Welcome back, readers.
Lots of outstanding writing this week. I’m at a loss for the attendant clever metacommentary to string it all together this week, so just read on and see for yourself! Keep reading and playing widely.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Made from the Margins
This week’s opening selection focuses on the making of games from outside the centre–by creators who are marginalized by race, gender, political circumstance, or other axes of their identities.
- State of the Discourse: a survey of marginalized game designers on online discussion space. | Go Make Me a Sandwich
Anna Kreider shares and summarizes data and findings from a survey conducted among marginalized game designers about the challenges, barriers, and dangers they face existing and participating in the space.
- The Coronation of Meghna Jayanth | EGM
Meghna Jayanth, as interviewed by Samuel Horti, discusses game development, creative independence, combating white supremacy, and self-care.
- Still fighting: meet the developers of Hong Kong protest games • Eurogamer.net
Khee Hoon Chan talks with members of the active protest game development scene in Hong Kong.
“The developers I spoke to for this article said they knew their games weren’t made to change minds. While some Hong Kongers who didn’t participate in the protest are impressed by the immersive experience of Liberate Hong Kong, particularly in virtual reality, the team was well-aware the game might have drawn sharp criticism.”
This pair of articles focus on who is, can be, and should be included in games and play, whether as protagonists or as players.
- How The Legend of Zelda Prepared Us to Play the Princess | EGM
James Bigley II chronicles the history of Zelda’s agency in the series, the limitations imposed upon it by way of gendered convention, and projects hopes for the future of a playable princess.
- ‘The Night in Question’ Raises Questions About People and Predators | Sidequest
Jameson Hampton thinks through the intricacies of performance and participation in LARP, as well as supporting other players and maintaining an approach to consent that allows everyone to feel safe and included.
“It’s emphasized to the players that the safety and comfort of everyone there is ultimately more important than having a good game. The beauty of this approach is that when everyone is in a situation where they feel safe and comfortable, having a good game is practically inevitable.”
Tales from the Zero
The conclusion of Kentucky Route Zero is a profound occasion for a lot of people, and inspired critical reflections on the game continue to come forth. Here are two of this week’s highlights.
- Look for Me Under Your Bootsoles | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor reflects on the ending and aftermath of Kentucky Route Zero.
- Kentucky Route Zero Is the Rare Story that Sheds Light on the Experiences of Millennials of Color – Paste
Natalie Flores highlights KRZ‘s attention to the particular cycle of enmeshed, intergenerational poverty and debt experienced by families and millennials of color.
“When will Pearl feel like an adult? When she moves to California? If she ever moves to California? When she has enough to pay for her parents’ tab and clear that debt? When she has her own debts instead of someone else’s?”
Changing the Game
Games continue to be valuable vectors for understanding and thinking through wider systemic problems like capitalism, electoral politics, and climate change–or maybe those are all different aspects of one big problem. Three authors this week reflect on the role and utility of games in tackling these issues.
- It’s Hard But Possible to Make Board Games About Climate Change | io9
Beth Elderkin chats with board game developers about the complexities and challenges of expressing the climate crisis on the tabletop.
- A Dispatch From a Moment of Uncertainty – No Escape
Trevor Hultner muses on the gamification of electoral politics.
- Enmeshment – POST/CAPITALISM | RE:BIND
Emily Rose peers into a game that abstracts the intertwined riddles of capitalism as an interactive puzzle box.
“POST/CAPITALISM effectively demonstrates how the abrasive solvent of market forces quickly dissolve our sense of economic literacy in a sublimely easy to grasp form. Modern global trade, no matter how small a slice, is a very cryptic tangled web of interdependent factors and shows us it’s never as simple as unplugging the ‘Do Bad Things’ module from the giant production machine.”
Play by Feel
Two authors this week respond to the affective and emotional responses that smaller games and interactive experiences evoke in their players.
- The Heartbeat You Never Had – Buried Treasure
John Walker muses on a small interactive poem on the subject of miscarriage (content notification for miscarriage).
- Heart Container: Talking to Strangers – Uppercut
Jess Cogswell weighs her experiences with social anxiety against a recent trend toward service workers and careful listeners as the protagonists in visual novels.
“Over time I’ve developed a pretty good radar for potential friends, but something I’ve been trying to focus on as of late is the ability to talk to all types of people- to reach out, experience others, and value their stories and feelings without the intent of intense companionship. And just as how sprawling, story-driven RPGs helped push me to form meaningful relationships, I believe visual novels have aided me in understanding the value of a casual conversation.”
Two authors this week push harder to interrogate the experiences we have with games–what informs them, and how we ourselves might be more informed about those experiences.
- For Fire Emblem Fates Forrest: what is lost when we fail to look critically? – Gayming Magazine
Autumn Wright recounts coming into their critical voice as they revisit Fire Emblem Fates and its muddled treatment of a relatable trans character.
- Let’s Place: Places to Return – Haywire Magazine
Daria Kalugina thinks through what makes game worlds places where we want to linger, against time, against main quests, against endings.
“To postpone my parting with the world I follow any thread that isn’t the main one. When the story is particularly dramatic and is full of twists and turns and difficult choices, I will avoid the main quest as long as possible and will look for serenity in chores and side quests and accidental events that make the world alive. Skipping the dialogue, I find peace in repetition.”
Author, World, Text
A pair of authors this week study the narrative design of popular games.
- The Four Faces of Doki Doki Literature Club | Fanbyte
Kara Dennison weighs character vs. author intention in untangling Doki Doki Literature Club‘s approaches to mental illness.
- I Love Giott. Thank You. – Timber Owls
Ashley reflects on history, culture, and the payoffs of being a long-term fan of Final Fantasy XIV and Shadowbringers specifically.
“This kind of attachment to a character that functionally is just a voiceless avatar I made for myself is something I’d only have expected to get from tabletop RPG type games. That Shadowbringers is a whole expansion centered around characters from sidequest stories several real life years old and entirely optional goes to show the kind of philosophy that created something that got to me the way it did.”
Some poetry this week!
- Extra Lives: I Wanted a Do-Over | Videodame
Rachel Tanner shares some Animal Crossing poetry.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!