June 23rd

Welcome back, readers.

First of all, if you haven’t already checked out Gilles Roy’s stellar Critical Compilation on Assassin’s Creed III, I can’t recommend it enough! After so many sequels, III remains a sort of critical flashpoint for the series, so there’s some invaluable reading here.

Speaking of older games, a lot of authors I read this week are also looking back at retro stuff. If you’re anxious about the always-moving goalposts for what we call retro, well, me too reader, me too.

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

Genre Arts

As Austin Walker suggests, there’s a case to be made for simply treating and writing on games as art rather than affording the naysayers the privilege of a debate. But what’s the throughline to that goal? Understanding the terms is probably a good part, as well as appreciating the genre intersections games share with other media. Three authors this week offer thoughtful and provocative contributions to this ongoing conversation.

“Calling Spider-Man “young adult” suggests that games that follow this mold are serving an audience that they are not—teenagers are a not insignificant portion of the gaming audience, regardless of gender. If games are for everyone, as we often argue they are, where are the games specifically for them? Not the games that can appeal to all audiences—MarioFortnite, even Pokémon—but the games that are made specifically for teenagers?”

Finest Fantasies

A trio of articles this week each perform rich thematic analysis of the mid-generation Final Fantasy games. Incidentally, V is the hill I’m prepared to die on.

“For the most part, FF8 doesn’t sit you down and explain to you that war is hell, because it assumes you’re coming in with that knowledge already. Instead, it backgrounds many of the darker aspects, or hints at them, or shows them through characters’ mental states rather than on-screen events.”

Lucas Arts

Two (!) authors this week are examining the work of LucasArts, who did in fact make more than just Star Wars games! But also Star Wars games. Some were good? Anyway, enjoy these deep dives.

“Where could Star Wars games go if they weren’t tethered to this numbly impersonal aesthetic? What’s out there that might be more of a storytelling risk, that might ruffle feathers and disappoint expectations? What is there beyond reskinning Battlefield with Stormtroopers and Rebels or giving us yet another photorealistic white guy chopping up his enemies for twenty-two hours?”

Industry Incisions

Two authors this week take recent developmental controversies as jumping-off points to discuss harmful practices in the industry.

“EA’s flagship shooter might be on the cutting edge of mainstream video gaming, but its naive politics are years behind the state of historical research. The argument that a character fought bravely and heroically for Germany, but not the Nazis, isn’t just naive, but it’s one that was aggressively promulgated by German war criminals themselves.”

Simulacra

A pair of articles this week examine the simulation properties of games–be for large-sale systems like climate change, or more intimate affairs like sexting.

Cyber Sext Adventure is neither a bot nor generated content; it is a Twine game, authored to look like a bot, sound like a bot, react like a bot. It does an incredible job, to the point where I can’t even tell if its bugs — of which there are a few — are intentional or not.”

Self-Reflect

This week we’ve got three excellent interior examinations broaching how games–and game cultures–inform and respond to our imagined selves.

“This kind of harassment is nothing new to people who have been gatekept from their hobby for years before this named campaign began, but it’s safe to say that Gamergate represents the absolute worst that gaming contributes to the world.”

Critical Chaser

Gotta sketch ’em all.

“Here is the number of important things I can do in five minutes: zero. There are zero things that will truly matter to me or anyone else that I can do in five minutes. This is probably true for a lot of people, but it hasn’t stopped Pokémon fans from trying.”


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