Welcome back, readers.
Plugging these calls for submissions one more time this week:
- One more week to submit games and research to Black Game Makers.
- One more day to submit proposals to Decolonizing Queer Games and Play for First Person Scholar.
- Proposals for Surviving Whiteness in Games are open until the end of March.
Hope everyone’s doing okay. As for me, I’m now playing four different MMO games, three of them with live human beings. What does that say about how I’m doing? Who knows! On with the show!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week we open with three pieces exploring games, genres, and trends by incorporating the various wider contexts that inform them, whether it be shared national and artistic trauma, the wider critical trajectory of a studio, or, you know, a collective and ongoing global catastrophe. Starting on a light note this week, folks!
- Living the Past | Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter contemplates The Medium through the lens of Poland’s 20th century historical traumas (content notifications for abuse, the Holocaust, wartime atrocities).
- Even the Ocean: Sophomore Woes and Shadow Drafts — KRITIQAL
Nate Kiernan situates Even the Ocean‘s narrative and design excesses in the wider context of developer Analgesic’s artistic and thematic trajectory.
- From Among Us to Genshin Impact, mobile games are quietly exploding | Polygon
Khee Hoon Chan situates a boom in pocketable play in the context of the ongoing pandemic paradigm.
“More than just the mindless time drains of yesteryear, today’s mobile games aren’t just fun, but also worthwhile social experiences: they let players stave off the one-two punch of isolation and “always online” fatigue.”
We’ve got two fresh critical perspectives this week approaching Doom and Super Mario World from new angles, looking at how mods and hacks enhance out-of-focus elements and ideas that were there all along.
- Sexual Glee and Doom | Medium
Zsolt David makes the case, via Mauss, that Doom was horny well before the porn mods.
- Unintended Behavior Embraces the Fun of Glitches | Jeremy Signor’s Games Initiative
Jeremy Signor turns to the more experimental side of Kaizo with a romhack that lays bare Super Mario World‘s janky, exploitable underside.
“Super Mario World is a horrifically broken game that’s held together by duct tape and a prayer. But you wouldn’t know it just by looking at it, as Nintendo did a very good job at hiding the jank. But the truth is that so many exploits and glitches are lurking just beneath the surface, complicating the creation of new content for the game. But what if you made a game that leveraged these glitches and turned them into stable mechanics?”
Making (and Playing) History
The years that separate the PS2 from Ultima VIII utterly pale in comparison to those that separate the PS2 from today. If that wasn’t enough to crumble you instantaneously into a pile of dust, the PS2 actually overlaps with the tail end of big-box retail game packaging. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m trying to delete it.
- The incredible boxes of Hock Wah Yeo | The Obscuritory
Phil Salvador celebrates the long-gone era of weird and wonderful game packaging by looking at the work of possibly the artform’s greatest master.
- Ultima VIII (or, How to Destroy a Gaming Franchise in One Easy Step) | The Digital Antiquarian
Jimmy Maher considers genre shifts, demographic trends, and generational clashes in untangling the troubled development history of Ultima VIII.
- Newly old things – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi, on the PlayStation 2’s 21st birthday (excuse me, what), ponders the myriad technological and cultural factors that play into which games and consoles graduate to “retro” status and when.
“The Mega Drive was “retro” when the Dreamcast was still available – a decade and just one Sega console separating the two – so why shouldn’t the PlayStation 2 – now three Sony’s and two decades behind not be considered retro too?”
Villagers and City Folk
Two examinations this week of queer characters and spaces in popular games, both narratively-wrought and player-made.
- Forget drag shows, it’s all about the gay bathhouses in Animal Crossing | Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart looks in on the latest trend among Animal Crossing players making queer spaces that reflect their queer selves.
- I Hope The Two Trans Characters In Yakuza: Like A Dragon Figure Out How To Love Themselves | TheGamer
Stacey Henley delves into a fleeting but relatable moment about two people trying to find out who they really are.
“these characters are clearly and deliberately positioned opposite each other, in a game all about the opposites of fate set in motion as early as birth. One person, born a woman, whose only stated desire is to be like a man. The other, born a man, whose only wish is to be like a woman. It’s silly, but it’s also very real.”
Show and Tell
We’ve got a variety of pieces this week exploring different ways that games successfully (or not so succesfully!) communicate their ideas, including but also extending beyond traditional narrative structures.
- How Narration Dictates Attention in ‘Call of the Sea’ – Saturshot
Ruth Cassidy weighs the tension between showing and telling in Call of the Sea.
- Cult Optics: The visuals of Midnight Ultra – Zangief’s Reading Table
colelegante examines how art direction and color theming carry the weight of indie shooter Midnight Ultra‘s ideas about cult dynamics and philosophy, picking up the slack for an otherwise insubstantial narrative.
- The Peculiar (Dis)comfort of Slime Rancher | Into The Spine
Emma Kostopolus unpacks eugenic and colonial gameplay loops beneath Slime Rancher‘s cutesy surface.
“I told myself it wasn’t bad, that they maybe didn’t even die, really. Because I certainly couldn’t release them back into the wild, that was far too dangerous.”
We close the week out with a return to lightness and fuzzy feels via these two fine selections.
- A very fair ranking of Genshin Impact’s most dateable NPCs | Gayming Magazine
Harriette Chan goes beyond the gacha in this good and important list.
- The Definitive Ranking of Game Frogs, Part I | Sidequest
The Sidequest folks put together a real feel-good list here, and yes, the frog chair from Animal Crossing is on it.
“Once upon a time, a naive editor in chief sat down in the Sidequest Slack, gazed upon her writers, and asked, “What, dear friends, is a worthy followup to Witch Moms and Sword Dads? What might we rank, to be referenced for generations to come, that sits on par with those parental figures we love so dearly?”
Silence echoed in the great Slack halls, until a single voice rang out: “Frogs.”“
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