Welcome back readers.
Five days until Armored Core 6 but who’s counting? No news around the site to report this week, but my heart goes out to anybody crunching to get an AC review in by the embargo date. Or Starfield for that matter, hell. Whatever they’re paying you, it should be more.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
This week we’re opening up with analysis and impressions of genres, modes, and artistic goals in games beyond just what’s fun, bringing together data analysis and critical meditation.
- What Does it Mean to be Wholesome in 2023: An Analysis of the 2023 Wholesome Direct | Unwinnable
Hilver runs the numbers on Wholesomeness in 2023, noting a creeping conservatism in the brand.
- Real Talk: Games About Trauma (art caught between “everything is horrible”, “everything is survivable”, and “this is too hard to talk about”) | itch.io
Nathalie Lawhead takes inventory of means, examples, and stakes when games engage with trauma.
“I’m creating a world that I am the master of, and a story that you experience from that perspective. It’s hard to misunderstand something that you experience for yourself, and that specific type of communication is what games empower.
As the designer, I can hopefully make a space of mutual understanding. A graveyard for pain. A place to confront and bury demons.”
As we continue to follow the critical conversations on Baldur’s Gate III, our attention turns to the game’s relationship, for better and for worse, with the mechanical bones of Dungeons and Dragons.
- The Himbo’s Guide to Baldur’s Gate 3 | Uppercut
Ty Galiz-Rowe offers an accessible primer for navigating the thornier aspects of D&D or CRPGs in general that might otherwise get in the way of a good time.
- Baldur’s Gate 3 is a masterpiece built on a bad tabletop game | Polygon
Gita Jackson identifies the narrative highs and mechanical not-so-highs of Larian’s big swing.
“D&D is the most popular it’s ever been; it’s reached an escape velocity from the niche of nerd culture. All things considered, now feels like an appropriate time to ask: Is this game any good?”
Tales from the Heart
Now let’s look at some impressions on smaller-scale games about love, family, and stories that get us in the feels.
- Stray Gods features my favourite love story of 2023 | Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart sees a love story for the ages in musical adventure Stray Gods.
- ‘Venba’ review: The Perfect tribute to South Indian culture and cuisine | AIPT
Vish finds a full-course meal in Venba‘s culinary approach to parenthood.
“Venba’s ability to reflect the tribulations of everyday life is what makes the game so special. The game is a love letter to parenthood. Venba is not just one woman, she represents mothers everywhere who are simply trying their best in the given circumstances. It touched my heart and soul in more ways than one.”
You Had to Be There
Our next two featured authors are taking a look at games that resonate with a certain time and place, whether it’s an aesthetic period or a very specific arcade-based hardware platform.
- Octopath Traveler’s music blends nostalgia with something entirely new | Epic Games Store
Alicia Haddick reflects on how music contributes to Octopath Traveler‘s nouveau-retro HD-2D charm.
- The quiet and enduring legacy of Virtual On | canon fire
Amr Al-Aaser reckons with the influence of a storied full-fat, twin flightstick arena fighter for the mech sweeties.
“Playing it felt like stumbling across the roots of several branches of game design. Yet even after all these years, and with so many successors, there isn’t anything that hits that same alchemical feeling.”
Shining in the Darkness is still a banger.
- Game Enjambment: The Labyrinth Proper | Sidequest
Katherine Quevedo closes out our week with some verse on Shining in the Darkness.
“Remember bolting back outside, breath hitching? Aged up from the experience but still so young? How life’s options branched off before us, invisible and unbeknownst to our disheveled, sweaty selves? Thornwood promised us more. Thornwood and us, we failed each other.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!