Welcome back, readers.
So, when I expressed the hope last week that there would be provocative critical takes on the new Mortal Kombat game released this week, I didn’t mean this. But why should I expect the Internet to have anything other than a Normal One when a narratively-bonkers fighting game tries to articulate a meaningful denunciation of slavery?
I’m still waiting for Scorpion and Sub-Zero to put a ring on it.
In other unpleasant-but-important news this week: another studio, another crunch controversy. I’ve been following the conversation on labour in games fairly closely, but I must admit I had not considered the implications of crunch culture hitting studios working on “live service” games–ie, games that are never finished being made. And, well, damn. Hope the Thanos crossover event was worth it, chums!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
If often feels today like games and play communities alike come in two varieties: online and Extremely Online. How does one navigate the constantly-connected as a social space? And is there, perhaps, a case for choosing not to? Three authors this week investigate.
- That Time I Turned Clue Into A Torrid Murder Love Affair | Kotaku
Kate Gray gives the run-down on romance-LARPing in a weird 90’s PC adaptation of the perennial murder-mystery game.
- Introduce Your Kid to More Diverse YouTube Game Streamers | Offspring
Stephen Johnson is right: your kids (or you, for that matter) can probably do better than just watching low-key misogynists stream games. Can you tell I have an axe to grind?
- How I Fell Out Of Love With Games | Fanbyte
Missy Martinez connects a loss of appetite for gaming with the increasingly-connected ecosystem that games inhabit.
“Gaming used to be my escape from the real world and a welcomed space of isolation from human interaction. Being called a whore by some twelve year old in Iowa because my fragmentation grenade ended their killing spree isn’t my idea of fun.”
There’s a reason there’s such a loud and vocal call for more coordination in preserving the artifacts of the industry: games move fast, rapidly obsolesce themselves, and are all-too-frequently left behind. Three writers this week take different looks at the historicity of games: as replicating the experience of making history, as lost and forgotten texts, and as a culture with its own, ever-evolving language and discourse.
- Making history about the mass grave of the Obra Dinn – Historian On Games
Seva Kritskiy maps the experience of performing historical research onto Return of the Obra Dinn.
- Rule of Rose is a Horror Gem That Deserved Better | Fanbyte
Vrai Kaiser revisits a lost horror game from the PS2 era whose worst monsters are all so human (content notification: sexual abuse, queerphobia, fatphobia).
- The Origin Of The Term “Gamer” – A Critical Hit!
Kate Willaert offers a deep historical dive on where the word “gamer” actually comes from, and the story has a few more twists than you’re probably expecting.
“A group of science fiction fans pioneered games journalism, created the first US gaming magazine, and redefined the meaning of “gamer.””
Four articles this week all revolve around breaking games in some way–either by pushing them to their mechanical limits, playing them in novel ways or for novel reasons, or in producing new games that respond directly to the assumptions and limitations of previous works.
- This City Builder Asks You to Rebuild the World After Climate Devastation – Waypoint
Cameron Kunzelman studies Molleindustria’s latest depressing, provocative project and identifies the ways in which it rejects SimCity’s narrative of clear-cut progress through intervention.
- i didn’t realize this was a sad occasion — Violence in Fallout: New Vegas
Steven Santana identifies how Fallout: New Vegas establishes empathy in ways its predecessor never bothers with, all while using the same basic building blocks.
- Bad video game AI makes for hilarious surrealist comedy skits | WIRED UK
Will Bedingfield takes a closer look at the pleasure we take in watching big, expensive games break.
- How Bullet Hell Games Helped Me Work Through Anxiety | Fanbyte
Blake P offers a primer on Touhou Behavioral Therapy.
“As appointments with my therapist continued, I realized that the type of games I gravitated towards began reflecting my mental struggle. The pixel-perfect precision bullet hell games demanded of players gave me something to hyper-fixate on besides my anxiety. I wasn’t running away from my real-life issues, either — I was practicing patience, control of a task, and completion, slowly chipping away at my anxiety.”
Audience, Purpose, Context
Who is a game for? It doesn’t have to be for everybody, but at the same time it can be thematically inclusive. Three authors this week elaborate on audiences and experiences.
- Grow Up: Gone Home is Wonderfully, Perfectly YA | Sidequest
Melissa Brinks rejects the narrative of juvenile art and celebrates Gone Home and the young, queer audience it was made for.
- Exploring the vast mythology of the Persona series • Eurogamer.net
Cian Maher explores Persona‘s grand, pan-mythological approach to world-building.
- How Rune Factory 4 Got Gendered Avatars Right | Fanbyte
Azha Reyes makes the case for how less can sometimes be more when it comes to gendered avatar representation.
“While it’s likely that a tight budget was the driving force behind a lot of these writing decisions, it really says something about how badly female characters are treated in media that a game choosing not to differentiate much between genders has some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long time.”
Just for Fun
Adding cheat codes to my list of tools for banishing unwelcome vampires.
- Leave My Sims Alone, You Damn Dracula! | Kotaku
Gita Jackson deals with a real pain-in-the-neck of a daily caller. I’m so sorry.
“It’s not just the ruined day or the blood sucking. It’s that he shows up all the goddamn time. If you’re playing a new family, you’d better count on seeing Vlad before too long. Much like the vampiric curse itself, you can’t get rid of the guy, unless you’re willing to cheat.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!