July Roundup: Denouement

After the end, there’s always the hope of a quiet, calm, and collected cool down. Time enough to settle into a cafe up the street, get a favorite drink, and get ready to bask in the atmosphere, joy, and camaraderie of the Blogs of the Round Table.

With the Denouement of July coming and going so quickly, August’s early days caught me flatfooted. (Sorry Mark.) Though, hopefully for most of you, the closing of July’s main events bring forth some peace. Failing that, hopefully these pieces from this excellent stable of writing serves you well coming into this month.

Ben Kuchera

The $5,000 decision to get rid of my past

We aren’t always who we used to be. Sometimes, the persons we become still have fond memories of the persons we were then, and the associated memories become something like scars, still bleeding into the bandages we build over them. Ben Kuchera, on Polygon, brings up a story of an old scar that healed slowly.

Read it now


Game Exhibition


Game Exhibition stops to mull over the motivation of Ryo Hazuki, the young man who will stop at nothing to find and stop his father’s killer, and how this ongoing quest presents something of a stunted perspective for the player, in both how Ryo examines the world, and how the world continues to spin while Ryo whiles away the days hunting his father’s killer. What happens after, and why, is anyone’s guess.

Read it now


C. T. Casberg

The Great Equalizer: Death in PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds

We don’t know what comes after. To borrow a beautiful phrase from the C.T. Casberg themselves: Whatever lies on the other side of that curious curtain we call death, modernity is still helplessly unsure. Science has yet to produce a telescope that sees so far. That finality, among games, is illustrated no better than in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, a game whose central premise involves a million deaths, and each is crushingly final.

Read it now


Rob Haines

Pyreflies in the Tower

Note: Article contains spoilers for Stephen King’s Dark Tower, and the games Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy X-2.

Even when everyone does everything right, sometimes things can end badly. Some stories were crafted to end where the journey leads them, even if it’s a journey or ending that come at great, even narratively unfulfilling, costs. Rob Haines takes a look at games which could—or arguably should—have ended without a happy ending.

Read it now

Seth Tomko

Denouement in Video Games

Seth Tomko explores how games struggle to marry narrative and mechanics, particularly where climax and denouement are concerned, and offers examples from Diablo III, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. The challenges present are not insurmountable though, and sometimes take interesting forms. Technical understanding of how things are is still worth exploring.

Read it now

Damien Stewart


Interwhatever and Damien Stewart bring us along the coexisting timelines of games. How games run us through parallel realities in which we act out successes and failures in real time, making and unmaking decisions until there is a second timeline, one that completes the challenges of the game all the way through in an unbroken string of successes. Because of this, Stewart argues, games exist locked in perpetual Denouement, waiting for a pre-made resolution that the player needs to walk through until it’s achieved.

Read it now

Even the afterparty must eventually close up shop, sweep up the empties, pass the pizza boxes along to the great dumpster beyond, and hit the lights on the way out. So too for this month’s Blogs of the Round Table. But fret not. Though my party has closed up shop, I have it on good intel that Mark Filipowich is planning a new one soon, so keep an eye out for your invitation.

And, as always, there’s an ongoing get-together here at Critical Distance. We’re constantly eager to share with you more games criticism where we can, so don’t forget to follow us on Twitter or send us an email if you find something you’d like to bring to our attention. Likewise, consider helping us fund expansion into other projects by supporting us with a monthly Patreon contribution or a one-time Paypal donation. Thank you so much, and see you next month!