May 17th

Welcome back, readers. Hope everyone’s keeping safe.

A new episode of Keywords in Play is available now, featuring Dr. Emilie Reed! Don’t be shy; check it out!

This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Artful Critique

We begin this week with two selections targeting different conversations in games, but united in questions about the nature, elements, and consequences of art.

“Consider that you play a game on the personal computer in low graphical settings, then return to it years later to play them in high settings. Which is the original experience?”

Critical Contexts

We’ve got three pieces this week which situate games within their larger ideological frameworks, be they ethical/moral, economic, political, and beyond.

“To save the proletariat, to abolish the bourgeoisie, we must make the radical decision to eat the turnips.”

Genre Talk

Sometimes the ways in which we group the inclusions here are a little on the ephemeral side, like an open cluster of stars. Here and now that loose gravitational binding is a critical interest in genre, sometimes as the object, sometimes as a jump-off point for another discussion altogether. Check out these three varied and rad pieces.

In Somnio is an example of a game that continues to push the edges of the medium, blurring the line between interactive media and film-making, leaving us in critical territory where we find ourselves unprepared despite years of traditional games analysis.”

Identity Play

While inclusivity of underrepresented identities in games has seen a positive push especially in recent years, there are also long-running themes, elements, and ideas which have been at work in popular games for years. Two authors this week look at some of the visual and thematic trends in games over the years intersecting with gender, queerness, and identity.

The Sims franchise has never been marketed as “queer” or “liberal” or “progressive” or any other politically-coded term. Queerness is just a built-in feature of the life simulation game, not unlike the way it is for queer people in real life. It’s not always a statement, or a trend. It just is.”

Instructive Design

We’ve got a trio here of satisfying delves into the nuts and bolts of games, looking at how particular inclusions or absences provoke particular feelings and tensions during play.

“This is negative space as potential, a place to be filled. The emptiness is a place we can fill with anything we imagine. It’s a way games can engage with us, spark our emotions or creativity.”

Critical Chaser

Some great resources here if you’re looking to put a remote tabletop game together with friends!

“GMless games are RPGs without Game Masters. In them, all the players shoulder some of the work of moving the story along—unlike in D&D, it’s the players’ job to introduce twists, turns, and conflict into the story. Almost all of them are prep-less, which means that nobody has homework before you start playing, and many of them are fairly straightforward rules-wise so they’re quick to learn and pick up.”


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