Welcome back, readers. Uppercut is cool. That is all.
Some updates from around the site: Connor’s latest TMIVGV is live! Please keep sending cool games-related video content his way via the hashtag #TMIVGV. Also, if you missed it last week, the first episode of Keywords in Play, a new interview-format critical podcast we are publishing, is also live!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We’re opening this week with a bloc of articles, some of them more longform-ish, offering deep critical excavations of the ideological and thematic tensions in games of all sizes. There’s a lot of really excellent stuff this week!
- Sonic’s Ever Changing Police Report – Uppercut
Waverly Wilson traces the tragic arc of Sonic the Hedgehog from rebel to reactionary.
- Because The Night – DEEPHELLDOTCOM’s FF7 Remake Analysis | RE:BIND
Skeleton contemplates insecurity, aging, and the insecurity of aging via the eternally youthful Cloud Strife.
- In Doom We Have Faith | Bullet Points Monthly
Diego Argüello unspools Doom Eternal‘s cynical, cyclical, self-interested theology.
- Where Do We Go Next: Kentucky Route Zero’s Anxious Approach to Hope | Sidequest
Madison Butler probes at the liminal tensions left unresolved at KRZ‘s conclusion.
- Get Equipped With Righteous Violence in Treachery in Beatdown City – Paste
Dia Lacina breaks down a brawler that reworks retro beat-em-up violence as an explicit counterpoint to the systemic violence experienced by marginalized communities, identities, people (content notifications for racism/bigotry-motivated violence, abuse).
“Treachery in Beatdown City isn’t concerned with the questions of prudence. It doesn’t care about “civility” or want its players to worry about the millions of considerations they have to do when confronted with the impulse to put a boot into Mike Bloomberg or any other shitfaced racist’s neck. The developers are as tired of those considerations in their own daily lives as they are of gunning-down unspecified brown people in an unspecified foreign country in Tom Clancy games.”
The recent surge in remakes brings to light a new tension: given the increased awareness across the industry for the need for better representation, visibility, and inclusion for marginalized identities, including but not limited to queer identities, what challenges do remakes encounter when adapting source material that hasn’t aged gracefully? And of course, as Jeremy Signor observes this week, the work is far from done in new titles, either, even when a lot of good is being done.
- Honey Bee Inn is the Queer Space Final Fantasy VII Remake Desperately Needed | Fanbyte
Kenneth Shepard celebrates newfound queer visibility in a 20-year old heteronormative framework.
- Murder by Numbers: Thorny Queer Politics | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor appreciates increased queer visibility in contemporary games while cautioning against a continued reliance on tropey caricatures and gender essentialisms.
- Final Fantasy VII Remake Gives Cloud’s Honeybee Inn Makeover The Update It Needed | Kotaku
Todd Harper documents the successes and limitations in Final Fantasy VII‘s new mass-market gay dance-off.
“I think we need to accept this scene for what it is: colorful and campy and fun, but not much more than that. It’s great that Nomura and company knew this needed to be updated for modern times, but the result was something extremely safe and unchallenging in a world where RuPaul’s Drag Race is a water cooler discussion topic for straight people.”
Gathered here, from designers and critics alike, are a selection of critical breakdowns of how games of all sizes are put together, what those design properties afford, and what can cause them to break.
- Gamasutra: Winifred Phillips’s Blog – Video Game Music Composer: The Interactive Music of SPYDER
Winifred Philips begins a series detailing the technical musical composition process for a new game on Apple Arcade.
- The Second Hand – Moments To Midnight | RE:BIND
Emily Rose evaluates the power of microindies and game jam projects to pick a precious few evocative moments and absolutely run with them.
- Telescopic to microscopic: shifting a cyberpunk perspective from the very big to the very small – Clockwork Bird
James Patton of Clockwork Bird considers the design intersections of interface and intimacy in their studio’s latest game.
- ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Is Not the Game We All Need Right Now – VICE
Gita Jackson makes the case that quarantine-induced marathon gaming has stretched Animal Crossing beyond its intended leisurely paced design limits.
“Animal Crossing is a meditative experience, a way to be with myself and my thoughts for a few hours a day. It’s meant to be a game that you play in fits and bursts, designed for people who don’t make gaming a huge part of their life.”
Current events naturally have folks in game communities thinking through the social aspects of games and gaming along all kinds of axes, but it isn’t all about quarantines. Here are two of this week’s standouts.
- Lego Star Wars, Fifteen Years Later – Haywire Magazine
Porter Simmons looks back at the enduring affective appeal and co-op charm of playing Lego Star Wars with his brother.
- The Games That Let Me Have an Imaginary Social Life – VICE
Sarah Hagi describes how games have always filled a void in our social lives.
“On the outside, or to someone who doesn’t love video games, the idea of playing to fill the space of real social interaction could seem like an unhealthy coping mechanism. Of course, I still go out and am social, but my friends who don’t game would laugh or shake their heads when they asked what I did on a weekend and I told them I played hours of Horizon: Zero Dawn. But as we find ourselves literally forced into isolation because of a global pandemic, I think it now can be easier than ever for anyone to understand why I spend so much time being a part of make-believe communities where there’s always someone who wants to talk, and always something I can do to help.”
Two authors this week look back at remakes–both of individual popular titles, since that’s a thing right now, as well as of the industry itself, via a charming what-if visual novel.
- Arcade Spirits Imagines a World Where Gaming Is Mainstream and Doesn’t Need Validation | DualShockers
Chris Compendio considers a visual novel alternate history as a lens to examine mainstream gaming culture’s inward insecurities.
- What We Remake | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra reflects on the tension between fidelity and innovation in the current nostalgia-tinged remake boom.
“Remakes and remasters are a type of ritual. Players return to these places, experiencing versions and variations of stories and events much in the way that the Bible contains various accounts of key moments penned by different authors. As in any anthropology, the question of what is truly “canon” lurks underneath it all. What is the definitive way to experience a game? What is the proper way to ritualistically retell the stories that gaming culture enshrines as the stories to tell?”
I’m broadening my horizons this week with some quality content.
- How To Lose Friends And Alienate Villagers | Kotaku
Chingy Nea votes an animal off the island.
“Amongst my circle of friends, he had quickly become colloquially known as Incel Hamtaro for, well, having big 4chan energy. His smug sense of superiority and weirdly flirtatious behavior with player characters got a little uncomfortable, and from what I saw online, he is generally not well-liked.”
- First Person Scholar: Call for Collaborators – First Person Scholar
First Person Scholar, where I am presently co-editor-in-chief, is looking to partner with a queer and/or trans person of color as a guest editor for an upcoming special issue. Check it out!
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!