Welcome back, readers, and happy International Workers’ Day as well.
I have no major site updates this week, so I’ll keep the preamble short and hope you enjoy this week’s thirteen cool-and-interesting selections!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week’s opening section isn’t wholly about design, or form, or art, or genre, but it is a little about all of these things.
- How Students Are Making Games Based Off The Weird Game Ideas Bot – Uppercut
Jenny Zheng chats with game designer Juno Morrow about having her students build projects based off of AI-generated ideas.
- Game Pile: Beneath A Steel Sky – press.exe
Talen Lee considers Beneath A Steel Sky as a work of art that doesn’t really need a justification or defense.
- DISCO ELYSIUM BREAKS THE LOOMS OF RPGs – SLIME MOLD TIME MOLD
Slime Mold Time Mold examines how constraints–of character, of circumstances–are just as vital as choices in Disco Elysium‘s approach to role-playing.
“This is how Disco Elysium makes choice work. You can’t choose to be just anyone. You are stuck with yourself. Not only the circumstances of your birth; you are stuck with the consequences of every bad decision you have ever made. All you can do is choose what to do with the situation you’re in.”
Our next section gathers together writing about games and their relationships to dystopias both real and lightly-embellished.
- THAT’S US – DEEP HELL
Skeleton dwells on media convergence, our retreat into an ever-flattening landscape of platforms, and how in many ways videogames have long been the template for all of it.
- Umurangi Generation, Spoiled (Part Four) – No Escape
Kaile Hultner wanders through the soothing fascist hellscape of the Gamer’s Palace.
- On Bad Endings: Resistance and Meaning-Making in the Apocalypse | Uppercut
Emma Goehler plays NORCO, Disco Elysium, and Umurangi Generation, and reflects on the especial need for resistance when the possibility of a positive outcome is unclear or bleak.
“I can’t agree with Lucky or Serafinski entirely—despite it all, I’m still clinging to visions of a better world—but we could stand to learn from the commitment to resistance for its own sake. For if we only act when we think we can win, we may not act at all.”
Sims and Strats
Here we’ve got a genre-mashup section on simulation games, strategy games, the stories they tell, and the ideologies they impart.
- The New Dune: Spice Wars Game Isn’t Ready to Replace Dune 2000 Yet | Paste
Dia Lacina identifies the attribute that makes the best strategy games compelling–their capacity as dynamic generators of interesting stories–and finds that attribute lacking, at least so far, in the latest Dune game.
- The enduring allure of Rollercoaster Tycoon | Eurogamer.net
Malindy Hetfeld delves into the particular pleasures of Rollercoaster Tycoon specifically and management sims more broadly.
- Why ‘Sid Meier’s Gettysburg’ Stopped Making Sense | VICE
Rob Zacny considers how the lens of popular history has shifted away from Firaxis’ Civil War simulator.
- Eastern Front 1941  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury pens an indictment less of a particular game from a particular era by a particular guy, but more generally of our outsized fascination with the question of “what if the Nazis won?”
“It’s a deference to an idea of “rationality” that lets you escape interrogating the underlying premises being rationalized. It’s the same selective blindness obscuring the fact that simulations are just made up by people picking numbers and writing rules. Ideology becomes invisible from the technical gaze.”
Cultural representations both real and fantastical, and the pursuit of authenticiy therein, is the theme of this next pairing.
- The Joys of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic’s Gibberish Alien Language | TheGamer
Khee Hoon Chan highlights the charm and the jank behind the developer shortcuts taken with KOTOR‘s non-Basic languages.
- Lesbian loneliness is portrayed perfectly in Life is Strange | Gayming Magazine
Sara Khan discusses the gaps in lesbian representation in popular media–in games and beyond.
“But what is a lesbian, beyond pining? Who is a lesbian, alone?”
- Video game characters that I’ve decided are lesbian icons | Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart presents a good and important list.
“It’s okay ladies, you take your time.”
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