Welcome back, readers.
Before we get going, I’d just like to bring your attention to Connor’s latest video roundup! As always, the continuing support of our readers makes this work possible.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
The Play’s the Thing
We open this week with a trio of authors reflecting on illness, mortality, and how those things tie into the games they’ve been playing. All three engage with heavier themes in the service of worthwhile reads.
- Fighting Futility with Bloodborne | Sidequest
Cress takes to the streets of Yharnam amid global pandemic and familial illness.
- The big C – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi talks about surviving cancer via a game that doesn’t beat around the bush with its allegorical storytelling.
- Astria Ascending Preview: Too Much Game | Paste
Dia Lacina finds Astria Ascending‘s cursed-by-fate JRPG crew relatable, but maybe not for the long haul.
“As a child, I appreciated the anti-authoritarian theatrics of the genre because I hated my parents, teachers, etc. As an adult woman with heart failure, I appreciate the idea of raining fire down on whatever manifestation of an inflexible, unalterable organizing force a game wants to throw at me.”
The Definite Article
Our next two selections this week investigate questions of authenticity over time, following games and communities that have waxed, waned, and shifted in form over the decades.
- Quake Renaissance: a short history of 25 years of Quake modding | Rock Paper Shotgun
Robert Yang explores decades of community around Quake modding and its attendant quests for authenticity, inclusivity, and multiplicity.
- Searching for the “Best” Version of Final Fantasy | Paste
Waverly interrogates notions of originality and authenticity in re-released and remade games, considering these questions along axes of technology, continuity, community, and personal experience.
“There is a string that exists throughout each of the Final Fantasy versions that each player shares connections with. That string is tied around the aesthetic emotions that emerge from the arc of playing through all of the shared elements above and beyond them. While two players may come away from Final Fantasy with a completely different experience, they will also share a connection of understanding what Final Fantasy is to them with and without those differences. What creates the “essence” of Final Fantasy is their emotional journey through the game which emerges from its primary elements and the arc of play.”
Up next, two authors talk in and around their subject games to pull at uncomfortable tensions around their production and implementation, as well as naming along the way some of the difficult questions critics must not turn away from.
- This Is Not a Diablo II: Resurrected Open Beta Preview | Paste
Holly Green poses difficult questions about how we talk about publishers, and our instinctive urge to separate products from production.
- Fortnite Isn’t the Platform for a Martin Luther King Jr. Event | Fanbyte
Funk-é Joseph reflects on the tonal dissonance of hosting an educational outreach event on Black American history in the world’s largest videogame/commercial.
“Fortnite still doesn’t know what it wants to be, whether its game, or venue, or educational service, and this event makes that incredibly obvious. Epic Games desperately needs to sit down and figure that out. Just because you can do anything in the metaverse, doesn’t mean you should.”
Moving forward, here’s two deep, crunchy critical dives on games past and present.
- Opened World: Refusing Labor – Haywire Magazine
Miguel Penabella explores a playful game about labour, refusal, and boundaries.
- Super Mario Bros  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury uses Super Mario Bros.‘ jazzy beats as a jumping-off point for subjecting the game–and games in general–to less-travelled analytical modes, synthesizing formal, poetic, and aesthetic approaches.
“Outside of that very last sentence, video game analysis as it has existed (including my own) bears no resemblance to music theory. Rather, it takes after literary theory.”
Characteristic of the Form
Character analysis takes centre stage in our next pair of featured articles.
- ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’ gave me an enduring love for character design | NME
Malindy Hetfeld breaks down Ace Attorney‘s simple, effective, and memorable character designs, in terms of both writing and visual design.
- The Wistful Optimism of Hollow Knight’s Last Stag – Uppercut
Mitchell Demorest reflects on the perserverance of hope in Hallownest.
“While the duo explores The City of Tears in its perpetual downpour, one thing becomes unavoidably clear: the world itself is mourning. What’s worse, because it’s been so long, almost nobody left alive can grasp the totality of the loss. But in the Stag the world finds a mirror.”
Recent online discourse has centred around Boyfriend Dungeon–a game that shipped with content warnings, but which some players found inadequate, and Twelve Minutes–a game that did not ship with such warnings despite featuring some starkly harrowing content. The writers seeking to make sense of these currents have wrestled with questions about when art is lauded for its engagement with the uncomfortable and the grotesque, when art is pilloried for it, and the fault lines of privilege which demarcate those different outcomes. (Content notifications here for discussion of Twelve Minute’s plot twists, which involve incest/sexual abuse).
- Twelve Minutes Might Have The Worst Video Game Ending Of The Year | Kotaku
Renata Price did not like Twelve Minutes.
- 12 Minutes Is a Boring And Creepy Libertarian Argument Turned Into a Bad Art Video Game – No Escape
Kaile Hultner didn’t either.
- Boyfriend Dungeon, Twelve Minutes, and the Importance of Content Warnings | Paste
Katherine Long examines the recent discourse flare-ups to identify what content warnings actually need to accomplish to accomodate and empower players.
- The Boyfriend Dungeon backlash was nothing new for queer games | PC Gamer
Natalie Clayton talks to developers about the outsized scrutiny queer-authored games and media in general continually face from queer audiences.
“Better trigger warnings (something Yang describes as “deeply imperfect stop-gaps”) isn’t the solution to this, so much as better communication and conversation around what it means to create and consume queer art. To recognise that queerness is messy and personal in ways that will always colour representation. And perhaps most importantly, to recognise that sometimes a game might just not be for you—even if you were quite excited by the prospect of smooching a hot non-binary scythe.”
Returning readers may have noticed that we frequently sign off with poetry from Videodame. The explanation for this is that I enjoy the poetry from Videodame.
- At Least the Music is Good in Purgatory | Videodame
Rachel Tanner, NEO: The World Ends with You.
“This city has always been loud,
but all this noise is new.”
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