Welcome back readers.
Ok, so these links are reruns from last week, but the causes they relate to remain undiminished in their importance, and I understand and appreciate the danger of their being drowned out in, uh, next week’s impending news cycle. Please check them out if you have time and energy to give:
- Check out the ways in which you can support protests against anti-Black and Brown police violence in the US and abroad.
- Thread collating ways you can support Mi’kmaw fisheries.
- Legal Fund for organizers fighting commercial exploitation of Haudenosaunee lands.
From around the site this week, Connor’s back with a new issue of TMIVGV! Additionally, don’t forget that we’ve got an upcoming Bitsy Essay Jam in collaboration with Emilie Reed! What are you interested in making?
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We’re opening this week with two pieces on very different games which, when read together, reiterate the idea that it’s easier to be reactionary than revolutionary in games, at least when it comes to the upper echelons of the industry, which resist the substance of real progressive change while peddling its aesthetic trappings to keep the engine running.
- ‘Watch Dogs: Legion’ Promises Revolution, But Mostly Delivers Distraction | VICE
Austin Walker finds Watch Dogs: Legion to be within striking distance of delivering on its revolutionary premise, but ultimately held back by too many constraints and compromises.
- How ‘Raji: An Ancient Epic’ Falls into the Indian Far-Right’s Trap | VICE
Adesh Thapliyal asks who is left behind in Raji‘s imagined fantastical past in the context of the rise of far-right Hindu nationalism in contemporary India.
“Rather than produce a new, authentic image of India’s storied past, Raji is only able to refract and multiply the familiar ones, deepening the already large rift between the truth and a politically expedient fiction, and revealing how far conservatism has penetrated the nation’s sense of itself.”
Scary Month Unending
Five more pieces this week to close out the nominal Halloween season, but hey, I won’t say no to more.
- You’ve Met a Terrible Fate: How BEN Drowned’s Return Has Reignited Horror | Uppercut
Marn Silverman chronicles the long and twisted history of the prototypical–and ongoing–creepypasta centred around Majora’s Mask.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask—The Coming-of-Age Story I Wasn’t Ready For | Paste
Jessica Howard returns to Majora’s Mask, finding that it hits so hard because it eschews the fantastical escapism the rest of the franchise embraces.
- Scars of the Risen God: Healing in Pathologic 2 – Uppercut
Grace Benfell thinks through the theological and existential implications of the give and take relationship between harm and healing in Pathologic 2.
- Amnesia: Rebirth Makes Motherhood Scary | Kotaku
Ash Parrish didn’t find anything in Amnesia: Rebirth scary except probably the one thing it didn’t intend to be so.
- Creature Feature: Carrion – Team Shapeless Horror 4lyf | Gamers with Glasses
Tof Eklund presents a literary and cultural history of shapeshifting, formless monsters, touching upon vulnerability, marginalization, and liberation, as well as trans themes of identification and passing.
“If you can imagine feeling for a shoggoth the way you might feel for a cat or a dog, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Lovecraft made them slaves, living machines created by the elder things, until they grew minds of their own and rebelled. In Carrion, you start out under pressure, compressed inside a glass cylinder beneath a biohazard sign. Trust me, that’s no way to live. As I rattled and shook my prison until it shattered, as the hazmat-suited technicians running tests on me scattered in fear, as I stretched out my slimy tendrils for the first time, I felt a sense of vindication. I’d been waiting so long to be free.”
The games industry, at all levels, is fundamentally shaped by the inequalities that it maintains and upholds, a microcosm for the wider neoliberal status quo of which it is an especially profitable appendage. That has an indellible effect on who participates in the industry, whether it be as professionals, as players, as creators, or as esports athletes. Two pieces this week situate the representational makeup of the industry within the context of these inequalities.
- Why So Many Esports Pros Come From South Korea | WIRED
Jonathan Lee considers the class structures and inequalities that make esports an attractive path for so many Korean players.
- Lifting the barriers for Black professionals in the games industry | GamesIndustry.biz
Marie Dealessandri talks to Shay Thompson, Tanya DePass, Michael Anderson, Natasha Broomfield-Reid, and more about the systemic obstructions that exist for Black people in all corners of the game industry, as well as what kinds of work need to go into dismantling those obstructions.
“Systemic racism in our societies means some issues overly affect Black people, and the industry needs to hold itself accountable. Showing that games is a viable professional career to a wider range of educational institutions, changing our recruitment practices to have access to a larger pipeline of talent, and addressing the racism within our companies will all be instrumental to an in-depth change leading to a better inclusion of Black people.”
Design and Experience
One way to look at games is as a crucible of mechanics and design elements, which yield, well, what exactly for the player? What are our embodied reactions to successful (or unsuccessful) design and what are our takeaways once we leave the magic circle? Two authors this week explore these questions.
- The Queen’s Gambit: Chess Tips and Strategies for Everyday Life | Popular Mechanics
Caroline Delbert investigates the ways in which chess cultivates critical thinking skills, reveals the personalities of its players, and teaches players to problem solve in life beyond the board.
- A Rush: The Brilliance of First-Person Platformers | Medium
Cole Henry breaks down the visceral exhiliration at the heart of games like Mirror’s Edge and Ghostrunner.
“The microgenre of first-person platformers will forever compel me becasue it closes the distance in platformers and makes the relationship between bodies, movement, and environments deeply tangible. Yet, they aren’t all perfect. First-person platforming can be frivolous, a means to pad out a game or level’s length. Yes, I am looking at you Doom: Eternal. But when the genre is done right and feels right, then there is a sense of rush that comes to bear and it is a rush that is unparreled in this medium. And I will always be chasing it, or maybe I will just play Mirror’s Edge again.”
Something I don’t see discussed a whole lot in games-as-art discource is the fact that games essentially involve the synthesis of so many other art forms into a common production. Games need to bring together so many different media and somehow string them all together with some measure of critical or thematic or artistic cohesion. On one hand, uhh, that’s an awful lot of labour we’re talking about, and at the upper level that labour is often harvested in coercive circumstances. But while acknowledging that very real issue, what are the fruits of these synnergies? How do character designs, or orchestrated leitmotifs contribute to a game’s overall themes? Two articles this week unpack these connections in detail.
- League of Legends: Behind the K / DA Craze on MORE | GamerFocus
Julián Ramírez and Diana Mafla discuss the K-pop inspired stylings of K / DA and how the group members’ fashion stylings reflect their characters (Spanish-langage article).
- The Five Best Final Fantasy Soundtracks of All Time | Paste
Dia Lacina uses a ranked list of FF soundtracks as a pretense for some cool critical analysis across the series on space, place, theme, and good beats.
“Final Fantasy is often a road trip narrative. And while X-2 is arguably most successful in this regard, and XV is the most obviously literal, VII’s trip across a weird hallucination of an America culminates in this moment. In the fake NDN Village of Cosmo Canyon.”
We’ve got two pieces this week looking at games that remix or renovate established genres in the interest in producing something new and critically reflexive towards what came before. I’m, uhh, gonna have to play 13 Sentinels sooner or later, aren’t I?
- For moon, Intimacy is (Almost) Everything | Into The Spine
Jeremy Signor identifies intimacy as the missing ingredient in JRPGs that moon capitalizes on.
- 13 Sentinels has a surprisingly hopeful message | Polygon
Autumn Wright takes a deep look at how 13 Sentinels twists genres, temporalities, and cultural narratives into something more.
“In a genre that is itself caught between the inescapable fatalism of Gundam and the abject nihilism of Evangelion, 13 Sentinels is remarkably hopeful in its thesis. This is the beginning of history, a better ending, the post-post apocalypse. Now more than ever, we need another timeline.”
Poetry corner returns!
- Game Enjambment: Nightmarens | Sidequest
Katherine Quevedo, NiGHTS Into Dreams.
“Welcome, new denizens:
Like pressing through a fruit’s bruise,
you’ve found my soft spot for you.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!