Welcome back, readers.
First off, I’m re-sharing this document collating information + avenues of support in the wake of ongoing protests against continued police brutality and murder of Black and brown people. Please take a look if you can!
Around the site, Connor is back at it again with our latest video roundup, so check that out too if you haven’t already done so!
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 two articles examining the RPG tradition in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, both at large and in specific, bringing attention to games and series that often haven’t attracted a lot of attention in western-centric discourses.
- Before Genshin Impact: A brief history of Chinese RPGs | Felipe Pepe
Felipe Pepe offers a beginner’s guide to the Chinese tradition in RPGs, which stretches nearly as far back as the genre does elsewhere and connects with a considerably larger player base.
- The anti-RPG that’s more RPG than most – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi delves into the realm of Taiwanese RPGs with the streamlined, satisfying Xuan-Yuan Sword VII.
“My friends think hard about play and boundaries, and creating safe gaming spaces runs deep in how we interact with each other and engage in play. But establishing and maintaining a safe space with a new group or with strangers isn’t always easy, and it helps to have conscious mechanisms and mantras in place to provide structure.”
Not Gone, Not Forgotten
Games get buried. There’s a real problem of preservation and accessibility that Kaile talked about a little a couple weeks back in specific relation to mobile games. This is more than just a problem of technology–history is never objective, and games and authors that don’t fit the canonical narrative of gaming get left out all the time. With all that in mind, our next two featured authors this week look back at games that have been technologically obselesced, or forgotten by history for an extended period, or both.
- Chaos Rings and the chaotic frailty of mobile gaming history – LudoLudo Dissonance | Pixels For Breakfast
Rowan Carmichael revisits a solid JRPG that has been nearly lost to the relentless march of mobile obselescence.
- 1986: Uncle Roger | 50 Years of Text Games
Aaron A. Reed chronicles the the history and work of one of interactive fiction’s earliest pioneers, Judy Malloy.
“A woman’s story had never been told like this in a text game. While there had been a handful of earlier female protagonists and women authors, those stories had rarely strayed beyond genre archetypes or delved into the inner lives of their characters. Jenny was one of the first women in a digital fiction to be more than a cardboard cut-out.”
The Long Game
Two pieces this week seek to examine the state and legacy of celebrated, popular franchises through the lens of their most recent tentpole releases (don’t fact check me there on Tetris, there’s like a zillion of those).
- We’re All* Connected — KRITIQAL
Nate Kiernan reflects on Tetris Effect as the apex culimination of Tetris as a vapid, relentlessly-copyrighted Brand–even if it is really pretty in the moment.
- ‘Nier Replicant’ Beautifully Updates a Classic Oddity, but Can’t Replace It | VICE
Dia Lacina savours in the return of Nier to acclaim and attention, while wrestling with the state and nature of canonicity and remakes.
“Nier 1.22 has left me in a weird space. Because while I’m glad to revisit Nier without having to pull out my fatiguing PS3, this is firmly disconnecting itself from the broken, shambling beauty it was. With this revision comes a sense of fulfillment and relief, but also sadness and longing.”
This week we’ve got two pieces–an interview and a critique–looking at dialogue, narration, and voice acting in games!
- We talk to Disco Elysium’s incredible narrator, who recorded 350,000 words of dialogue and has never acted before | PC Gamer
Andy Kelly talks to Lenval Brown and Cash DeCuir about finding and delivering the voice for Disco Elysium‘s narrator.
- Profane Solidarity | Bullet Points Monthly
Diego Nicolás Argüello examines the rhetorical, psychological, and social mechanisims that inform swearing and cursing in games at large and Outriders in particular.
“Everyone in the game’s world, from its rather talkative protagonist to the group of secondary characters that march along with them and the nameless people who fight and die in its setting’s trenches, have embraced a similar approach to swearing. These characters’ motivation for using so many expletives shares a common purpose: to try and mitigate despair.”
By the Designs!
Next up, we’ve got a trio of design-themed pieces unpacking core conceits in RPGs, Kaizo hacks, and more.
- Cute Kaizo World and the Kaizo Difficulty Fallacy | Jeremy Signor’s Games Initiative
Jeremy Signor plays a Kaizo hack that demonstrates the design scene while demystifying the form’s popular reputation for extreme difficulty.
- The Absence of a Blank Slate in Divinity: Original Sin 2 | Saturshot
Ruth Cassidy evaluates the tradeoffs between blank slate player characters and pre-written ones in RPGs.
- Seeking alternatives to revenge narratives in games | Eurogamer.net
Malindy Hetfeld considers the ways in which games alternately indulge and critique our desires for revenge, both on structural and storytelling levels.
“Revenge gives us a clear motive, an antagonist and, in the case of games, a justification for violence, and it works surprisingly well mainly because we as humans can sympathise with the hankering for revenge. We may not dream of taking an axe to someone, but who hasn’t dreamed of getting back at someone in some way?”
Bodies in Play
Two very different pieces here, loosely tied by an emphasis on bodies and embodiment. Timss’ work this week riffs of a theory of embodied play as explored in Keogh’s book, while Diaz chronicles the experiential fallout of Wii Fit with regard to body image and the narrative of thinness-as-fitness.
- Trace Then Describe – No Escape
Braden Timss keeps the good book review times rolling at No Escape with a look at Brendan Keogh’s A Play of Bodies: How We Perceive Videogames.
- Here’s the lasting impact of Nintedo’s Wii Fit | Polygon
Ana Diaz discusses the legacy of Wii Fit‘s weight-and-BMI-focused approach to fitness with some of its players.
“Wii Fit took none of these nuances into account. It might be easy to just write Wii Fit off as a well-intentioned game that used a common index for its time, but even then, the game was inconsistent with what it considered to be a good and bad BMI.”
Our next trio of featured authors all focus in some way on what they got out of a game personally, or struggled to get out of it, or generally just connected or vibed with!
- Speedrunning Undertale helped me understand my gender better | Polygon
Madison Schmalzer discusses breaking the established rules, incrementally perfecting your performance, and finding a new way to play.
- No Longer Home: Queer Times at LudoNarraCon – GlitchOut
Oma Keeling meditates on the experience–and the limits–of finding oneself in someone elses’s art.
- On Hades and Fatherhood | Sidequest
Nola Pfau reflects on Hades, and defying an abusive father (content notifications for familial domestic abuse).
“My teenage years are mostly a blur of petty defiances and rebellions. Like Zagreus, I took particular joy in defying my father for the sake of doing it; to prove that for all of his overbearing temper and abusive ways, he could not stop me, not truly.“
I’ve been enjoying the Let Me Tell You About My OC series over at Sidequest a whole bunch. This week there’s a new installment!
- Let Me Tell You About My OC: The Shared Anxieties of a Long-Time Storyteller | Sidequest
Natalia Lopes introduces Laurus Francoeur.
“As someone who writes comics and is constantly nervous about sharing them with the world, playing as Francoeur has helped me create more nuanced characterization for my upcoming work. Just when I thought I had such a crucial part of storytelling pinned down, the flustered falcon came around and threw a wrench into my certainty and comfort.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!