Welcome back readers.
If you missed it earlier this week, we announced our Blogger of the Year for 2019, so check that out if you haven’t already!
Meanwhile, there’s a good chance you’re spending more time indoors this week. It seems doomsday preppers (and, uhh, doomsday scalpers?) have panic-bought all the toilet paper on store shelves in my neighborhood, which is as hilarious as it is frustrating. One thing that remains in ample supply is quality critical games writing, which makes sense given how people seem to be spending their forced days off.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Legends of Zelda
Lots of people this week are bunkering in with nostalgic media as a source of comfort. So this is as good a time as any for some Zelda-centric writeups, right? Here are three of the week’s best Zelda-themed pieces.
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and the Reverse-Engineering Nature of Parodies | DualShockers
Chris Compendio digs into the self-parodic paraphernalia populating Koholint Island, beyond just the surface-level winks, nods, and references and toward the game’s handling of its own mechanical conventions and tropes.
- Farewell to my Dead Horse | Unwinnable
Gingy Gibson muses on a Hyrule that seems to be almost as much post-death as it is post-apocalyptic… except when it comes to the horses.
- In Memoriam | Into The Spine
Elizabeth Henges recounts that family legacy that led her to a love of games generally and Zelda specifically (content notification for cancer).
“My mom always loved the Zelda titles, in particular doing everything possible in Link’s Awakening, and then doing a large chunk of it again in Link’s Awakening DX. Like every other child I was obsessed with the first two generations of Pokémon for a long, long time, but once the Pokefever went away and I moved onto RPGs like Dragon Quest, I was more interested in the titles that she played. When Oracle of Seasons and Ages released, I played through Seasons (the more action-based one) while she worked through Ages (the more puzzle-y title), and then we swapped carts when we finished.”
Speaking of Quarantines
It was announced this week that The Last of Us would be adapted as an HBO series, and this in turn has prompted critical responses discussing the original game’s storytelling and characters, as well as what is at stake in any act of adaptation. A pair of authors this week seize upon some of these questions below.
- The Last of Us Doesn’t Need a TV Series Adaptation | DualShockers
Cameron Hawkins makes that case that even if its reputation for groundbreaking digital storytelling is overblown, The Last of Us gains nothing through live action adaptation.
- Ellie’s Story Offers Crucial Queer Representation, But The Last of Us TV Series Should Focus on Bill – Gayming Magazine
Stacey Henley argues for the importance of flawed, humanized queer characters alongside the “gay best friend” tropes that dot popular media.
“The reason I love gay assholes – no pun intended – is because they’re so searingly real. Bill is an unpleasant character for most of his short cameo in the game, yet through his rugged practicality and good but flawed heart, he forges a connection with the audience. Given more space to breathe, Bill’s story could flourish into something beautiful.”
Playing at Play
Two authors this week break down their own experiences with and responses to popular games and the critical themes they intersect with.
- Fantasies of Fatherhood | Unwinnable
Yussef Cole breaks down Dad Str~, err, Death Stranding‘s weird, abstract dad tourism and its attendant punishment of women and motherhood.
- NieR: Automata | #momvsgames
momvsgames reports back from the experience of fighting for the glory of mankind.
“The questions were very surprising and I answered in complete honesty and good conscience. It took me some time to understand that I just couldn’t make it by my own and that I had to accept help.”
Scratching the Itch
Another pair of great reflections on indie gems courtesy of the folks at RE:BIND!
- Winter Will End, Spring Will Come – Watering A Flower | RE:BIND
Mx. Medea plays through a meditative, hopeful reflection on trans experiences.
- COOONSUUUMEEE – Night Of The Consumers | RE:BIND
Emily Rose wades through the retail horrorscape of Night Of The Consumers.
“Consumers cultivates a real lingering miasma, the bad vibe of a near-empty store that would send dread down anyone’s spine as you glide down the aisles with some box of stupid Halloween shit nobody really wants, I mean, it’s March for Christ’s sake. On stock day, the store looks like a war-zone and feels like one too, but at least in real combat you’d be teamed up with a battle buddy to watch your six, no such luxury here, however, leaving you with a palpable sense of vulnerability 24/7. “EXCUSE ME!” Without warning, customers hunt you down and charge towards you, immediately affixing your focus 100% on them against your will for whatever capricious and swiftly-changing whims they need satisfied today.”
Wait, Tom Baker Did What?
Zelda obviously isn’t the nostalgia hit of choice for everyone in games and play communities. Two authors this week reflect on throwback games of somewhat more niche appeal (I’ll cop to only getting to level 4-or-so of Notpron back in the day, and not much farther in that very pretty, very opaque Ecco game).
- Thanks for all the fish! – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi profiles Ecco: Defender of the Future as one of the rare games that gracefully navigated the late-90’s transition from 2D to 3D.
- How Playing Notpron In 2005 Helped My Programming Career In 2017 | Sidequest
Jameson Hampton relates the skillsets cultivated by early-2000’s outside-the-box puzzle format of Notpron to the experience of participating in capture-the-flag hacking competitions.
“Notpron solidified the link in my mind between puzzles and programming and gave me a lifelong appreciation for cryptography and ciphers specifically. It encouraged a specific kind of thought, trying to think outside the confines of what’s expected and find ways to exploit the system. It taught me to always, always look at the source code, and from there, I began to learn some of the methods to look meticulously at files for what could be hidden there.”
I feel seen and heard by the penguin.
- Folks Are Haunted by Roald, the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Penguin | Fanbyte
Natalie Flores digs into the Internet phenomenon of the Penguin Who Saw Too Much, when all he really saw is what all of us are up to Online.
“His eyes are enormous black holes; they are the abyss, ready to both suck in all information and block out everything from going inside. They are a weapon and a defense mechanism. They are everything and nothing all at once. You are Roald, and Roald is you — a small being in a gigantic world who is constantly overwhelmed; who is often forced to see even what you don’t wish to see, for that is how one lives in today’s world.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!