Welcome back, readers.
New Keywords this week! Our latest episode’s guest is Felan Parker. Check it out!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week’s introductory selection is presented standalone, for emphasis.
- The Games Industry Is Truly Repellent | TheGamer
Stacey Henley speaks without pretension or obfuscation about the state of the industry, the abuse and rot it shelters at all levels, and the role that games press sites can play in pushing back against that rot.
“I like us. I like my job. I like games. But it doesn’t change the fact the games industry is truly fucking repellent. After the last couple of days, someone needed to say it. But sooner rather than later, we need to stop agreeing and start changing it.”
East Asian Games
As below-featured writer Sisi Jiang notes, western engagement with Asian games happens primarily by way of Japanese games–though that balance is shifting–and in the process the biases at play in Japan’s status as a colonizer state inevitably come into play. This week we gather together a few authors looking at games made in East Asia but not Japan, bringing together scenes, practices, and titles in both China and Taiwan.
- S02 Episode 3: Subor Smash Bros. Ultimate | Chaoyang Trap
In this issue, contributors discuss the Flash games scene in China, iQue’s ahead-of-the-curve efforts to bring Nintendo games to China via digital distribution, and more.
- Ancient swords and new ideas | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi spends some time revisiting a compelling Chinese RPG with strong characters and big, confident storytelling.
- Review: The Legend of Tianding Is A Great Robin Hood Platformer | Kotaku
Sisi Jiang has a great time with an anticolonial Taiwanese genre mashup that pushes against a western lens on Asian media so often filtered through Japan.
“Legend is mostly voiced in Taiwanese, with the exception of the police characters who speak in Japanese. Western audiences often experience Asian animation through a Japanese perspective, and its former colonies are often portrayed as inferior. Legend reverses this dynamic by showing the Japanese police as mostly corrupt, and Taiwanese as heroic and bold. Playing LoT, I quickly started to associate spoken Japanese and Japanese imagery with colonial oppression. Even with its exaggerated comic art, Legend is a highly effective narrative that showcases the immersive capabilities of indie games.”
Next up, we bring together a keynote, an essay, and an interview/chat, all of which revolve around the intersections between games and art-making.
- DMs w Jeremy Couillard | Organic Plastics
Jira Duguid chats with Jeremy Couillard about the relationship the games world has with the art world, the relationship it maybe could or should have, and also a little bit about virtual pets.
- The Super Flat Design of Michiko Sakurai | David R. Howard
David R. Howard explores the critical tensions between 2D and 3D at the heart of Michiko Sakurai’s UI design and artistry.
- Make Tiny Weird Software, Please! (all about desktop pets, old computer eras, and virtual toys) – The Candybox Blog
Nathalie Lawhead talks about virtual pets, the desktop as a playful environment, and the attachments we form to software.
“What if a game actually played itself on the desktop? What if it intelligently occupied this space in a self-aware way, and integrated itself into the computer in a more meaningful way?”
Our next two selections this week both involve memories and perhaps more specifically misrememberings: of people we once knew, of games we still love.
- Music and Memory in Midgar | Unwinnable
Adam Boffa investigates how Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s metatextual self-reflexivity is accomplished in part through the expansions, stylistic diversions, and subtly shifted callbacks of its soundtrack.
- I love what you mean to me: On Disco Elysium, Romance and Codependency – Digital Fantastic
Gabriel Elvery meditates on trauma, co-dependency, and being in love with an idealization.
“Perhaps there is hope. What we must remember is that we never truly met Dora, only Harry’s version of her. In this version of Harry’s dream, Dora is happy and moves on. She also tells him that he, will indeed, be happy again. This is reassuring when we remember that when Harry speaks to Dolores Dei, he’s never really speaking with Dora… he is, and always has been, in conversation with himself.”
Three authors look at the successes, failures, and occasional hilarious permutations of worldbuilding in games.
- FFXIV’s “Equilibrium” Tells A Tragic Story You May Have Missed | Fanbyte
Nadia Oxford demonstrates how FFXIV‘s vast resevoir of in-game lore is sewn into absolutely everything–even the boss music.
- “It’s a car-crash-car world” – Burnout Revenge – Super Chart Island
Iain Mew peers into the slightly-nonsensical worldbuilding implications produced by the depopulated toybox design of Burnout Revenge and similarly structured driving games.
- Revolution Without Community | Bullet Points Monthly
Grace Benfell concludes that Far Cry 6 is too much an imperialist power fantasy to tell a tale of community revolution with any substance.
“It is an egotistical and imperialist perspective, allowing the player to act out a fantasy version of revolution with all of the perks and none of the dangers. The fact that Dani is from Yara and the game’s revolutionary theming does nothing to diminish Far Cry’s past and present as an imperialist playground.”
Coming up next, two authors look at IF games which challenge our assumptions of games and stories, sometimes successfully, always productively.
- An Introduction to Zork III: It All Came Down to… That? | Gold Machine
Drew Cook revisits an IF classic that excels in its artistrty even as it fails to come together as a coherent and meaningful whole.
- 2014: 80 Days | 50 Years of Text Games
Aaron A. Reed recounts the history of Inkle and the building of a game that has helped to shift the conversation on the relationships between games, stories, and choices.
“The creators of 80 Days took the time to question the foundations of both their source material and the medium they were working in. Sometimes that’s what it takes to find something new worth building.”
Keep reading; it’s not always “just” a bad game over at Bad Game Hall of Fame!
- Ganso Saiyuki: Super Monkey Daiboken | Bad Game Hall of Fame
Cassidy tackles a sprawling Journey to the West adaptation on Famicom and finds a game big on ambition and and scope even if its ideas (or even basic mechanics) don’t all come together.
“In an era of particularly cryptic design coming hot off Tower of Druaga (Is this something like the unpteenth time we’ve mentioned Druaga here on this site?), Ganso Saiyuki stands out as being comparatively simple, deriving more of its challenge from testing players’ stamina over their problem-solving abilities. In an era where the “Action RPG” was still in its infancy, Techno Quest took a stab at what a genre hybrid might look like, and somehow landed on the same idea that Nintendo themselves would just a few months later. For a game developed by first-timers, its ambitions and scale far exceeded expectations — as well as the team’s own actual ability, as it turns out.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!