This week as I read games blogging from around the web, I’m thinking about how games criticism reflects the many uses of software as tools and contexts for cultural practices.  A game can be like a pair of shoes that you slip on in order to try out a new role or mode of being.


Walking back hundreds of years, critics trace the roots of gaming as a practice and a literary form in their comparisons with European history.

“It is frightening to see that game burning preceded book burning and that in both cases it was not the medium that was intended to be destroyed but a cultural practice and a practicing group.”


Looking for a challenge? Other writers consider what it takes to be sporting in a digital duel, weighing game balance against cultural context.

“Dark Souls […] is cursed by its projection of a sense of difficulty, despite how it mitigates that conceit through a robust system of player co-operation and in-game messages, and which fans gleefully diffuse through community wikis, online conversation and ten thousand or so Top Tips listicles. While this sense of difficulty is on the most part a fabrication—an aspect of its social fiction—it is pivotal to its allure as a cultural text.”


Taking things at a slower pace, our fleeting connections to others are remembered with homely affection.

“The game embraces how exhausting and evolving grief can be. It removes any shame from talking about death through the lenses of those left behind.”


The shoes we wear are class markers, portraying to others and even to ourselves what activities we are equipped to undertake and where our competencies may lie.

“Both men are fundamentally defined by their self-assurance and faith in their abilities. To knock out a man, put on his clothes, and walk into a crowd of his compatriots unnoticed requires ice water for blood. Hitman communicates this personality trait with 47’s walk, a no-nonsense, broad-shouldered stride that gives off the message that he belongs here — wherever here happens to be.”


Stepping into the workshop, these interviews with creators help us to make sense of what best equips people to write about and design games effectively.

Pandemic‘s peculiar theme makes its success particularly fascinating. It seems counterintuitive that anyone would want to play a game about a world slowly turning yellow and black with infection. But such an assumption overlooks the fact that Pandemic is about saving the world from a disease outbreak – and that’s a crucial distinction.”


And finally, it’s time for a little more focus on visual design, from drawing beautiful pathways to communicating with symbols.

“The story of this domination is, as with everything else in Hidetaka Miyazaki’s singular art, told elliptically and symbolically. It would be easy to miss altogether if you were solely focused on surviving. But this speaks to one of the qualities that distinguishes Dark Souls III, even from its venerable predecessors: the visual detail now conveys as much to the attentive eye as the series’ famous item descriptions always have to the curious mind.”

That’s all for this week! We’ve had a lot more going on here this week than just the roundup, and all of it is supported by our readers. Please check out the links below for more, and consider joining our supporters on Patreon. I appreciate it enormously.