November 24th

Welcome back, readers.

Pokémon: how many ‘mons y’all got so far? I’m sitting around 30 because I’m a slow player with a lot of professional and not-so-professional commitments. A friend of mine is pushing 60, and neither of us has hit the first gym badge yet. The game is, dare I say, fun? But as critics are starting to notice, some of the underlying worldbulding is getting a little, umm, creaky.

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

A Hideo Kojima Gaffe

There’s been a whole bunch of critical discussion around a particular point of lore in Death Stranding that misguidedly ties queer and especially ace identity to some kind of negative societal trend towards emotional distance. We begin this issue with two of the week’s finest examinations of this topic, and why getting representation right matters.

“It wants to acknowledge the difficulties and complications in making connections. But when the game treats asexuality as a sad condition to be solved, rather than just another way of making connections, it undercuts its own message.”

Design Dossiers

We’ve got a trio of design-centric interviews and critiques this week touching on violence, difficulty, fantasy, and more.

“My theory here is that the values of creating a Jedi-centered game are in conflict with design that revolves entirely around lightsaber combat, which would likely require justifying how a Jedi killed thousands of enemies for a game with a certain target of gameplay hours.”

Parting/Passing

Two authors this week delve into moments of relational difficulty, examining how these stress points in characters’ lives are written and executed in recent games.

“The heroes are not only forced to accept the horrific truth that not everyone can be saved, but also must come to terms with their own emotional turmoil when faced with their limits as humans contending against magic and monsters.”

Story Branches

A pair of articles this week examine narrative design in recent releases, as well as some of the influences and predecessors which have contributed to more recent successes and shortcomings.

“Communists and fascists do not do battle in Disco Elysium. Why would they? Power lies within the hands of the moralists and the ultraliberals. Neither the communists nor the fascists are relevant enough to upset this balance of power. The neoliberal grip on the world is too strong, and the historical moment that allowed for the revolution has passed.”

Texture Warp

Three pieces this week, all from arthouse powerhouse RE:BIND, examine and critique retro aesthetics, design mantras, and indulgences in contemporary indie games.

“Throughout the game, the imprecise rendering of the geometry from the affine texture mapping makes the world feel alive, breathing, but in its closing moments, Iketsuki pushes the effect in a direction I’ve not seen before, vertices leaping abruptly around and pulsating while the world dies.”

Critical Chaser

Ball Guise.

“Ball Guy’s mere existence is not only valid, but crucial in our increasingly cynical world. Ball Guy knows what he likes, and he earnestly embodies it — literally. We could all do to learn from Ball Guy.”

“The capitalist hellscape of the Pokémon universe has led to branded balls being shamelessly peddled at large stadiums that are already dominating the economy of Galar as a single chairman reaps all the benefits. It’s more than a little strange. Why, in a world where Pokémon battles are commonplace, is there a need for a Poké Ball mascot, of all things?”


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