My 2017 in gaming: embracing self-care - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
1Jan/180

My 2017 in gaming: embracing self-care

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I'm of two minds when it comes to the zeitgeist of 2017 entertainment and how women lashed back after decades of debasement.  I agree with critic Jess Joho when she writes 2017 was, "the year women took back their narratives — both real and fictional", but I also feel Jill Gutowitz is spot-on when she wrote, "big jobs like writer, creator, executive producer, and director were still primarily given to men—and the irony is gut-wrenching."  It's the double-edged sword of representation, token jobs may be set aside and prominent roles cast with marginalized groups, but it may only matter insofar as it continues to make money for those who already benefit from our predominantly white, male, and heterosexual system of power.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, my easy pick for most powerful videogame of 2017, lives between both those lines of criticism.  Developer Ninja Theory had no shortage of women helping behind-the-scenes and Melina Juergens' mocap performance drives deep into the hell of self-hatred born from persecution.  Yet, when men are in control of ostensibly feminist stories, an overwhelming amount of women are sacrificed to show how important they are to a functioning society.  I saw this in Blade Runner 2049, an excellent film whose existence I still had to question partly because of the sacrificial role women play (no less than 3 women die in service of the men they love or respect.)

What keeps Hellblade from slipping into that questionable territory is a lot of craft and a bit of tricky wordplay right there in the title.  Senua's Sacrifice also cuts two directions - either Senua is offered up as a sacrifice by others or Senua is choosing to sacrifice something of herself, for herself.  The answer lies in the latter, Senua fights to let go of the torment she puts herself through to live up to the ideals of men who are long dead.  Even the lover she wants to resurrect belittled her abilities with a sword.

Wrenching yourself from oppressive systems is painful.  Ninja Theory dived straight into the deep end with Senua's psychosis and status as a social pariah.  In terms of gameplay, it meant rigid caricatures of masculinity barring Senua's progress and slowing down the battles to hunt down symbols that unlock the next area.  Neither are arbitrary for the psychological affect of Hellblade.  The monstrous men are representative of nightmares some women have after gaming with abusive men, and the symbol hunts showcase a common grounding technique for dealing with PTSD on top of being an example of how simple pattern recognition videogames can curb the effects of PTSD.

Ninja Theory, as the saying goes, did their homework.  Hellblade is an often overwhelming experience, one I had to stop for a day after feeling my panic rise with Senua's desperate struggle to stay alive.  The overall affect is a little of criticism with men primarily in the behind-the-scenes roles, but also the women - in this case Senua and Juergens' performance - taking back their narrative.  The end of Hellblade is pure catharsis for Senua, finally silencing the men and laying her rage to rest, as she abandons the narratives men craft for her and sets off to create her own story.

There were some other cathartic highs in 2017, but nothing came as close as Hellblade because of my own struggles with PTSD and depression.  NieR: Automata is downright optimistic in comparison (and on its own), and videogames like Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle made old experiences feel fresh all over again.

As I'm still new to reviewing videogames the list below is everything I played to completion with links to my writing where applicable.  Because gaming is a costly hobby and more time consuming than writing about film, it takes me a lot longer to finish videogames from 2017 or any other year, and I don't always have something to immediately say.  If you'd like me to elaborate more on these picks, sound off in the comments and I'll provide what my brain and heart have to offer.

The Best
https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/257085621756389956/8AE9D47CAC3EE8F27F6E8732EC3FD2F52A78EC49/

Great
http://www.cantstopthemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Chekhovs-trap-door.jpg

Good
http://www.cantstopthemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Launder-these-heads.jpg

That Dragon, Cancer for, "Unclassifiable Due To Pain In Playing But Unforgettable All The Same"
http://www.cantstopthemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Drowning-in-TDC.jpg

Zone of Indifference
http://www.cantstopthemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Racing-for-the-gem.jpg

Bad
http://www.cantstopthemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/The-many-faces-of-Aloy.jpg

Wretched
http://www.cantstopthemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/The-damned-tunnel.jpg

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Posted by Andrew

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