Welcome back, readers.
It’s another quiet week around the site in a distinctly unquiet world. If you’ve been feeling angry and powerless watching the catastrophic conclusion of the American Empire’s twenty-year fuckup in Afghanistan, this would be a good place to lend your material support.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Amidst a tide of angry discourse, it’s taken a couple of weeks for me to find salient perspectives on what to make of the fraught reactions Boyfriend Dungeon has sparked amongst certain player communities, but the salient perspectives always emerge in time. Here are two highlights for this week, taking a wider view of the histories and contexts that can feed particularly toxic fan discourses, and how it always seems to be queer creators who bear the brunt of the vitriol.
- Tumblr Helps Explain The Nasty Boyfriend Dungeon Backlash | Kotaku
Renata Price turns to Internet history and fandom culture to contextualize how media discourse Got To This Point.
- The Boyfriend Dungeon Discourse (TM) – Indie Hell Zone
Dari laments how it seems queer-authored indie games can never seem to do enough to appease some players.
“If a game about queer characters is anything but completely clean and wholesome, some people see it as bad representation. Like, there’s a genuine problem with how queer people are presented in media like the tendency of having queer characters suffer, but sometimes people take it as far as saying that anything bad happening to a queer character – regardless of context or creator – is inherently problematic.”
Our next section this week examines legacies and influence, be it the what-not-to-do lessons offered by Metroid: Other M or the complicated, messy, frustrating, but gradually positive-trending relationship between Mass Effect and queer representation.
- ‘Metroid Dread’ owes a massive debt to a game Nintendo wants you to forget | Inverse
Chris Compendio considers the design lessons Metroid has inadvertently learned from the legacy of its least-loved installment.
- Intimate Space: The State of Queerness in Mass Effect | Fanbyte
Kenneth Shepard embarks upon a longform historical overview of the role and state of queerness in Mass Effect, the influence of its fandom, and its lasting legacy on the wider industry.
“Changes and additions would likely not have come had it not been for fans advocating for representation, and those fights have led to Mass Effect becoming a more inclusive franchise, even if it has tripped in myriad ways to reach that point.”
Okay, sometimes I get a little stumped on organization. By my own admission, these next two selections don’t have a ton in common–one’s about labour organization, and the other situates games at the intersection of a much wider array of material conditions and circumstances. Both, however, do zoom out beyond the headlines and titles of the moment to examine what games mean in a very material sense for labourers and players.
- How game developers can unionize in the wake of Activision Blizzard | Polygon
Emma Kinema talks concrete specifics on how game workers can organize and fight for a better industry.
- IF WE’RE NOT DEAD YET | DEEP HELL
Skeleton thinks about how games fit–and how criticism maybe doesn’t–into systems and cycles of poverty, isolation, and consumption (content notifications for some graphic imagery and an allusion to suicide).
“I keep coming back to how we look at our bodies and ourselves. Maybe we want a little mutilation: maybe we want more videogames where the only violence we commit is finally against ourselves. We’ll joke that we wished videogames tackled more serious issues and then everyone’s writing scathing manifesto’s about a game that looks like a pixar cartoon for having a serious element as a plot point.”
Axes of Access
Our next two featured authors this week tackle accessibility questions in games past and present, both specifically and multiply, looking at the strides we’ve made so far and the progress we should push for in the future.
- If a game lets you pause, it should let you rewind | Fogknife
Jason McIntosh makes an accessibility case for rewind features in a wider number of games past and present.
- Is PC gaming for everyone yet? | PC Gamer
Ruth Cassidy talks with developers and organiations about the state of accessible play in the PC landscape, covering game design, input support, ergonomics, difficulty, and more.
“Right now, the PC gaming experience feels unpredictable when it comes to accessibility. I can pick up a physically undemanding adventure game and find myself waylaid by flashing lights and tiny tiny text, or demo an upcoming action game and find incredibly comprehensive difficulty settings. The one thing consistent with most people I spoke to, however, was that awareness of accessibility in development has increased hugely in only a short amount of time.”
History and lore come together in our next section as two authors tackle how different games and franchies build out their worlds.
- Svoboda 1945: Liberation Review | The Indie Game Website
Yussef Cole studies an adventure game which approaches wartime history and collective trauma with multiplicity and ambiguity.
- The Sims 2’s Preset Storylines are What Made it Magic – Uppercut
Kayla Jouet digs into the lore and continuity of The Sims franchise, revelling in the background stories of The Sims 2 while finding The Sims 4 comparatively barren.
“Maybe it is a nostalgia factor, or maybe it was being a pre-teen and feeling intertwined in this messy world, but The Sims 2 was the best installment for the stories it told alone. I would like to load into a new world in the 4th installment and be greeted by a screen with all of the neighborhood tea. I want to know each character and why they are important to the town without it feeling like a minor subplot.”
Finding the Sweet Spot
Our next slightly-loose category brings together questions about finding satisfying ways to play, whether it comes down to strategy, genre elements, or critical theming.
- Humankind Opens New Doors for 4X Games… If You Can Only Pick the Lock | Fanbyte
Rowan Kaiser concludes that recent topical strategy game Humankind is a pretty good time, if you already know the ropes a little and are willing to thread the right balance of play options through trial and error.
- Speed Dating for Ghosts Is My Ideal Game | Sidequest
Alenka Figa talks about what makes Speed Dating for Ghosts such an easy game to get into and stay into.
- BIG QUEER WAR MACHINE | KRITIQAL
Cynan-Juniper Orton finds conventional mech games wanting for humanity, and instead surveys how queer creators wrestle with questions of humanity and embodiment in interactive mech fiction.
“It’s not hard then to understand why queer folk might delve deep into the genre. A queer body is also a constant site of conflict, pulled apart by a thousand forces so large that no one individual could ever fully confront them. A mech is big enough though.”
Next up, we’ve got a pair of articles that situate games in relation to their literary and media antecedents and inspirations, looking at how genres, forms, and stories blend into one another, sometimes in knowing and subversive ways.
- The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles provides the best Sherlock Holmes ever | Matt Leslie
Matt Leslie remarks upon how The Great Ace Attorney gets a lot of mileage out of a flexible and metafictional approach to canonizing one of its own primary literary inspirations.
- Resident Evil Village | Nick Capozzoli
Jeremy Signor observes how Resident Evil Village borrows the horror anthology approach from other media, but is held back by its committment to the series’ continuity and canon.
“It’s not impossible to make an effective horror anthology that’s enslaved to its own canon—the early seasons of American Horror Story are proof enough of that—but Resident Evil came into the concept with decades of baggage to carry around already. Good horror is about grappling with the unknown; the minute a Resident Evil game retreads its own history, the horror drains away.”
We begin and end this week with Boyfriend Dungeon. Enjoy!
- What your favourite Boyfriend Dungeon weapon says about you | Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart delivers a whimsical listicle, closing out our week on a lighthearted note.
“It should be noted that I’m not an expert in relationship advice or anything, but I am a Capricorn.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!