It’s late August 2020, by which I obviously mean it’s time to think about videos from July 2020. Here’s where you can support protesters against police violence in North America.
These columns seem to be getting larger every month, thanks to all the great critical vids being made and your help in alerting me to them. More and more I find myself saying “oh but I can’t leave this one out”, even as I am mindful of word counts and attention spans. Keep sending them our way.
This Month In Videogame Vlogging rounds up the best vods of videogame criticism from the previous calendar month.
The Ugly-good, the Ugly-bad and the Dissonance
Why do some games pedal in off-putting. gritty and gruesome visuals, sounds and stories? These four video-makers have some ideas.
Max Payne, Kane & Lynch, and the Meaning of Ugly Games – Jacob Geller (27:02)
Jacob Geller considers Antonin Artaud’s ‘theatre of cruelty’ to ponder what validates the use of ‘ugliness’ in certain shooting games. (Manual captions) [Content: visuals of digital violence] [Contains embedded advertising]
The Intense Soundtrack of Hotline Miami – PostMesmeric (14:31)
PostMesmeric waxes lyrical about the importance of Hotline Miami’s soundtrack to the effectiveness of the game’s focus-driven play and unsettling aesthetic. (Manual captions) [Note: spoilers for Hotline Miami]
Found Footage In Horror Gaming – The Checkpoints Show (12:47)
The Checkpoints Show traces the use of “found footage” effects in videogames from its longer prior history of similar techniques in films and novels. (Autocaptions) [Note: flashing lights]
Grand Theft Auto V: Does “Dissonance” Even Matter? – Writing on Games
Hamish weighs up the contrasting player experiences of ‘dissonance’ in Grand Theft Autos IV and V. What kind of dissonance? Ludonarrative dissonance! *takes a shot*. (Manual captions) [Note: embedded advertising, violence, GTAV plot spoilers]
The relationship of videogame spaces to the form, feeling and rules of play gets a dynamic inquiry from these four excellent essays.
Fortnite: The Party That’s a Platform – Errant Signal (41:13)
Chris Franklin suggests Fortnite’s design directs players more toward social or casual rather than competitive play – a design system that has merits until you consider the cynical capitalising of social pressures that accompanies it. I particularly like the deliberate and considered engagement with the views of other critics in this one, something video essayists could – on the whole – bear to do more often, just imo. (Autocaptions)
The Virtual Spaces of Garry’s Mod – Chariot Rider (20:16)
Chariot Rider discusses the way videogames relate rules to space, and how Garry’s Mod (perhaps uniquely among games) explores and exposes this relationship in a way that reflects emergent forms of play in real life settings. (Autocaptions)
seaside – Just Fine – Umbrella Terms (4:00)
Umbrella Terms recounts working through anxiety with seaside, a basic picture game. (Manual captions)
Why I Love Super Mario Beach Levels – eurothug4000 (11:31)
Maria continues her exploration of visual aesthetics with a personal ode to the beach levels of Marios Sunshine and Galaxy. (Manual captions)
Under this large umbrella are four videos grappling with issues of identity and inclusion around games, game-makers and game communities.
Let’s Talk About Whats Going on In Magic: The Gathering – MelinaPendulum (22:23)
MelinaPendulum uses Zaiem Beg’s callout doc, “The Wizards I Know”, to discuss how permutations of coded racism in Magic The Gathering cards are echoed as embedded racism in parent company Wizards of the Coast and MtG communities more generally. (Autocaptions)
Black Women Magic – Ladies of the FGC – Spawn On Me Podcast (58:23)
Janae Benne hosts a panel of fighting game community personalities to discuss their experiences as Black women, instances of micro-aggression and exclusionary practices, and what might be done differently. (Autocaptions)
Who is Inside? – The Checkpoints Show (10:33)
The Checkpoints Show examines the mise en scene of Playdead’s Inside, wondering what the game’s mechanical narrative around acting and control has to say about issues of coming to terms with personal identity against social expectations. (Autocaptions)
Episode 1: “9:05” by Adam Cadre (2000) – Victor Gijsbers IF Analyses (13:49)
Victor Gjisbers describes how 9:05 uses IF genre conventions to mess with the player and expose the inherent fiction-gap between player and player-character. (Autocaptions)
Grouped here is one video contemplating the horrendous environmental and political impacts of videogame production on developing countries, alongside two contemplating the depictions of specific places (both sites of extractive and colonial violence) in videogames.
The PlayStation War – HeavyEyed (16:22)
Mitch Cramer shines a light on the devastating conflict driven by rare mineral demand from console production in the 2000s. (Manual captions)
On Virtual Land – part 5 – Future Craters, Mammoth Caves. – Client Culture (26:05)
I’d slept on this interesting and creative series by Sam Machell exploring the relationship of virtual spaces to the real, but here we arrive at it just in time for the finale, in which Kentucky Route Zero’ designer Jake Elliot talks about the geography of Kentucky, concealed histories of community resistance, and Colossal Cave Adventure. (Autocaptions)
Revisiting Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands – Noah Caldwell-Gervais (1:18:45)
Noah Caldwell-Gervais tries to reconcile (what he sees as) the quintessential Ubisoft activity playground and startlingly realist rendition of Bolivia in Ghost Recon Wildlands with its jarringly ambivalent politics and haphazard DLC releases. (Autocaptions)
Videogame labels tend to obscure development histories – these two videos show a bit about how the evolution of RPG subgenres is often less straightforward than we might imagine.
The Birth of the Japanese RPG | Design Icons – Game Maker’s Toolkit (15:51)
Mark Brown connects a pinboard of influences in the tangled intercontinental history of RPG videogame design. (Manual captions)
Zelda II / Rygar / The Goonies II retrospective: NES is more | Metroidvania Works #11 – Jeremy Parish (14:43)
Jeremy Parish has been retracing the influences and origins of (everyone’s second-favourite RPG subgenre/label to complain about) metroidvanias. It turns out these are more convoluted and interesting than I would have presumed, given the portmanteau. (Autocaptions)
To finish up for July, two thoughtful investigations into how and why game-makers portray certain character motivations and actions. Also a Polygon video, because I needed the laugh.
CO-VIDs: adventure games about jesus – Innuendo Studios (13:27)
Ian Danskin discusses two kickstarted adventure games from 2013 – Dropsy and Alum – with regards to their contrasting endorsements of Christianity, one institutional, the other philosophical. (Autocaptions)
Hope, Humanity, and the Post-Apocalypse – Razbuten (13:12)
Razbuten thoughtfully compares the parallels and differences between post-apocalyptic representations in The Last of Us 2 and (animated series) Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. (Manual captions) [Note: contains embedded advertising]
I read every Halo novel and became the Master Chief of loneliness | Unraveled – Polygon (28:01)
Brian from Polygon continues to take on the work that no-one else can or should. (Manual captions)
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