February 14th

Welcome back, readers.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve highlighted this call for submissions to a collected volume and archive of Black creators working in, on, and around games, as well as Khee Hoon Chan and First Person Scholar’s call for a special issue themed around Decolonizing Queer Games and Play. This week another exciting CFP has come to my attention, via the Journal of Games Criticism, centred around Surviving Whiteness in Games. This one runs until the end of March!

Around the site, our List Jam begins today, and runs for a week. I’m looking forward to the weird and wonderful stuff people come up with!

This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Understanding Exploitation

Our opening section is concerned with industry exploitation and abuse, along studio and journalistic axes. We’ll let this go when Nathalie Lawhead no longer has to ask for basic dignity on a daily basis.

“I would like you, whoever reads this, to understand the concepts of solidarity. This is what we need here.
When someone was hurt, it affects everyone. When you let an abuser function in a space to the extent that they have the power and platform to continue hurting people, you are helping them hurt people.
Our inability to act… no, our UNWILLINGNESS to act is hurting us all.”

Time-Slipped

It may be indicative of our present circumstances that in some ways Fall Guys feels like it came out almost as long ago as Sly Cooper (maybe not quite as long ago as The Portopia Serial Murder Case). Each of these pieces takes a historical look at games, or deconstructs how time and history are constructed within the industry itself, or considers who and what are omitted from that history.

“It’s not just that women in tech routinely get overlooked, though that certainly plays a part in this mystery. It’s that cultural norms around marriage make it harder to keep track of them.”

Deep-Wrought Dialectical

Our next section brings together close philosophical analysis, slow unpackings, and a critical review of feminist games scholarship.

“Apologizing for a mistake doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re forgiven, especially if there’s still material consequences – especially one as grave as Sunny’s. But the important thing is to take accountability for what you’ve done for the peace of mind of everyone involved and to be honest with the people you care about.”

Relatable World

In this section our three selected authors look at story worlds as they relate to (or have been outpaced by) our own world, covering intersections of contemporary crisis, narrative payoff, and Black representation.

“Can’t more be done with Miles at this point? I don’t want to hear that everyone can be Spider-Man. I don’t want to hear that depicting Black life intimately and expansively is “risky.” Time and time again the world tries to tell me otherwise, but I’m not asking for too much.”

Bae or Slay

We’ve got a wide array of design-minded crituques this week, ranging from art direction, level design, difficulty, and player behaviors.

“Why players reset is an interesting point. What have Intelligent Systems done to try and resolve this after noticing after years that players of all kinds just avoid this core aspect of their games, an aspect that in many ways defines much of the series?  There are two main solutions they tried, each with different payoffs.”

Hetman

Next up, we’ve got a pair of insightful perspectives on the recent Hitman 3, unpacking its real-world settings and ideological implications, respectively.

“Whether a businessman, cameraman, waiter, or guard, a white cis man is no remarkable sight. They are free of skepticism and the visibility that would be offered to nearly anyone else. In turn, while violence against the powerful might be a claim to a better world for the marginalized, for Agent 47 it is simply a job. He cannot be a person; he is a professional. Though it is alienation of labor that lets him do his work, it also alienates him. While his identity allows him anonymity, it also obscures any real, chosen sense of self. He is everyone and no one. He is not just a cog in the machine, but one of its gears.”

Queer Possibilities

Three excellent critiques and contemplations of queer possibility spaces in contemporary games, looking at Cyberpunk 2077, Stardew Valley, and more.

“Games, much like everything else, don’t change lives and shake bones every time they get played, but they can provide regular reassurance in identity. They can also be a bit of a safety net. Stepping into a virtual world, trans folks have the freedom to be exactly the people they choose to be, and that is particularly special at the start of transitioning or when coming out. But beyond that, open-world games allow a freedom, not only in personal expression but also in the communities players chose to create for themselves.”

Feminine Representation

We’ve got two pieces this week centred on feminine diversity, as well as how women, and women’s bodies, are framed and mediated in games.

HuniePop is not perfect. I don’t think anyone is purporting that it is. It’s a dating sim centred around wooing multiple women, many of them have skimpy outfit options, and while it makes fun of existing tropes of the genre it is still utilising them heavily, even the problematic ones. I do see it as a an overall positive game, though. It has a great sense of humour, whether just in general or specifically about itself. The characters are diverse and well-executed, both in writing and vocal work. And in a genre where many games that feature sexuality swim in the dark creepy end of the pool, HuniePop is refreshingly light and positive about the sex (implied, shown or heard) within it.”

Critical Chaser

Somebody set us up the. . . antiquated nuclear reactor.

“Yes, nuclear energy can last very long, but what’s the limit? Could a human-made system of any kind, like an advanced nuclear reactor, last at least hundreds of years—the lowest fandom guesstimate between Bray’s lifetime and the relative present in Destiny 2—without any sentient supervision?”


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