This essay is about the first Borderlands game and its DLCs only. For those concerned about it, extensive spoilers follow.

Borderlands really shouldn’t work as well as it does. By all rights it should be a tedious slog, 25+ hrs of boredom in a drab sandbox full of repetitive enemy types with quest-lines that deliberately evoke the sensation of doing chores for strangers. The writing is typified by the kind of ironic detachment that would come to define Internet culture a decade later, aggressively undermining any kind of sincere investment in the plot. …


This piece is part of an ongoing series of essays on Orientalism in video games. The prior essay, on Uncharted: Among Thieves, was published here.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception aims to be more of a character study than either of its predecessors. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was largely concerned with demonstrating the power of titular protagonist Nathan Drake’s rational mind. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was more caught up with establishing his virility and sexual conquests. But the series’ third title is a more involved psychodrama, teasing out the spiritual impulse that drives Nathan in his dangerous and rarefied profession.

The subtitle…


This piece is part of an ongoing series of essays on Orientalism in video games. The prior essay, on Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, was published here.

Upon the release of its debut title, Drake’s Fortune, the Uncharted franchise almost instantly developed a reputation for beautiful environments and cinematic storytelling. Listening to the development team behind the franchise’s second installment, Among Thieves, talk about their work on the title, one hears the words “relatable”, “realism”, “detail”, “everyman”, and “grounded” used to describe a franchise predicated on a chipper treasure hunter’s travels to faraway lands where he (inevitably) defeats small armies of adversaries…


Content Warning: This essay discusses fictionalized instances of torture, as well as some mentions of genocide.

The Africans (and a couple of white guys) of Black Panther’s imagination

The production and knockout success of Black Panther are, in some ways, indications that movements like Black Lives Matter have achieved demonstrable success in combating racism in American culture. A major American production company spent $200 million to make a movie with an almost entirely black, all-star cast, which depicts a futuristic African society free of the ravages of colonialism and in possession of miraculous technology and wealth. It’s hard to imagine that a Hollywood production company would have considered committing such vast funds…


Nathan Drake, running from gunfire and allegations of racism

When Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was first announced in 2006, it incited both intense excitement and a fair amount of sniggering. Common jabs revolved around the fact that Nathan Drake, the titular protagonist, looked like a perfect-skinned Gap model less suited to jungle hijinks than catwalks. The obvious parallels between Uncharted’s hero and established franchise protagonists like Lara Croft and Indiana Jones birthed the derisive nickname “Dude Raider”. The most common criticism, at least early on, was that the concept was derivative.

A much more alarming issue came to light after the game’s release the following year; namely, every single enemy…


Content warning for discussions of police brutality and war crimes.

A couple weeks ago, I was at a local library with my sister, perusing for a new batch of books to read. We were mostly populating our collective reading list with whatever looked good. While we were generally seeking out non-white authors in order to find perspectives we otherwise wouldn’t, I made an exception for Pride of Baghdad. I’m an avid fan of Saga, so I thought it might be interesting to read some of Brian K. Vaughan’s earlier work, and the back cover made the comic look pretty enticing…


CW: “Love, Death, and Robots” is a show that depicts brutal violence and some instances of sexual violence, and this essay discusses them as well. I also extensively discuss the ongoing pandemic.

I recently got around to watching “Love, Death, and Robots”, a little over a year after its release, and I was struck by its ironic regularity. In my estimation, every episode follows, as a (very loose) rule, one of two basic formats: an ostensibly conventional plot with a twist ending, or a plot that ends predictably but is premised on some conceit that lies somewhere in the Uncanny…


If I had to justify my writing to a complete stranger (such as, for example, a heckler on the Internet), my first reaction would probably be that it doesn’t need to be justified. It exists because I wrote it and I had to put it somewhere. And what good is writing something that you intend to be read if nobody ever reads it?

But I guess that’s the crux of the issue, that I intend my writing to be read by somebody. The gall, amirite!? …


[This essay was funded through Patreon under the ZEAL project. ZEAL aims to provide high quality criticism of rarely discussed games and comics, and showcase the talents of exciting new writers and artists. For details and information on how to donate, please check out our Patreon.]

The story, as I remember it, is as follows; soon after I was born, I went, along with my parents and older sister, to visit extended family in the former Yugoslavia. It was right after the war, and I was about one year old. …

Peter Z Grimm

Peter Grimm’s writing interests are in radical social/cultural critique. He tweets @The_Slavsquatch.

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