March 21st

Welcome back, readers.

No speech this week. Here’s an extensive and detailed resource if you’re looking for a way to support Asian-American communities near you.

I do have a couple of updates around the site to highlight. Connor’s latest video roundup is live, so go check that out if you haven’t already. Also, we’ve got a new episode of Keywords in Play, featuring Dr. C. Thi Nguyen!

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

Industry Histories

This week we’re opening with a trio of sections about history and ahistory. I’ve gone back and forth a bit on how to order these pieces and sections because there’s lots over commonality on things like the short cultural memory that plagues games, cyclical narratives in reporting, and art, preservation, and obselescence. In this first part, we’ve got three authors who, while focusing on specific texts and topics, also gesture broadly to the construction of cultural history and memory in the industry.

Looking at Blizzard now, all of the original staff have left, or been folded into mobile games and esports marketing strategies departments. Former members of the studio decry the operation as being a husk of its former self: a catalogue of brands being managed by investors and hedge funds with a powerful need to keep the talent door revolving. Those staff that left, who did they get replaced by? If a company is the sum of its parts – what about when all of those parts are just people hungry for work that own too many Heroes of the Storm funkopops?

Game Histories

Our next section (or subsection) also offers meditations on the industry as a whole, but rendered more directly through the lenses of specific object text games.

“The general sentiment that emerged from those talks — among much else — was a mistrust of Seattle-based developer Highwire’s ability to represent a truthful human experience of the events. Alongside that came worries about the game’s representation of Iraqi citizens (and Middle Eastern cultures in general), and a wider concern about the responsibility of trying to turn a real-life war — particularly such a recent, bloody, and controversial one — into an interactive entertainment experience.”

Art Histories

Finally, we’ve got two pieces looking at the intersections between web-building and art-making, tracing the histories of the craft, its tools, and the people who keep the forms alive today.

“I think this is a really important creative philosophy to preserve. We lost pretty much all of it, largely because of killing Flash. The type of website I describe was often built with Flash. This wasn’t preserved. Flash games, on the other hand, were… but I think it’s important to bring this up, because there’s no reason that websites need to be this “dead format” that we’ve come to accept.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Next up, we have two meditations on loops in games, the meaning they evoke in players, and how all of that relates to a life stuck on repeat.

“Every day, I wake up and enter a world of horror, one where each day seems as numbingly same-y as the last. I’m yearning for a return to an old version of this world, one that is now little more than a memory for me. Loop Hero‘s ultimate fantasy is the feeling of control, even if that control is ultimately illusory.”

Virtual Playgrounds

Ok, this is another loose grouping, so bear with me. There’s lots of provocative questions this week about how spaces in games are constructed, what kinds of relationships we form with those spaces, how those relationships are influenced and informed by our prior experiences, and how our experiences with games inform and influence our relationships with material spaces.

“Nature is a thing that you shouldn’t be able to put a price tag on, but we have. I stopped hunting years and years ago, but the fact remains that I took part in a machine that has led to the eradication of numerous species, a booming gun industry, and more. Far Cry 5 plays into those same hands.”

Character Sketches

Two pieces this week, incidentally both from TheGamer, invite us to reconsider key characters we’ve had time and space to sit with and appreciate their under-recognized successes.

“Zelda will live lifetime after lifetime, destined to spend it beating back the Demon King. This version of her gives each entry some added context that makes the princess more admirable and more tragic with each addition. It’s the indomitable will of Hylia, who cared so deeply for others that she commits herself to hundreds of lifetimes of fighting to make sure every generation is safe – ensuring Zelda will always be there to meet Demise.”

Ordinary Horrors

Two articles this week examine how horror and anxiety in imaginary worlds are rooted in the mundanity of present-date, real-world living.

“What makes Devotion’s horror so chillingly effective is how ordinary it is, how you come away at the end of it emotionally overwhelmed; justifiably angry, sad, disgusted, and filled with pity at once.”

Never Forgetti, Rest in Resetti

Welp. A year indoors, and a year since the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In lieu of our mostly-regular Critical Chaser section, here are two standout retrospectives on how people built out their islands, alone or together, in a tire fire of a year.

“We’re back to New Horizons’ launch date — 365 days later. And who is here to greet us? Zipper T. Bunny.”


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