queer (under)representation in games.
- Game Studies – Queering Control(lers) Through Reflective Game Design Practices
Jess Marcotte makes the case that if we want to queer our games, we must also queer our control and controllers of those games, and in doing so upend our heteronormative, ableist assumptions about how players interface with games.
- Game Studies – Reimagining Fantasy and Family in Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
Braidon Schaufert pushes at the edges of Dream Daddy‘s homonormative middle-class fantasy.
- Game Studies – Coin of Another Realm: Gaming’s Queer Economy
Christopher Goetz explores linkages between game players, queer economy, and affect theory.
- Game Studies – Backtrack, Pause, Rewind, Reset: Queering Chrononormativity in Gaming
Matt Knutson brings in the concept of chrononormativity to discuss how Life Is Strange pushes back against it both in exploring queer themes and eschewing twitch gameplay.
- Game Studies – The Affectively Necessary Labour of Queer Mods
Tom Welch charts the duality of mods as objects of labour exploitation and sites of queer resistance.
- Game Studies – Queer Easter Eggs and their Hierarchies of Play
Eric James charts the ways in which Easter Eggs and secrets in games can simultaneously queer a hegemonic narrative and preserve a status quo of queer erasure.
- Game Studies – Engineering Queerness in the Game Development Pipeline
Eric Freedman calls for greater critical attention to game engines and the questioning of their immutable structure, in the interest of bringing more queerness to design practices.
“This is not simply a call for more queer game designers or queer programmers, but a call for the continued investigation and expansion of code, and those obfuscations that hinder queering this terrain, some of which are standard industrial practices designed to prevent tampering, to protect intellectual property, and to increase security and stability by blocking modification. Game engines are computational structures, and their underlying algorithms, like all algorithms, have a social dimension.”
The art of metacriticism weaves in and out of these four pieces as the authors reach beyond their objects of study to make sense of the state of games criticism, the floundering theses of generational franchises, and what the games we are fascinated with today say about the material hellscape we presently inhabit.
- How Fallout lost its soul – Polygon
Katherine Cross identifies precisely how Fallout has now resorted to eating itself alive.
- How Fallout lost its soul – Polygon
Apparently this article has made some people Angry on the Internet, so I’m linking it twice, because Cross is an incredibly gifted critic, and I am an incredibly petty curator.
- 2018: Short Rap, Surviving, and Gay Girls – Timber Owls
Nadia M. reiterates the colonial undertones of generalizing Japanese media as less queer-friendly than American media and highlights some cool queer games over the year.
- “The War We All Wanted,” by Ed Smith – Bullet Points Monthly
Ed Smith waxes metacritical in trying to figure out what to make of Battlefield V as a game that tries and fails to elevate the affective stakes of simulating war.
- In 2019, We Need to Learn How to Break a Perpetually Tied Game – Waypoint
Austin Walker explores his renewed interest in strategy games and makes connections to our current gridlocked sociopolitical climate.
“In 2019, let’s take as a starting point that every conflict we wind up has a metagame, and that the rules of that metagame are often stacked against us.”
Two authors this week set the materiality of games front-and-centre, to weigh in on the implications of portable gaming and the conundrum of preservation in a rapidly-obselescing, archive-unfriendly industry.
- The Importance of Preservation | Unwinnable
Khee Hoon Chan reminds us that the game industry is singularly bad at preserving its cultural legacies.
- Road Trip | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor muses about the malleability of portable gaming and its bleed-through into everyday life.
“The thing about handheld gaming is that the game stays with you even once you stop. There’s a constant ebb and flow of moments when you can play and can’t, and your mind tends to fill in the spaces you can’t with the echoes of when you could.”
The world of
2018 2019 sort of sucks–okay it sucks pretty bad–and correspondingly more games writers are thinking about how we and the games we play fit in with everyone else trying to ride out the hellscape. This week’s five selections think through this question along axes of multiplayer, class, mentality, social media, and fandom.
- How Playing Over 1000 Hours of ‘Into the Breach’ Helped Me Survive 2018 – Waypoint
Danielle Riendeau recalculates, recovers, and rebuilds, one turn at a time.
- The Year In Video Game Sex, 2018 | Kotaku
Gita Jackson reviews the evolving (devolving?) relationship between media platforms and sexuality.
- Moments of 2018: Bowsette, or when Nintendo proved no-one can subvert it like itself • Eurogamer.net
Emma Kent offers a thorough postmortem on the whole Bowsette thing.
- 2018’s games taught me the value of online fun with friends – Polygon
Cass Marshall reflects on a year of shared play experiences.
- “Richly Deserved,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter explores the class dimensions of how Agent 47’s–and the player’s–targets are selected.
“Finding an appropriate target for videogame violence is always fraught, but the superrich are about as good a human enemy as can be designed.”
Just for Fun
Since I took last week off, this week I’ve got two fun articles to make you smile.
- WHAT YOUR FAVORITE GAME IN 2018 SAID ABOUT YOU – DEEP HELL
Skeleton offers the Most Important spin on the games-of-the-year list format. Probably.
- I Unexpectedly Made A Lot Of Money Telling Fortunes In Final Fantasy XIV | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra accidentally picks up part-time work on a roleplaying server.
“I let people know I was not predicting the future, but helping them choose their path. Whether in-character or out, I only offered small suggestions. Consider taking a trip; maybe try a new crafting class..”
- Darkmoon Tomb – First Person Scholar
Robin Ford explores dysphoria and transmisogyny in Dark Souls, recuperating and reclaiming Gwyndolin in the process. In the interest of disclosure, I was the principal editor of this article.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!