Welcome back readers.
It’s a Monday Mulligan this week as I catch up on this week’s reading. It’s also December! That means our end-of-year review is just around the corner, so be sure to get your recommendations in!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
In a way both of these first selections are about memory–the short memory of the industry, the selective memory of creators.
- The New Games Journalism, Same As The Old Games Journalism | Aftermath
Gita Jackson and two decades’ worth of New Games Journalism would like a word with the latest first anthology of literary-minded game essays.
- The Simple Truth According to John Romero | Remap
Duncan Fyfe reviews John Romero reviewing John Romero.
“The story of John Romero, by John Romero, is about dramatic things happening to a person who is not affected by them.”
There was a really thoughtful cross-platform discussion on “coziness” as a genre this past week–its values, its tendencies, its omissions–so we’ve captured some of the triangulation points here.
- Loddlenaut: a cozy clean up that leaves the bigger questions behind | clickbliss
Amr Al-Aaser plays a cozy cleanup game that doesn’t quite manage to paper over its core narrative conflict.
- regarding Cozy Games | cohost
Kyle Labriola regards the problems of cozy games as the probems the wider industry and discourse already share.
- Comfort is a weapon | Mokkograd
Eric takes a critical view of cozy games, warning off the good-vibes-only apolitical gatekeeping that clouds both the genre and its attendent definitions.
“There’s value in people seeking and finding comfort and connection in a world that wants to deny both to them, but for that to work, you have to be very precise about who is seeking the comfort and who is being kept out in order to maintain it. You can’t just shut the door behind you and call that an act of radicalism.”
The Dev Is in the Details
Here are a pair of cool developer interviews, capturing both indie and AAA perspectives.
- How Alan Wake 2’s Composer crafted the sound of The Dark Place | Game Developer
Bryn Gelbart chats with Petri Alanko about the sonic design of the latest entry into the Remedyverse.
- Indie Side — An Interview With The Developer of Rose Seed Replica | Medium
Mira Lazine chats with developer LezLiz about visual novels, branching narrative design, and retro aesthetics.
“Rose Seed Replica is a fairly dialogue heavy game, clocking in at over 170,000 words between all of its different paths — however the game itself takes only a few hours to complete, even while it navigates through all the complexities, both mundane and exciting, of a burgeoning relationship. It also has the added benefit of being extremely gay.”
Representative of the Medium
Now let’s talk about representation and its pitfalls, both when it comes to customization and established characters.
- It’s Time for Games to Catch Up to Modern Gender Diversity | The Punished Backlog
Krista McCay looks at the whys and hows of more open character customization.
- What do we Speak about when we Speak about Forspoken? | Carlito Calzone
Nicanor Gordon looks back at Forspoken to talk about the limits of visibility when writers’ rooms remain overwhelmingly white.
“The common pushback here is, “Should white creators only create white characters?” This is a false binary. White creators are welcome to create black characters but should understand that their perspective is an outsider one. Absent prominent black developers on the team, early consultation is important. The nuances of black life (and the sub-cultures), nuances that will not be readily apparent because the people most versed in it won’t talk about it, is what establishes authenticity. When something is normal, you take it for granted and it fades into the background. It’s only when it’s out of place that it comes into focus.”
Here we’ve got a pair of critical meditations on connections and communities.
- This Bed We Made and the threat on queer spaces | Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart explores a landscape of queer spaces and unplaces in 1950s Montreal.
- Using Your Words to Make Friends and Meet God in Chants of Sennaar | Gamesline
Franny thinks about communication, and community, and Wittgenstein in Chants of Sennaar.
“I think about how God can also mean Duty, and can also mean Beauty, and Transformation, and then Creation. I also think about how there will always be a way to say hello or ask for help or say thank you regardless of the language. Games like Chants of Sennaar give me a lot to think about.”
Now let’s look at play and its contexts in a section spanning backlogs, the review grindset, and unearthed save files.
- The Best RPG of the Year Takes 80 Hours to Hit Its Stride | Inverse
Willa Rowe takes a victory lap on Octopath Traveller II: a categorically unfriendly game for the review grind.
- Buying a preowned copy of Animal Crossing: Wild World emotionally destroyed me | TechRadar
Catherine Lewis peers into someone else’s Wild World, frozen in amber for years.
- On ObsCure Horror Games and Unfinished Business | Unwinnable
Megan Bidmead uses a fun-but-forgettable mid-2000s teen slasher romp as a springboard to talk about backlogs and letting stuff go.
“ObsCure is the last straw for me. I think it may have cured me, funnily enough. I cannot hold onto guilt for a reason as silly as this. Sometimes, you can enjoy a game just for a moment: you can appreciate it for what it is and then let it go.”
Only I have the brains to rule Lylat!
- Mashed Brains in Videogames: The Curious Possibilities of The Evil Within and Star Fox 64 | Gamers with Glasses
Don Everhart asks what’s going on with all these giant evil floating brains in games and wider media.
“The image of the brain in both The Evil Within and Star Fox 64 is one that also represents the mind. This is the enduring symbol of the mind-brain identity thesis, which is ever-present in popular media and science fiction. Some of that fiction flirts with a central problem of that thesis, namely that it can have some horrific consequences for how to accomplish intersubjectivity. Perhaps the answer lies outside of the brain.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!