April 28th

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.

Constant Connectivity

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.

“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.”

Lost Artifacts

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.

“A group of science fiction fans pioneered games journalism, created the first US gaming magazine, and redefined the meaning of “gamer.””

Sequence Break

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.

“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.

“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.

“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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