Welcome back readers.
Let’s start this issue off with some news from around the site. First up, new Keywords! This edition’s guest, Dr. Gejun Huang, is our first in a miniseries highlighting intersections between Chinese and Australian games scholarship. Check it out here!
Our other news item this week is that we’re bringing on a new member to the team! Serial-roundup-includee Kaile Hultner is joining our curatorial crew to manage our monthly newsletter and end-of-year reviews. Who rounds up the roundups, you ask? Well. . . it’s Kaile. They do it. Lol.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Mask of the Rose
So this came out a short while ago and the friction reviewers are picking up on in how it presents and constrains its storytelling systems is interesting! I’m hoping to see more people talk about this one.
- Mask Of The Rose review: a lavish gothic dating sim that’s a little light on romance | Rock Paper Shotgun
Rachel Watts has a pretty good time in a game and storyworld that does just a little too much getting in its own way.
- Mask of the Rose review – kissing optional, but recommended, and tricky | Eurogamer.net
Ruth Cassidy looks in on this latest entry point into Fallen London, finding it at once compelling and convoluted to actually experience.
“There is an awful lot to do in Mask of the Rose, and it’s not just that you can’t fit it all in one playthrough – it’s difficult to fit one thing in one playthrough.”
When Breath of the Wild came out, one of the main objects of critical comparison was, perhaps inevitably, Skyrim. Six years later the discussions on open world games have progressed and Tears of the Kingdom now finds itself most readily in conversation with Elden Ring.
- I Know This Place : How Tears of the Kingdom Changes Everything About the Zelda Series | Quinn Blogs
Quinn Stephens plays The Legend of Zelda X-2 and reflects on a franchise that may have just finally grown up.
- I can play Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom fearlessly, thanks to Elden Ring | Polygon
Nicole Clark embraces the inevitability–and hilarity–of death in Elden Ring and takes that experience forward to Tears of the Kingdom.
- The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Succeeds in Portraying a Post-Apocalyptic World Worth Saving | Uppercut
Ty Galiz-Rowe compares worldbuilding approaches between the optimistic Hyrule and the pessimistic Lands Between.
“Elden Ring succeeds in depicting a world that has been devastated by the beings in power, but leaves its setting so hostile and barren that choosing to destroy it all feels like putting bodies on a funeral pyre.”
Low Tech, Highlight
There’s admittedly almost nothing in common between these next two selections other than they’re both about sci-fi games and they’re both good!
- Rebelstar: Primordial XCOM | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi tucks into a sci-fi strategy game for the humble Speccy light-years ahead of its time.
- Cyberpunk 2077, Broken & Jank, Helped Me Leave A Closeted Life | Kotaku
Claire Jackson recounts putting herself back together in front of Cyberpunk‘s glitchy, broken mirror.
“Cyberpunk’s disastrous launch state was alluring. I had enough of seeing the disaster of myself in the mirror, enough of seeing the disaster of the world outside, so why not go check out something else busted to make me feel a little better about this fucked-up world, and my place in it?”
Items and Icons
There’s a bit more in common between these two picks but my attempts to articulate the connection are coming up short. They’re both about how games are about. . . stuff. . . beyond their surface-level representations? Never mind me, read the articles.
- Florence: On Stuff in Video Games | Death is a Whale
James contemplates the representational power of things.
- Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out  | Arcade Idea
Art Maybury tells a tale of a seminal sports game inextricable from its origin as a tailor-made artifact and outcome of racialized American celebrity.
“When I started to write this article, I thought my hypothesis might be that the very process of training the audience’s focus on the microscopic and momentary gestures within the “magic circle” was as a magician’s misdirect, leading us to fixate on trees with an intensity that blinds us to the forest. But I fear that this game is not wrong in its own stereotype of (white) Americans as generally huge fans of racism, that that might be a reason for its success and endurance equal to its star power.”
This one about curation is just the right kind of meta around these parts to be featured in this week’s closer.
- I reviewed 466 items in the Queer Games Bundle in one week; here’s what I learned | cohost
Mr. Hands offers some curatorial takeaways on making sense of the absolutely massive bundles of content that become associated with fundraisers in recent years.
“I’m under significant (self-imposed) time pressure to review these games, and I simply do not have the time to play them all. But that’s how most people review game pages. If you make it easier for me to write about your game, you also make it easier for the casual player to learn more about it.”
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