Category: Gaming Reflections

So I wrapped up Lightning Returns and in the process I had some thoughts about how the history of the FF13 meta-series has gone down. Thus I just sort of sat down and poured them onto the page. In the absence of having any new or interesting critical commentary to post, I figured I’d just throw it up here in case any of you were interested.

The following warnings apply:

  • Spoilers for FF13FF13-2, and Lightning Returns
  • This was not meant to be a coherent blog post; it’s more Exposition-Fu. Just bear that in mind.

With that in mind, feel free to jump in after the cut:


This has been a long time coming. It’s time… to blog about Saints Row. Specifically, the latest game in the series, Saints Row 4. We’re going to get there in a roundabout way, however, so bear with me until this is over.

From SR4 mission "Millerspace"

From SR4 mission “Millerspace”

I want to talk about how Saints Row 4 is a game, about games, about games. If you’re interested in hearing more about this topic, feel free to join me after the cut. Definite (though not Earth-shattering — puns!) spoilers for Saints Row 4 and potentially for Saints Row: the Third ahead. (more…)

So earlier today on Twitter, Denis Farr and I were discussing how mages in the Dragon Age universe have a lot of queer readings, especially in the sense of political queerness in the 70s/80s. In the process I mentioned that I got a similar vibe from the much-maligned cast of Final Fantasy 13, specifically the relationship between “fal’Cie” (power supernatural beings in the setting) and “l’Cie” (e.g. the heroes of the game). In keeping with a drive to shorter stuff more often, I figured I’d delve into that tonight.

REMINDER: This blog is a no-FF13-hating-for-the-sake-of-hating zone. If you don’t like the game and aren’t interested in criticism of it don’t roll up in here telling me about how it’s awful, I’m awful, and especially not how Final Fantasy is dead. We’ve already covered that ground. So my rule is: if you’re going to read/comment on this, do me the favor of backing your assertions up with examples instead of inarguable affective things like “it’s awful.”

Right. Ground rules set, let’s begin. Spoilers for FF13 and FF13-2 follow: (more…)

So, this semester I’m teaching a course on “Game Design for Expression.” It’s really more of a class on how students — especially students with no technology or game background — can make small, personal games. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of guest speakers willing to talk about their work, including Mattie Brice, Samantha Allen, and most recently, Will O’Neill, the creator of Actual Sunlight.

That game, like Depression Quest, is one that I deeply respected based on what I’d heard about it, but in the end couldn’t play, because I wasn’t in an emotional place where doing so would have been healthy. But I assigned it for my students this semester to play and discuss because I thought they would get a great lesson out of doing so. And because I’m their professor, I had to play it too, which I finally sat down to do on Tuesday night to be ready for Wednesday’s class.

This post is the story of how that went. Insofar as Actual Sunlight can be spoiled, this post will have them.


I had a brief conversation with Kris Ligman this evening about the Game Church, which led to me reading an interview they did with Steve Gaynor of Fullbright about Gone Home. In reading it, I had what the kids are calling “some feels” and while it won’t make a very long blog post (sorry America), it’s too longform for Twitter, and thus I resort to writing what should be a pretty short blog post.

As I am endeavoring to protect people from GH spoilers as far as I can, the rest comes after the cut:


So Polygon reviewed DuckTales Remastered and then Twitter got ahold of it and, you know, stuff has happened. Since I’m trying to keep in the habit of blogging, I figured I’d write something about it, especially after I had an extended convo with Matt Bremner about it on Twitter earlier. Matt was pretty unhappy with the review, and on a few of the points he brings up I am totally with him on not being happy with the review. Of course on a few other points I differ, and that feeling of division is writ pretty large in the comments section of that review where nobody can make up their minds about anything other than the people on the other side being jerks.

But I feel like my now-boring-to-everyone battle with the death of Final Fantasy is orthogonal to what I have lovingly termed “Ducknado” because they both seem to deal with this notion of console nostalgia, what it does to us as consumers and to the industry as producers, and both its perils and its promise. If you want the short version, I’m scared that nostalgia is going to make DT:R “immune” to legitimate critique in the eyes of many, which is a dangerous place to be. If you want the long story, then check out what I’ve got to say after the cut.


Okay so Project X Zone (the ‘x’ is read ‘cross,’ as is common in Japanese pop culture loanword-ing) is coming out soon. In fact you can download a demo of it for the 3DS off the Nintendo e-Shop (handy link to a page with a QR code to jump right to it).

Now, I am really excited for the game, but that’s because I’ve (as of now) played everything in its development “pedigree” that Monolith Soft (also the people behind the Xenosaga games and Xenoblade Chronicles) has made. And as I have said before in other venues (such as the latest episode of Gayme Bar) I have a very high tolerance for JRPG nonsense. So there’s that. But I feel like PXZ is actually the end result of Monolith refining their system and approach over 4 very similar games, and having played them, I wanted to talk a little bit about it. At least one person said they’d like to read that, so here it is. (more…)

Right, so Aevee Bee wrote a very interesting short blog post on “The Case for Never Talking About AAA Games.” I read it and I think in many ways she is spot on, but there’s a couple of places where I disagree, and have been urged to do so by various Twitterati I am going to attempt to get them down in succinct and short order.

Be warned you will probably be mad at me after this post.


I know I probably shouldn’t but I’m going to write a thing on Bioshock Infinite since I played it all the way through, and a theme in the game has been gnawing at me. It doesn’t hurt that the theme now has echoes/resonances in other arguments going on among the beautiful people of gaming criticism, who thankfully will never know this post exists. ANYHOW.

Since there are obvious spoilers for the game (and a few for Tomb Raider, FYI), out of courtesy the rest of this post is behind the cut.


So, a few things happened, and I wanted to bring them up.

First, game journo/critic/maven Patricia Hernandez gave my post a write-up on Kotaku which is humbling/gratifying. While I’m not normally a proponent of ignoring comment threads — I think that sort of sweeps them under the rug as “not real” somehow when I firmly believe they’re badges of the times — I would suggest skipping those if you agreed with me in any way, and rubbing them all over your body if you thought I was wide of the mark.

I did want to share one of the best, most Bingo card-iest of them, though hilariously, I think the last comment is actually spot on, just not for the reason this individual thinks:



The second thing I wanted to call attention to, however, is a blog post that a college friend of mine, Kristin Bezio, posted her own riff on this topic. In particular she discusses my argument that Taric being a powerful, good-at-his-job character was essential to create buy-in, and she agreed, expressing it thusly:

In short, the only way to eliminate the kind of bias and bigotry that generally accompanies the inclusion of gay, minority, and female heroes (player-characters or otherwise) – and the inevitable screaming we hear from the “probably straight white cismale gamer audience” about corrupting their precious male power-fantasy games – is to make them valuable. Basically, we need to see in videogames the same things that we want to see in the real world: if you’re good at your job, then it shouldn’t matter whatelse you are, whether female, gay, lesbian, African American, Asian, Hispanic, atheist, Muslim, or covered in purple and orange tattoos.

I don’t necessarily disagree; in fact I argued for the same principle. But I do want to point out something relevant to both Kristin’s and my stances on the matter, something that came up during the “Moving forward in queer game studies” panel I was part of at the AoIR conference this year: we need to be careful about the rhetoric of “we’re worth market share so you could include us.” We saw this a lot with TV in the late 90s/early 00s: “gays are a good target demo, they are faithful consumers of our material, so we need to include gay themes.” The problem is that the unspoken flip side of this is “once they are no longer an important demo, we will abandon them.” It moves the imperative for inclusivity from a moral or social imperative — “the right thing to do” — to a purely economic one. I don’t necessarily have a problem with economic imperatives, mind you, because they are terribly effective… but not always in the long term.

We need to make sure that we frame this desire for inclusivity along multiple dimensions. Be upfront, use the economics. Say “Hey, you’ve got an LGBTQ audience. Give them some love and they’ll support you in the short term.” But we ALSO need to argue that “Hey, you’re a media creator and like it or not, you have a role in (re)producing culture. Including a wide range of characters and themes in your work is a responsible thing to do, as well as being economically in your benefit.”