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April 2021

…Controller Port (6:42)

Benjamin Yoder argues that Balan Wonderworld’s inventive costume mechanic makes it more worthwhile to play than some negative reviews have suggested. (Autocaptions)

  • The New Flesh | Tiny Terrors – Soft & Hollow (6:52)

    Soft & Hollow can’t speak highly enough of the melding of aesthetics, obtrusive gameplay and jank in indie horror The New Flesh. (Manual captions)

  • Growing Personally

    Lastly for April (though certainly not leastly), a couple of nice vids look at the way game stories can help us change for the better.

    • UNDERTALE: Determination & Personal Growth

    August 2021

    …the impression of parody while in practice reinforcing exploitative values. (Manual captions)

    The Great Outdoors

    Videogame representations of ‘the natural world’ are the focal point for these next four essays.

    • Why Minecraft is the Perfect Cottagecore Game – eurothug4000 (13:34)

      Maria highlights a bunch of games that indulge in the visual aesthetics of “cottagecore”, before arguing that Minecraft’s combination of survival gameplay, crop growing mechanics, and mods and texture packs, make it the ‘perfect’ cottagecore game. (Manual captions)

    • Video Games and Forests – DimeTree (31:12)

      DimeTree is enthusiastic for forests (and particularly

    Felan Parker | Keywords in Play, Episode 16

    …media and cultural industries, more generally, the cultural intermediaries literature, also, like going back a little further, when I was doing my dissertation research, like the sociology of art and aesthetics was a big sort of area that I read, read in and sort of informed my work a lot. And so part, part of the answer is just like, and again, this is, I’m just like borrowing from Brendan again, but like a better game video games aren’t special, right? Like you keep like you can, you can use these, these sort of theoretical and methodological toolkits for all…

    March 28th


    Material Matters

    Now for a pair of perpsectives themed around “retro” aesthetics, traditions, and logics in modern games.

    • Tunic’s instruction manual and the Zelda art that inspired it | Rock Paper Shotgun Katherine Castle admires the little touches and deep cuts in Tunic‘s in-game manual art.
    • Retro horror games are preparing to go beyond the PS1 | PC Gamer Natalie Clayton chats with Breogán Hackett about the enduring–and growing–popularity of PS1-esque, texture-warped horror vibes and the stakes for developers in the scene.

    “See, on Itch, it’s Halloween 1998 every single…

    Jaroslav Ć velch | Keywords in Play, Episode 20

    …a lot of people can identify with these, with these narratives. So, I think that it doesn’t really speak only about a regionally specific experience, but also more broadly about going to marginal or peripheral experience, because a lot of people in the US and you know, in the UK, also kind of had pirated copies of games. And they might have also kind of made, you know, like, DIY, freeware, and shareware games. And I think that the, the practices and the, the attitudes, and the aesthetics were in, in many ways similar.

    Emilie: That’s really cool and…

    June 19th

    …undertaking to produce criticism and interviews about some of the games comprising that giant Queer Games Bundle you can still get on Itch for the next seventeen days. If you’re looking for some essential indie games journalism in the wake of not-E3, well, buddy, here’s a great place to start.

    • Springs and Short Games: An Interview with npckc | Video Game Choo Choo Elvie chats with npckc about their visual inspirations, the messages behind the aesthetics, and the emotions they want to inspire in their players.
    • Precise, beautiful PICO-8 games with Brook.p8 | Caroline Delbert Caroline Delbert

    October 9th

    …dismiss as somehow separable from everything else that makes up a culture.”

    Spooky Month

    Ok I know the tarot-themed anthology piece is a bit of a stretch fit here but bear with me.

    • An Introduction and Manifesto | Unwinnable Emma Kostopolus proposes a time and control-based theory of horror in videogames.
    • Intuitive Reading | No Escape Jess Elizabeth Reed anticipates the arrival of the anthology format into games with recent examples like the tarot-themed Cartomancy Anthology.
    • Rigged Game | Bullet Points Monthly Edwin Evans-Thirlwell identifies the backbone of Dead Space‘s body horror aesthetics

    November 28th

    …eleventh hour, thanks to several people’s efforts, and one day it will be rebuilt and playable again.”

    Malevolence Machine

    Here we have a pair of design-focused pieces looking alternately at addiction and horror, both in games well-loved and games well…played.

    • How ‘Candy Crush’ Trapped Us in the Machine Zone | ArtReview Lewis Gordon reflects on addiction, monetization, and the mechanical crush that keeps players corralled in the candy store.
    • Silent Hill, Rule of Rose, and the aesthetics of nightmares | KRITIQAL Hyacinth Nil unpacks how restrictive design and the logics of unreality complement one…

    May 21st


  • R-Type [1987] | Arcade Idea Art Maybury finds something utterly alien in R-Type–the aesthetics and theming, sure, but also the original context and asking proposition of a game demanding so many hours and quarters to see it through.
  • “You basically have to make R-Type your hobby, a regular fixture in your life. Maybe starting from the start more often gives you an edge over me especially because you get to keep your power-ups, maybe you’re better at video games than I am, but for as perfectly likely as those propositions sound to me, I kinda…

    Gejun Huang | Keywords in Play, Episode 26

    …namely just treating games more like a cultural product or an artistic expression instead of an internet product for profit. That said, several domestic major players like Tencent have appropriated the term indie as a commercial gimmick to promote their games toward indie gamers base or gamers longing for something different in the domestic market. These games seem to have an indie touch on the surface such as employing retro aesthetics. But these games are entirely commercial and still laden with monetisation mechanisms. Therefore, the demarcation around “indie” in the game industry is very fuzzy, right now, and getting more…