Sundays are for trying to do anything other than play Picross on Switch. But then, every day is a struggle when there are Picross levels still to complete. Quick, let’s round up some of the week’s best writing about videogames, before I disappear into a fugue of drawing tiny pictures.
At Vice, Colin Spacetwinks argues that Disco Elysium was too afraid of sincerity to be revolutionary. I don’t wholly agree with the title of the article, but there’s good analysis inside. Beware: lots of spoilers for the whole game, including the ending.
These defenses grow out of being hurt, personally and politically. Harry has gotten hurt. The city of Revachol has been hurt, and the Insulindian isola on which it resides has also been hurt. The entire world still bears the scars of a revolution that was crushed by the wealthy and powerful. These same hurts have been felt within our own world. If we didn’t have them, Disco Elysium would’ve never existed. That sting of failure, and the fear that trying again would just reopen the wound, are all necessary to _Disco Elysium_’s existence.
Also at Vice, Dia Lacina wrote about Tell Me Why, the new game from DONTNOD, and how it smothers its representation in bubble wrap.
Tyler Ronan is a transgender man, which is daring. Or it would be, even when trans characters exist in video games (or any other media) typically it’s trans women on display. But as with everything else, it’s too safe. I know it will resonate with other critics, and that many trans players will respond positively to it. They’re not wrong to do that. But “the representation” in Tell Me Why also comes across as too practiced, almost unctuous. I have no doubt that this comes from a sincere desire to “get it right.” Just like the overly eager FAQ they released promising no one gets hurt and they followed all the right steps. Because it does. It hits every checkmark, as though the developers were quietly lurking through years of discourse, compiling data to produce the Correct Result. It feels desperate for approval, for someone to say “this is how you tell a trans man’s story correctly.”
At CNET, Mark Serrels writes about THQ’s Avengers game, which was cancelled before release (and not long before THQ went bankrupt). Some of the team have fond memories of the project, but it sounds like a disaster.
“These new guys come in and they’re wearing Yankees caps in Brisbane,” says Henden. “One guy was jacked, wearing these tight V-necks. He had like a liter bottle of rum on his desk, and was always like, ‘Bro you wanna drink? Let’s do shots and do overtime!'”
HoloVista is an upcoming mobile game where you move and angle your phone to look around an alternate world, take photos of that world, and upload the snaps to an in-game social network. There’s a lot else going on with it, and though I think this article on Polygon is probably over excited, the screenshots do look lovely.
On my screen, I can see a chic wardrobe of jewel-toned outfits, including what I learn is the same purple suit that I wore to my college admission interview. On social media, I upload a photo of the jacket, which my sister, Inez, thinks is absurd; I promise to buy new clothes with my first paycheck. She sends me a private message and jokes that I’ll only be a diversity hire — the kind of familial snipe that siblings barely get away with.
Also at Polygon, Sam Greszes wrote about the women of the Yakuza series. Yakuza games are hailed for their nuanced examination of masculinity, but Greszes argues that its women “don’t enjoy the same agency as the men.”
Yakuza includes compelling female characters who aren’t just there as eye candy or to serve as narrative crutches to further a male protagonist’s story. But, at the same time, the games deny these female characters the agency afforded to male characters. Women in the franchise are largely unable to achieve their own goals through their own actions, relying instead on the protagonist to help them first. This means that despite its best efforts, the Yakuza franchise’s discussions of toxic masculinity are necessarily incomplete.
Music this week is Sleeping On My Dreams by Jacob Collier, which is stuck in my head against my better judgement. I’ve watched enough of Collier’s stuff to know that he is phenomenally talented, probably a musical savant, and yet his whole vibe is ‘Doogie Howser on a gap year’. I like music that’s about feeling something, not about showing off and intellectualising, and a lot of Collier’s work consists of covers of Black musicians that seem designed to be palatable to guests on Desert Island Discs. And yet, his reverse engineered catchy pop song is catchy, damn him.