Welcome back, readers.
Maybe I’m just particularly tired and vulnerable this weekend from the perpetual hustle of academic life, but a lot of this week’s selections really hit home for me. I’ve said similar things before, but I am routinely humbled in this job by all of the powerful and provocative writers out there thinking through games.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Long after games outlive their commercial lifespan, it’s modding communities that keep them running and keep them relevant, most often with unpaid labour. Three authors open this week with explorations of some of the fruits of that labour.
- Exhumed: The Art of MMO Necromancy | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar revisits the MMOs of yesteryear, and finds that fans have resurrected not only the servers, but the communities that populate them.
- The Mass Effect trilogy remaster everyone wants is already here – thanks to modders • Eurogamer.net
Cian Maher profiles the difficult but fruitful challenge of keeping the Mass Effect games up to date with mods.
- ‘Doom’ Will Never Be Eternal Without Mods – VICE
Matthew Gault suggests that Doom has lost something in recent games that lack the extensive mod support of the originals.
“id Software might make post-release content I could buy down the line, but without a constant stream of user-generated levels to play, there’s going to be a finite amount of game.”
It’s tempting to conflate representation and good representation, especially when it comes to communities who are already being underrepresented by games, and it’s a question I find I’m coming back to regularly in my own play experiences. Three authors this week delve into these questions along queer and disability axes.
- Strange Flesh and Making A Gay Man Whole | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor maps out the queer release from heteronormative constraints offered by Strange Flesh.
- Gayme of the Week: The Tearoom – Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart revisits Robert Yang’s exploration of queer surveillance.
- Stardew Valley Tries to Have a Better Conversation About Disability, But Does It? – Uppercut
Ruth Cassidy recounts an ableist exchange in Stardew and discusses why a recent revision fails to substantially improve upon it.
“In both versions of the scene, the game presents the side I am ‘supposed’ to take. I am shown a situation I am unfortunately all too familiar with — where someone with physical power over you decides to move your body, for their convenience or an assumption about yours, and it doesn’t matter if you get angry or upset, because you are expected to say thank you afterwards.”
The Horror of Successful Design
Two authors this week offer some cool design critiques on horror games recent and not-so-recent (but soon to be remade, so perhaps recent after all?).
- “You want STARS? I’ll give you STARS!” – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi looks to identify Resident Evil 3‘s position in the series canon by demystifying its reputation as a retread of earlier games.
- How ‘Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice’ Made Video Game Horror Work
Gretchen Felker-Martin studies how Hellblade employs powerlessness and pain to its advantage.
“Showing a character in pain, showing them as helpless, is a core part of horror’s emotional potency, and Senua’s brittle, broken physicality reinforces this repeatedly.”
The Long View
Each of these pieces takes a wider perspective on its object of study in some way, pushing the boundaries of how we write about these games, these products, these hobbies. Some really provocative stuff.
- RAIN WORLD – Introduction: Reaching Enlightenment through Unfairness – The Experienced Machine
Leslie Brooks takes an extended tour through the game Rain World, examining how it erects parallel arguments through its story and systems about suffering. This one is worth putting the time in, readers.
- GAME OF THE DECADE – DEEP HELL
Skeleton muses both on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and its seemingly lost legacy, as well as the overall trajectory we’ve been on since then regarding How We Talk About Games.
- Living Among the Dying—2019 in Review – Grace In The Machine
Grace in the Machine reflects on game worlds, our wider media culture, and the non-euclidean obfuscations and abstractions of capitalism, here at the end of all things.
“Final Fantasy VII’s ending is ambiguous. The world survives, but not as we knew it. Healing has happened, but maybe not for us. I don’t know that that matters. I am still taking the invitation to live beyond myself, to “bury my old soul and dance on its grave.” Come what may, I know it will be better than lingering in self-doubt and distance.”
I’m still never going to forgive the griefer who baited me into attacking an NPC and ruining my Demon Souls save.
- Sometimes, a Save Game Oopsie is a Positive | Fanbyte
Danielle Riendeau recounts how having to start over can change your relationship with a game for the better.
“Video games are amazing, but it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of that when you’ve been surrounded by them for as long as I have. But seeing Gedas’s joy reminded me why I love them so much. The adventure. The experience. The pure joy of play.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!