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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.
We begin this week with two selections targeting different conversations in games, but united in questions about the nature, elements, and consequences of art.
- should art say things? – GB ‘Doc’ Burford – Medium
GB Burford makes the case for distinguishing politics from viewpoint in art and proposes that the current framing of the are-games-political question is a defensive overcorrection in the face of bad-faith chuds.
- Play Difference – Zsolt David – Medium
Zsolt David expands the conversation started last week on play authenticity to include angles on different hardware profiles, versions, and copies of games.
“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?”
We’ve got three pieces this week which situate games within their larger ideological frameworks, be they ethical/moral, economic, political, and beyond.
- Death Race  – Arcade Idea
Arcade Idea studies the idea of moral panics in games through an early title most identifiable now for its uncanny divergences–mechanical and thematic–from what stands out as shock-value content in games today.
- Vessels of Retrospect — Remakes, Sequels and Game Canons
Waverly interrogates the co-opted, commoditized value of–as well as the cultural/communal values implied by–the propagation and perpetuation of canons in gaming.
- Animal Crossing and Karl Marx: Why we must eat the turnips – Polygon
Astrid Johnson observes the ways in which Animal Crossing is kind of a weird, abstract simulation–and why capitalist society is, too.
“To save the proletariat, to abolish the bourgeoisie, we must make the radical decision to eat the turnips.”
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.
- PODCAST EPISODE 2 – DEEP HELL
Skeleton deconstructs survival-horror-as-genre through the lens of dreams.
- A walk in the sky – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi looks back to a time of great experimentation in games to examine a PS1 game all about hot air ballooning.
- With Teeth – Jan Malitschek’s ‘In Somnio’ | RE:BIND
Emily Rose draws on the tools of film crit to look at a game that challenges both our reflexive desire for genres and the critical toolset we’ve been developing for understanding games.
“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.”
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.
- Video Game Beards as Visual Storytelling: A Transgender Perspective – Uppercut
Stacey Henley examines the history of beards in games, from technological workaround, to cartoonish character tropes, to ruggedness shorthand, and beyond.
- How The Sims Has Been Quietly Queering Suburbia for Two Decades | Fanbyte
Ariana DiValentino recounts 20 years of absolutely normal everyday queerness in The Sims.
“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.”
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.
- Review: Signs of the Sojourner — KRITIQAL
Nate Kiernan thinks through the tendency in games to present conversation as systems without much meaningful accounting for failure.
- A Story in Clay – Cole Henry – Medium
Cole Henry details the debt Prince of Persia (2008) owes to oral storytelling, and the liminal tensions between player, protagonist, and narrator.
- Gaps and Pauses: The Role of Negative Space in Games | Fanbyte
Virginia Paine takes inventory of the technical sleights of hand–as well as the dramatic and affective affordances–of capitalizing on emptiness, lulls, and silences in games.
“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.”
Some great resources here if you’re looking to put a remote tabletop game together with friends!
- 5 Low-Prep, GMless Games to Play from Far Away | Sidequest
Zora Gilbert rounds up some cool and accessible tabletop games where no one person is stuck doing all the work.
“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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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!