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This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
It’s Just Business
The main games news on the docket this week are the layoffs at Microsoft, Riot, and elsewhere. We’re opening this week with a series of reflections and commentaries on an industry that, with few exceptions, seems to attach no value to its people.
- Gaming Layoffs Show AAA Developers’ Refusal to Support the Industry’s Future | Inverse
Robin Bea observes that while the industry bleeds people it also bleeds creativity.
- lateral thinking with withered technology | you’ve run out of complimentary articles
Bijan Stephen muses on the radical idea of a games company–or any company, really–investing in its people for the long term.
- It Feels Weird to Celebrate Super Smash Bros.’s 25th Anniversary | Paste
Hope Pisoni takes Nintendo and the wider industry to task from the vantage point of a fan.
- POSITIVE/PRESS | DEEP-HELL
Skeleton takes a brain dance on some micro softs.
“Microsoft just doesn’t have enough, you see, nobody does. It’s a scaling ladder of ranked competition with no failure, only the word “competition” doesn’t so much imply an outing of good sportsmanship, but a pitched, bloody battle where the people who push the shit to market get turned on in the end, a debtors war of libel and sales figures encircling and turning everything into a Market to capture Numbers. More consoles, more homes, more players, more money. It’s strictly business, and is it wrong to hate Microsoft for being simply Too Good at business?”
Next up, let’s talk about the viral game of the last (and maybe next?) five minutes. Consider this a suggested reading order to approaching both the game and its contexts.
- Why discontented Pokémon fans see something in Palworld | Polygon
Cass Marshall reckons that if Game Freak won’t experiment or innovate, someone else inevitably will.
- These indie monster tamers are ideal for those tired of Pokémon and Palworld | TechRadar
Cat Bussell takes inventory of some alternatives beyond the discourse zone.
- Palworld, discourse, and finding your identity in design | Medium
SquidRadio situates Palworld within its discourse, then extracts it to perform an autopsy.
“I described Palworld as an ‘interactive shitpost’ before release, and I still think that description stands. The idea of ‘Pokemon with Guns’ is, in and of itself, kind of silly. The game feels like the answer you would give to someone who asked ‘Hey, if a world has singing and dancing animals, where do we get hamburgers from?’, and it feels self-aware enough to know that’s what it is meant to be. It’s not something that takes itself seriously. Don’t think about it too much. Just give the chipmunk a full clip and let the God Tree sort it out.”
Behind the Beaded Curtain
Here let’s look at close studies of adult games past and present.
- Yaky?ken: The First Commercial Eroge | Gaming Alexandria
Joey Wawzonek provides historical and cultural context for Hudson Soft’s very early strip-janken game.
- The Scarlet Demonslayer and the Anti-Kukkoro Kukkoro | cohost
Unangbangkay unpacks a structural and thematic subversion of a nonconsensual subgenre of eroge (content notification for discussion of the sexual assault and coercion inherent to the subgenre).
“If Kukkoro is the dark side of “You are not immune to hot lady knight,” The Scarlet Demonslayer embodies pulls a double reversal: “This hot lady knight is immune to you.””
Up next, a pair of play reflections of popular games that also touch upon design.
- Is it possible to get better at Suika Game? Maybe not | Polygon
Nicole Carpenter ponders the skill plateau in relation to a recent popular puzzler.
- Why Slay the Spire Has Such Staying Power | Paste
Emily Price examines what keeps the venerable deck-builder fresh after all this time.
“What other games have taken from Slay the Spire are its branching pathways, its random events, and its graded difficulty tiers. But what I wish they would learn from it is the joy of embedding little surprises, introducing random and sometimes hostile changes that run the risk of annoying the player in service of a larger goal of novelty.”
In a way, both of our next selections are about legacies, be they of genre, of literature, of access, of cultural baggage inherited or rejected.
- It shouldn’t be this hard to play the best version of one of Japan’s great roguelikes today | PC Gamer
Kerry Brunskill reflects on the massive influence and maddening inaccessibility of Shiren the Wanderer.
- El Paso, Elsewhere and Inverting the Monster as Metaphor | No Escape
Nicanor Gordon juxtaposes El Paso, Elsewhere and its principal players against the racist foundations of western fantasy and horror.
“None of these games are about race — not Baldur’s Gate, not most of these “Lovecraftian” titles, and not Dungeons & Dragons. El Paso, Elsewhere is also not a game about race. James and Draculae’s relationship is never examined through that lens. Just like Draculae’s whiteness is only noteworthy juxtaposed against James’ blackness, El Paso Elsewhere is a commentary on race only when juxtaposed against the rest of the medium. Instead, it is an incidental course correction, a natural result of Black creators working within genre and outside of franchise.”
Here we’re featuring a pair of interviews, both of which touch upon charting a path out of closed loops.
- Indie Side — Making A Genre-Twisting Visual Novel | Medium
Mira Lazine chats with developer SuperBiasedGary about VN design and breaking the cycle of compulsory heteronormativity.
- Unraveling Sons of Welder’s Magnus Game Series | Press Play Gaming
Chris Lawn chats with designer Przemyslaw Geremek about growth, art, and stepping beyond the din of our professional lives.
“Something that this series of games gets at, both textually and through the way each release has evolved and changed, has been that element of growth, of change, of searching for that freedom to seek meaning from creation. Getting locked into patterns creates a sense of entropic degradation; finding ways to become something and learn something new, to be metaphorically reborn, allows us to flourish.”
Reminiscence and reverie close us out this week.
- I Know Where Princess Peach Keeps Her Dish Detergent | Into The Spine
Natalie Schriefer drops a little bit of Paper Mario verse.
- The World as Data | Donkeyspace
Frank Lantz dwells on digital derives, machine learning, the Backrooms, and more.
“Rambalac videos are old, and sad, and Russian, like the very beginning of film. Backrooms videos are young and dumb and full of computers, like its future. But both of them are consciousness porn. Both of them are the internet, slouching towards us, trying to understand the work of art in the age of mechanical subjectivity. From its side. As we try to figure it out from ours.”
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