March 31st

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Thanks for stopping by, readers.

This week EA is the latest of the major publishers to take a turn on the layoff misery-go-round. You can bet this news is on my mind as I gather together the latest critical writing on labour in games.

I often find as I compile these weekly roundups that the articles coalesce into loose themes. This week much of what I’ve read revolves around rhetoric. How does a developer communicate accessibility options in a game? How does a critic connect her words with the widest possible audience? How do we centre under-represented voices with respect and dignity? You’ll have to read on to see how this week’s featured authors tackle these questions and more.

On a happy note, this coming April marks Critical Distance’s tenth birthday. Stay tuned for further details on how we plan to celebrate this milestone. 🙂

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

Work on Play

The Game Developers Conference has offered a barometer of sorts in recent years on the conversation about labour in games. Two of this week’s selections summarize some the the major points of that conversation, while the third proposes extending that conversation beyond the West.

“It’s profoundly interesting that the labor conversation didn’t really trend towards Japanese games – of which stories about labor mismanagement are rife, until a more recent developer had positive words to say about needing an IV drip to continue making the new Super Smash Brothers.

Art on Art

I haven’t included a lot of purely creative works in my time at Critical Distance yet, but this week’s two artists were just too good to pass up.

“Who would you be
if you weren’t someone who rescued me?
Who would you be on your own?”

Front and Centre

Three authors this week reflect on who speaks for–or over–marginalized voices in games, and shed some light on efforts to re-centre those voices.

“They are opening the gate to their walled city but changing nothing about the culture there. They are not doing anything about the rampant racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, and sexual harassment. This tweet is saying “sorry our toxic pit is so toxic! Here is a dress for you to wear while you swim in the toxic pit: also it shows off your tits and ass!””

Rhetoric in Review

How to we talk about games? There are countless considerations, but one of the bigger ones is accessibility. Three authors this week observe that rhetoric matters, within both academia and the wider public sphere, and on the part of both creators and critics.

“Can we still find enjoyment in shock-horror even if it doesn’t have anything to say? Of course. But it makes me think of Cards Against Humanity. I’ve had a lot of fun with CAH in the past. But with CAH, everyone has a great time until they find a card that hurts them personally.”

Access, Audience

Games have historical and ongoing issues with access–both materially and socially. What financial and geopolitical restrictions to players and makers face? Which audiences enjoy developer consideration, and which do not? Three authors this week think through these questions and offer valuable insights.

“Remember five, ten years ago, when we were all concerned that audiences outside of the gaming community weren’t taking games seriously enough? We’ve conflated games’ capability to be mature with a dour sense of nihilism; now anything that isn’t that particular brand of serious, Rand-referencing “literary” is either relegated to the “pure fun” pile alongside Super Mario Odyssey and Battle Chef Brigade or, if it dares to have a message that isn’t depressing, it’s slapped with the “juvenile” label.”

Playing with Power

Many games are power fantasies, and many power fantasies are tied up in a certain able-bodied ideal of masculinity. What happens when we pull at the threads of this narrative? Two authors this week do just that.

“In a flashback, Dante’s mother tells him to “be strong, be a man” shortly before she dies. Using this memory suggests that this has been his goal ever since and still guides his actions. The message is as simplistic as it is clear: real men are strong, and exhibiting that strength is fun.”

Just for Fun

In one of the above selections, Talen Lee asks what constitutes the review as a genre. I don’t purport to have a clever answer of my own, but here’s the best review I’ve read all week. Enjoy some Pure Expression.


Plugs


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