Welcome back, readers.
My apologies about the lateness of September’s gaming youtube directory. I had it basically ready two weeks back, at the ‘normal time’, but then formatting and posting it became, for some reason or another – like everything else in this temporally soupy mess of geographically dislocated late 2020 waking fever dream – inexplicably difficult, one more thing to move to tomorrow’s to-do list, to shove behind another run, or a run at Hades, or whathaveyou. My city is seemingly about to emerge from a four-month lockdown just as many of you are facing record case numbers and new restrictions. I feel like I’ve lost the context necessary for parsing meaning in every group chat, discord server and twitter in-hug, and that I’m now swimming forever upstream to find it. Our experiences of this global crisis are all different, and bad. If there’s one thing that seems globally consistent though, it’s the way governments have used the excuse of the pandemic to further entrench marginalisation of Black, Brown and Indigenous people (as I’m reminded this week by my state government literally using the announcement of lockdown ending as a distraction for the entirely avoidable destruction of sacred sites). Chris has been sharing this good resource for how to contribute to protests worldwide.
Emilie is hosting a Bitsy essay jam for us next month, so that’s nice. I’m going to make a thing. Come join in if you aren’t doing Nanowrimo. Perhaps even if you are.
This Month In Videogame Vlogging is a roundup of the most interesting video-based criticism about videogames from the previous calendar month.
I loved each of these three essays that looked at the intersection of visual clarity, viewpoint and the affective power of scale.
Fearful Beauty: Subnautica and The Long Dark – Pixel a Day (24:11)
Kat argues first-person survival games Subnautica and The Long Dark are the best examples of encounters with ‘the sublime’ in videogames, owing to the way they combine beauty and terror. (Manual captions)
The Art of Video Game Photography – eurothug4000 (18:26)
Maria makes a curious survey of photography in videogames, looking at games that are based around photography, the evolution of distinct photomodes in some games, and the tools and methods used by professional in-game photographers and artists. (Manual captions)
Cities Without People – Jacob Geller (25:07)
Jacob Geller contemplates how the dominance of cars in modernity has visually shaped what the player encounters in Flight Simulator 2020. (Manual captions) [Contains embedded advertising]
Videos about videogame history are rarely in short supply, but this month was a good one for short, alternative narratives about quietly significant designers and decisions.
Why “So Long Bowser” is Not in Super Mario 3D All-Stars – Video Game Story Time (3:51)
VGST take a missing voice clip from the 3D All-Stars version of Mario 64 to briefly explore how the canonisation of the character name ‘Bowser’ seems to have come about from an inexplicable localisation. (Manual captions)
Muriel Tramis | The First Black Female Game Designer – The Icon (13:12)
The Icon profiles the career of French adult/adventure game pioneer Muriel Tramis. (No English captions)
The Rise and Fall of Britain’s Bedroom Coders | Design Icons – Game Maker’s Toolkit (10:27)
Mark Brown describes how the games industry developed around the proliferation of innovative individual coders in the UK in the 80s, based on the particular early home computers available to them. (Manual captions)
The subject of how games reward players was a focal point for a trio of different essays.
This is (Not) an RPG: Fire Emblem & Intended Play – MidnightCowboi (34:40)
Fire Emblem is an anxious series, explains MidnightCowboi, and that while the game often seems “unfair”, it is sometimes fun to feel like the butt of the developer’s joke. (Autocaptions)
The Psychological Trick That Can Make Rewards Backfire – Game Maker’s Toolkit (11:26)
Mark Brown looks at when and when’t in-game rewards serve as useful motivation for players. (Manual captions)
Inqueery | Bisexuality as a Game Mechanic – Game Assist (45:15)
The Game Assist team look at a wide range of (roleplaying and dating-sim) games to argue that bisexuality in games is often used to reinforce rather than subvert patriarchal structures, which in turn reinforces biphobia. (Autocaptions)
Binding these three video essays together are analyses that seek to understand particular games’ narratives and themes in the context of their place and time.
What Is Halo Really About? – Red Letter Daze (27:27)
Ellie wonders if Halo’s uncritical remixing of popular military sci-fi pastiche was meant to play into islamaphobic and imperialistic sentiment in the early 2000s. (Autocaptions)
Uncovering The Tattoos of Yakuza | Sidcourse – Leonardo Da Sidci (12:29)
Leonardo Da Sidci discusses the broader role of tattoos in contemporary cultures, and speculates upon the symbolic meanings of the tattoos seen on the backs of characters in the Yakuza series. (Manual captions)
Notes From Along Kentucky Route Zero [Spoilers] – Noah Caldwell-Gervais (1:15:01)
Noah Caldwell-Gervais analyses Kentucky Route Zero’s portrayal of the particularly American-flavoured cycle of debt, and how the game relates to – and critiques – academic and literary discourses. (Autocaptions)
These Old Guns
Some notes on old and old-style shooting games, to end this one ominously.
CO-VIDs: what makes an fps arsenal good? – Innuendo Studios (16:55)
Ian Danskin wonders why he hasn’t been enjoying retro-FPS Ion Fury all that much, and comes up with a plausible theory about how weapon arsenals are best designed to internally complement… themselves. (Autocaptions)
ACTION BUTTON REVIEWS DOOM – Action Button (3:30:21)
Tim Rogers reviews Doom (1993), by which of course I mean this is like 98% Tim Rogers discussing the process of Tim Rogers reviewing Doom against his self-described history as a “Doom poseur” along with its subsequent saturation and endless iterations in American and ‘gamer’ life, the point of which is weirdly interesting because hey how do you “review” something that is now so culturally embedded? But yes, it’s very long. (Autocaptions)
That does us for September’s edition. See you all again soon enough. Oh, but do remember to vote, American friends. (I know you will).
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!