Welcome back, readers.
Things remain a little quieter this week in the back half of summer, but we’re still here with a slate of new, urgent, and provocative critical pieces gathered here for your reading pleasure.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Two very different documents open our issue this week, spanning the topics of games preservation and industry abuse. The latter will doubtlessly be difficult for many to read, but let’s not allow this conversation to die on the vine.
- The Tricky Art of Preserving Canceled Games Like Star Fox 2 | Kotaku
Leah Williams delves into the topic of preservation and the incomplete and unreleased games at stake.
- My Story of Bullying, Harassment, and Racism at Blizzard Entertainment
Brissia Jiménez details a firsthand account of Blizzard’s culture of workplace harrassment and abuse (content notification for those things).
“I have found that predators were enabled in all departments across Blizzard regardless of level, gender, age or race. It would appear that Blizzard was and is a place where bullying and harassment is encouraged and rewarded. These disturbing behaviors appear to be normalized deep within the walls where bullies and harassers are promoted and their victims are ignored, stepped on, pushed out, or let go.”
Next up, we have some crunchy pieces this week on structure and design as they correspond to narrative, world, pacing, and level design.
- Arts of the Possible: Time, Politics and Gaming’s Virtual Worlds | Cordite Poetry Review
Darshana Jayemanne discusses the possibilities and limitations (technical, artistic, commercial, political) of story machines and story worlds (Curator’s note: Darshana collaborates with Critical Distance on Keywords in Play).
- Horizon Zero Dawn’s Sidequests Are More Important Than You Think — startmenu
Marie Pritchard explores how player engagement–or non-engagement–with Horizon Zero Dawn‘s sidequests affects not just the pacing of the game, but the struture and tone of Aloy’s character arc.
- i had a problem with doom eternal and i wrote about it but there was gonna be a part 2 and this is that part 2. | GB ‘Doc’ Burford
GB Burford rethinks level and encounter design, moving away from rigid formulas and repetition and toward more flexible frameworks, drama, and unpredictability.
“Make the audience want to know what comes next, and do it by making moments necessary.”
Moving on, we’ve got two articles this week situating popular titles in relation to their objects of critique in our own world, evaluating their successes and shortcomings of imagination and execution.
- The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles’ ending undoes its critique of Britain | Polygon
Jay Castello describes how The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles articulates a critique of specific empires without quite extending that into a full critique of the idea of Empire itself.
- What Comes After Postmodernism? | Into The Spine
Craig Bonder unpacks Death Stranding‘s post-capitalist, communal futurism.
“I challenge you to consider if the ideas and systems that have come before are the only choices we have going forward. Consider the societies that preceded coal burning and print pressing. Consider hundreds of peoples before which constructed their societies around the welfare of their people. Consider the one who has everything they need.”
Active Timeless Battle
Our next section this week is all about Japanese role-playing games in one way or another, looking at their structures, accomodations, design hallmarks, and their place in the contemporary games landscape.
- JRPGs Need Evolution, But Too Many Are Stuck in the Past | Fanbyte
De’Angelo Epps describes the accessibility tweaks and quality-of-life updates, as well as the deeper structural shifts, that JRPGs need to embrace to thrive in contemporary gaming.
- Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin (Switch) Review | Video Game Choo Choo
Rose finds glimpses of possibility beyond Pokémon‘s stagnating creature-collecting formula in the latest Monster Hunter spinoff.
- Video Game Cities Are Too Convenient to Feel Real | Waypoint
Gita Jackson studies how the TWEWY games reject the quality-of-life features that games often apply to urban spaces, and how in doing so they convey a more strongly realized sense of place.
“NEO guides you towards acting like a local by refusing to give you the video game-y conveniences in games like Grand Theft Auto or Insomniac’s Spider-Man. There is no mini map or fast travel, and the connections between streets don’t necessarily signal themselves to you as a player. You can definitely get lost in Shibuya if you’re not paying attention, and it’s up to you to pay attention to your surroundings so you don’t.”
We turn now to thorny tensions in queer representation across games and series. Whether its the protracted fights for bare-minimum representation or the flawed and fraught depictions and allegories we actually receive in popular games, queerness remains… messy. Read on for more articulate insights.
- Diversity and Videogames | Videodame
Natalie Schriefer discusses the slow arc towards same-sex marriage in the Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons games, looking both at their original development in Japan and their localization abroad.
- Why Do We Talk About Mass Effect’s Asari as if They Are Women? | Waypoint
Grace Benfell examines in Mass Effect‘s Asari a tangled tension between queer possibility and regressive heteronormativity, and how these things come to a head with the Ardat-Yatshi.
“In theory, the asari represent a break from traditional, human modes of gender. In practice, they recreate specific queer discourses of human history, offering either assimilation or death to its queer analogs.”
This week we have the pleasure of concluding our issue with two critical art exhibits, author and critic-curated, respectively, situating two well-known and well-loved games into overlooked and underappreciated contexts.
- Hasta Carmen: 12 Works by Camila Galaz | Cordite Poetry Review
Camila Galaz, in this digital art exhibition, mixes and merges imagery and experiences of Chile from Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and the artist’s own own visits to the country.
- Silent Hill 2: Deconstructing Daddy | KRITIQAL
Oma Keeling reuinites Silent Hill 2 with the feminist art and artists to which it owes inspiration.
“The point of this exhibition is pain. The pain of shifting focus as an observer. The pain of how, after so many decades of feminist analysis, I can read fifty articles about how modern art and film are just like Silent Hill 2 – full of conjecture about art that looks similar by important cisgender men – and not see any of the works by artists I know are direct aesthetic parallels. Here are a few of them.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!