Welcome back readers.
We’ve got another smol issue lined up for you this week, as a treat, collecting work on queer masculinities, ruins, platforms, art trends, and more.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Guys Bein’ Dudes
We’re starting this week’s issue off with a collection of pieces about queer masculinities, bringing together both designer and critic perspectives.
- Elden Ring drops the ball for queer men | Gayming Magazine
Ty Galiz-Rowe laments the stereotype-laden handling of Elden Ring’s most explicitly queer man.
- Assholes and Artificial Intelligence in Soma — Gamers with Glasses
Tof Eklund contends with an unlikable protagonist and toxic masculinity in a game with more unfocused, straight-mediated queer subtext than it properly knows what to do with.
- Radiator Blog: Logjam as mourning wood
Robert Yang digs deep into the grain on his new lumberjack simulator.
“I argue that sexy lumberjacking is about stoking / stroking the Wood Age, a nostalgic gesture to split off some aspect of Americanness that we can still tolerate. But this too is rotten wood.”
Ruminations on Ruin
Next up, we’ve got two pieces making sense of two new games that centre around abandoned urban spaces, be it the run-down ruins in Kirby and the Forgotten Land or the more recent rapturing in Ghostwire: Tokyo.
- Cutest Apocalypse Ever: Kirby and the Forgotten Land — Gamers with Glasses
Christian Haines meditates on the lessons we can take from the Kirbocalypse.
- Built on Bodies | Bullet Points Monthly
Andrew Kiya meditates on Tokyo’s relentless, neoliberal pursuit of gentrification, lightly allegorized–inadvertently or no–by Ghostwire‘s core conceit.
“Buried beneath layers of concrete is everything from temples, shrines, and houses, to entire cemeteries, tombs, and burial mounds. Centuries of human history hide just under our feet and—would you look at that—some just happen to be situated in prime development real estate. So, what do you do when history is getting in the way of progress? The same thing you do to the homeless and impoverished: move them somewhere else. After all, the dead can’t speak. Out of sight, out of mind.”
Mobile games have historically been underrepresented in critical spaces, so it’s great to see Flora Eloise examining NieR Reincarnation in such detail here. At the same time, the proliferation of handheld-PC platforms suggests an ongoing blurring of boundaries between these historical platform categories with valuable takeaways for developers and critics alike.
- Here’s Why The Steam Deck Needs a Better Screen | Kotaku
Claire Jackson offers a thoughtful analysis of the Steam Deck’s present and future viability as a reading device and a platform for interactive fiction.
- Difficulty Spikes, Gacha Mechanics, and Luck-Based Progression: Is ‘NieR Reincarnation’ Worth Playing? | Epilogue Gaming
Flora Eloise measures how Yoko Taro’s twisty storytelling holds up in a gacha-driven mobile context where sometimes the only way forward is daily persistence and no small measure of luck.
“The suggestion that the NieR franchise could successfully translate into the mobile gaming medium felt dubious at best when announced. After several dozen hours with the game, I think those concerns were validated by the precarious balance that the game strikes between free-to-play mechanics and a gacha economy on one hand with the desire to tell an artistic, philosophical, meaningful story on the other. NieR Reincarnation does not always succeed in this balance, but it never blatantly failed hard or long enough to spurn my enthusiasm for this title.”
A loose section by my own admission, here we’ve got a pair of cool pieces examining genre, art trends, and different understandings of progression and motivation.
- What The Heck Is A ‘MetroidBrainia’? Introducing The Newest Genre On The Block | Nintendo Life
Kate Gray discusses a subset of exploration games with a reliably-opaque name, where progression is gated not by lock-and-key but node-and-knowledge.
- Liminal Fever Dreams & Rejecting the Player (the surrealist, strange, upsetting otherworlds of video games) – The Candybox Blog
Nathalie Lawhead ponders a growing appreciation for the surreal in games, where the weirdness can be all the reward a player needs.
“It has been a long time since I heard the joke “What the fuck is this game? Drugs??” directed at my work. Maybe it’s the pandemic and because I stopped being around people entirely… but I feel like maybe (more likely) the weirdo’s have won and we don’t need an answer for “what the fuck” this is anymore. It’s enough to just enjoy the trip.”
Something I’ve come to appreciate about Skeleton’s yearlong ELDEN project is how it continues to reorient my feelings as it moves away in time from my own experience with the game.
- ELDEN | DEEP HELL
The latest from Skeleton in The Lands Between.
“These great figures offer me no satisfaction. When they die, they never bleed, they never sit and breathe their last breath and let me drive my knife deeper into their heart or belly. I never feel the bones snap and crunch. Vanish into the ether, Margit, you coward, and know that if by some circumstance we ever cross paths again not even your status as tarnished will keep me from killing you. If you were to leave a message for others, tell them there is only a future full of blood.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!