Welcome back readers.
Just as a reminder, I am taking the next week off from TWIVGB–I usually grant myself one week out of the year to take a rest from Critical Distancing, and this time around that’s this Sunday December 31st. The timing works out perfectly, however, because that’s the day we’re planning to run This Year In Videogame Blogging, so stick around!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Talk and Play
I didn’t put quite all the interviews in this section, but that’s what we’re starting with: conversations with a particular focus on design.
- Indie Side — An Interview With The Developer of Madotsuki’s Closet | Mira Lazine
Mira Lazine chats with developer Kate Bagenzo about Yume Nikki fangames, autobiographical games, trans representation, and more.
- “You Can’t Climb Alone.” Jusant Devs Share the Meaning Behind Their Mountain-Climbing Hit | Inverse
Robin Bea sits down with the devs at Don’t Nod to talk about worldbuilding, minimalist storytelling, and more.
- The Personal, Political Art of Board-Game Design | The New Yorker
Matthew Hutson sits down with designer Amabel Holland to discuss the changing states and stakes of board games.
“I was in the development phase—the hard part, when you have to fine-tune your rules. But that’s the game of game design—and, maybe, of life. You play by changing the rules, in search of freedom, joy, surprise, insight, argument, and fellowship. You win when you find rules that work.”
Now let’s move to some industry-level perspectives spanning genre, monetization, and community.
- I’m officially exhausted by all the live service games and I want to see way less next year | PC Gamer
Mollie Taylor has hit peak burnout with the industry’s all=encompassing need to monetize all the things all the time–including your time.
- Cozy Video Games Have Nowhere to Go But Up | Inverse
Ashley Bardhan runs the numbers and chats with researchers about how we play cozy games and why.
- This year Baldur’s Gate 3 finally reawakened the RPG fandom freaks I’d dearly missed | PC Gamer
Lauren Morton describes the passing of the Torch of Greater Fan Sickodom from Dragon Age to Baldur’s Gate.
“These are the fans for whom a game is way more than the sum of its parts—the ones who made me truly love videogames when I found my first sparkling, over-customized Zelda and Pokémon fansites back in the ’90s. That’s why I’m so glad to have them all back in one place again. The corner of fandom that used to be synonymous with Tumblr, despite the in-group strife that sometimes comes with it, is integral to gaming as a whole.”
Let’s pivot away from the bigger picture now for closer critical looks at recent popular releases.
- Citizen Sleeper And The Decline Of Digital Town Squares | Paste Magazine
Moises Taveras eulogizes Twitter by highlighting the inextinguishible warmth of community that comprises Citizen Sleeper‘s core thesis.
- Ranking the Yakuza Series: ‘Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name’ | Epilogue Gaming
Flora Merigold takes stock of a Gaiden that probably didn’t need to happen, but it isn’t all bad, either.
- Hitting a Wall | Bullet Points Monthly
Yussef Cole sums up Cyberpunk 2077–countless bugfixes, heaps of patches and polish, and one full expansion later–as a thematically promising game that still never stops getting in its own way.
“I’m still stuck in the trite confines of the videogamey simulation, still pinging along its periphery, missing the meat at the core of the thing. On this metanarrative level, Cyberpunk does inadvertently wind up being the perfect cyberpunk videogame. It places me in the position of an intrepid hacker, trying to access the secret core where it hides its pathos, its tenderness, its legitimately touching moments as a story. But I keep running into defenses, distractions.”
To close out this week I’ve picked a couple of year-in-review pieces that stood out!
- Waste Eating Space Robots: Don Everhart’s Games of the Year | Gamers with Glasses
Don Everhart sums up the year, the industry, and its vibes in three games.
- SquidRadio’s totally biased Year in Games for 2023 | SquidRadio
SquidRadio takes a more narrative approach to the year-in-review format.
“The continued bleeding in manpower throughout the industry will only spread until we support the people creating games coming together to protect themselves over the massive interests looking to squeeze them dry. We, as the people who play and enjoy the medium, owe it to the people who create these works of art to speak out. With our wallets, with our voices and with our assistance when we can.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!