Welcome back, readers.
Remember that bundle on Itch we mentioned last week, with the proceeds going towards aid for Palestine via UNRWA? You’ve probably read this elsewhere already, but that bundle is live, bringing together over a thousand different games, works, and pieces of art. Check it out while you can!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week we begin not only with a pair of reflections on two interactive fiction games, but also two games which both feature the artistic hand of Freya Campbell. I didn’t plan it that way, but I’m delighted by the outcome and the resonances.
- Food from the torpedo chambers | KRITIQAL
Nate Kiernan sits with the stillness at play in SUPERLUNARY.
- Winter – Indie Hell Zone
Dari reflects on kink-at-Pride discourse and how it relates to a sweet IF piece about two women coming to terms with their desires.
“A completely sanitized Pride would be one where nobody can practice or display their sexuality. It’d be a celebration where people would be afraid to be themselves, which is a mindset that I think leads to insecurities about identity, like what happens with Meredith. Like yeah, queer kids exist and should explore their identities safely, but with regards to the “kink at Pride” discourse specifically, you have to recognize who defines what as kink, and if those people simply want to muffle queer voices.”
Our next segment, admittedly one of our more loosely associated ones, revolves around visibility, vulnerability, being seen, and being perceived–as characters, as critics, as creators.
- Why I Stopped: Reflecting on Three Years of Twitch Streaming | Epilogue Gaming
Blake Andrea reflects on the tensions and balancing act between playing for the self, playing for an audience, and playing for the algorithm.
- [Opinión] Nier Replicant y la sexualización de Kainé | GamerFocus
Julián Ramírez discusses how Yoko Taro’s desire to subvert player expectations with Kainé ultimately does a disservice to her character (Spanish-language article).
- Xalavier Nelson Jr.: “El Paso, Elsewhere is my ultimate expression of vulnerability”
Jake Tucker chats with Xalavier Nelson Jr. about artistic vulnerability, feeling seen as a creator, navigating creative spheres while Black, and making his dream game.
“El Paso, Elsewhere is not an interesting game because it stars a Black protagonist or because it’s made by a Black person. It is interesting and compelling because you look at it and you instantly know it’s the next game you need to play, period. And it’s Black as hell. The ‘and’ is important because I can’t imagine… because part of my personal nightmare for this is being so proud of the diverse perspective that it represents from a variety of vectors and the diverse team that’s bringing it to life and it’s just getting put into this box because of my Blackness.”
Our next two featured authors sit with big games that challenge our expectations as players, as critics, as consumers of entertainment media.
- Final Fantasy 7 Has Always Been Political And Remake 2 Should Go Even Harder | TheGamer
Jade King reflects on Final Fantasy VII‘s environmental and class-conscious politics over the years and into the future as Remake moves forward.
- The White Pube | The Last of Us
Gabrielle de la Puente considers the videogame as entertainment, as power fantasy, as wish-fulfilment, and how The Last of Us series disrupts this arrangement.
“I was left with a sense of loss I have never felt in a game before. It felt powerful and dark and personal. I heard something snap and I stopped. An assumption I made long ago had been broken, snapped in two like a frail bone. It hurt but I was fascinated by the pain.”
We turn our attention now to the Game Boy platform and its successors, with two writers looking at some of the ambitious games that emerged from an ecosystem with lower budgets, tighter constraints, and a little less scrutiny.
- More Than Just Pokémon – Japan’s Secret World Of Game Boy Color | Nintendo Life
Kimimi surveys the offbeat and the ambitious in the Game Boy Color’s library of Japanese exclusives.
- It Must End – Final Fantasy Tactics Advance | PixPen
Sam Howitt muses on play and endings via the metatextual, even slightly postmodern Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
“This is a game about children playing and after a child spends enough time playing an adult often comes to tell them to finish. It doesn’t take a pessimistic view on the whole subject either. The game begins and ends with a snowball fight, showing that even though playtime has to end eventually, that doesn’t mean it can’t begin again.”
The Developer Room
The localization process is the theme of our next segment, bringing together an exhaustive data dive and a candid interview, spanning topics like cut content, cultural adaptations, and more.
- A Forensic Analysis of EarthBound’s Deepest Secrets | Video Game History Foundation
Clyde Mandelin unearths a trove of secrets and unused content from EarthBound via recently recovered development files from the game’s chief North American localizer.
- Interview: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney translator Janet Hsu of Capcom | Polygon
De’Angelo Epps interviews Janet Hsu about the challenges of localizing the Ace Attorney games across not only geographical space but time. (Curator’s recommendation: read this one in dialogue with Elvie’s piece on Asian-American visibility in Ace Attorney, featured last week).
“I think the two issues the location change does create, however, are the need to maintain an internally consistent world with each subsequent title, and a greater need for players to suspend their disbelief. The latter issue is more of a personal one, as each player decides for themselves if they want to accept the in-game world as presented. I do find it interesting that some people insist that the English localization is somehow less “real” simply because it’s Japanifornia, when the very fact that the world of Ace Attorney includes real spirit mediums makes it an alternate universe to ours.”
Empire with an A-A-A
Moving along we’ve got a pair of industry critiques operating on macro and micro scales, examining individual titles and broader trends and practices.
- Games Are Too Fucking Long | LotusLovesLotus
Lotus unpacks why length remains king in the public consciousness when it comes to games, even amidst unsustainability, uneven quality, and exploitative labour practices.
- For Iraqis, War Is Not a Game – Foreign Policy
Ahmed Twaij unravels the fraught project of repackaging war crimes and Iraqi trauma for western entertainment.
“At the end of the day, after marching through the animated rubble-strewn streets of Fallujah, the gamers will be able to put down their controllers and kiss their loved ones good night before crawling into their own beds.”
Design and Tech
Here we’ve got two pieces looking closely at the artistic and ideological values which are baked into the technical and design logics of platforms, genres, and game engines.
- Remembering Source and the beautiful tension of an engine caught between eras | PC Gamer
Natalie Clayton reflects on the the art, the tech, the design, and the community around Valve’s liminal, transitory game engine.
- Theme Park Videogames Highlight the Fallacy of “The Great Executive” | Paste
Waverly discusses the fallacies of great man theory and its influence upon the consolidation of design, management, and power in the player in theme park sims.
“At the moment, much of the ways we narrate and remember theme parks returns to this vision of the single executive. However, this view erases many of those below, in and outside of the theme park.”
We’re at the bottom of the page again, and this is usually where the creative and lighthearted articles go. This week it seemed a better fit to round out our issue with a pair of meditations on endings, revolutionary spirit, and transformative change. And I’ll admit–I often feel I have a low emotional bandwidth for writing on apocalypses or the anthropocene these days, but in truth that’s only ever half the story behind this writing. If you sit with these texts, there are also new beginnings to look forward to and to strive for. Apocalypses are endings to troubled times, so what can a brighter morning look like after?
- Egress | Unwinnable
Autumn Wright turns to stories of apocalypse-as-present, interrogating meaning in cyclicity in Hadestown and Nier: Automata.
- Killing Our Gods: A Game Beyond the Endgame—On Anodyne 2, Judgement, and Revolution – Uppercut
Grace Benfell unpacks Anodyne 2 through a revolutionary lens, by way of Ursula Le Guin and James Baldwin.
“As a reflection of this concept, both of Anodyne 2’s endings offer up a distinctly new state of the world. One offers sterility, the other life. One requires placidity, the other sacrifice. The first, already described, resembles the endgame of capitalism and white supremacy. Inequality and hurt will be maintained until the world ends. The other ending burns with furious hope. With the energy granted by the knowledge that, as Baldwin says, “Everything now… is in our hands; we have no right to assume otherwise,” Nova frees another Nano Cleaner from the influence of the Glandilock seed and with the help of her friends, vanquishes The Center’s power.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!