Trevor’s Favorite Criticism

Here is a space in which I can both archive my favorite pieces of criticism and (hopefully) provide some reading material you might enjoy as well!

(Listed by author’s last name. NOTE: Some articles cited may have been credited using a deadname pulled from the byline depending on the article’s age. If this is the case with any below, please let me know and I will update the citation.)

Heather Alexandra:
Death Stranding: The Kotaku Review – Kotaku, 11/1/19

“That said, Death Stranding is also just as infatuated with the male body. Whether that’s the sensual framing of Mikkelsen smoking a cigarette or the way the camera moves to ensure you’ve seen just enough of Reedus’ naked body during shower scenes, Death Stranding’s bisexual camera is more interested in men than even the torture-laden, blood licking Metal Gear franchise. The difference is ultimately in how lovingly men are framed compared to women, both by the literal camera and also their place in the larger narrative.”

Grace Benfell:
“Dated Visuals Made the Environmentalism of ‘Final Fantasy VII’ Come Alive” – Vice Games

“Its world is interconnected, but not continuous or uninterrupted. Rather it is fractured, suggestive, and strange. We lose sight of ourselves in the coral reefs and power plants. They have hidden corners that neither cameras or players will ever reach. This holistic view reflects a wild world, both threatened and threatening.”

Madison Butler:
“No Matter His Age, the Point of Nier is Compassion, not Tragedy” – Sidequest, 7/28/20

“His hair is white and wild, his brow is permanently furrowed in a scowl, and his posture suggests he’s always ready for a fight. Nier’s behavior, however, is a sharp contrast. He’s never resentful toward Yonah—even when she goes exploring without telling him, he’s concerned for her safety above all else. Instead, we get a father who is doing his absolute best to care for his chronically ill daughter and make her happy, even if that frequently involves eating her dubious home cooking. Like countless other RPG protagonists, Nier makes money by taking on odd jobs and random hunts for the others in his village, and his kindness extends to the community, too.”

Ruth Cassidy:
The Horrifying Solace of Sunless Skies – Into the Spine, 8/19/20

“The ports where the game saves and you replenish your supplies are no safer than the wilderness of the skies, but instead serve as homes for  opportunities to be curious. Horror in Sunless Skies isn’t something that simply happens to an unaware captain, but something they explore, eyes wide open, because the alternative is not knowing what could have happened.”

Jess Cogswell:
How Persona 5 Royals’ Mature Love Interests Reinforce Toxic Masculinity – Uppercut, 8/1/20

“Like Kamoshida, these women are presented as extremely attractive, but unlike Kamoshida, their perceived lack of agency allows us to distance ourselves from viewing them as predators and merely take in their attractiveness- they are not predators, they are prizes. Furthermore, the game prevents us from seeing their behavior as repulsive because, once again, we are a man. Men are expected to want, especially from attractive women. If they don’t—if they are to wait, question, or resist—society tends to perceive this as a failing of the man. Men are actors– so act.”

Dante Douglas:
“The Three Modes of Male Sexuality in Videogames” – Paste, 4/7/16

“When the masculine is coded as being in opposition to femininity, male characters that are coded as “sexy” often do so by performing femininity (in some fashion). Traditionally-coded “sexy” male characters are “sexy” via their vanity, their attention to personal attire, etc. In this way, their status of being “sexy” is founded on their ability to perform as an object of sexual desire (this is also often queercoded and/or played as a joke).”

W.C. Hoag:
Geese are Scarier than Monsters – Unwinnable, 9/15/20

“Yes, Carrion provides its own sort of power fantasy – players control the ever-evolving blob and decimate legions of government employees – yet that power is tinged with desperation. The blob’s ultimate goal is carnage and freedom, but the goose provides a more grounded power trip that is rarely found in gaming or anywhere else. Untitled Goose Game’s primary objective is havoc; it grants players the ability to be unabashedly, unrelentingly petty while hiding behind the adorable guise of an evil, evil goose.”

Austin Jones:
“Mocking Succession” – Into The Spine, 11/17/20

“Shion wants to weaponize her modern sensibilities to, as Clover calls it, “dismember” the lawless frontier of Hinamizawa. In doing so, however, she reverts to her inner demon. Her disregard for the law, as well as her giddiness to kill even Satoko, is as Clover calls it “perverse[ly] simple,” branding her as one and the same as the villagers. In her sadness, she abandoned her humanity and used vengeance as an excuse to fill the void left by her rampant rejection.”

Dia Lacina:
“It Takes More Than a ‘Tolerance’ Mechanic to Make an Anti-Colonial RPG” – Vice Games, 11/13/17

“We’re all taught the lies of colonial powers from day one. “The Indians lost because whites are superior.” Indigenous people at best are seen as wards (in many cases, we legally are). We’re to be protected, but corralled. Only given what little our invaders deem okay, we’re expected to smile when our stories are told for us by outsiders.”

Adesh Thapliyal:
“How ‘Raji: An Ancient Epic’ Falls into the Indian Far-Right’s Trap” – Vice Games, 10/27/20

“Rather than produce a new, authentic image of India’s storied past, Raji is only able to refract and multiply the familiar ones, deepening the already large rift between the truth and a politically expedient fiction, and revealing how far conservatism has penetrated the nation’s sense of itself.”

Autumn Wright:
“Degendering the Dress” – Bullet Points, 5/27/20

“What follows Cloud’s Jonathan Van Ness magical girl transformation is the worst of it all. Beauty doesn’t discriminate by gender, the game says, as it dresses you up like a girl. Andrea’s words are blatantly contradictory. It isn’t transgressive to degender what is inextricably tied up to gender in fiction and reality. But as a genderfluid person, I kinda like gender. Even if we could get beyond the systemic oppression that shapes our gender-filled lives, I feel like gender would still exist (at least in me).”

“Weird Autumn” – Unwinnable, 9/22/20

“Mae’s disorientation is what reminds me of this autumn. If orientation is “how it is that we come to find our way in a world that acquires ‘new shapes,’” then the alienation of late capitalism is experienced as a dissociative episode where the familiar landmarks and faces around Mae become “just shapes.” Her dissociation prevents her from finding meaning in her surroundings and in the present until she resolves by the end of the game to hold onto anything

Last Updated: 11/17/20

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