Welcome back readers.
In addition to my usual nudge to check out the ways in which you can support protests against anti-Black and Brown police violence in the US and abroad, I’d like to call attention to an issue specific to Canada. Mi’kmaw fisherfolk exercising their treaty rights in Nova Scotia are being harassed, endangered, threatened, attacked, and pillaged by white commercial fishermen who seem to want the whole fucking Atlantic Ocean to themselves. I’ve found a detailed and descriptive thread here collating ways you can support Mi’kmaw communities under the threat of transparent colonial violence and domestic terrorism happening on the watch of the willfuly negligent RCMP.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Scary Month & Knuckles
We open with three more of the week’s best Halloween-themed articles!
- Observation and Embodiment | No Escape
Kaile Hultner explores subversion and constraint in sci-fi horror Observation.
- Creature Feature: “Isaac” from The Binding of Isaac | Gamers with Glasses
Nathan Schmidt locates sources of horror and monstrosity in The Binding of Isaac and its evangelical imagery.
- Forbidden knowledge – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi delves too deeply into the locked-away secrets of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. . . .
“The scene I was greeted with had none of the promised remote waterfalls tumbling down cool coloured cave walls. No vast gaps connected by green bridges that lit up as Sonic walked over them. No giant emeralds to find. No undiscovered badniks to bop. There were no palaces either, hidden or otherwise. What I saw instead was a visual cacophony of lost data, a mess of corrupted nothings and indecipherable scrolling objects, chunks of absent graphics still pulsating to an unknown rhythm against an expanse of broken information. This was all made so much worse by the way Sonic helplessly fell through this chaos the instant the level began, the debris of leftover code flashing before my eyes as he plunged into the water below (of course the sodding water would still work) and died as soon as he touched the bottom of the screen.”
We’ve got two selections this week reflecting on the bodies that are included and excluded in games, and the barriers that exist for some players on the basis of those exclusions, stereotypes, and microaggressions.
- Platforms and Pitfalls Episode 27 – Queer Male Bodies with Jeremy Signor — Idris Effect
Rowan and Jeremy Signor chat about queer masculine bodies in Dragon Age, Strange Flesh, Tusks, and more.
- Extra Puzzles: Navigating Dungeons & Dragons as a Queer Black Woman | AIPT
Holly Woodbury recounts the barriers and stereotypes endemic to tabletop fantasy gaming that Black and Brown players must navigate in order to enjoy the games they love.
“I love fantasy. I love DnD. I long for the day when it fully and truly loves me back.”
Horror and Hope in the Industry
Four pieces this week look broadly at various issues in the industry as well as positive interventions, with specific foci on crunch, marketing, accessibility, and diverse representation.
- Hey, Games Industry, We Need to Have Some Accountability | Paste
Jessica Howard charactizes industry crunch as a systemic issue rather than something that can be attributed to individual “bad” studios.
- League of Legends’ Fake Anime Pop Star Is Sad Tweeting About Genocide | VICE
Gita Jackson gets at the heart of what’s scummy about Riot’s latest bout of parasocial stunt marketing.
- Deaf Accessibility in Video Games – I Need Diverse Games
Mandy Jane Ashford goes beyond captions to look at other accessibility needs and considerations in games for deaf players.
- An Inclusive Future: A Recap of Game Devs of Color Expo 2020 | Sidequest
Elvie Mae Parian recaps the broad strokes of this year’s virtual GDoCExpo and highlights some rad upcoming games from marginalized developers.
“GDoCExpo is a firm effort against not only the failings of the games industry, but of the very systems that perpetuate those failings. It is poetic for GDoCExpo to thrive against the setbacks that could have easily pushed its cancellation this year—its survival serves as a beacon of hope.”
We’ve got three pieces this week with various narrative angles, looking at how storytelling genres, structures, and systems can open up a gameplay genre to new audiences, invoke wonder, or demolish historical cis-hetero patriarchy. Felt good typing that last one out, readers.
- Hades, Going Under show how roguelikes can overcome their flaws | Windows Central
Carli Velocci identifies strong narrative design as a factor in what makes some of the latest and greatest roguelikes/lites more accessible and engaging for a wider audience.
- Dreamlike Play: The Wonder of Surrealism in Games | Videodame
Jeremy Signor explores surrealism and magical realism in KRZ and Anodyne 2.
- I Tried To Break Crusader Kings III With Lesbian Supremacy | Fanbyte
Ruth Cassidy chronicles a history we could have had.
“I dedicate nearly a virtual lifetime to building up piety: buying indulgences, going on pilgrimages, and (crucially) abstaining from love affairs. All this to turn around at the last minute with a swift middle finger to the Pope and establish a new Christian sect: Lesbianism.”
F in the Chat for 2020
Two authors this week situate games in contemporary contexts through close reading.
- In Search of the Blue | Into The Spine
Kat finds solace in Subnautica while Earth’s oceans are out of reach.
- The Hollow Nihilism of ‘Call of Duty’ | WIRED
Yussef Cole finds any legitimate critique of American foreign policy within the Black Ops games to be drowned out by their parallel pro-military jingoism and unwillingness to lay any blame at the feet of the military-industrial complex.
“Instead of focusing, as Black Ops does, on the frustration of soldiers armed to the teeth, only to be torn apart, these narratives could build an understanding that the same forces that erected the institutions from which these soldiers were sent out to die also resisted the progressive movements at home that might have made these wars unnecessary to begin with.”
Shining in the Darkness poetry! One day I’ll get to the bottom of its depths. . . maybe. With save states. And rewind.
- Game Enjambment: On Shining in the Darkness | Sidequest
Katherine Quevedo, Shining in the Darkness.
“The darkness and humanity combine
To prove that we must be the ones to shine.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!