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I’ve never seen my Twitter feed so collectively freak out over a male character in a game than when Capcom released Ryu’s alternate design for Street Fighter V. For all the conversation about Quiet’s absurd outfit in Metal Gear Solid V, the character—and moment—I keep coming back to is what some have dubbed “Hot Ryu.” Maddy Myers keenly points out how the reaction to Ryu is different than, say, the design of a new Dead or Alive fighter. The “hotness” of “Hot Ryu” has more to do with audience projecting it on him than designer intent.

“Hot Ryu” changed all of that. When the “Hot Ryu” meme began, inspired by little more than Ryu’s new beard design, entries in the meme focused on personifying and humanizing Ryu. The people who participated in this meme did not zoom in on shots of Ryu’s muscles and post the word “abs” over and over, although many references to his physicality did occur; the crux of the meme was about Ryu participating in an imagined relationship with someone, in both a sexual and an emotional sense.

Almost instantly, “Hot Ryu” became a “boyfriend” character. It wasn’t just that people thought his beard was cute – although, they sure did – it was that he instantly got personified in a particular way. His physical appearance became secondary to the meme almost instantly, in spite of being the element that had theoretically kicked it off. I would guess that this is due to the fact that women and queer people already are used to framing “personality” as core to “sexiness.” (Refer to Garrus, once more.) The meme became less of a celebration of Ryu’s beard in particular, and more about a rallying call for the idea of a “sexy videogame man,” and what that fantasy might entail.

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Sometimes, when we say we’re “addicted” to a game, what we mean is how we “can’t get it out of our heads.” That’s how I feel about Metal Gear right now. I keep running simulations about how I could have approached a mission differently or what I might change when I’m surprised the next time. I’m playing Metal Gear without playing Metal Gear. That’s happened to me with Bloodborne, Dark Souls, Spelunky, and a few others over the last few years. It’s a rare occurrence, but one that, as Javy Gwaltney points out, points to a game that’s leapt beyond the screen and become part of our lives. That’s special.

It’s half past noon. The two of us are eating burritos and half watching 30 Rock.

“We should cut through the ice caves,” my girlfriend says suddenly. “We can kill a shopkeeper with one of the landmines and steal his stuff. We might nab a jetpack.”

“But what about Olmec? Won’t he be summoning his little bastard henchmen if we don’t start from the beginning?”

“Oh yeah. We could handle that if we got enough bombs along the way, maybe.”

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Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Riley Macleod contemplated male figures present in stealth games.
  • Shy Mintz reflected on her time as a professional cosplayer for Konami.
  • Chris Casberg analyzed how Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture helped reveal the worst in people.
  • Alexander Kriss examined the economic theories embedded in Wario.
  • Stuart Arias argued Fingered is a game that only pretends it has something to say.
  • Rob Remakes pushed back on the indiepocalypse narrative currently making the rounds.
  • Lana Polansky outlined a new way of thinking about the narrative dissonance in games.
  • An anonymous developer lamented the homogenization of modern AAA games.

You can reach the author of this post at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.