Welcome back readers.
This week our featured plug is for the Trans Witches Are Witches bundle on Itch organized by friend-of-the-site Nathalie. 69 independent games, stories, and artworks for 60 US dollars–the price of a AAA game, nice. That’s a lot of bang for your Wizard-buck, so check it out! Running till Febuary 24th.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We’re opening this week’s issue with a survey of all the hottest critical coverage on the year’s most-anticipated Wizard Game!
- JK Rowling’s Anti-Transgender Stance And Hogwarts Legacy | GameSpot
Jessie Earl offers an expansive explainer on JK Rowling’s slide into transphobia and its unavoidable impact on Hogwarts Legacy. This piece is especially well-suited to readers unfamiliar with the topic.
- On the prospect of “joylessness” | No Escape
Kaile Hultner offers a punk perspective on eating well and killing your idols.
- Games Media Has Failed The Hogwarts Legacy Test | TheGamer
Stacey Henley expresses understandable disappointment at journalistic cowardice.
- Hogwarts Legacy does not deserve to be reviewed on its own merits | GamesHub
Percy Ranson reviews the game in its context.
- NINE OUT OF TEN | DEEP HELL
Skeleton reviews the reviews.
- Sitting Out The New Harry Potter Game Is The Bare Minimum | Epilogue Gaming
Flora Merigold addresses all the defenses for playing the game in a wide-ranging critique.
“More than anything, I wish I could return to that world when Harry Potter was a safe place for people like me, where being different, being an outsider, was presented as okay. But I can’t, nor can so many trans people. And that’s what makes people’s enthusiasm for Hogwarts Legacy so awful to endure. It’s a reminder that, despite everything – the bigotry, the harassment, the violence, the curtailing of human rights in nearly every state – the response from the Potter fandom has been a resounding shrug. We don’t ultimately matter. And that hurts like hell.”
Give and Take
Next up, two investigative pieces examining industry practices past and present, inspiring and insidious.
- How the greatest Japanese RPGs of the ‘90s came to the West | Launcher
Aidan Moher explores the work practices and personalities of the early years of Western localization.
- How Restrictive Contracts Stifle and Control Creativity in the Video Game Industry | Waypoint
Patrick Klepek investigates the web of anticompetitive legal manoeuvring that girds the games industry.
“NVIDIA declined to comment.”
“Sony did not respond to a request for comment.”
“Ubisoft did not respond to a request for comment.”
Here we’ve got two short pieces examining underexplored angles in game design.
- The Meta-Game | Problem Machine
Problem Machine turns the conversation to how design decisions impact the designer themselves.
- game design is like a prison…. a prison with no walls | cohost
sylvie dispels a myth of progress in game design.
“game design is always expanding infinitely outwards, rather than being refined towards a point, and obsolescence is a matter of taste.”
Dog Eat Dog
We now turn our attention to the bleak realities past and speculative that games take us to, and the characters that navigate them in imaginative and less-imaginative ways.
- Live Your Own Way: What Running a Hostess Club in Yakuza 0 Can Teach Us About Life Under Capitalism | Haywire Magazine
Harry Mackin unmasks the many faces of Goro Majima.
- Last of Us makes Sam and Henry’s depressing game story full-on nihilism | Polygon
Susana Polo identifies a streak of nihilistic cruelty that The Last of Us show has inhereted from the game.
“There’s something I don’t like about it that I can’t quite put my finger on… Oh, right! It’s that I don’t like to be told — especially by corporate-produced media — that deep down, everyone’s a monster, so there’s no point in getting rid of the monsters in charge.”
While we regularly feature genre-focused sections in the issue, this week’s spin on the topic explores a pair of slightly broader categories–forever games and remakes.
- NetHack [1987-2023] | Arcade Idea
Art Maybury turns to one of the Ur-Roguelikes, its debts to earlier adventure games already well known, and instead positions it as a progenitor text to a metagenre with contemporary salience: the Forever Game.
- Too Much Memory | Bullet Points Monthly
Yussef Cole probes the paradoxes of memory that inform remakes–and also homages.
“Remakes are an act of remembering. In a literal sense they are the recalling of aged code, geometry data, texture maps dredged from the network backups of now-defunct developers. But they are also largely brought back from the realm of pure memory, and fantasy. They are relegated to what we remember about them, and what their publishers anticipate we might prefer to remember about them.”
Our next section brings together topics and tensions of simulation and storytelling as they play out in game worlds.
- “The Abundant Nature” | Unwinnable
Jay Castello proposes that one of Pokemon Scarlet/Violet‘s strengths–the representation of an ecosystem–is something the game itself, or at least its marketing, has yet to realize.
- When Dwarves Won’t Do What You Want Them To | Unwinnable
Ruth Cassidy dwells on the friction of simulating autonomy within the automaton.
“This friction – of making plans that dwarves seem to ignore – is what pushes me out of that mindset of refining pipelines that building games encourage, and to dive into Dwarf Fortress as a story generator.”
Poetry Corner is back, baby.
- In the Trees | Videodame
Rachel Tanner weaves some verse on those alchemy RPGs.
“Have you ever had a friend who
makes the sky a different color? Plachta said
the sky was gold, and it was.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!