Welcome back readers.
This week is a shorter one, and as has become my quasi-custom in such cases, I’ve eschewed grouping the selections into categories in favour of trying to weave a larger thematic arc through all of them.
But before I get into that, TMIVGV is back, and so is Connor! The most recent issue recaps March and April, so go and check that out too!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days
- The same in a different way – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
We begin our story in the distant past. Okay, not that distant, but it is my sorry duty to report that the PSP is now old enough to drive. At any rate, let’s start with RPGs in 2006 to 2009. To that end, Kimimi locates Ys‘ identity in a willingness to embrace change, with a lookback at the series’ PSP era.
“Ys is iconic (and alive) because Falcom keeps making sure the series has games like Ys Origin and Ys Seven in it, games that are proud of the entries that came before them while still seeing the future – seeing change – as a precious opportunity, rather than something to be feared.”
- DAMAGE OVER TIME, OVER TIME
Let’s keep our attention on RPGs for a time, but wind the clock back another two full decades, to the early days of the Mega Drive. With a sharp focus on mechanical design, then, sraëka-lillian investigates Sword of Vermillion‘s tight resource management and explores what it can teach us about how RPGs can build engagement with their environments through thoughtfully designed systems.
“Understanding how Sword of Vermilion was able to make poison one, even if just for me, may shed some light on how future games can shape meaningful experiences around poison, or status ailments, or other systemic storytelling devices in the RPG toolbox.”
- Session is the first true street skateboarding game | In The Lobby
Okay, keep that mechanical focus as we move out of the RPG genre and into the present. Next up, Cole Henry, who for my money is the authority on skateboarding games, breaks down how the recent Session nails the feel of street, through environment, difficulty, community, and camera.
“The deliberate design and intent behind the camera in Session is incredibly important when it comes to skating because the main way we’ve consumed skateboarding up until the Instagram age has been through street skating videos shot on these imperfect cameras with imperfect lenses and lighting. There is an endearing rawness there that Session mimics honestly.”
- Diablo Immortal’s microtransactions aren’t an anomaly — they’re expected | Polygon
Still in the present, we now turn our mechanical attenion away from the satisfying and towards the predatory. Here, then, Kazuma Hashimoto situates Diablo Immortal’s monetization model in its proper context–past, present, and future.
“The progression to this point feels like an inevitability to people who have spent enough time navigating these systems within mobile games for more than a decade. With a market so incredibly popular and profitable, Diablo Immortal feels like a most sinister take on some of the most predatory practices within the industry.”
- Twitch Slots: gambling and greed | FTW
Predatory monetization and gambling remain our focus as we pivot out of games as direct play experiences and into their more social streaming permutations. Ben Barrett delves into the unregulated, undisclosed subgenre of streaming slots.
“What you have here is young millionaires, many untrained in anything regarding ethics, public relations, or seemingly common decency, as we’ll see. The 1% of the gaming world, and the biggest likely part of the 1% of the whole population. They have rabid fanbases who rely on them for everything from game recommendations to fashion and eating habits to parasocial emotional support. They have agencies and teams of people, all taking their cut, handling their lives so they can spend more time entertaining those people.”
- The Circle Suffers Because its Catfish Have No Teeth – Uppercut
Alright, let’s hold position for a bit longer in the Lagrange point between games and social media, as Ty Galiz-Rowe draws on popular social deception games to illustrate what’s missing from Netflix’s reality show adaptation of the format.
“The looming threat of being “killed” by players who are hiding their identities, or losing potential allies by making the wrong choice when eliminating someone, is what gives social deception games their tension and overall objective. Participants simultaneously have to contend with the paranoia of danger being among them (pun intended) and the stress of trying to detect that danger before it consumes them. The Circle has most of these elements, but renders them toothless by making catfish a side note rather than an active mechanic.”
- Democratic Socialism Simulator is a Soothing Balm for My Political Pessimism | Sidequest
Still bearing in mind social media forms as we come back to games proper, next up Melissa Brinks finds catharsis in swiping for change.
“Obviously there are a lot of obstacles in America to overcome, and Democratic Socialism Simulator is very much about those obstacles. But what kept occurring to me as I played was that progress is not impossible. Sometimes compromise happens and the ambitious goals have to scale back. Sometimes I have to delay universal basic income, but I can pass single-payer healthcare. I never did get enough of a congressional majority to expand the Supreme Court, but the people who elected me got power back from the government, a less polluted world, and cancellation of student debt. Even if I got escorted out of the Oval Office by the US military, peoples’ lives were materially better for it, and would be for some time.”
- Breath of the Wild, My Neighbor Totoro, and the Miraculous Healing Power of the Korok – Haywire Magazine
Catharsis carries us now to the close of this week’s issue, as Harry Mackin draws on Miyazaki to consider what all those Korok seeds really add up to, and how Breath of the Wild pushes back gently against the open-world game as a crucible of instrumentality.
“The point of the koroks – the point of Breath of the Wild – is something that emerges so naturally you don’t see it coming until you’re swept up in it, something not at all unlike what Miyazaki accomplishes with My Neighbor Totoro: They create a world that is alive. A world that wants you – needs you – to be what it wants to be, to be complete. Just as badly as you need it.”
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