This month’s cover story is by Phillip Russell and is a powerful read about the portrayal of Blackness in The Last of Us. The story speaks for itself.
I do want to talk for a second about Chris Kindred’s amazing cover art. When trying to think of an artist to commission for the cover, everyone involved in the conversation thought of Chris first. When they turned in the sketch, they said this:
“I had more options to send, but I feel strongly about this idea in particular. It’d [be a] lovingly rendered image of Sam’s robot seen through a cracked door, as abandoned and forgotten as the potential of the Black characters in the series.”
I bring this up because my approach to cover art, I like to think, is without preconceived notions (pretty white of me, I know). Find an artist whose vibe fits, trust them to do their thing. I rarely interject with art direction. But Chris’ angle legitimately surprised me and got to the heart of Phillip’s story in a way I did not expect. This is an excellent example of the importance of having diverse perspectives (as in, those other than my white cis-male perspective). Chris’ talents and insight reminded me of that value and delivered a perfect cover to boot.
Violet Adele Bloch delivers the second feature, on abuse and game design. Her story is also powerful and doesn’t need me to speak for it.
In the columns, Noah Springer serves up a new set of hip hop recommendations. Oluwatayo Adewole lets out an existential wail, then continues their world tour with the Ghanaian film The Burial of Kojo. Amanda Hudgins looks at how real life niche interests enrich some fanfiction. Diego Nicolás Argüello ruminates on youthful rebellion and Deadly Class. Declan Taggart examines the nostalgia at the heart of Family.
Deirdre Coyle appreciates Geralt’s horse, Roach. Melissa King appreciates Isabelle from Animal Crossing. Ben Sailer tours the hellscape of Twitter. Matt Marrone is both there and not there for a gunfight in his neighborhood. Yussef Cole looks at the unusual way the sense of tragedy drains away in Hollow Knight. Sara Clemens waxes poetic about Remnant: From the Ashes and betrayal (accidentally visited upon them by yours truly).
Autumn Wright ponders the act of returning and Night in the Woods. Justin Reeve looks a repurposed architecture in Metro Exodus. Rob Rich remembers the isolation and dread of Duskers. Adam Boffa examines Lichenia‘s ecological approach to city building.
Finally, I talk to Chris Kindred for our artist spotlight and look at the forthcoming RPG Project Witchstone for our sponsored feature. Oh, and I also started a new podcast, with Ed Coleman, in which we listen to and discuss every album of Iron Maiden’s discography, one side at a time.
I talk a lot in these letters about how themes sometimes crop up organically. This month, everyone seems to be on edge, with low key anxiety jangling even in the more light hearted stories (for good reason, given the state of current events). It might be good to read this issue across several sittings.
Be well out there. We’ll be back shortly with Exploits, on October 1.
Kearny, New Jersey
September 21, 2020