Welcome back, readers.
I’m sorry to say I goofed it a bit last week by neglecting to mention Connor’s latest TMIVGV! Check that out if you haven’t already, and remember to use the #TMIVGV tag on Twitter when nominating video content.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We open this week with three pieces exploring the uncomfortable tensions between labour, ownership, games and gaming communities, and economic mobility.
- Steps to Demonetize the TTRPG Hobby | Marcia’s Blog
Marcia discusses philosophies behind and strategies for making independent TTRPG-making a less commercialized scene.
- Unholy Aisles | Unwinnable
Emily Price interrogates the fraught and unsatisfying relationship between labour and products as expressed through three works of popular media and literature, including Wilmot’s Warehouse.
- Unpacking Presents a Version of Normalcy I Will Never Understand | Fanbyte
Jess Sebastian confronts the disconnect between Unpacking‘s Instagram-perfect vision of upward mobility and the increasingly precarious contemporary existence of much of its player base.
“I wondered what it must be like to have natural light in every room as I stuffed boardgames into the glass-fronted TV-stand. I thought of how nice it would be to have a dedicated office as I laid Instagram-ready succulent planters and a perfect pothos on a windowsill. It started to feel less like the relaxing exploration of a familiar process and more like creating my own unattainable product-catalogue dream.”
Out this week are two pieces approaching gaming culture and its more toxic elements from opposite ends with a common question: who writes the narrative on games, gaming, and its reputation in the mainstream for violence and toxicity?
- Being Willfully Bad at Games | Unwinnable
Ruth Cassidy distinguishes between challenging games and the toxic culture that enshrines them, making that the case that the former deserves better than the latter.
- The Man with the Gun is a Boy who Plays Games by C. A. Kocurek — Journal of Games Criticism
Carly A. Kocurek critically unpacks the long American tradition of offloading the blame for white male violence onto videogames as a cultural scapegoat, thereby absolving white males of their violence (content notification: this article deals extensively with numerous American school shootings and media scrutiny of the perpetrators and their gaming habits, from Columbine onward).
“By externalizing the cause of white violence from perpetrators, these narratives both assume and reinforce white innocence, abdicating mass shooters for responsibility, and scapegoating a single entertainment form without meaningfully interrogating the broader culture that has produced it.”
Next up are two pieces about two very different games, a full 60 years apart in time, united by the conversations of preservation and historicity.
- HUTSPIEL and Dr. Dorothy K. Clark | 50 Years of Text Games
Aaron A. Reed uncovers the history and authorship of one of the oldest computer-based wargames, dating back to 1955.
- Demon Gaze EXTRA Is a Rough Anime Gem for People Who Didn’t Own a Vita | Paste
Dia Lacina thinks through the preservation and remastering of niche games in her review of a dungeon-crawling anime Wizardry-like recently released from Playstation Vita purgatory.
“Will the world miss a handful of niche sub-AAA RPGs that most never knew about? Probably not. There are other games, for sure. But preservation is important. And one rule about preservation is having more versions of a thing in more places means it’s more likely to endure.”
One of the oft-repeated talking points of contemporary meta-hucksters is the potential for metaverse platforms to disrupt geopolitical and digital borders. But those outcomes, on a conceptual and ideological level, are extant and ongoing in contemporary independent games authored and assembled on somewhat less ecocatastrophical scales. That’s my reasoning for putting these very different pieces in conversation, at any rate.
- I’ve seen the metaverse – and I don’t want it | The Guardian
Keza MacDonald observes that the most influential proponents of metaverse platforms are precisely the same people who are already making existing material and virtual realities demonstrably more terrible.
- Making Queer Asiatic Worlds: Performance and Racial Interaction in North American Visual Novels | American Literature | Duke University Press
Christopher B. Patterson studies independent queer visual novels as sites of transpacific Asiatic-American cultural blends, utopic attempts to work against anti-Asian racism and American imperialist traumas, and more.
“Using theories of performance from Dorinne Kondo and others, the author shows how queer indie visual novels are primarily aspirational, in that they build queer, utopic, and seemingly anti-racist worlds through the Asiatic space of the visual novel form. In so doing, they also allow players to explore the Asiatic as a means of repairing the traumas and distances of American imperial cultures.”
On deck we’ve got three single-game critical meditations delving into the comfortably uncomfortable, the uncomfortably comfortable, and more.
- Dirt Rally Is a Horror Game – No Escape
Kaile Hultner smashed up their car–and presumably their driver–a whole bunch and it gave them pause about the weird videogamey-ness baked into popular driving simulators.
- It May Continue – Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift | PixPen
Sam Howitt plays the good one but also the safe one.
- Lake Borrows From a Well-Worn Tapestry Only to Let It Fray | Paste
Grace Benfell finds that indie period-piece Lake is missing context and conflict that might otherwise give its characters and setting meaning and relevance.
“In some sense, I do admire what Lake is trying to do. It uses the tools of AAA games to move away from bombast and towards smallness. It wants to reaffirm the validity of communal work. Its stalwart refusal of conflict undermines its noble intentions. It tears out the context of its time, thereby removing real power from its setting. It deemphasizes the regular heartache of life, making its joy powerless. Its narrative frame can have real power, even in escape or simple joy. Even simple stories, though, are better with shade and contrast.”
This week we’re closing out with a blend of poetry and critical reflection.
- An Overview of My Videogame Poems 2012-22 | Ludosynth
August Smith critically debriefs (and shares examples of) a decade of his videogame poetry across forms and subjects.
“I’m proud of the line “basically my head is a cube.””
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