Welcome back, readers.
You may have noticed I tend to repeat plugs for the same causes in our intros for several weeks after they cease to become topical. Yes, yes I do. Anyways, here’s an extensive and detailed resource if you would like to find out more about how to support Asian-American communities near you.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
You and Me Against the World
This week’s issue opens with a focus on found families and the bonds that bring warmth to otherwise bleak worlds.
- The Beauty Of Abby’s Found Family In The Last Of Us Part 2 | TheGamer
Jade King examines the strength and warmth of Abby and Lev’s bond at the end of TLOU2.
- Companionship and Emptiness in Fumito Ueda’s Games – Uppercut
Oisin Kuhnke examines how empty worlds and pared-down casts work in concert to convey the character relationships at the heart of Ueda’s games.
“The feeling of emptiness is critical to the games, as it encourages the player to bond with their companions. The games don’t exactly give you much choice in any case as they are all linear titles, but even so, if these spaces were filled with lore, they would be a distraction from the companions you’re spending time with.”
Life of the Party
In our next segment, we’ve got a pair of pieces looking back at retro JRPGs, with a focus on systems and characters, respectively.
- The State of Employment in Wild Arms XF – LudoLudo Dissonance | Pixels For Breakfast
Rowan Carmichael finds in Wild Arms XF a job system that uniquely manages to cut out most of the grind.
- Game Pile: Final Fantasy VI | press.exe
Talen Lee reminisces about Final Fantasy VI as a game more about its characters than its narrative or even its journey.
“It has been over twenty years since I played this game, really played this game, really fucking played this game. And what lasts to me are stories about people. About characters who love each other or who still inspire warm feelings or who remind me of things I wished could be true.”
Horror and Hauntings
It feels appropriate in an increasingly time-slipped era that we’re observing the Easter holiday with a trio of articles that would be right at home in a Halloween-themed roundup, so here they are, stellar works of criticism all of them.
- The (Not So) True Story of a Haunted Game | SUPERJUMP
Baxter Burchill delves into the history of a ghost game that has become haunted through retellings and mistellings of its troubled development history.
- Haunted Machines in Kentucky Route Zero — Gamers with Glasses
Roger Whitson muses on the historical, technological, and thematic connections at play with KRZ‘s Xanadu.
- Devotion and Transactional Love | Jeremy Signor’s Games Initiative
Jeremy Signor examines Devotion as a study in how familial bonds are warped into a monstrous version of the game’s namesake.
“When you view the people you’re supposed to love as part of a transaction that benefits you, the place that you call home can start to warp and rot. Devotion, the latest game from Taiwanese developer Red Candle Games, makes this very literal and shows the dangers of transactional love.”
Two articles about beeing seen, the need to be seen, and the commonplace narrative and mechanical structures that alternatrely facilitate and inhibit meaningful representation.
- How Tanking in Overwatch Has Helped Me Love My Giant Body – Uppercut
Brady Grabowski describings finding confidence and body positivity while running tank.
- Video games are still falling behind in asexual representation | Gayming Magazine
Louise Chase breaks down some of the hegemonic, transactional storytelling structures in games that don’t leave much room for ace characters to exist.
“Some of my other favourite video game romances (like Evie Frye and Henry Green from Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate) have no sexual content implied, and that’s beautiful and refreshing. Hades and its options to romance either Megara or Thanatos likewise builds around genuine experiences and getting to know them as people, rather than getting them into bed. These more human interactions have me yearning to replay and engage, and nothing would change that drastically if the main character or significant other was asexual. What’s their favourite music? Best spot for a quiet read with a book? Hobbies and pets?”
Mechanics in Context
Next up we’ve got two pieces of design-minded writing unpacking systems and design principles, and how these elements tap into conversations about affective play and accessibility.
- What role does game difficulty play? | Can I Play That?
Ruth Cassidy approaches the question of the “intended experience” as it relates to accessibility options.
- Will I Write Poetry on My Father’s Grave? – Haywire Magazine
Emma Kostopolus reflects on the recuperative properties of poetry-writing, via Ghost of Tsushima‘s haiku system.
“So, what Ghost of Tsushima does, fundamentally, is present an avenue for Jin to do exactly what I’m doing with this piece: to reckon through the written word with the flaws of our fathers or the times we fail them (because it always somehow feels like it’s our fault, too). By looking at how Jin uses poetry to reckon with big, nebulous concepts like legacy and death, we can consider the benefits of trying to wrangle these things within ourselves by externalizing them through the written word. We cannot fully come to terms with things in the handful of syllables present in a haiku, but we could not come to terms with them if we were to write a novel either.”
This week we’re once again featuring writiers looking at failures and flaws, this time in a review format, with a film adaptation and a promising game that doesn’t live up to the demo, respectively.
- The Monster Hunter Movie Is Not Just Bad — It’s Boring | Video Game Choo Choo
Elvie finds that the Monster Hunter adaptation has stripped out much of the games’ personality in favour of delivering a rote militarized action movie.
- With A Bang or A Whimper: A Critical Review of ‘Genesis Noir’ | Epilogue Gaming
Blake Andrea weighs Genesis Noir‘s bright moments against an overall package that feels both overwrought and underwhelming.
“Though there are gestures at narrative – a bodacious woman who may or may not blend into the femme fatale archetype, a rival musician whose angst arises from past insecurities and betrayal, the investigation into a shooting that implies murder mystery, etc. – and I was actively trying to follow along, I got the sense that most of Genesis Noir was meaningless nonsense, astrophysics jargon thrown in a blender with existentialist conclusions as the other ingredient. While Genesis Noir aspired to be the Carl Sagan of games, it ultimately became the Neil Degrasse Tyson in its ethos.”
Honestly I couldn’t look away from this one till I’d read to the bottom.
- SQIJ! | Bad Game Hall of Fame
Cassidy observes April Fool’s with the all-too-true tale of a deliberately disastarous speccy port born of exploitative working conditions and specc-tacular mismanagement.
“By all accounts, staff at The Power House should’ve taken just one look at what Creighton had handed them, and quickly determined to throw it away. If there was a single iota of professional pride left between the whole lot of them; they’d have realized how unreasonable they had been through this whole fiasco, let the unfortunate teenager off the hook, and simply given up on making a Spectrum conversion of SQIJ! available to consumers. Better to do that than subject them to the mess Jason had sent their way, and risk losing valuable trust with their audience. But of course, we all know by now what it was they wound up doing.”
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