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April 26th

…strange way, trying to guess at outcomes and understand hidden hybrid genes has added shades of scientific realism.”

Nonbinary Binary Bodies

See what I did there with the pun, because, uh, computers, and, umm, you see, gender is… ah, shit. Read the articles. They are real good and I’m always very glad to see writers critiquing the particular kinds of embodied tensions at stake in games.

  • Transing My Voice In Saints Row 4 – Gayming Magazine Stacey Henley explores the customization options in Saints Row 4 to give her feminine player character the velvet tones…

May 24th

…where pictures, stories, and people do not exist. But above all else, it is a game about reclaiming that light and our own agency. At several points within the game, it proclaims that names, genders, sexualities, bodies, and stories are our own to create, destroy, and inhabit. It asserts that our history does not define us, but rather exists so that we can use it to define ourselves. It reassures us that we, and the world, are constantly in motion- regardless of the forces that pull us.”

Umurangi Generation

Two powerful perspectives on the evocative game about…

June 7th

Welcome back, readers.

I spent time last week and this week trying to think through how to draw a thread between critical games discourse and the now-worldwide protests against anti-Black police violence/brutality/murder–of George Floyd, of many, many other victims of the systemic racism rooted in the very core of western civilization, be it in the United States, my own Canada, or elsewhere. Trying to figure out how to rhetorically justify expressing my disgust on this games crit platform for militarized and state-sanctioned police power being brought lethally to bear on black and brown bodies time and again.

July 12th

bodies later.”

Track 01

Now this is a topic I love reading about. Two authors this week study the affective musical design of popular games and genres.

  • The Best Metroid Soundtracks | Paste Dia Lacina embarks upon an acoustic tour of the Metroid series.
  • JRPG Openings and the Call to Adventure | Into The Spine Latonya Penningston studies the musical intros in JRPGs that get us hype for grand adventures.

“I believe that the best JRPG openings are emotionally stirring and give the player a sense of wonder. There is a…

Resident Evil 2

…presented in the game, the remake had to find a new way to shock and horrify. And it landed on perhaps an expected piece of ground for revisiting a PlayStation 1 game: updated, photorealistic graphics. Reid McCarter argues that:

In its gore, Resident Evil 2 justifies its realism by prompting disgust by more fully modeling wounds we’ve experienced or seen, turning the bodies we spend every day with into horrific version of themselves.

Thus, the game operates at an intersection of the uncanny and the real. And this was intentional: in an interview with Chris Plante…

Kentucky Route Zero

…full online, Aubrey Anable’s Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect delves deeply into the game:

A central concern of Kentucky Route Zero is the way our access to the past is always only partial, and uniquely so, depending on the limitations of the systems of memory and the bodies through which we store and access history, including the game itself.

Lastly (for now), the ever-insightful Cara Ellison grapples with the game’s affect in a personal, poetic, and pointed reflection:

When you are an adult, your access to those new, novelty virtual spaces starts

Final Fantasy VII

…suggesting that its villainous portrayal is related to Japan’s 1990s post-bubble economic anxiety and directly analogizing Shinra to Japanese electric company TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company). Mark Filipovich analyzes themes of displacement within the game, depicting a world stripped of its autonomy and a populace crushed into disillusionment and apathy by this capitalist superpower and everything it represents:

The people have no homes, no purpose and no sense of selfhood. Every location is pared down and even the most unique locations are marked by the Shinra’s ownership. Even the characters are displaced, their bodies and minds are pulled

October 25th

…it’s baffling that the game world bakes it into its reality. Life is Strange isn’t only played through the viewpoint of a teenager – it requires that lens to hold.”

Queer Bodies and Tensions

We’ve got three more quality critiques examining queer issues in popular games since, by Jove, is it Wrath Month already?

  • Cloudpunk touches on gender and race with messy sci-fi allegories | Gayming Magazine Chris Compendio wonders if fantastical settings generally and cyberpunk trappings in particular just get in the way of what a story really wants to say about oppression and…

November 1st

…to problem solve in life beyond the board.

  • A Rush: The Brilliance of First-Person Platformers | Medium Cole Henry breaks down the visceral exhiliration at the heart of games like Mirror’s Edge and Ghostrunner.
  • “The microgenre of first-person platformers will forever compel me becasue it closes the distance in platformers and makes the relationship between bodies, movement, and environments deeply tangible. Yet, they aren’t all perfect. First-person platforming can be frivolous, a means to pad out a game or level’s length. Yes, I am looking at you Doom: Eternal. But when the genre is done right…

    This Year in Videogame Blogging: 2020

    …Hands’: The Black Boxer Trope in Fighting Video Games | Level Joshua Adams takes a critical view on the portrayal of Black characters in fighting games, showing that the reliance on vintage ethnic stereotypes in character design has led to the reproduction of harmful tropes that have been used to justify centuries of violence against Black bodies, and pointing instead to cultural references rooted in Black achievement and heritage.

  • State of the Discourse: a survey | GMMaS Ash Kreider reports on their work surveying marginalized game developers, finding that “more than half of game developers of color feel unsafe…