Welcome back, readers.
It’s a good month, I think, when the first roundup of the month doesn’t, owing to a dire lack of editorial oversight (I am both writer and copy-editor of these roundups), make its debut wearing the title of the previous month. That’s not to say that this article wasn’t still “November 5th” for a hot minute in the drafts. Anyways, onward to the good stuff!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Welcome to the Dungeon
We’re starting things off this week with the latest selections on Dungeon-RPGs, Dungeon-dates, and. . . actually, I don’t have a third item. Why did it feel like there was supposed to be three?
- Boyfriend Dungeon | Tap-Repeatedly
Amanda Lange offers an alternative take on Boyfriend Dungeon, delving into both its controversies and underdiscussed aspects in equal measure.
- Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi Is a Great Introduction to the Complicated World of the Dungeon Crawler | Paste
Dia Lacina spends some time with an engaging, accessible dungeon crawler with explicit theming around labour exploitation.
“Still, on its face, Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi is a game about low-level managers and the employees they supervise. It’s setting is the chaos of job sites. The real evil isn’t the monsters you face—it’s the depraviations of the c-suite, holding companies, and puppeteering shareholders.”
Any % Queergaming
Next up, we’re bringing together tight-knit play scenes and broad under-appreciated communities, united by queerness.
- How The Celeste Speedrunning Community Became Queer As Hell | Kotaku
Jeremy Signor talks to members of Celeste‘s speedrunning scene about the game’s mechanical elegance, narrative relatability, and inclusive, queer-as-hell community.
- Queer representation in Japanese video games is more positive than you think – Gayming Magazine
Georgina Young complicates the western view of queer representation in Japanese gaming by looking at examples past and present.
“The Japanese gaming industry is too vast a thing to compartmentalize as an LGBTQ+ friend or foe, our Japanese cousins have made great strides towards acknowledging and telling compassionate versions of LGBTQ+ stories while still present in their deeply conservative and heteronormative society.”
Our next section this week looks at storytelling spaces in games, with a descending zoom in focus from world, to city, to home.
- The Book of Watermarks | The Obscuritory
Phil Salvador presents a very 90s PlayStation multimedia experience that goes ham on conveying a sense of place even if there isn’t all that much game to go around.
- In The City | In The Lobby
Cole Henry looks back at Grand Theft Auto IV as the time, more than any other, that city, story, and systems were all in sync with a common bleak thesis.
- Wooing Leah: Cleaning and Domesticity in Stardew Valley and Real Life | Sidequest
Melissa Kagen thinks through the ins and outs of making a home, a life together: in-game, out-of-game, pandemic time, any time.
“How can virtual and literal tidying be so similar and yet so extremely different? And how can different kinds of cleaning have such different valences to them, so that even when your beloved is definitely tidying, it still can feel rotten? The politics of heterosexual housework is such a tired subject. Everyone gets it, no one can solve it. We sigh and throw up our hands. Intractable!”
Power Armor/Plot Armor
Bodies are our next topic this week, as the following authors unpack what they mean in different games narratively, structurally, politically.
- Immune, Superior Protagonists in Zombie Videogames – Haywire Magazine
B.G.M. Muggeridge peers into the ideology at play in the zombie/survivor dynamic in games along axes of individualistic superiority, hygeine, and finally colonialism and racism.
- On the Death of Samus Aran | Unwinnable
Julie Muncy unpacks Samus Aran’s identity as expressed through bodily transformation–cyborg modding, genetic hybridity, and finally non-canonical death.
“Everyone identifies with their body, in one way or another. It’s a part of who we are. But for Samus, her body is her central locus of meaning, the way both in which the world interprets her and in which she, so far as we can tell, interprets herself. And it’s now, forever, changed, inextricably connected to her the threat she made her name by wiping out.”
What’s All This, Then?
We now turn to a series of critical investigation of theme in games, moving from overt, to hidden, to inconclusive or even absent.
- Satisfactory: On Science and Capitalism | Death is a Whale
James asks why all these recent colonial-capitalism-but-ironic sims and strategy games aren’t actually preoccupied with much beyond. . . doing capitalism more efficiently.
- Deltarune is a game about playing, and it’s bloody brilliant | Eurogamer
Grace Curtis considers Deltarune as a thematic counterpoint to its predecessor.
- The Rod in the Dumpster: Flying Saucers and the Ambiguous Ending of Starcross | Gold Machine
Drew Cook looks back at a space adventure where the storytelling space refuses to offer up clear-cut answers.
“The ending’s ambiguity is not the kind of mystery everyone enjoys. Rather, it calls into question the specific nature of the player’s achievements. It is reasonable to want to know what, exactly, one has done and why. For many, though, the setting and mood–unique in the Infocom canon–will compensate for the narrative shortcomings of Starcross. Paired with a collection of organic and challenging puzzles, it scratches a singular itch. Starcross has many detractors, frustrated with its light implementation, deaths, and dead ends, but its dedicated fans recall it fondly even now.”
I’m with Kimimi this week in having long been more-or-less in complete awe at the people who put the time and energy into writing game FAQs. Magicians, I say.
- For FAQs sake – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi critiques, celebrates, and tries her hand at the humble game FAQ/Walkthrough.
“I’m in awe of all of you brave guide-ers, whether you make annotated maps intended to be used in tandem with a screenshot-heavy font of information, wrote down a short list of essential events to trigger, or gave up halfway through FAQ version 0.842alpha – you’ve all done the hobby a great service, and created something wonderful.”
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