Welcome back readers.
One item of news from around the site this week: there’s a new episode of Keywords in Play! The Keywords team will be taking a short break in August before returning later in the year.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
As Katherine Cross points out in her Real Life piece this week, games are often treated as a scapegoat by the American Right when it comes to addressing the structural causes of daily, preventable mass violence. How do games actually fit into this coversation–how do they reflect and respond to violence, facism, and evil in our own world? The answer is, I hope obviously, plural (and, regrettably, above the intellectual pay grade of your typical deep-pocketed congressman).
- The Are No Monsters | Into The Spine
Jeremy Signor contemplates the very human identification of evil in a series and genre with a reputation for dehumanizing it.
- An Interview With the Creator of Horror RPG ‘An Outcry’ | Fanbyte
Luca Fisher sits down with Quinn K. over the interplay between games and theatre, the relationship between author and text, and more.
- Blame It on the Game — Real Life
Katherine Alejandra Cross looks past the perennial linkages on the right between mass shootings and videogames to ask: what are the actual connections between popular media and violence? Spoiler: they’re structural.
“Games are not immune from criticism, and there are rich critiques to be made of violence therein — which many progressive and leftist critics have made. Who is subject to the violence is a fascinating question, after all, when so many games depict explosive forays by white American or British protagonists into real or fictionalized countries populated by Black and brown enemies. But in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting, blaming games for violence more directly simply plays into reactionary narratives.”
These next two articles aren’t really about story or narrative, but about its contexts–how its successes or failures influence our understanding of other parts of the whole.
- Gacha Hell: Another Eden | TAY2
Hatman reviews the results when a gacha platform is backed by some ex-Square Chrono/Xeno talent.
- Life Is Strange: Artificial Colors | Unwinnable
Ruth Cassidy finds the LARP segment of Life Is Strange: True Colors oddly fitting in a game where the characters already feel kind of like meeples (that’s their observation, not mine, I’m not that witty).
“They have strongly identifiable character traits – the kind a game master could write down on a notecard – but they unavoidably feel like they exist for the main character to interact with. They have no greater wants, no conflicts, no impactful relationships with each other. In the LARP, it’s all indulgently styled around the comics drawings of a little boy. In the wider game, that indulgence is for the player.”
Next up, here are two pieces about fairly popular games which are nonetheless underappreciated in highly specific yet vital ways.
- Before Hades, Supergiant’s Pyre Let You Lose and Changed the Game | Paste
Emily Price reminds us, once again, that Pyre really doesn’t get enough credit.
- Modern Franchise Games Owe Everything to Ico but Refuse to Learn From It | Paste
Grace Benfell contemplates the reach and limits of Ico‘s influence in a contemporary prestige landscape where the companion character is allowed to be anything but inconvenient.
“While a multitude of games pull from Ico’s narrative, far fewer dare to reduce their protagonists to specks. In fact, Ico’s influence often feels like a case of diminishing returns. Its idiosyncrasies and quirks doomed to be smoothed out in more popular, but far less artful, games.”
You’ve heard of games-as-art, now here’s art-in-games. Sorry, sorry, I’m trying to delete it. We’ve got two satisfying selections here exploring the relationships between games and the visual arts.
- [2/3] But Is It Art? The Intermittently-Beloved Art of Suspect | Gold Machine
Drew Cook examines the relationship between text and metatext as Infocom begins to push feelies and browsies to the limits in its Grey Box games.
- From Cyberpunk 2077 to Animal Crossing, Realism is an underlying part of video games | Eurogamer
Sabrina Myall Locke considers what the Realist art movement can tell us about videogames not normally associated with ‘realism’, like Animal Crossing.
“Video games are, at their very core, about new experiences. The possibility of experiencing a new story; a new environment; a new way of thinking. Participation is enhanced when fantasy is integrated with Realism, a historical movement which offered immersive and realist scenes a hundred years before video games were even conceived.”
Representative of the Medium
Next up, here’s two articles on representation in games and beyond, focusing on the feminine body and disability, respectively.
- Metal Gear Turned 35 But The Controversy Over Quiet Is Timeless | Kotaku
Ashley Bardhan revisits the character of Quiet to ask: what if Kojima, Shinkawa, et al. had actually committed to the idea? (content notification for discussion of rape)
- What I Want to Read and Write When It Comes to Disabilities and Related Subjects | Lily Lab
Kastel looks for representations of disability and diversity in VNs and other media outside the most popular normative abled lens.
“I want to learn about other people who have entirely different experiences from me and explore what we share and differ. That’s perhaps why I write scenarios about people who have barely appeared in the picture. If I can include little scenes that affirm such differences and similarities and help people feel more grounded in their lives, I will think of it as a success.”
Actually, yeah, what is up with all that laundry?
- Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes Is Inspiring Me To Catch Up On My Laundry | Fanbyte
LB Hunktears asks what’s going on with all those clotheslines out and about the war camp.
“Can old systems of power be washed clean, or do they need to be torn down and replaced? Can what is ruined be fixed or repurposed, or is it best to burn everything down and start fresh? It’s not so far-fetched an allegory— Jeralt and Byleth even have a support conversation about the challenges of getting rid of blood stains!”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!