January 27th

Okay, so to start with–and not especially related to this week’s roundup–this. Moral of the story: when developers engage in queer erasure, push back. It works. Live your gayest life, Kassandra.

With that out of the way (and with my spirits raised), this week I’m thinking broadly about what pulls players into the game, and what keeps them there. Or sometimes doesn’t. I said broad!

Oh, and Resident Evil 2 came out (err, again), so there’s that.

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

Revival Horror

So Resident Evil 2 is a thing this week, and lots of writers are thinking about how it and the survival horror genre have developed–or not–over the last 20 years. Here are three four of the best pieces so far.

“They’re a uniquely American, capitalist nightmare in this sense. An all-consuming collectivist horde, converting their victims in a flurry of red. All the while remaining completely immune to advertising, body shaming, social anxieties, patriotism, or anything else that could normally be relied on to keep such an unpredictable mass tranquil.”

Choice Takes

What makes play meaningful? How do our choices impact us, and what motivates us to make them? In what ways do we identify with our play-selves? I have the easy job in framing the conversation around these admittedly vague questions–the three authors that follow accomplish something considerably more impressive by proposing thoughtful and substantial answers.

“For a few hours of the day I can know and exist in the body of this woman. Just enough time to drop down to the surface of that planet and many others. I’ll never know what it’s like to take the armor off, though, or to feel the cold interior of a dropship kiss the bottoms of my feet when I first take my boots off.”

Feelsy Fantasy

As kind of a parallel theme to the above, how can we find calm, relief, or even healing in imaginary places and worlds? How can games sustain these kinds of sites of recovery. Two authors approach these questions this week by way of two very different games.

“To spend time in Becalm is to be visually mesmerized by its colorful fantasy, yet at the same time feel grounded by the sounds of nature. During my voyage, I felt nostalgic for a place I had never visited, a deep longing for an experience I had never had. I felt at home in something completely unfamiliar.”

Environmental Hazards

If games can create spaces to foster peace and escape, they can also simulate spaces that are somehow unsafe or compromised, whether by the invasive presence of surveillance or a physically dangerous terrain. Two authors this week think through these ideas.

The Tearoom is precisely concerned with how institutions define homosexuality as deviant through surveillance practices, reflecting the central role of sexuality in establishing certain social norms to the detriment of entire groups of people.”

Turning the Tabletops

I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t feature as much writing about tabletop games as I’d like to. This week, however, we’ve got a pair of articles that focus on a particular advantage of analog play and design–it’s a lot easier to get under the hood and tinker around.

“Board games have a secret superweapon when it comes to flexibility – they’re infinitely modable. In fact, people do it all the time. We don’t call it modding. We call it house ruling.”

Feedback Loop

Okay, so we’ve wrestled a bunch this week with what pulls us into games. So what keeps us there? Or fails to keep us there, in some cases? A pair of writers this week delve into this problem and come away with some very different answers for very different games.

“In a way, Katamari succeeds because it tells the player exactly what they want to hear all the time, and that’s a powerful lure.”

Just for Fun

Yep.

“Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that you should probably take stock of whether or not you eat eggs for breakfast. Your new paramour may not like that.”


Plugs

  • What The Good Place says about game design | Unwinnable 
    Kris Ligman muses about the (rigged) (or not?) gamification of the afterlife. So, umm, is this deadification? Can you get into The Good Place if you spend all of Jeff Bezos’ fucking money? Kris is Critical Distance’s financial director, and routinely writes and develops cool things.

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