Welcome back to Postgame, Sidequest’s monthly, formerly Patreon-exclusive podcast, where the editors lay down hot takes on cold games. This month, Melissa, Zora, Zainabb, and Naseem have taken a book club-style approach to A Bewitching Revolution, a short game by Colestia in which you play a witch inspiring a city to cast off capitalism and embrace mutual aid.
Mistakes: Melissa realized she said “Sylvia Frederici” instead of “Federici” through the whole episode. Please note that she has already atoned by cringing through the entire editing process and there is no further need to correct her.
Timestamps and topics:
- Nothing but A Bewitching Revolution! Expect spoilers throughout.
Pieces we mentioned:
- Against Wholesomeness by Matteo Lupetti
- Shaping a warm welcome for wholesome games by Rebekah Valentine
- why is cottagecore so gay? by Rowan Ellis
- Project Horseshoe on Cozy Games
- Subtlety is Dead: Communism and ‘A Bewitching Revolution’ by let’s talk about stuff.
- Witchcraft, Gender, & Marxism by Philosophy Tube
- Not Mad, Just Disappointed: Animal Crossing’s Fantasy Capitalism Fails to Imagine a Better World by Melissa Brinks
Pieces we didn’t mention but you might like:
Theme music is Bass Thee by Alexander Nakarada, used under Creative Commons 0.
Naseem Jamnia: I also want to add, because you brought up the barbarism—and I want to talk about this later, but Marxism very famously does not consider things outside of class, like race. And that’s something I kept thinking about when I was playing this, that this is definitely lacking. And barbarism specifically has been wielded against people of color. I mean, as far back as the Greeks calling my people barbaric.
Zainabb Hull: Literally—oh my god, thank you, Naseem!
Naseem: Right, I know! I wrote on here, like, “Zainabb, let’s talk about post colonialism,” because I was just like, there’s a lot of kind of post-colonial thought about Marxism. And I was thinking about that a lot while I was playing this game. And I don’t think that’s necessarily like a criticism of this game, because I think this game, in not a bad way was trying to be reductionistic, because of what it was trying to accomplish.
Zora Gilbert: In 40 minutes.
Naseem: Right. Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it kind of goes with the aesthetics as well, and I get it. This is complicated, this is meaty.
Zainabb: I think on the barbarism point, I was literally gonna say the same thing about like—it’s a slur that has been used against, essentially, non-western people, since, as you say, ancient Greece, right? And I understand that’s not the point that’s being made. But for me, I also felt fully, like the whole time, and I’m sure we’re getting more into it later, but the whole time, I was like, but this is not centering the most marginalized people. I feel like… you know, I really enjoyed the game. And I got a lot of joy out of this simplified process of mutual aid and all of that sort of stuff. You do things like you pick apples from a tree, and it fills up a communal food bowl. And you help homeless people take over empty homes and things like that. And being able to do that within an hour is cathartic. It’s enjoyable. But I felt excluded from this idea of community and revolution. I felt very much like this is a game that is centering people who already have a lot of power in our society, i.e. white people, abled people. It doesn’t really deal with queer people and trans people. It touches on gender a little bit in terms of gendered work. So things like housekeeping and reproductive work. And it touches on elder care and incarceration. But outside of those three things, it just doesn’t account for anybody else. And given that it’s those people who aren’t being centered who are leading actual revolutionary ways of living in the west, and in the global south, I think that line, the barbarism line, just highlighted who’s being centered in this particular story.
Melissa Brinks: And I think even the game’s aesthetics feed into that—the fact that everybody in this game is either not visible, such as the witch of the city, the character that you play, or is sort of a nondescript gray blue rectangle. I see the choice there as—the choice to do that—as representative of like multiple different things, right? They are trying to talk specifically about class exploitation. But I don’t think you can have a discussion about class exploitation without also talking about race and gender and sexual identity and those kinds of things. I understand, again, as we’ve talked about, the idea of reducing it to its simplest form and having this like, “We’re having this discussion now in this 40 minute game.” But that is also coming from—I mean, I don’t know the demographics of Colestia, who created—I think Colestia is their name?
Naseem: Yeah, I think they use he/him pronouns. They’re from Australia. I did look that up. Which—you know, indigenous people in Australia, that’s also a settler-colonial state, right? So, you know, I was thinking about that kind of stuff, too.
Melissa: Yeah. I don’t know his particular situation or life experience or anything like that. But I do think that the ability to not think about those issues or to consider them secondary, or not key to the conversation, is a manifestation of privilege. And even though I agree with the aims of this game and that kind of thing, it is missing that dimension. And that is worth remarking on even as I like the game and I largely enjoy and would recommend it.
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Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.