Welcome back readers.
After a few weeks of shorter issues, we’re back with seven new-and-cool selections for you to tuck into. Let’s get it started!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Playing the Game
This week we are opening with a loose association of pieces on industry, business practices, corporatization, and communities of play.
- getting people to play niche games? | cohost
Kastel contemplates what role the critic assumes or might assume in communicating the value of niche games to the public.
- Persona’s journey from PS2 hidden treasure to global phenomenon | TechRadar
Francisco Dominguez compares Atlus’ business strategy to the midlist model of the book publishing world.
- 3/22 5:00 PM (GDC #3) | DEEP HELL
Skeleton reports from the IGF.
- The New Super Mario Bros. Movie Embraces the Dystopia the 1993 Super Mario Bros. Movie Warned About | Paste
Madeline Blondeau looks back at the campy 1993 dystopian satire that simultaneously scared Nintendo off films for 30 years while prophesying its eventual turn to corporate media convergence.
“The Super Mario Bros. Movie and its accompanying theme park are the very sort of enterprise Joffe, Jankel, and Morton’s Super Mario Bros. tried to warn us of. Easy, recognizable entertainment that services a larger entity. A barren concrete city where natural life is choked to death. Figureheads who we blindly trust to entertain us and do no harm, but represent the further encroach of cultural stagnation.”
Ominous new fishing game Dredge has been making waves, so here are two highlights.
- This Horror Game Turns Fishing Into Psychological Warfare | Kotaku
Ashley Bardhan sits with the discomfort in fishing game Dredge.
- Dredge, and the Rote Sublime | Press Play Gaming
Chris Lawn sees a glimmer of the sublime in Dredge, but it’s fleeting.
“The earlier apprehension-adrenaline cocktail loses lustre, slowly replaced with the enemy of fear. The unknowable becomes the known, patterns among the muck emerge. Frustration becomes the primary taste among an otherwise unconventional palette.”
Next up, a pair of personal play perspectives on games new and old.
- [Cleaning the Backlog] The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind | Boris Bezdar
Boris Bezdar recounts a personal history with one of the RPG genre’s white whales.
- Sable: Masks, Escapism, and a Desert named Adulthood | A Letter from Pizza
Nicanor Gordon finds kinship in Sable‘s masked, youthful, truly postcolonial protagonist.
“Sable never takes her mask off. She’s gendered but not in a way that matters, she’s never treated differently. I never doubt for a second that I’m her, not once. The only trace of her physical identity that I am privy to, the colour of her skin, only serves to further reinforce our kinship. Games, to many, are avenues for escapism, but for whom and from what? Often not for everyone, not for me. In Sable’s world I am free, My family, my people, they’re all free. Agency willed back into their lives. Emancipated from capitalism. Untethered from the long chain of history.”
Now we look squarely at stories, characters, and writing from a variety of perspectives.
- Sword and Fairy: Other RPGs wish they were this good | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi delves into the character-driven intricacies of the original Sword and Fairy.
- Rhianna Pratchett’s stories from the Tomb Raider reboot | Eurogamer
Victoria Kennedy chats with Rhianna Pratchett about narrative design, dadification, ludonarrative dissonance, and more.
- When Controllers Speak: The Narrative Benefit to Controller Features like Built-In Speakers | Paste
Phoenix Simms recounts the narrative and creative affordances of controller speakers, from the Wii Remote onward.
“Any time a controller’s features have successfully been used as a tool in games, it forces us to think about the relationship between bodies, technology, and the meanings made from interacting with the audiovisuals on screen.”
Here we’ve got a selection of more formalistic approaches, investigating the queer gothic, labour, and academic game studies itself.
- The Magic Circle (The Magic Is Racism) | press.exe
Talen Lee asks whether it’s games that are uncreative or just the fundamental whiteness of early game studies theorists.
- Idle Threat: What Incremental Games Say about Our Relationship to Work | Paste
Emily Price pokes at the contradictions of the ironically named idle genre and its recent mutuations.
- Legacy of Gay-n | KRITIQAL
Jessica Hill locates the queer gothic in the winding tale of Raziel and Kain.
“With its mix of flowery dialogue, elaborate metaphor, and obsessive passion, Kain is continually referencing and subverting gothic conventions throughout its runtime. Amidst the complex story spanning multiple time periods, interrogations on the nature of power, and musings on immortal morality, another theme emerges from the game’s proximity to gothic and vampire literature: Kain is queer as hell.”
As we close out the week we turn to meditations on angst, dread, and cyclicality, and how games approach those themes playfully.
- Skyrim and Existential Angst Redux | Unwinnable
Deirdre Coyle contemplates agency and purpose via Skyrim‘s freewheeling play space.
- Every Game is Happy Death Day | Unwinnable
Emma Kostopolus identifies an anxious, purgatorial approach to death in Returnal and Bloodborne.
- john wick 4 is my favorite dark souls game | a weapon to surpass blaming yourself or god while knee-deep in the dead
Chuck Sebian-Lander finds the fun in the futility.
“here’s the thing: wick movies perpetuate this overtone of gothic, cyclical hollowness yet remain both deliriously, delightfully surreal and fun as hell. and this tension is why the video game and souls comparison resonates so hard for me.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!