I’d appreciate it a bunch, friends and readers, if you can take a bit of time today to look up ways you can support and render aid to the Palestinian people currently suffering through ethnic cleansing, displacement, and colonial brutality at the hands of the IDF. Here is a good list of charities, orgs, and funds, some of them local.
Around the site, I’m pleased to share that we’ve got a new episode of Keywords in Play available, this time featuring Aaron Trammell. Take a listen if you haven’t already!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Communities of Play
Our opening section this week features two pieces focused in different ways on community, looking alterantely at personal play and broader industry structures and instruments.
- Why I Game: Elder Scrolls Online Makes My Small World Bigger | Sidequest
Sara Davis recounts dipping slowly but surely into the more social aspects of MMO gaming during the pandemic year.
- If We Want To Talk About Diversity In Gaming, We Need To Be Intersectional | TheGamer
Stacey Henley asks us to look beyond our own axes of privilege and marginalization in favour of more coalition-building, and more intersectionality, in games.
“I understand the urge to look at the struggles of your own community and feel the need to advocate for them – I’ve done this many times myself, and throughout history these very focussed struggles have proven effective. But gaming needs to be more reflective.”
Next up, we’ve got four selections united by an emphasis on photography and the camera–on both sides of the screen.
- New Pokémon Snap Is Exactly What It Needs to Be, and Exactly What I Didn’t Know I Wanted | Paste
Dia Lacina, unbound by nostalgia, turns a seasoned photographer’s eye to New Pokémon Snap.
- Mirror time – EyeToy: Play – Super Chart Island
Iain Mew opens up about the uncanny–and sometimes subversive–act of playing with the EyeToy camera in the Zoom era.
- Playing New Pokémon Snap with a Pet Photographer | Fanbyte
Danielle Riendeau channels the advice and best practices of a pet photographer in approaching New Pokémon Snap.
- Photos of future ruins — KRITIQAL
Nate Kiernan contemplates the role of a chronicler of collapse in Dear Future and elsewhere.
“This is the part of Dear Future that lingers with me. Not the particulars of its mechanics, its design, the allegories it invokes and implies. I just remember what it feels like to hold the camera. To momentarily feel safe, a tourist. Chronicling everything.”
Here we’ve got two approaches to bodies and embodiment, as they relate to play, power, work, and rule.
- The Body Impolitic
Nick Capozzoli contemplates the embodiment–player, political, literal, allegorical–of rule in Crusader Kings III.
- Neither Snow, Rain, nor Gloom of Ghosts: Death Stranding and the Weight of Work – Haywire Magazine
Wyeth Leslie meditates on labour, community, and care in Death Stranding.
“This is a game where not only are blue-collar workers treated as heroes, but the basic mechanics and environments are designed to encourage players to care about such laborers and what they go through in order to keep society going.”
Playing at History
Next up, we’ve got a substantial section this week centred around theories and approaches to history in games, as the authors seek to more clearly resolve some of the uncertain boundaries between histories, games, formal structures, and player experiences.
- Actual history doesn’t take place: Digital Gaming, Accuracy and Authenticity | Game Studies
Eve Stirling and Jamie Wood explore the fuzzy and contested boundaries between historical accuracy in games, authenticity, and player experience.
- Collections: Teaching Paradox, Europa Universalis IV, Part I: State of Play – A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry
Bret Devereaux, as part of a longer series towards understanding the historical theories behind Paradox games as a whole, unpacks Europa Universalis IV‘s state-centred approach to history.
- History, Take Three : How Video Game Replay Alters Your Perception of Time | Play the Past
Gilles Roy investigates how replay and replayability impact and influence our experience of historical games.
“In a way, we could say that replayability, in its essence, carries with it the posture of deconstruction, because it focuses the player’s attention on the rhetorical codes of video game culture, how stories and genres “work” with audiences; as mentioned, the overall effect is a push toward virtual history, where referenced historical materiality is reduced to semiotic code – or computer code, in our case!”
We move now from history to time itself as our next four featured authors look alternately at games made uncanny by the passage of time, games self-reflexive of their own legacies, and games which attempt the oft-uncertain business of reinvention for new audiences.
- The 21st century RPG – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi returns to Ragol, taking the original Phantasy Star Online‘s gruelling challenges head-on.
- Returnal, or Arcade is Dead, Long Live Housemarque — Gamers with Glasses
Don Everhart contemplates Returnal as a game which looks both back at its arcade legacy and forward to the storytelling possibilities of the roguelike loop.
- Pac-Man 99 is somehow both too easy and frustratingly inaccessible | Gamepur
Chris Compendio finds that Nintendo’s “99” formula doesn’t translate with equal smoothness to every retro title it touches.
- No Such Thing as Society (Hollywood Squares) | The Nintendo Project: An 8-Bit Psychochronography
Elizabeth Sandifer takes a quick look at an NES adaptation of Hollywood Squares that manages to undercut its own pop-culture-stepped premise.
“It is a simulation of a simulated situation with all of the markers that gave meaning to the original simulation stripped away. Looked at now, nearly twenty years since any version of Hollywood Squares has been on television, its vapidity becomes a hollow, frightened thing. Nine haunted visages of a spectacle so comprehensively unreal that it is impossible to imagine it demanding, over and over again, to know if they are lying to you.”
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is out and making the rounds. As a game with a lot of meaning to a lot of people, I imagine a good deal of critical re-evaluation is forthcoming. We saw the start of this process last week, and now two new quality pieces join the conversation this week.
- ‘Mass Effect Legendary Edition’ Unifies the Series’ Fractured Release Order | Waypoint
Rowan Kaiser breaks down Mass Effect‘s convoluted, fragmented release history.
- It’s Time to Reckon with Mass Effect’s Police State Heart | Paste
Grace Benfell critiques neoliberal police power and its concentration in Commander Shepard.
“While they are nominally responsible to the galactic government, there is no situation where Shepard can fall out of favor or lose their standing. Because your violence is the state’s, everything is permitted.”
An empathetic letter to a beloved heroine sees us out this week.
- Aerith | Unwinnable
Melissa King celebrates the life of a character better known for her death.
“It’s easy to focus on the shock of your death when talking about your character. But, I think when we do so, we forget to mention why it was so shocking in the first place – because your personality shone so strong in life.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!