Welcome back, readers.

And thanks for waiting. A little later this time around, but also a little longer. Lots of interviews this week, and some reviews too! I hope you find a piece or two below you can really dig into.

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

Industry Introspections

This week we open with a wide range of articles unpacking different trends and aspects of the industry, with foci on developers, demographic shifts, and finding space in the space to write about games.

“This is the story about a private community where bonds seemed unbreakable. It’s about the ups and downs, the lessons I learned, the people that took advantage of a safe place and how I found myself relating to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in the toughest moments of our time. It’s also the story of how it came to an end in late 2020, and what followed afterwards.”

Material Stakes

Questions of art, exhibition, materiality, and embodiment abound in our next section with a focus on art installations, adaptation, serious games, and more.

“The theme for this issue of Immerse is “playing with reality.” As we’ve been assembling it, I’ve been thinking about how working on the publication inspired me to create my own game—and how that in turn opened my eyes to an entire genre of card games designed to inform real-world media strategy.”

Angles on Inclusivity

Next up, we’ve got four representational stories in and around games, looking at race, gender, age, sexuality, and language.

“I am 33 years old. I know of only one Black woman older than me who plays video games. I know there are more. I just don’t know them. Finding Ms. Guillory is like discovering a hidden treasure, something long sought but rarely found. I would love to know more of her story.”

Novel Visions

Visual novels and mystery games continue to make inroads in western markets, and more and more Japanese ones are being localized to great success. We also see this influence working both ways, as developers seek to connect with new age demographics and genres continue to shift and adapt.

“Visual novels, while having a long history in Japan, were until-recently maligned in the west both by a Book culture that hated games and a Games culture that hated books. This chasm was too wide, and the bridges were too weak. However, there’s been a huge influx of young people from a new generation who have now grown up on games like Undertale (2015)Doki Doki Literature Club (2017), and Sally Face (2018) that stem from the success of Kodaka and Uchikoshi’s works, as they were the artists to combine popular Young Adult literature genres with game-show styled rules to make these closed room murder mystery machines.”

Sight and Sound

Next up, some criticism focused on objects and sensations, the values they import from outside, and the impressions they make upon design.

“We are often placed in the role of interloper; the keys we use are never ours – they are stolen, found, bought, or borrowed. We are Agent 47, finding ways into private spaces we should not be in in Hitman, the outsider arriving on an island in Morrowind, a survivor stumbling into an unknown dystopia in Bioshock, an agent behind enemy lines in Metal Gear Solid. Our role as trespasser, infiltrator, invader, aggressor, necessarily brings us into contact with locked doors. The key is a device for transgression in these places we are not supposed to be. An expression and enhancement of our role as interloper, letting us go deeper into forbidden. How delightfully appealing.”

Natural Adversaries

Moving along, we’ve got a section on horror games, with recurring themes of isolation, humanity at odds with nature, and horror as a function of environment.

“You can try to brute force the obstacles that stand in your way and save everyone like some perfect hero but Mundaun’s mountain eats heroes. It eats bravado and thoughtless aggression, eats the lazy cocksuredness of men who don’t think they owe anything for what they take. It consumes it all within the endless glistening drifts of its icy form. Only the light-footed, cautious and studied, those willing to exchange the bounties of social life for the raw minimalism of solitude, have a chance at surviving the mountain, or finding redemption beyond it.”

The Substance of Style

Next up we’ve got two pieces intersecting with conversations of style, art direction, and how these things can either serve other aspects of the game, or draw attention away from their shortcomings.

“Ghost of Tsushima is a story told in vague brushstrokes, words and actions layered faintly over the heavy paintwork of the art itself. It’s hard to see past that.”

Stories, Systems, Structures

You won’t get me to invoke the dreaded L word in games myself, but here we’ve got a series of authors working through systems, stories, and modes of play in different ratios, unpacking how they fit together–and how there’s no right way in which they necessarily fit best.

“If we think about “why does a game want to work against flow?” we have to recognize that we’ve begged a question: we are assuming that flow is the optimal play experience. And for some people, it is—getting “in the zone” can be a pleasant experience. But there are plenty of people for whom flow is undesirable (because of issues regulating behavior and hyperfixating) or even unachievable (due to focus issues or motor issues that make most common control schemes uncomfortable and frustrating). So, a game that says to the player that frustration is the modus operandi actually opens up the acceptable ways of play to a larger group of people.”

Critical Chaser

I saved the spiciest discourse for last this week.

“It’s common for fans to bring jokey posters or memes to wrestling shows in an effort to be noticed on camera, but over the last three years posters have started tackling deeper issues. In fact, they’re tackling an issue close to the hearts of many gamers: which Final Fantasy is best.”


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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!