Welcome back readers.
I promise you that I did not pull a Bilbo Baggins this week by deliberately making sure there were precisely 13 selections for our closest issue to Halloween; it really just did happen that way by chance. But now that that’s the final tally, I may as well run with it! OOooOOOoooooo. . .
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
The last few weeks of run-up to Bayonetta 3 have been, regrettably, a pretty painful roller coaster of discourse, but now the thing is out into the world. We might consider this week’s selections to be, constrained as they are by review embargoes, a preview of a fuller conversation, but what’s here so far points to disappointment and heartbreak for fans who saw something queerly subversive in the first two installments.
- Bayonetta 3 Review: A sexy, stylish sequel that can’t nail the finale | The Verge
Ash Parrish cannot forgive the game’s back quarter.
- Bayonetta 3 Broke My Heart | Polygon
Maddy Myers lays a formative queer empowering fantasy to rest.
“If all you care about is button-ramming combat that’s similar to Devil May Cry, you’ll have a ball. But if you ever wanted to believe that there was something deeper to Bayonetta’s story — some grander statement about femininity and sexuality and power dynamics — you’ll find the truth to be quite a disappointment.”
Our next section this week explores seasonal art palletes and themes.
- Roadwarden | Unwinnable
Emily Price journeys into a peninsula of muted palletes and mediations with monsters in Roadwarden.
- How A Short Hike Captures the Feeling of Fall – Uppercut
Sarah Thwaites chats with Adam Robinson-Yu about capturing the autumnal vibe, artistically and thematically.
“With an artist unable to see their value and a young scholar stubbornly struggling to find tuition money, the park had a depth that I was not expecting. Both plights also feel at home in the sensation of change and acceptance that autumn is often associated with.”
We look now at the narratives being revised and re-revised at the triple-A end of the industry.
- Apocalypse on Repeat: The Last of Us, Part I | No Escape
Clint Morrison Jr observes through Naughty Dog’s successive re-remasters how prestige narratives of catastrophe and climate crisis are now decades out of step with our own lived reality.
- Modern Warfare 2’s campaign is a masterpiece, in the worst way | Polygon
Ed Smith picks up the pieces when a subversive sleight of hand is entirely in service of the state.
“See, Modern Warfare 2 will do all this sportive, kindly teamwork stuff, but then it’ll go the other way, and seem to, as it were, stamp on these pedals labeled Meaning and Theme and Imagery, and suddenly you’re crossing the Trump wall over the U.S.-Mexico border, or playing as the actual missile that kills Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. But then there’s a reversal or a refraction, where everything you think you just experienced that may have been meaningful or thematic or pertaining to any kind of real-world image gets transfigured and undermined. It’s kind of genius.”
Space and Place
Next up, game worlds are unpacked along artistic and navigational axes.
- Gotham Knights didn’t just kill Batman — it also killed Gotham | Polygon
Tauriq Moosa proposes that the most wasted, misinterpreted character in the latest bat-game might be the city itself.
- Papers, Apples, Microphones, Chairs: Immortality’s Spatial Miscellany | Unwinnable
Caroline Delbert asks around to see how people are (or aren’t) getting their spatial bearings in the sprawling topography of Immortality.
“Drawing people’s attention using design is a fraught subject in the internet age. Sites like Hot or Not? changed the way our brains work online, while the invention of pop-up and banner advertisements helped to monetize those rapid page changes. But Immortality combines classic-looking, seamless cinematography with the interactivity of a traditional point-and-click game; and for the first time in a long time, I wanted to know what everyone was looking at.”
Included Is Who
Here we have a pair of writers making representational connections in games both narratively and allegorically.
- 10 Years Later Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation Remains a Compass for How to Approach Diverse Representation in Games | Paste
Phoenix Simms reflects on lessons about the complexity of thoughtful and intentional repressentation from a game the wider industry–including that game’s own publisher–seems to have largely forgotten.
- The Queer Rebellion of Baba Is You | No Escape
Jay Norton unearths an elegant allegory in Baba Is You‘s rule-breaking mechanics.
“In order to survive in a world that wants us dead, we often find ourselves having to shift aspects of our identities, constantly adapting to reflect the circumstances we find ourselves having to deal with. In one way this can be tragic: queer people having to restrict or hide entire aspects of themselves in order to be in certain settings without feeling threatened. And yet at the same time, the freedom to change your identity in ways that those in power don’t allow is an equally empowering experience.”
Our holiday coverage continues with two more horror-tinged examinations of games and play.
- My OCD Doesn’t Want Me To Play Horror Games, But I Do It Anyway | Kotaku
Ashley Bardhan reconciles her brain with a hobby that triggers it.
- The New Age Monsters of Tetris Effect: Connected | Gamers with Glasses
Don Everhart asks: is Tetris Effect: Connected actually a work of cosmic horror?
“In co-operative multiplayer, the screen orbits a dark polyhedron, surrounded by other particles. Each CPU is given a zodiac theme. They are the guardians of the stars, great, terrible, yet also predictable. Players face them together, out in the cosmos. And the cosmos wields weapons that we do not.”
- PART 2 – DEEP HELL
Skeleton and Jack move on to the next Land Between, the Land of pretty screenshots and mouldering class antagonisms.
“Here we are: Raya Lucaria. Torch in hand and ready to burn down the over-classed. A tower packed with the seething glares of a magical privileged class. Held up in many ways like the desperate climb into bunkers and make plans to pay security guards. Letting the world burn around them, while killing anyone who’d attempt to interrupt the private world they maintain must go on among themselves. Peppered throughout the overworld are small references to it: Old Lords hunker down in silent towers, waiting for opposition. Fields of mercenary soldiers do battle like only they know how. There’s so much about class in Elden Ring that comes out here first, setting the stage for the rest of the game afterwards.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!