April 2020

Oh hello, readers!

Thank you for your patience with this one – April blessed us with just so many videos to sift through. Thank you, also, for your recommendations and submissions. If you have a recommendation for a video you’d like us to consider, go ahead and @ us on twitter with a big TMIVGV hashtag on it, or email us, or come and join our new and wonderful discord community, where there is conveniently a whole channel dedicated to roundup submissions, and where you don’t even need to worry about which variation of TWIVGB/TMIVGV/TYIVGB to use.

Plug: there’s a new Keywords In Play episode, this time with Emilie Reed. I’m looking forward to having a listen once I’ve posted this.

This Month in Videogame Vlogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical videos about videogames from the previous calendar month.

This Fictional Dystopia is Happening Now, Actually

The ways certain videogame narratives depict, predict and reflect on our contemporary predicaments was a key topic for three compelling videos this month.

  • Disco Elysium – All Hobocops Are … – Renegade Cut (1:09:09)

    Leon Thomas explores how modern police forces uphold status quo capitalism and structural racism with the aid of a “fascist” run-through of Disco Elysium.  (Manual captions) [Content warning: contains numerous videos and images of, and references to, real-world instances of police violence, including killings of unarmed civilians. Also contains fictional depictions of suicide. Also a moderate spoiler warning for Disco Elysium]

  • Final Fantasy VII – A Literary Analysis – Games As Literature (1:32:33)

    The Game Professor presents a deep, deep dive into Final Fantasy VII (the main title only, he stresses – not the remake, not the spin-offs), looking at its complex thematic explorations of overt environmentalism, anti-capitalism, grief and identity. (Autocaptions) [Note: extensive and detailed plot spoilers for FFVII]

Point is, these kinds of stories [often] take the easy way out of discussing complex issues by pointing the finger at people who just happen to be awful, ignoring larger contexts, cultures and systems that enable and encourage specific brands of awfulness, but are harder to address or improve. But Final Fantasy VII makes an effort to portray these issues as systemic rather than simply the result of one bad apple.

  • Death Stranding Real (You Guys Are Just Mean) – Emma Bowers (14:19)

    Emma Bowers looks at how parts of Death Stranding became so quickly mirrored by reality – and how even though that’s sort of funny, for us it also emphasises the game’s framing of compassion as a means to get through a time of physical distancing.  (Autocaptions) [Note: contains many spoilers for Death Stranding’s plot]

Subterranean Passages

I am sincerely stoked to be able to present you with some quality caving-meets-videogame content for the second month in a row.

  • Fear of Depths – Jacob Geller (30:14)

    A meditation on the allure of cave systems, deep time and human inquisitiveness, with ruminations on the depictions of cave structures in Inside, Dear Esther and Kentucky Route Zero.  (Manual captions) [note: descriptions and images of tight spaces]

  • Evolution – Plunge Into The Depths – Umbrella Terms (5:12)

    Umbrella Terms digs up “Evolution” from 1989, an early tech-demo-like momentum FPS, finding a simple but effective atmospheric experience abetted by particular audio design choices. (Manual captions)

On Coping, Continued

The combined situation of Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s timely release with the very stressful global pandemic lead numerous videocritics to think about games as a coping mechanism.

Keeping Up Appearances

This month we’re thinking about the design of two gaming mascots from the nineties, the look of fonts in old arcade games, and why purple = corruption.

  • The Bizarre Modern Reality of Sonic the Hedgehog (New Edit) – Super Eyepatch Wolf (34:00)

    Taking the widespread appalled reactions to the initial reveal of Sonic’s uncanny/grotesque/disturbing appearance in 2019’s feature film trailer as a starting point, Super Eyepatch Wolf presents a long crawl into the history of strange depictions of Sonic, both official and fan-made, and how these intersect with the series’ frequently fraught attempts to redefine itself in the 3D era. (Autocaptions)

  • Awesome Possum: Tengen’s Failed Mascot – Gaming Historian (20:39)

    Here’s a neat bit of nineties history remembering Awesome Possum, Atari’s short-lived attempt at a videogame mascot, which drew from the explicitly environmental cartoon zeitgeist of Fern Gully and Captain Planet. (Autocaptions)

  • The 8-bit arcade font, deconstructed – Vox (8:11)

    Vox chats to Toshi Omagari about the history and evolution of 8-bit font designs. For the typography nerds among us. (Manual captions) [Note: contains embedded advertising]

  • The Color of Corruption – Razbuten (9:57)

    Razbuten made a short video essay on how purple is so often used to symbolise corruption in games, and offers some hypotheses for how this came to be.  (Manual captions) [Note: contains embedded advertising]

Talking About Talking About Games

There wasn’t really anything to group this last one with, so it gets a section to itself.

  • How We Talk About Games – Heavy Eyed (1:10:53)

    Mitch Cramer interviews several videogame videocritics (many who’ve been featured in this column) about their practice, compiling a kind of anecdotal oral history of how games criticism has changed over time, discussing the goods and bads of where it is today, and speculating about where the discourses will go next. (Autocaptions)

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