Welcome back, readers.
So, gaming disorder, huh? That’s a thing this week. I’m interested to see what kinds of critical responses emerge on this topic over the coming weeks, and how that influences (or doesn’t influence) the turn by big publishers towards steadily more predatory forms of microtransactions.
Also, this game boy with a crank was announced, drew headlines from across the tech sphere, and promptly got flak for having a roster of developers that’s pretty white and male. Again, I’m looking forward to ongoing conversations on who “gets” to be quirky in games, who “gets” to take risks–but also on whom the burden falls to be and do these things.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Business as Usual
This week we’re starting with a pair of industry examinations, looking at cycles of labour and exploitation that have been associated with games from the beginning.
- How the Video Game Industry Treats its Testers – YouTube
George Weidman takes a look at the challenges and injustices faced by QA workers in the industry.
- Midlife Crisis Optional: Pitfall II: Scene 1: The Great Video Game Crash of 1983
LeeRoy Lewin demystifies industry “crashes” past and present and proposes as an alternative that we’ve all really been having a decades-long Normal One over our inability to meaningfully hold capitalism accountable.
“Revising the history around the game crash matters because otherwise what remains is corporation-worship that puts a magnifying glass on profit margins while disguising human effort and lives.”
Evening the Odds
Two selections this week examine two examples–past and present–of the need under patriarchy to carve out and defend spaces for women in tech, computing, and games.
- The Gender Binary of Computing: Challenging Sexism in Technology
Rahul Zalkikar studies discussions of gender stereotypes and inclusive pronoun usage in a computing magazine from the 70s.
- Why We Still Need a Women-Only ‘Counter-Strike’ Tournament – VICE
Nicole Carpenter breaks it down real slow for the men who still think they’re somehow being slighted.
“There’s plenty of back-and-forth between the desire to just blend in with the community, but we’re not at a point where there is gender parity in esports. Women’s events relieve players of pressure of being women in a male-dominated industry, while still showcasing the importance of their presence in the space.”
Each of these three articles discusses a different kind of intervention in storytelling in games, whether it be how the story is written, read, or both.
- Curating Simulated Storyworlds (James Ryan) – Ch 1-3 | Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling
Emily Short, over the course of several posts, evaluates the idea in a recently published dissertation that procedurally generated and/or emergent narratives might be coupled with a curator of one kind or another to sort out and present the most interesting results.
- Years Later, the Ending of ‘Dragon’s Dogma’ Remains Wonderfully Weird and Subversive – VICE
Cameron Kunzelman describes how Dragon’s Dogma thwarts the fantasy narrative structure of predestination and conspiratorial politics.
- Why I Will Never Finish Earthbound | Fanbyte
Sarah Maria Griffin expresses the value of leaving one last mystery unresolved, one last secret unrevealed–to always have something new to return to. This one’s real good, readers.
“I know these secrets are reserved for those who have prayed, and gotten through it — I know this game has more eyes that I haven’t seen yet. Knowing the secrets but never having felt them for myself is part of the sting of the obsession: watching young men play through the game offering largely inane commentary, reading archived blog posts on the subject, seeking other people who have been there and have met the weird eye of the duck, too.”
Games, themselves commodities under capitalism, naturally reproduce profit-driven economies of sorts within their systems with regularity. Sometimes, it is fun, and this is the point. Sometimes, it is really, really not fun–and again, this is the point. Two authors this week look at an example of each.
- Shakedown: Hawaii Shows Why Capitalism Sucks | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor profiles a game that cynically and starkly renders the parallels between filling progress bars and hoarding wealth.
- Viva Piñata places a brutal lens on late-stage capitalism • Eurogamer.net
Hazel Southwell charts Viva Piñata’s relentless shovel-brandishing profit loop.
“‘Your gardening is improving’ becomes the panacea to all kinds of ruthlessness as you gain levels and your once profitable empire of ladybird production is discarded for sweet, sweet yak cash.”
For all the talk of Overwatch as some beacon of queer inclusivity in AAA games, the game in practice sure disappoints on a regular basis. Two authors this week look at where the game misses or meets–no, wait, misses again–the mark when it comes to limited time skins.
- Stop Turning Overwatch Characters Into Cops – VICE
Dante Douglas asks exactly what kind of heroism is Blizzard trying to celebrate by decking its heroes out as riot cops.
- 7 Very Queer Overwatch Skins We Will Never Actually See in the Game | Fanbyte
Nico Deyo 7 fantasizes of the ways in which Blizzard could do so much more for queer player representation.
“However, despite creating fun designs that many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community adore, the game still does not truly reflect our lived experiences or tastes.”
The Strange and the Familiar
This week we’ve got a pair of insightful readings of virtual space–how we navigate it, how we dress it up, how we make it appealing, how we make it ours.
- How Video Games Let Me Go Back Home | Fanbyte
Haru Nicol outlines the concept of homesick tourism, and how with games, in a certain way you really can go home.
- Technicolor Dystopias: Why the Colorful Wastelands of Rage 2, Far Cry New Dawn, and Fallout 76 Are Suddenly Popular | USgamer
Alyse Stanley tracks the shift from brown to neon in post-apocalyptic games and argues how this visual obfuscation is essential to making the contemplation of the end more palatable.
“By redefining our conception of the end of the world, our anxieties about it actually occurring become easier to manage. Given the cataclysmic headlines of most daily news chatter, it’s no wonder players want a reprieve.”
So many good and precious sons.
- I Both Love And Feel Embarrassed About All The Video Game Music On My Phone | Kotaku
Natalie Degraffinried has the music take we all feel but were too scared to write.
- 9 Pokemon That Are My Sons Whom I Am Very Proud Of | Fanbyte
merritt k and the whole Fanbyte crew really knockin it out of the poké-park with these against-type listicles lately huh
“Sonhood is an ineffable quality, but those Pokemon who attain it tend to have one or more of the following attributes: a large, powerful body, a foolish-looking grin, elegance, refinement, and, of course, a total lack of respect.”
- VA-11 HALL-A – First Person Scholar
Blake Planty looks at cyberpunk dive bars, queer escapism, and spatial theory. Disclosure stuff: I edited this.
- Unwinnable BBQ Season Subscription Special | Unwinnable
Unwinnable is doing a subscription drive running through the 28th. Support some excellent games and culture writing if you can!
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!