Welcome back readers.
Okay, I’ve finally seen the Star War, and if nothing else, I can finally go back to doing this job without holding my breath every time I click on an article with a lightsaber in the image preview. Let me know if anybody has a bold new write-up on that podracing game from my childhood, please?
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Our media culture reflects our cultural biases, and writing from my own western, white-passing, masculine-passing, able-bodied perspective, it’s necessary and instructive for me to remain vigilant that the particular biases baked into the media culture I participate in are racist, sexist, queerphobic, ableist, and otherwise exclusionary. What are the consequences of participating in that culture, even with good intentions? And what are some of the sites of resistance from within that culture? Three authors explore these tensions in very different and necessary ways.
- My Games, My Music, and My Internalized Racism – Uppercut
Monti Velez recounts surviving the pervasive racism of our media culture (content notification for internalized racism, experiences of racist abuse).
- Video games and disability: Looking back at a challenging decade – Polygon
Joe Parlock gives some footnotes on the last ten years of disabled representation in games.
- How An Overwatch Skin Left Some Of D.Va’s Biggest Fans Feeling Betrayed | Kotaku
Nico Deyo examines the ways in which Blizzard has undermined one of its most resonating characters.
“Criticisms of D.va’s skins as well as those from other characters since Overwatch’s 2016 launch represent the friction that the game has between its fans and the cultures from which they borrow. Overwatch presents the fantasy of a global village from an overwhelmingly white and Western vantage point, full of stereotypes, jokes, and reductions. For much of the Western fanbase and perhaps to the developers themselves, a skin might seem innocuous. But the Overwatch team has routinely made poor choices with their cosmetics that range from atonal (Brigitte’s riot police skin) to straight up offensive Pharah skin that is a mish-mash of tribal designs. D.Va’s skins, which have alienated some of that character’s biggest fans, add to that pile of problems.”
Force(d) Power Fantasies
Games as power fantasies are an established Thing, but the analyses on display here in the following pair of articles really tug at both what’s stiflingly conventional and what’s refreshingly new in the application of this trope in a recent big titles.
- Fallen Men | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole examines Jedi: Fallen Order‘s fascination with maintaining the status quo, in terms of both its narrative structure and its casting.
- The Sexiness Of Control | Kotaku
Gita Jackson breaks down what makes Control work as an uncharacteristically hot power fantasy.
“It helps that Jesse is confident and attractive, but I fixate on the way that she wields power, both physically and socially. It’s the way that the people around her react to her. Her power over them—both the house and her subordinates at the Bureau of Control—is assumed and respected. When Jesse says jump, the world says, “how high?””
Hell if I know how these things always happen in pairs (or threes), but there were two really insightful pieces this week looking inwardly on how we “do” a games journalism. What are the stakes when things go right, when we feel like we’re in our element of coverage? What are the stakes when everything seems to go to shit–and what value can still be discerned from the chaos?
- What We Don’t Know Won’t (not) Hurt Us – No Escape
Trevor Hultner thinks through what it means to be a critic when it comes to acknowledging one’s limits of expertise.
- REAL, PRETEND JOURNALISM – DEEP HELL
Skeleton, reporting from a con, turns an interview that wasn’t into a conversation that was.
“What people revealed continued to be the same answer over and over again. A work being presented in their language helped them connect more deeply with it. Nier: Automata could speak to them as individuals in a way it might not have while reading subtitles.”
Play on a Precarious Planet
Y’all don’t need me to give you another reminder that shit is kind of fucked up right now around the world. But how are players–and developers–making sense of uncertainty, or even charting a path forward founded on hope? Two authors this week tackle these questions.
- ‘Wattam’ Is a Children’s Guide to Eco-Radicalism – VICE
Lewis Gordon looks at the environmental–but also community-minded–over-and-undertones of Keita Takahashi’s latest.
- Iran, War, And Video Game Apocalypses | Kotaku
Gita Jackson writes about gaming in a world perpetually on the knife’s edge.
“All of the games I’ve played that showed me the end of the world also showed me life continuing after. Sam Porter Bridges does connect America, the citizens of your town in Frostpunk can survive, and although the United States of Fallout is irradiated, it’s still populous and mostly functional. Even in Horizon Zero Dawn, the one game out of all of these that makes me feel any fear, the story depicts what is ultimately a successful attempt to save human society and history. Everything will end. Endings are inevitable. But that doesn’t mean the end of everything.”
I just want to reiterate how glad I am to see the continued proliferation of critical writing on small-scale indie games and other stuff that big sites typically miss. Here are two of this week’s standouts.
- Gayme of the Week: A Tavern for Tea – Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart picks up a small games that’s totally just about two dudes having some tea and nothing else.
- Fool’s Errand – A Mystifying Experience | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar explores a game with a sense of discovery evoking Myst.
“With your limited set of ways to interact with the environment, the realization will eventually come to break the rocks, cut down the trees to gather wood for a campfire and then torches. Now, what hidden wonders will you be able to find during night? What use is there for fire?”
Distillations on Design
We’re rounding things out this week with two design-focused critiques looking at very different slices of gaming.
- Casual Games and Storylets: Or, How to Make Game Mechanics Express Choice – Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling
Emily Short offers some analysis on how casual and mobile games can express both narrative and consequence through accessible mechanical design.
- Keep on rollin’ – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi slows down to ask what the heck a Sonic is–and what the heck a Sonic does.
“No really, let’s think about it for a second – what are you supposed to be trying to do when you play classic Sonic games?”
I guess you could say it’s a goose chase this week.
- The Untitled Goose Game and Philosophy | Sidequest
The Sidequest team get down to some good old fashioned GooseCourse.
“In essence, by making us aware that we are being surveilled, the power structures that govern our societies encourage us to police ourselves by reminding us that our actions are always being watched.
Except the Goose.“
- Survey | What are videogame developers doing about their carbon emissions?
Critical Distance’s own Ben Abraham is looking for developers to participate in a survey investigating the carbon cost of game development and how developers are already thinking about this problem. Share this one widely if you can!
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!