Welcome back, readers. Feels strange that summer is winding down–that technically 2020 is winding down. What is time, again? Keep safe, everybody.
There seems to be no end of fires this year (some of them quite literal), and accompanying them no shortage of valuable causes in dire need of attention and support. For this week, this one still feels the most immediate and comprehensive. Local action and support is where individuals can make the most difference.
Around the site, it’s a busy week! First of all, the newest Keywords in Play is live, featuring Eli Smith! Further, we’ve got a new Critical Compilation, this one on Final Fantasy VII and its Remake, by Drew Byrd, so be sure to check this cool stuff out!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
The contemporary material world has always been a useful critical lens through which to scrutinize games, and this has only become more the case with 2020 permalocked to nightmare difficulty. Four authors this week situate very different games in relation to our contemporary hellscape.
- Gingy’s Corner: Hashihime of the Old Book Town | Unwinnable
Gingy Gibson considers the contemporary experience of a horror Visual Novel in the context of working life as a front-line healthcare worker.
- CoD of Duty – DEEP HELL
Skeleton examines the latest Call of Duty‘s ahistorical revisionism in the context of the series’ long-established banal jingoism.
- The Storm-Cloud of Death Stranding – Uppercut
Matteo Lupetti investigates the climate science and symbolism behind representation of clouds in art, and relates this context to Death Stranding‘s imagery and ideology.
- My Life as a Fallout 4 NPC | Sidequest
Sara Davis finds there are no heroes in the aftermath of empire, either in the Commonwealth or the material world.
“Whatever this is—the darkest timeline, the glitching simulator—I am not the hero. I am a wasteland settler, following a scripted path in a narrowly circumscribed area. I am an NPC hoping that some combination of money or courage will entice an adventurer to bring me the items on my list. The kitty litter is my fetch quest.”
The Flat of the Blade
There’s a running theme of flatness in this week’s Ghost of Tsushima discourse, with three pieces focusing on how cultures, histories, locales, artforms, and genres are distorted, simplified, and compressed in the end product.
- Review: Ghost of Tsushima’s Empty World Reflects Its Empty Representation – Uppercut
Haru Nicol identifies a careless and shallow treatment of the peoples and cultures depicted in Ghost of Tsushima.
- Ghost of Tsushima Reshapes A Real Place Into a Beautiful Fantasy | Foreign Policy
Austin Gilkeson traces the flattenings–geographical and cultural–at play in Ghost of Tsushima‘s world design.
- A Shallow Understanding | Bullet Points Monthly
Haru Nicol considers the cinematic consequences of Ghost of Tsushima mining only the most surface-level aesthetic cues from the work of Kurosawa.
“Ghost of Tsushima fumbles in its attempt to pay homage to both director and genre, showing that maybe games shouldn’t want to emulate cinema, but rather try and create their own unique prestige and quality divorced from other mediums’ aspects.”
The three pieces gathered here, disparate in topics, are united by a common purpose of explaining the opaque, the intimidating, or the obscure. Whether it’s game-making via web development tools, sewing with a game boy color, or… blase…ball, each of these articles has something interesting to teach.
- Interactive web coding with the makers of Danger Crew | The Toolkit
Caroline Delbert delves into ideas and activities for building games with web development tools and languages.
- I Am All Love Blaseball (And You Can Too) | The Garden of Forking Narratives
Cat Manning does the quasi-impossible and breaks down the game and social experience that is Blaseball.
- The Game Boy Sewing Machine is More Than a Punchline | Fanbyte
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank takes a deep look at an ambitious line of Game Boy Color peripherals.
“These experiments may seem quaint now, a relic of an era before sophisticated computers became pocket-sized. But they’re examples of early crossover between games and broader culture that help contextualize our contemporary relationship to gaming.”
Four writers this week examine mechanical, thematic, or structural shortcomings in popular games large and small.
- i had a problem with doom and doom eternal and i finally think i can put it into words | Medium
GB Burford studies the design flaws at the heart of contemporary Doom, focusing on a lack of encounter innovation and variety.
- The Problem with Expanded Universes: Remedy, Control and Alan Wake | Paste
Waverly thinks through the repercussions of single-player games transitioning from discrete, contained experiences to never-ending product platforms.
- What’s Cookin?: Necrobarista’s Bare Bones Barista-ing is Haunting in the Worst Way – Uppercut
Ty Galiz-Rowe scrutinizes a conspicuous lack of, uh, barista-ing in Necrobarista.
- Throne of Salt: D&D Doesn’t Understand What Monsters Are | Throne of Salt
Dan proposes narrative frameworks in TTRPGS that contextualize monstrosity as a social phenomenon and consequence of systemic root causes rather than as an inherent concept or quality.
“A monster is a symptom that somewhere, somehow, the world has gotten fucked up.”
A pair of writers this week each take a look at games that hit hard on an affective level in very different ways, united–perhaps in opposite ways–in their blend of discomfort and comfort.
- Spiritfarer Is a Heartbreaking and Heartwarming Meditation on Life | Fanbyte
Natalie Flores muses on care and kindness in a time of death and endings.
- The Horrifying Solace of Sunless Skies | Into The Spine
Ruth Cassidy takes a lyrical stroll through the meditative horror of Sunless Skies.
“You may have caught the attention of the gods, and they are seldom merciful. It’s a beautiful night, however, and the thrum of the engine is so soothing and consistent. Why not choose to take this moment to relax?”
Three authors this week weigh in on fighting games across genres, generations, and communities.
- Floating Like a Butterfly | Into The Spine
Aamir Mehar reflects on the pleasures of defensive play in fighting and other games.
- A very brief look at Mixed Martial Art’s only Game Boy Color game | Medium
Vidyasaur contrasts the relative lack of mixed martial arts games in earlier generations of consoles with the relative proliferation of games representing other fighting sports by looking at an early example of the former.
- The Ongoing Question of Whether You Can be Both Queer and Successful in the Fighting Games Community – Gayming Magazine
Sam Moore talks to FGC community members about the state of inclusivity in the scene, and how community has to be about more than competition.
“It’s clear that the FGC is about more than just playing games – in spite of what some people might want – and because of this, representation matters.”
I swear this hasn’t transformed into a weekly Animal Crossing feature on any official basis…
- An investigation into Blathers | Eurogamer.net
Dr Laura Humphreys digs deep into museum malpractice on your getaway island.
“It is impossible to ignore that Blathers as a private collector is acting outside of the law and professional standards, with scant regard for ethical museum practice. He has developed the nineteenth century morals of the worst Dickensian villain. But what happens next for his collection, with neither law enforcement nor ethical governing body to reign him in?”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!