Happy Sunday readers. You’ll be very glad to know that I have braved an incalculable deluge of posts, tweets, and articles reeling at the name of Nintendo of America’s new president to bring you some quality stuff to read this week.
Before we get to that stuff though, I’m low-key beginning to wonder if I need to start including an obituaries column in the roundups to keep track of studio layoffs. This week’s casualties include ArenaNet and FireMonkeys. I’m not exactly holding my breath, but I hope Doug Bowser has reflected soberly on the words and actions of those who have come before when it comes to doing right by one’s employees.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Imagined Communities, Real Threats
I worry that this subheading sounds vaguely like clickbait, but dismissing the online threat that harassers and abusers present to vulnerable groups is a matter of privilege that trivializes any snarky title I can come up with. Two authors this week look at why it’s increasingly difficult for people–especially if they occupy vulnerable and/or marginalized identities–to have nice things online.
- When Your Favorite Streamer Turns Out To Be A Creep (Or Worse) | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio presents a deep (and I mean deep) dive on streamer culture, the relationship between streamers and their fans, and the vulnerabilities for abuse that can emerge when those streamers are shitheads (content notification: sexual abuse, including minors).
- TERFs Besieged ‘Isabelle Facts,’ A Queer Animal Crossing Meme Account | Daily Dot
Ana Valens eulogizes a friendly, queer-positive Twitter account and discusses the wider implications of shitlords pushing queer communities off of social media. Also, fuck TERFs. They can eat my ass. Or, on second thought, no they can’t. My ass is far too good for them (content notification: transphobia, assholes).
“Reporters generally think about harassment in terms of day-to-day experiences discussing politics, news, or social justice issues. But meme communities and fandoms are impacted by hate, too. Any space that welcomes queer and trans folks is a political battleground, even if it’s a Twitter account tweeting about a Nintendo character supporting your “horny rights.””
Square’s Final Fantasy VIII turns 20 this week, and it feels like everyone has something to say about it except Square. Two authors this week reflect on how the game has aged, why it has sort of fallen between the cracks left in the wake of its immediate predecessor and successor, and why the game maybe deserves more critical attention than it has historically received.
- Final Fantasy 8 redefined the series’ relationship with fantasy • Eurogamer.net
Malindy Hetfeld takes stock of Final Fantasy VIII‘s position in the Squaresoft canon, and traces its influence on subsequent entries.
- ‘Final Fantasy VIII’ Was Too Honest and Unsettling to be Beloved – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman depresses the hell out of everyone with an incisive read on Squaresoft’s bastard stepchild.
“Final Fantasy VIII asks what happens if the future ends, and all the hoped-for good times never happen. Then it pits its characters against this reality as hard as it can, and the answers it reveals are too much to bear.”
Mimsy Were the Borogoves
There are a number of ongoing conversations in games right now concerning their influence on and relation to other popular media. Some of these conversations are more preoccupied with adaptation–both to and from games–while others explore tensions around transmedia storytelling, and the recent bump in attention seen by interactive fiction. Here are three of the finest articles this week threading the needle of narratives in and adjacent to games.
- Bandersnatch (Netflix) | Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling
Emily Short sets about making sense of what works and what doesn’t in Netflix’s viral IF production, now that (most) of the dust has settled.
- Russian Doll is Netflix’s version of Majora’s Mask – Polygon
Allegra Frank does an excellent job articulating how Netflix’s latest and Nintendo’s hipster favourite are both so goddamned stressful to experience.
- Why There Will Never Be a Good Lord of the Rings Video Game | Fanbyte
Avelene Perry articulates how what sells in games is entirely at odds with the parts of Tolkien’s work that are central to his argument, and which constitute most of the good stuff in the books.
“In this game about how much fun it is to do slavery, players take the role of Talion, a revenge-obsessed warrior who cannot die because of his bond with the ghost of a powerful elf from the ancient world. Talion murders and brainwashes his way to having his own personal orcish army and ultimately forges another ring of power in a bid to challenge the dark lord Sauron.”
Please Insert Disc Two
While I’ve long been interested in the ever-evolving relationship between the Japanese and American game industries, I’ve never been able to put to words the specific tensions this week’s pair of authors discuss. I had not until now considered that my lingering grief over Aeris through the remainder of Final Fantasy VII and beyond might be rooted in my own cultural biases, but hey, it’s always good to learn these kinds of things about oneself.
- Gamasutra: Emma Rausch’s Blog – Finding mono no aware in American video games
Emma Rausch studies distinctions between–and overlap within–the ways in which Japanese and American games contextualize tragedy and loss.
- The Curious Case of Doctor Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine | Fanbyte
Blake P traces the weird history of Puyo Puyo‘s localizations in order to make sense of the shifting relationship between American and Japanese cultural (and marketing) preferences.
“If later Puyo Puyo games reflect a “Japanization of American pop culture” then this puts Mean Bean Machine in an awkward position. Is it a “fake bastard” of an localization attempt, a lesson for developers and translators? Absolutely not. It’s almost like asking which came first — the chicken or the egg(man)? However, it does suggest that we should question the intent behind the localization of past games.”
I find that the most rewarding critical writing I read–concerning games or otherwise–maintains a successful critical approach without sacrificing empathy for the human subjects of the text. Two authors this week take an empathetic critical approach to the games they study–and in the latter selection, the game they designed.
- The Yakuza Series Treats The Homeless With Empathy And Respect | Kotaku
Elizabeth Henges chronicles how Kiryu’s empathetic perspective contributes to a dignified, thoughtful depiction of Kamurocho’s most vulnerable.
- Gamasutra: Sam West’s Blog – Exploring The Themes of Grief and Loss Through Video Games
Sam West describes how personal loss influenced his development of Beyond the Veil.
“All of what had transpired influenced the development of Beyond The Veil. It is a project that has helped me to grieve, to ask questions of myself, of others, and to come to terms with an inevitable part of our human condition.”
Just for Fun
I knew well in advance of this week that there are a lot of men on the internet with a bewildering sense of toxicity and entitlement when it comes to the games they play, but I did not specifically know that “boner culture” is a term that some of these men deploy without a jot of irony. And now I can never go home again.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: I Barely Want To Fuck This Zombie – Point & Clickbait
Content notification: b o n e r c u l t u r e
“Is this really what we’ve allowed the games industry to come to? I respect NetherRealm’s right to make art free of political interference, but the least they could do is let me ogle some enormous zombie titties while I’m playing.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!