Welcome back readers.
We’re back again this week with another longer issue–Since the start of the new year we haven’t published a weekly issue with fewer than seventeen picks. I say something about this semi-frequently, but it bears repeating: our roundups wouldn’t be as good or varied as they are without the community of readership we’re lucky to have over on our Discord server. Pop in and say hi!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Let’s start with our industry-minded selections for the week, looking at trends in labour and demographics as well as a fundraiser of pressing importance.
- Palestine Skating Game team urgently raising money for developer | Polygon
Nicole Carpenter highlights a stylish graffiti skating game and the team’s efforts to crowdfund a path to secure their programmer’s safety.
- The impact of 16,000 games industry layoffs, in one chart | PC Gamer
Ted Litchfield and Wes Fenlon put a year of industry losses into visual perspective.
- The video game funding gap: How investors are failing marginalized developers | Polygon
Nicole Carpenter invetigates how investment and funding further entrench the demographic biases of the industry.
“the companies led by all men received around 76 times the funding of those led by all women. The data that’s missing, however, is how many companies led by all-women founders tried for funding and didn’t get it.”
Critical and counter approaches to play bring together our next set of highlights.
- Now You’re Playing with Privilege | Unwinnable
Phoenix Simms situates escapism and nostalgia in games in larger frameworks of resistance, care, and access.
- How can a picture of flowers make you see games differently? | Eurogamer
Jay Castello talks to collective Total Refusal about counterplay and the absurdities of game worlds.
“A woman in Red Dead Redemption 2 sweeps the same area over and over again, not making any impact on how dirty it is. The city walkers in Operation Jane Walk run into enemies, and the tour guide casually says, “We have to defend ourselves, sorry,” as the camera cuts from the violence but the gunfire is loud and clear. In one of the simplest but most effective Total Refusal pieces, three images from different war games show flowers, unmoving in the face of massive explosions. There’s meaning to be explored in these moments, but they’re also inherently funny.”
We’re happy to cover two more essays from the Adult Analysis Anthology.
- A Broad Overview Of Steam’s “Adult Only” Category | cohost
Juniper Angel Theory offers some data analysis insights on the kinds of adult games that are published on Steam, and the (lack of) ways in which the platform distinguishes them.
- Corruption of Champions & Honesty | cohost
Bud Bear juxtaposes a more candid authorship inherent to worldbuilding erotica to a more detached and sterile approach prevalent in mainstream fantasy (curator’s note: content notifications provided at the top of the article by the author).
“The worlds of CoC2 and TiTs especially feel incredibly gross a lot of the time, and honestly they’re probably pretty sticky, but they are fundamentally, utterly and completely their author’s work. A work of fetish is by definition going to be a peek into the author’s soul, yeah?”
Off the Golden Path
This segment sits at an imagined midpoint between design and experience.
- Loading the Gun: Simulation and Realism in Horror Mechanics | Unwinnable
Emma Kostopolus asks how quickly *you* could load a gun with an unknowable horror breathing down your neck.
- How Outer Wilds Eclipses its Medium | YouTube
solemn lemon pursues agency and discovery at the end of the universe.
- Returning to Rhythm in A Highland Song | Unwinnable
Ruth Cassidy reflects on the mountain as an experience rather than just an obstacle in A Highland Song.
“Perhaps for both me and Moira, a twisted ankle on a mountain peak is a reminder to be more attentive to our surroundings – but there’s a wonderful difference in A Highland Song where instead of it being a reminder of risk, it’s an invitation to take part. The scariest thing that can happen when you rush your way downhill is that you miss the reason you were traveling in the first place.”
Our next picks dig into two works of historical fiction, examining fidelity and allegory, respectively.
- How Ubisoft Got Machiavelli Wrong in Assassin’s Creed | Play the Past
Iván Goldman examines simplifications and distortions of Machiavellian political thought in AC2 and Brotherhood.
- The Old World Dying/The Time of Monsters | Bullet Points Monthly
Reid McCarter digs into the anti-imperialist core of The Order: 1866‘s brief run.
“When the rot of the streets grows to envelop the Isles and the glittering palaces finally collapse in yet another outbreak of violence, The Order shows the literal monstrousness that’s extended its tendrils to India, and that will begin anew in the former colonies, an evil exported into the Americas as the 20th century approaches. The empire, we know as a modern audience, has reached a zenith it will not regain. The future lies across the ocean, a fertile new ground for the vampires and werewolves to conquer and through which to extend their power for centuries to come.”
Takes Me Back
Now let’s catch up with a pair of thoughtful play impressions tying recent popular titles to childhood experiences.
- Scarcity Mindset | Into The Spine
Melissa Rorech leaves no crate unchecked in Baldur’s Gate III.
- How ‘Goodbye Volcano High’ Captured My Childhood Experiences | Epilogue Gaming
Flora Merigold finds a lot to resonate with in Goodbye Volcano High‘s story of high school bands, transition, and change.
“When I started weeping over my Steam Deck during the final few chapters of Goodbye Volcano High, I realized that I had experienced something similar many times before. Yet, for all those personal reasons explored above, Goodbye Volcano High is a game that will stick with me for a long time, like the time each of my friends, one by one, walked away from that bonfire on the beach.”
Here we’ve got two very good narrative pieces recounting histories of development and play, respectively.
- Toyhouses of ones and zeros | KRITIQAL
Roxy S. tells the tale of a toylike MSX dungeon crawler two decades in the making.
- Let’s Smash, Bro | ¡Hola Papi!
John Paul Brammer delivers the patch notes on the meta.
“In summary, my freshman year was hell, but I had one sanctuary. Right across the hall from me, in a disheveled room littered with pizza boxes and heaps of dirty laundry, lived Bassem, from Cairo, who, when introducing himself, deadpanned, “I am the best Wario in Oklahoma.” “
Never let it be said Critical Distance doesn’t care about the game.
- Goth Femmes of Elden Ring | Unwinnable
Deirdre Coyle’s ranked competitive list of Elden Goths.
- Our simulated Super Bowl 2024 predicts only a single touchdown because it’s really hard to score a touchdown in the pinball game we used for the simulation | PC Gamer
Christopher Livingston runs the numbers on America’s Game.
“The second half proceeds much like the first, except this time the 49ers manage to light up all the letters in KICK, but nothing in particular seems to happen. Mahomes and Purdy both make tries for a touchdown with little success, and the scoreboard continues to broadcast confusing sentiments like TACKLE THE RED PLAYERS 36 and PASS INTERFERENCE MULTIBALL 13.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!