- Consensual Torture Sim – I go out of my comfort zone to see what it is like to hit someone who likes it.
- Depression Quest – One of the most successful “empathy games” that effectively communicates the experience of living with depression. People think of “empathy games” as being a separate genre that somehow forcing empathy onto the viewer, but any game can skillfully provide space for the player to develop empathy on their own, and DQ does this very well.
- Earthtongue – A space terrarium that learns important lessons from science “edutainment” of the past.
- Minkomora – The world is terrifying, even when you know it is safe. Sometimes vice versa.
- She Who Fights Monsters – A game that uses the conventions of JRPGs and survival horror to tell a personal story of abuse.
- Sunset – A game that allows you to take on the role of actor or director in a story set in 1970s Latin America.
- You Were Made For Loneliness – An interactive fiction about robots and loneliness.
- Bahamut Lagoon – One of the few games of its genre and era to tell the player that they do not matter, and how that makes for a more interesting story.
- Chrono Cross – A game that tried way too hard to be clever and how it actually managed to be pretty clever.
- Dynamite Headdy – A colorful and silly Genesis platformer and how it evokes the Golem legend in a wonderful way.
- Earthbound – The most avant garde game of the Super Nintendo, which may sound like faint praise but its still an amazing work of art.
- Etrian Odyssey – An achingly difficult and fascinating rpg that tries to make a statement about colonialism and isn’t as successful as it could have been. This article made some nerds angry for some reason.
- Final Fantasy V – While remembered for its job system, the 5th Final Fantasy also plays with ideas about ecological apocalypse and environmental racism that remain compelling today.
- Final Fantasy VII – The game everyone has to talk about at some point. FF7 brought existentialism to the forefront of JRPGs for years.
- Final Fantasy X – Of all the games to focus on a rag-tag bunch of youths fighting an oppressive and unsustainable system bent on consuming the future, this is one of them.
- Jade Cocoon – One of many Pokemon knockoffs of the 90s, but this one does something new.
- Legend of Mana – One of the more beautiful rpgs of the Playstation era, and fascinating from a literary perspective.
- Lilo and Stitch – Who would have suspected a licensed Disney game would manage to subvert one of the most pervasive, sexist tropes in game culture?
- Link’s Awakening – What you get when Twin Peaks fans get tasked with creating the first portable Legend of Zelda game. No, really.
- Mega Man – What the emergent history of the Mega Man franchise can tell us about the relationship between politics and aesthetics.
- Ogre Battle – Quest’s fantasy war simulation is willing to punish players who approach it like a video game, and reward those willing to think deeper about how their army is viewed.
- Super Mario RPG – Technically I only look at one specific moment in Super Mario RPG, but it is one of my favorite moments in video games period: The Marrymore Suite.
- Super Princess Peach – I try to analyze a game in a much more personal style. I look at Nintendo’s most infamously sexist game and how, despite its problems, it may accidentally also be subversive. This is one of the only things I’ve written that got me yelled at.
- Tactics Ogre – Quest’s followup to Ogre Battle pushes the exploration of morality further in order to make some of the most insightful commentary on war you can get from a game about tiny pixel people hitting each other with things until they die.
Game Primers and Playlists: A look at the history and impact of a series and what games to play in order to understand it.
- Harvest Moon – The little farming simulation that could.
- Kirby Series – Iwata’s little cute fluff ball contains multitudes.
- Super Mario – What makes Mario important?
- Kabuki Theatre – Not just a unique form of theatre with a dynamic history, Kabuki was used as a secret, subversive game of politics and current events.
- Öyvind Fahlström – A brief overview of the Swedish multimedia artist who made political games of paintings.
- Play It By Trust, Yoko Ono – Yoko Ono’s classic “hack” of chess is just as fascinating today as it was decades ago.
- Playing Cards – A look at the history of playing cards and how play exists without the need of a “game.”
- The Power and Failure of Art Under Oppression – A look at one of the most important moments of Greek theatrical history, and what it means for artists going forward today.
Essays on Game News and Culture
- A Suit to Fit Every Man – A look into “game formalism” or rather, a very specific and myopic definition of it that for a short time was very loud on the internet.
- Audience as Actor – A brief overview of Aristotlean theatre vs Brechtian theatre and how games fit into both theories.
- Conflict Minerals and Games – A look at how the game industry has been, and continues to be, connected to economic and political horror abroad.
- Critical Proximity – My time at Critical Proximity 2014 gave me great hope and expectations for the future of game criticism. I haven’t been disappointed yet.
- Glitch of the Eternal Return – Glitches are more than just mistakes in the code, they’re a form of magic.
- No Homodachi – Nintendo’s decision to exclude queer gamers from Tomodachi Life and their response to criticism is a sad display of tone-deafness for a company that prides itself on being inclusive.
- Spect-Actors in Novels and Games – Clarice Lispector’s novels force the reader into the role of participant in the narrative. There are games that do the same.
- Tarot and What is Winning Anyways? – Why I get bored with competitive metagames and wish there were more people thinking about new ways to win.
- Uniforms in Video Games – How we see uniforms and how that changes how we look at video game protagonists in otherwise identical roles.
Ecology and the Science of Play
- A Brief History of Weaponized Insects – Do you know how many armies have used insects in warfare? How many terrorist groups, including pirates? Enough to make an interesting blog post about.
- All Your Yesterdays – An art and science game used by paleontologists to conceive of how extinct animals may have behaved.
- Invasive Species, Invasive Culture – A look into how colonialism has used invasive species and the destruction of conquered environments to oppress cultures.
- Lost Levels Talk: Non Human Play – A transcript of a talk I gave at Lost Levels 2014 on what game developers can learn from the little we know about how animals play.
- The Ethnobiological History of the Cockatrice – Ever wonder how the idea of a chicken-dragon that turns people to stone got started? The answer involves ancient doctors, French puns, travelers from Asia to Europe, and mongooses.
- The Games Baboons Play – A look into a case study of baboon play and how baboons define rules while playing.
- The US Government’s War on Buffalo – That time my government drove a large mammal to near extinction in order to perpetuate genocide on multiple indigenous cultures.
Ecology of the Mushroom Kingdom
- Anthropology of the Mushroom Kingdom – What, exactly, is a Mario?
- Cultural Keystone Pokemon – A look into how the existence of Pokemon has influenced the development of the people who share their world.
- Ethnobotany of the Piranha Plant – How can a huge carnivorous plant survive in a world of intelligent mushrooms and ravenous Yoshis?
- Evolution of the Koopa Part 1 – How does a turtle evolve to walk upright and use tools?
- Evolution of the Koopa Part 2 – How does a turtle evolve to spit fire?
- Parabiology of the Dry Bones and Boo – Do the undead have souls? How do koopas and goombas conceptualize death?
- Pokemon Battles in Context Part 1, Part 2, Part 3– A three part look at how Pokemon’s digital bloodsports fit into human history, and what we can learn about the fictional world from our own relationship to nature and violence.
- The Yoshi – Is Yoshi truly a dinosaur? No. But then, what IS Yoshi?
- Folk-Roms and Art Hacks – A very brief look into romhacking.
- Jofflocke Challenge – A new way of playing Pokemon that offers a challenge to Pokemon Masters who have seen it all, and a new story that shakes the foundations of what we know about the relationship between Pokemon and humanity.
- Life After Exdeath – A game of trading stories and lives, as well as communicating across narrative dimensions.
- New Leaf Players – The first theatrical performance of digital puppetry performed within Animal Crossing: A New Leaf.
- Poem-mon – Several methods of using Pokemon to create surrealist poetry.
- Your Game Is In Another Castle – A multiplayer meta-game around creating new games, challenges and stories.
Comics and Literature
- Batgirl, Cassandra Cain – The first Batgirl to headline her own series is one of DC Comics’ best characters. Sadly, the current heads of the company don’t want her to exist.
- Beast – For SOME REASON I’ve always been drawn to Marvel’s merry mutant utter fuckup whose strength came from “hormonal extracts”.
- Cyclops – The X-Man that everyone loves to hate may have more to say than people expect.
- Deadpool – Marvel’s “Merc with a Mouth” transforms us into part of the Marvel universe. Sadly, we are transformed into his own delusions.
- Fear of the Shapeshifter – Why does sci fi fear the Skrulls and Martians so much?
- How do you solve a problem like the Ancient One? – How can Marvel stop Iron Fisting their present-day adaptions?
- Karma – A little-known X-Man who brings pathos to the power of psychic control.
- Kitty Pryde and Jubilee – Two very different characters created for the same purpose and the stories they provide.
- Magneto and Xavier – Just how different are the two pillars of mutant activism?
- Moominvalley in November – The Moomin book with no Moomins explores loss, identity and family in ways few others dared.
- Nightcrawler – Kurt Wagner can be more than just a prop for other X-Men.
- Suicide Squad – Ostrander’s original run of Suicide Squad used a brilliant premise to examine the state of pop-masculinity in the 80s and 90s.
- Superman – The first and greatest hero is much more than “the boring boyscout that no one can beat.” He is the humanist ideal that anyone can do good.
- Trans Narratives in the work of Rumiko Takahashi – No, its not just Ranma.
- Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko – The most chill, gay apocalypse yet conceived.
Movies and Animation
- The Anti-Love Story of Homer and Marge – Now we know that Homer and Marge aren’t breaking up, but a viral rumor about their possible separation raised the uncomfortable fact that they probably should.
- Bojack Horseman – A surprisingly complex look at depression, abuse and failure from a cartoon horse.
- Frank Capra’s Wonders of Life – An old science documentary series that dares to say “God loves evolution”
- Let Gene Have A Crush On A Boy – I love Bob’s Burgers. A lot. But it sure would be nice if Gene could be queer for reasons other than just for a joke.
- Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – The best Trek, fight me.
- Star Trek and Queerness – Star Trek has had a sometimes brilliant, but often troubled, history with LGBT issues.
- The Wind Rises – Hayao Miyazaki’s last movie before retirement is a sad testament to how even the greatest artist can become crippled with the fear of aging and the next generation.
- New Leaf Players – One time I performed a play in Animal Crossing.
- Pokemon 20 Years Later – A fictional look at how the original world inhabited by creatures called pokémon might have changed as ours did.
- The Mostly Annual Lists of the Year Sometimes – When I remember to, I make a pretty nice arbitrary list in December.