Welcome back readers.
If you’re even casually interested in reading a weekly collection of critical discourse on games, there’s a non-trivial chance that you’re also aware by now that Blizzard did something notable this week not in thinking of its bottom line before its relationship with its partners, collaborators, and players, but in doing so in a public and blatant enough way that the backlash has been thoroughly harmonized and deafening. Extremely topical stuff doesn’t necessarily make for the most durable takes, so I’m holding off a bit before much of this material starts to make it into our roundups. With that being said, however, Cecilia D’Anastasio’s reflection this week, collected below, is too poignant to ignore.
And of course, there’s never just one story happening in games writing on any given week. There’s all kinds of cool stuff to take a look at today, so strap in and get spooky!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Industrial Strength Crit
We open this week with a pair of reflections on contemporary industry practices, both topical and evergreen. How do we square–or refuse to square–our consumption habits as players with the unchanging truth that corporations are absolutely never our friends?
- The Tension Of Playing Overwatch During A Blizzard Controversy | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio offers some self-reflective thoughts on player consumption in the wake of shitty corporate practices.
- DON’T GO REMAKING MY HEART – DEEP HELL
Skeleton discusses the state of emulation and access to games through the lens of the Link’s Awakening remake.
“Emulation serves to make a point of what the history of videogames looks like. Giant companies that make millions be damned, Emulation allows more than a share of the working poor access to classic videogames. This is a point more important than anything true about archival history. Knowing that these games are safe somewhere is one thing. Everyone having access is much more important.”
Three articles this week discuss the often-vulnerable and sometimes-miraculous things that happen when we come together in play.
- Overcoming darkness in Destiny | Into The Spine
Collin MacGregor breaks down the mental and social stakes of playing together with strangers.
- How Fortnite is Making Players Act Like Ancient Astronomers | Fanbyte
Andrew King explores how live events make us all astrologers once more.
- Indie Developer And Her Boyfriend Talk About Making A Game About Their Relationship | Kotaku
Gita Jackson takes a look at Nina Freeman’s latest embodied, intimate, vulnerable experience.
“In We Met In May, being in love isn’t something that occurs at the end of a story. It’s an active experience, reflected in tiny moments that are the sum total of the closeness you feel with another person.”
Play in Context
In what ways are games and play embedded in our histories, communities, and social structures? In what way can games simulate these things, or effect change upon them? Two excellent longer-form pieces this week explore these questions.
- How Warsaw Captures the Brutality—and Complexity—of the Historical Uprising that Inspired It | EGM
Reid McCarter delves into the historical context informing the design choices behind historical strategy game Warsaw.
- The Gaming Library That Helped a Neglected Neighborhood Find a New Identity – VICE
Kimberly Koenig profiles a Portuguese play community and project at the crossroads between communities, class divisions, and histories.
“It’s uncertain whether people would venture to a gaming museum in the heart of Marvila, halfway between social housing and hipster hotspots. No one knows if this will address the district’s greater needs or be a stepping stone on the path to gentrification. And if it does pan out, there’s still lots of red tape between Silva and success. To someone else it might be a moonshot, but the librarian’s boundless energy and unshakable faith are what brought them here.”
‘Tis the season, and in keeping with the spoopy vibes, here are five of this week’s finest Halloween-centric critical perspectives.
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi takes a fresh look at one of Castlevania‘s less-appreciated installments.
- The Mumbling of Control | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor digs into the foreboding sound design at the heart of what makes Control so creepy.
- HAPPY HALLOWEEN – DEEP HELL
Skeleton reflects broadly on the importance and value of horror games.
- Falling From Heaven | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar profiles a game about bein’ Lucifer ‘n killin’ stuff.
- October Spookfest: Misadventures of Laura Silver | Unwinnable
Gingy Gibson explores a spooky murder mystery which subverts the genre with goofy, unreliable protagonists.
“Laura and Orewell aren’t genius detectives who are guaranteed to swoop in a save the day merely by coming into contact with the case. They’re quick to point out flaws in the other, or realize that they made a mistake investigating and should have said this or done that.”
There’s been a bit of a gap so far in the early discourse around Untitled Goose Game: we all know that the Goose is bad–is supposed to be bad–but there’s been less discussion about the consequences of doing bad, as players, through the proxy of the Goose. Two authors this week attack this dichotomy more directly.
- Ask Not For Whom The Goose Honks | RE:BIND
Mx. Medea traces linkages between the psychological violence of the Goose Game to the more physical violence of controversial titles of yesteryear.
- I Did Not Expect Untitled Goose Game To Trouble My Conscience | Kotaku
Cecilia D’Anastasio muses on the weird ethics sandbox that the blank, banal setting of the Goose Game provides.
“So empty of context or motive, Untitled Goose Game is giving us whatever we’re looking for, so simultaneously, I can spin a story about the gardener’s last rose and make myself feel good about plucking it out from under him.”
It feels like there’s more ways to get into queer games than ever now, but the work is never done. What does good representation look like? What genres and spaces do queer creators inhabit, and what needs to be done to safeguard them? Two authors this week discuss.
- Overhead Storage – Exploitation of Queer Trauma in Indie Games (Part I) | RE:BIND
Emily Rose, in this first part of a series, unpacks the problems that continue to plague queer representation in games even as the overall number of games with queer narrative elements proliferate.
- On the Response to the “Ironic Pseudo-Dating Sim” Article
Kastel offers some clarifying words on the problems with VN/Dating Sim media coverage, the stakes for marginalized creators working in the genres, and how these matters do and do not relate to the separate problem of corporate colonization (and the accompanying additional media cycle) by the likes of KFC.
“Because the blog post I wrote a month ago isn’t responding to KFC’s bullshit, many writers have unintentionally used it as a representative of the “frustration” around how dating sims and visual novels are treated. Others may use it as an apologia to shill their favorite corporate nonsense. Few articles point out the corporate marketing ideologies inherent in the work and in the end KFC gets free publicity from game journalism and content creators.”
Spaces and Stories
Two articles this week examine how spaces and places serve storytelling ends in games.
- Gamasutra: Elizabeth Goins’s Blog – Stories in Space
Elizabeth Goins re-evaluates the established frameworks for environmental storytelling.
- The Transitory Space of Smoking Shelters in Judgment | ZEAL
Aimee Hart describes the comforting, unifying non-places of smoking shelters in Judgment and beyond.
“Smoking shelters do not feel like home in Judgment, but they offer the same amount of power as a real one. Not only will you learn more about the people you come across, but you’re all on equal playing fields — nobody knows who you are. All you have in common is that you’re in the same grey, drab, paint slowly peeling due to sun damage, smoking shelter and you’re all wearing the same small, cancerous uniform: a cigarette.”
We close out this week with some sharp rhetorical analysis of perhaps the most wickedly funny popular game to come out this year.
- The Client List | Unwinnable
Corey Milne peers into the seductive rhetorical quagmire at the heart of Void Bastards‘ crime-and-punishment satire.
“Void Bastards ends with a shot showing a planet with a ring around it. This planet’s ring consists of packets of dehydrated prisoners, rather than rocks. Imprisoned indefinitely because the paperwork to process them all would be more trouble than they’re worth. So ends a game about being shafted by space Tories. A tale as old as time really.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!