Welcome back, readers.
There’s a lot going on this week! I should have come to expect that by now, given how the big releases tend to pick up around this time of year, but it’s hard to keep track of it all. The critical focus this week is Disco Elysium, but I’m sure we haven’t read the last about Death Stranding, or Control, or the many other critically fascinating games we’ve gotten this season.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Disco Elysium has been making waves–as a storytelling engine, an ideology machine, a misery simulator. A pair of critiques this week size the game up and explore its possibilities..
- “The World is a Tough Place, but We All Live in It,” by Reid McCarter – Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter explores Disco Elysium‘s marriage of solipsism with sociality to create a unique crucible for ideology examination.
- Disco Elysium and Finding the Beauty in a Cynical World | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor wades through Disco Elysium‘s D.I.Y. agency and meaning-making.
“The world of Disco Elysium’s Revachol is a deeply cynical, shitty place, and you are given the option to respond in kind, continuing your trash fire of an existence in spades. But there’s beauty and redemption to be found at the game’s core, too, an underlying message that there’s value in both accepting and letting go of the past as you try to reflect what you want to see in the world.”
A trio of perspectives this week all weigh in on the relationships explored and developed on both sides of the screen.
- Fire Emblem Three Houses non-Byleth relationships feel more significant – Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart looks past the often-troubled player-character-driven romances in Three Houses to find some truly compelling character relationships.
- Kingdom Hearts III’s Plot Problem is STILL Its Women Problem | Sidequest
Azha Reyes approaches Kingdom Hearts III as a game that doesn’t know what to do with its women characters or how to capitalize on their agency.
- How Super Mario Maker is helping families bond by creating together | Into The Spine
Elizabeth Henges delves into the unique parent-child bonding opportunities afforded by Super Mario Maker as a platform.
“The welcoming atmosphere that encourages players to build their own levels is one of the main draws of Super Mario Maker. Even if you buy the title only to try other creator’s levels, there is a draw to try to make your own stages with a simple and friendly interface. The interface is even easy for children to get into and play around with, letting them create what could be their very first levels.”
There have been some particularly powerful pieces this week relation the play structures of game worlds to the ideological structures of the material world. Gathered here are three of the best.
- Video game design has tragically changed how I look at the world – Polygon
Jacob Geller traces the parallels between cover shooter game design and contemporary school architecture in an America that refuses to do anything else to protect kids from gun violence.
- Planting Seeds in the Apocalypse | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole considers the colonial frameworks that intersect with climate change discourse in approaching Mutazione.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Is a Brutal and Disconcerting Portrayal of Combat | EGM
Reid McCarter characterizes Modern Warfare as having lot to say–maybe too much–but lacking in conviction as to which way to land.
“Marines and special operatives to appreciate the cynicism of their horrorshow version of appalling real-world events; another, with just as much justification, may dismiss whatever message is trying to be conveyed because the medium of an action-packed war game starring Western soldiers (complete with multiplayer modes!) is too symbolically loaded to seem worthwhile.”
Am I going to get dragged for grouping Dragon Age: Origins under the banner of “retro?” It’s becoming more difficult to keep track; getting older is weird, do not recommend.
- Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi looks back at Panzer Dragoon Saga and homes in on a discussion of difficulty in relation to RPGs.
- On Its 10th Anniversary, Dragon Age: Origins is Better Than You Remember | USgamer
Eric Van Allen reflects on how Bioware’s banner fantasy series broke the mold of moral binaries in search of something more complex.
- Alice from American McGee’s Alice | Unwinnable
Deirdre Coyle reflects on how American McGee’s take on the Lewis Carroll classic fits snugly into the period of teenage angst she was in at the time.
“I had always related to Lewis Carroll’s Alice – the little girl lost in a fanciful world – and I then related to American McGee’s Alice – an adolescent girl lost in the horrors of her own mind.”
New Horizons, Old Conflicts
A pair of experimental perspectives this week each tie into a peculiarly circular experience of time in games. In an industry that favours sequels and repetition, what are the challenges in saying something new, or holding onto something old?
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons Will Be Filled With Regret and Guilt | DualShockers
Ben Bayliss thinks through how the warmth of nostalgia is ultimately obliterated by the inevitable lurch of sequelization.
- What Have We Got Left? Gears of War and Cyclical History – Grace In The Machine
Grace and Cole Henry discuss the ways in which Gears struggles against the cynical cycle of its own business model.
“The pressures of console exclusivity and the stakes of franchise making ensure that Gears will remain familiar, but that it will also escalate. In the age of Disney owning Star Wars and Marvel, capitalism’s mythmaking is self perpetuating. The “dark side” will always rise again. Yet, Gears of War does hint towards a different way.”
Two authors this week offer personal perspectives on established games and genres.
- 56: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild | Into The Spine
Autumn Wright tells a story of Breath of the Wild in 56 images.
- Tabletop games have saved my life many times – Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart describes the recuperative value of tabletop roleplay.
“I’ll probably be playing roleplaying tabletop games for the rest of my life. If it helps me to navigate my traumas, as well as have fun and make new friends? Well, I see nothing wrong with that.”
Two excellent articles this week each look inward at how this whole games writing thing is done, looking at the mess without and the mess within.
- How To Cover Video Game News When Everything’s A Mess | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra writes frankly about being a human being who writes about games when the companies are bad and the fans are angry and finding the right balance feels hard or impossible.
- Infandomilization: Or, How I Learned to Stop Seeking Validation and Love The Schlock | RE:BIND
Mx. Medea relates the current Scorsese scrutiny re: Marvel and cinema to yesteryear’s dust-up over Roger Ebert’s dismissal of games as art.
“There was one thing Roger Ebert was completely in the right about, however. “Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?” This statement is as true today as it was then, not because games aren’t art or any such silliness, but because we shouldn’t care, we never should have cared what some schlock loving movieman thought about our medium.”
This feels extremely on-brand for the developers who made Old World Blues.
- The Outer Worlds Almost Got Me Thrown in Real Jail | Fanbyte
Danielle Riendeau articulates a caper that almost was.
“I’m writing this almost-confessional from the front seat of my ambulance (where I volunteer a few times per month). I’ve done nothing wrong, you see, but The Outer Worlds—the way I’m playing it and the sheer amount that I’m playing—has instilled in me an instinct I’m not entirely proud of. A desire to loot the ever loving crap out of every room I walk into.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!