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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.

Industry Topics

We have a large issue this week–23 picks!–so I’m playing fast-and-loose with some of the groupings. Our opening segment is partly industry, partly just games and culture more broadly.

“I don’t have a call-to-action here, except to ask the folks who are unfortunately keyed into this story to tell your offline friends that this shit ain’t got legs. That might be the best thing we’ve got at the moment. What is important to understand is that it isn’t ever the target of their garbage-slinging that matters. If it wasn’t Sweet Baby it would be another company with a similar mission. Or even just a game dev with that mission. But what actually matters is combatting their bullshit bigotry.”

Prince of Persia

Now let’s move through a series of game (or franchise)-specific topics! First up is the cinematic platformer (and more recently Metroidvania) bulwark, Prince of Persia.

“If games can make us aware of systems and our actions within those systems and how we could better translate thoughts into actions, why do we still insist that games are just escapist entertainment? Yes, I know that they are capitalistic objects in most instances, and therefore subject to the BS of “too big to fail”. But at the level of consumers and players of this media, why are there still so many who refuse to see how games can influence you politically? Is it the seeming absurdity of realizing that games, as silly or irreverent as they can be in their representation, can be mirrors of how different cultures around the world perceive agency?”


Now let’s gather perspectives and impressions around a deckbuilder I can’t scroll two screens on a games site without bumping into lately: Balatro.

Balatro, like many deck-builders, isn’t about the joy of being a poker player, it’s about the joy of being the house. It is a game about stacking the deck in your favor until you build a system that manipulates probability so effectively you cannot conceivably lose.”

Unicorn Overlord

There’s broad consensus in these three selections about Vanillaware’s recent tactical RPG Unicorn Overlord: the story is average, the systems are anything but.

“What makes Unicorn Overlord’s combat such a joy, and so hard to master, is that a tiny tweak to anything can drastically change the outcome of a battle. Trading out a nimble thief for shield-bearing hoplite when facing armor-piercing enemies can be enough to turn a crushing defeat into a victory. So can using the right item at the perfect time, giving a key character a better piece of equipment, or changing the priority of tactics so that your archer takes out squishy mages instead of wasting arrows on armored foes.”

Adult Games

Here are the final three pieces in the first issue of the Adult Analysis Anthology. Check ’em out!

“It is important to not misconstrue the heightened complexity and corporeality of adult games as being of some kind of ero-Edenic virtual paradise where players and their game avatars are unified in enlightened beatitude. Pornographic games can be as rife with misogyny and racism as they can center egalitarian and queer narratives. The hegemonic, heterosexual white masculine figure is still the dominant avatar in the adult game imaginary, and no amount of wireless connectivity to a Bluetooth buttplug changes this. In playing games, we distribute ourselves across the virtual world, bringing our bodies along, inescapable from the politics of being. These bodies might be abled, disabled, a victim of systems of oppression or a beneficiary of them, or even a gleeful enabler of them. In pornographic games the presence of the player’s own sexual body takes on even greater significance. Adult games function only when our bodies are present in every way a body can be present: physically, actively, and sensually. That this sensual interaction pushes players towards a more symbiotic relationship to the game does not cleanse either player or text from their respective contexts.”

This Isn’t Just for Me I Swear

…But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I have a great fondness for shmups, scrolling shooters, and all things STG.

“Shmups may go in an out of fashion, but they’ll never die.”

Nuts and Bolts

The boundary between these next two sections is more of a soft gradient than a hard line, but these first three selections put more emphasis on design analysis.

“So the argument has been made that because Spirit Island doesn’t turn history on its head, it cannot qualify as a decolonial fantasy. What a lack of imagination. Decoloniality has never been defined solely by its relationship to human beings. That, too, is a consequence of suborned thinking. The task is to expand one’s sphere of empathy.”

The Play’s the Thing

Meanwhile, these next three pieces put more focus on play discussion and impressions, as well as connections beyond their respective object texts.

“It’s never quite established what Rollerdrome‘s sport is reflecting in the society that watches it. Are the general public kept sedate under the heavy hand of the corporate overlords? Do they watch because it’s how they can bare their teeth, how they can rebel without rebelling, feel something real and still go home at the end of the day? Or are the cities filthy and riotous like the gluttonous crowd in The Running Man, the game simply mirroring the everyday violence of dystopian life?”

Critical Chaser

Phew, long roundup! Here’s a genuinely feel-good story to close the issue out.

“In May 2022, she became the mayor of a virtual town she named Lesbos, after the Greek isle that bore Sappho. We’d been dating for six months. Almost two years later, she still tends her pixelated domain.”


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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!