Welcome back readers.
Glad you could make it! We’ve got a bigger issue this week, with eighteen new-and-cool selections, so let’s get right to it!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Be it pandemic life or late capitalism more broadly, the games we play comrpise a large part of how we make sense of the systems we’re entangled in. To open the week, then, are five meditations on how games reflect and refract our relationships with those systems and structures.
- Pink Squiggles and Dominoes – How Signs of the Sojourner Simulates Collective Trauma | Uppercut
Kat muses on how we move through trauma–be it in deckbuilding or lockdown.
- The Dodo Wears Labelle | Unwinnable
Trevor Richardson evaluates Animal Crossing‘s approach to fashion empires and brand ambassadorship, both in and out of game.
- Working Out with Maya | Unwinnable
Gingy Gibson recounts two years at home with a yoga and fitness game on Wii that still holds up.
- A Day in the Life – On Citizen Sleeper
Jeremy Signor reflects on the perseverance of human connections under and in spite of capitalism, in Citizen Sleeper and elsewhere.
- Colony Collapse — Real Life
Leah Mandel dwells on god games and ant farms, individualism and determinism, our desire to choose even if choice is a fiction.
“It’s not that humans have nothing in common with ants. The problem lies in the idea that ants have a “civilization” that simulates and clarifies how human society operates. This view, exemplified by god games, reinforces the notion of a genetic, predestined order and implies that humans across history are all the same, motivated by the same sets of underlying functions that are more or less obscured or distorted by how society is arranged. A player of these games taps into this fiction of a fated order, even as the game semaphores that we are merely ant-size beyond it.”
Blew all my energy on the title pun. Fuck terfs.
- Clapping for Hogwarts Legacy Is Bad, and You Should Feel Bad | Inverse
Willa Rowe reminds the wider games press of the pipeline of harm between JK Rowling and the disparate appendages of her transmedia empire.
- If it seems like your trans friends are asking you to pick between them and Hogwarts Legacy, it’s because they are – No Escape
Kaile Hultner keeps it simple for the stans.
“See, gender is not the only type of thing that can be “performed.” Friendship and allyship can be as well.”
Next up, we’ve got two meditations on virtual cities and the real ones that inform them.
- BioShock’s Failed Fictional City Of Rapture Is More Rooted In Reality Than You Might Think | GameSpot
Juno Stump unpacks Rapture’s real-world historical and ideological precendents.
- A White Savior Almost Lost in the Inviting Scenery | Unwinnable
Saniya Ahmed reminisces fondly on Assassin’s Creed Revelations‘ Istanbul, but wonders what Ezio is doing centered, and at the centre of it all.
“Revelations is bittersweet because it showed me that games are capable of atmospheric Islamic design, but it wasn’t enough to redeem the white, European protagonism.”
That’s enough pieces on escapism lately to warrant a tag, I figure. Here are two more alternating perspectives.
- Breathe Easy: Future-Past Escapism with Breath of the Wild | SSENSE
David Zilber complicates BOTWs relationship to escapism with a meditation on its foregrounding of nature, its echoes of Hayao Miyazaki, and its nondidactic approach to play.
- Misanthropia | Unwinnable
Ed Smith examines Stray as a critical touchstone in games discourse that brings together the disparate tensions of wholesome games, humanism, and a push for escapism that is increasingly isolated and lonely on both sides of the screen.
“If our mass, entertainment media, in this case specifically videogames, communicates stories that are humanistic, real and argue the value of life experience and people, not to crudify, but we may possibly all stop playing videogames, for escaping from life would perhaps feel less necessary, and so games would have less a purpose to serve as pain relief.”
New and Recent
Here are some of the most compelling reviews and reflections I read this week.
- Stray | The White Pube
Gabrielle de la Puente knows cats, likes cats, but wonders why This cat even needs to be here.
- Soul Hackers 2 Is a Delightful and Digestible Dungeon Crawler | Paste
Dia Lacina takes stock as the disparate descendants of Shin Megami Tensi continue to drop the baggage, branch out, and come into their own.
- ‘BattleTech Advanced 3062’ Is a Massive and Beautifully Cruel Mod | VICE
Renata Price tabulates the cost of war in bleeding bodies, broken bones, and the ever-present siren song of optimization.
“I, a human woman with blood and bones, do not know what it feels like for an axle to break, but I do know how it feels when a shoulder is torn from its socket. The slow violence of vehicle combat becomes intelligible through a mostly human body.”
Pale and Paradise
Two new design meditations on esoteric modern classics.
- Paradise Killer’s 8,227 Years of Solitude | Unwinnable
Caroline Delbert switches gears this week, focusing on the cyclical, hellish experience of time and immortality in Paradise Killer.
- Cleaning Out the Rooms: The Importance of Stuff in Disco Elysium | Paste
Emily Price takes inventory of the many objects–and anti-objects–in Revachol which accumulate and fragment into a common, disparate lore.
“In this game so focused on interpersonal communication, you spend a surprising amount of time just looking at something—holding it in your hands, gauging your emotional reaction to it, and letting its history run into you, in a different way than in conversations with people. Some objects can literally talk to you. Others call to you from across the city, begging you to find them. I don’t know what to do with these objects, as compelling as they are. They seem to be a key part of Disco Elysium’s thematic contrasts between tangibility and immateriality, between memory and present, but how? In other words, what exactly are all these objects doing here—and why do I care so much about them?”
Two selections from Spine see us out this week.
- “The American Dream” | Into The Spine
Juan Salinas II remarks on how GTA IV hits a little different going into another recession.
- That One Room in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night | Into The Spine
Joshua Delaney confesses a love for oe of SOTN‘s more renowned little mysteries.
“It’s a striking moment that doesn’t serve any major purpose other than to exist as a brief, exciting piece of environmental storytelling.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!