Welcome to a rather delayed August vod roundup. It’s still a bit frosty here on the deep southern side of the planet, but it was a warm month for videogame video discourse, so I took my sweet time sifting through the content. I do hope you enjoy. Thank you again to everyone who sent in recommendations.
This Month In Videogame Vlogging highlights the most compelling critical videos about videogames from the previous calendar month.
We begin with two powerful pieces about videogames and harmful stereotypes.
Crime & Humanity in Yakuza – HeavyEyed (20:31)
Mitch Cramer examines how the Yakuza series succeeds in portraying complex criminal characters, why he personally finds it powerful to find nuanced portrayals of criminals in videogames, and how the series highlights the need to change contemporary prison ‘reform’ systems. (Manual captions)
[TikTok] – @bigthighthescienceguy (2:39)
Sunny D concisely explains how characters in the Donkey Kong universe are coded as Black, and why this portrayal relies on reinforcing regressive stereotypes. [No captions]
Capitalism Ruins Some Things
Next, let’s move on to a handful of interesting pieces showcasing the destructive relationship between games marketplaces, developmental processes and consumer cultures.
Investigation: How Roblox Is Exploiting Young Game Developers – People Make Games (22:43)
Quintin Smith explains how the popular game creator tool/platform/marketplace Roblox exploits young (read: actual children) game developers by taking an enormous cut of sales, incentivising spending on in-platform advertising, and gating earnings withdrawals. (Manual captions)
Exposing FRAUD And DECEPTION In The Retro Video Game Market – Karl Jobst (52:21)
Karl Jobst argues that collusion, equity speculation, opaque advertising and shill bidding is leading to an artificial inflation of prices in the retro videogame collector’s market. (Autocaptions)
French games used to be “weird” – Polygon (13:59)
Simone de Rochefort looks at the some of the inventive and thought-provoking games to come out of France in the late 1980s, explaining the circumstances behind the industry boom and its eventual erosion by capitalism. (Manual captions)
Why Idle games make good satire, and how it was ruined. – Thought Slime (21:34)
Thought Slime details how early ‘idle games’ like Cookie Clicker parodied RPG mechanics to draw attention to the processes of capitalism, but more recent takes on the genre (such as Adventure Capitalist) give the impression of parody while in practice reinforcing exploitative values. (Manual captions)
The Great Outdoors
Videogame representations of ‘the natural world’ are the focal point for these next four essays.
Why Minecraft is the Perfect Cottagecore Game – eurothug4000 (13:34)
Maria highlights a bunch of games that indulge in the visual aesthetics of “cottagecore”, before arguing that Minecraft’s combination of survival gameplay, crop growing mechanics, and mods and texture packs, make it the ‘perfect’ cottagecore game. (Manual captions)
Video Games and Forests – DimeTree (31:12)
DimeTree is enthusiastic for forests (and particularly how graphics, style and technology affect the feeling of being in a forest) in numerous videogames old and new. (Autocaptions)
A Short Hike: Nature, Cell Phones, and Friendship – Games As Literature (16:10)
The Game Professor appreciates the way A Short Hike sets up and then subverts typical nature v technology dichotomies. (Autocaptions)
Tetris Effect and Other Games with Immaculate Vibes – Jacob Geller (20:00)
Jacob Geller compares how permutations of Tetris and Marbles videogames (both which originated in 1984 versions) ‘update’ their systems with different aesthetic augmentations and positionings against real-world concepts and environments, to pleasing (if contrasting) results in recent-ish releases Tetris Effect and Venineth. (Manual captions) [Embedded advertising]
Us v Them
Broadly speaking, the next couple of videos discuss pile-on reactions to things.
Endnote 5: A Case Study in Digital Radicalism (UC Merced Talk) – Innuendo Studios (50:08)
Ian Danskin gives a brief timeline of how the 2014 events of g**erg*te unfolded, and explains how many of the same tactics (such as harassment, deferral of responsibility, memeification) were reused in subsequent reactionary movements. (Autocaptions) [Content warning included]
Fandom’s Biggest Controversy: The Story of Proshippers vs Antis – Sarah Z (1:45:01)
This essay is largely about fiction fandoms, but (pertinently for us) from 1:30:51 Sarah Z discusses how the recent Boyfriend Dungeon reactions controversy exemplifies the growing tendency of online discourse to quickly fall into oppositional camps. (Manual captions) [Contains embedded advertising]
The following trio of videos look at the effects of delivering story to players through shifting subjectivities and unreliable narrators.
Edith Finch and the Stories We Live By – Pixel a Day (20:26)
Kat explores how What Remains of Edith Finch represents the fallibility of memory and the (mis)remembrance of trauma within family dynamics. (Manual captions)
CSI Skill Tree: Kentucky Route Zero with Zoyander Street and Rachel Carr – Center for Science and the Imagination (1:08:30)
Joey Eschirch, Zoyander Street and Rachel Carr discuss Kentucky Route Zero’s treatment of the southern gothic motif and the state of Kentucky’s embedded memories of extraction, among other things. (Autocaptions) [Note: Zoyander Street is a current contributor and former senior curator for Critical Distance]
Alan Wake, The Great American Video Game – Curio (1:11:11)
Sophie reads Alan Wake as a game about the horror of novel writing within the paradigm of American self-determinism. [No captions]
Ah, failure… my favourite topic. ‘But failure isn’t always bad!’ suggest these final few videos to round out August 2021.
Bloodborne: A Failed Video Essay – thelitcritguy (31:53)
Jon ponders the ways Bloodborne narratively, mechanically and ludically teaches the player to reconcile with failure. (Autocaptions)
Glitches are Good, Actually (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bug) – MidnightCowboi (29:49)
MidnightCowboi looks at how “glitches” can disrupt the perceived boundaries between emergent design and authorial intent, citing examples from Mario 64, Anodyne and Anodyne 2, and Oikospiel. (Autocaptions)
The career of a UFC fighter who can’t fight – Fumble Dimension Episode 8 – Secret Base (28:07)
Kofie and Jon explore the notion of “career mode flexibility” by seeing what happens when they put a radical pacifist into the story mode of UFC 4. (Manual captions)
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!