July 14th

Welcome back, readers.

Friends, I am in my element this week. People are writing about old JRPGs, queerness, accessibility, inclusivity, and bad toys from the 90s.

Oh, and writers are taking the Mordhau devs to task for some wildly bad messaging that’s been woefully naive at best and stealthily insidious at worst.

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

“Historical Accuracy”

Credit where credit is due: when Gamers get Upset, they can throw up some pretty creative dogwhistles to safeguard their toys. A trending one recently has been “historical accuracy,” an argument often invoked to keep game worlds (and play communities) soundly white and male. Anyway, that’s a load of shit, but don’t take my word for it. Three authors this week think through the the idea of history in games, and what games can and cannot do to preserve and reproduce histories.

“Removing women from a game is not the same as turning on subtitles, or changing a suit of armor from black to gold. Players can have too much power, and MordHau and Hunipop 2 point to the ways customization could lead to erasure.”

IF Genre, then

Genres are weird. Case-in-point: here I am, tying together an article about interactive fiction and a video essay about adventure games. Both are great places to start to get a better handle on their respective object genres.

“I’ve deliberately skewed my list towards the criterion of maturity: games that represent what IF has become as a medium, that benefit from thought and careful play, and that communicate something about the human condition that is truthful, important, and hard to convey.”

Queer Horizons

We’ve got two highlights this week focusing on expanding and diversifying queerness in games.

“Sadly, you don’t see a lot of different body types that can be queered in videogames, as the masculine is commonly portrayed as perfectly muscled bodies – broad chest slimming down to rock-hard abs that you can see. So those that diverge to offer something different stand out, and that’s why figures like Karnov, Street Fighter’s Zangief and Final Fight’s Mike Haggar are so beloved, giving a face to something verging on the bear community.”

Save Points

There’s been a lot of great writing this week on JRPGs, particularly old ones. Part-and-parcel with these examinations are overarching questions of what does and does not emerge as salient and popular in the limited exposure space of a niche genre. Anyway, here are three standouts.

“If Ys is the living embodiment of action RPG’s cranked up to 11, Frane II is the genre turned down to a grandma-pleasing 5 – it’s still all in there, but there’s no real oomph behind it, no energy or spirit.”

Text-to-World

Here are three great articles making critical connections between our virtual and material worlds and lives.

“When I’m gathering plants in Tamriel, it’s not all that different from filling a free pile bike trailer with lightly bruised tomatoes from the produce distributor near Butchertown. I’m not sure where this thrifty compulsion came from, but it’s important enough to me that it’s as present in my video game life as it is in my real life. It’s a bit of romanticism and magical thinking, plus anti-consumerism.”

Moments Big and Small

Games have a whole suite of interesting tools they can use to tug at our feelings, on lesser and grander scales. Some of those tools simply amount to really solid narrative design. Sometimes they play up the player/character gap to really impressive effect and affect. Three articles this week think through a bunch of these neat ideas.

“The question of Ellen’s perspective and morality deserves further interrogation, as it is in this obscurity that The Witch’s House moves beyond being a horror game with a shocking twist and becomes a fascinating exploration of the distance between the player and player character.”

Critical Chaser

Barcode Battler was the cyberpunk dystopia we deserved.

“Skim past nearly 30 years, and here I am – 34 years old and with a Barcode Battler in my possession. And boy, was I excited when it showed up. And guess what? It’s utterly rubbish.”


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