This week’s critical writing on games sheds light on the different cultural contexts that influence how games are received – from the problems that arise when showing art games in commercial environments, to how we can process our painful history through interactive media.


Two critics reconsider the discourse that has been generated around particular retro games.

  • Everything but the Clouds | Vimeo (video: captions)
    Patrick LeMieux has investigated Super Mario Clouds, discovering that there is some misdirection at work in the artist’s statements about how the ROM hack was achieved, and gives some ideas about how that might change the way we interpret the piece.
  • Bird Week | Something in the Direction of Exhibition 
    Vincent K. pulls back towards the end of this examination of an old game, and considers how design and discourse seem to have made little progress when it comes to naturism and competition in games.

“By offering us an alternate image that privileges harmony above struggle, the game throws into question the latter understanding and compels us to acknowledge how such understandings are informed by the context in which they were first created.”

Difficult games

The difficulty of creating healthy contexts for artistic appreciation of games has been a topic of discussion this week.


Three writers look at the aesthetic and social impact of design techniques used in virtual spaces in which a player-avatar can wander.

Fallout 4 carries an air of melancholy by juxtaposing the gritty post-apocalyptic setting with the mundane scenarios these skeletons convey.”

The New Colossus

The latest Wolfenstein game continues to generate discussion – this week, writers are particularly interested in the body.

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is about the ultimate fragility of two types of bodies that underpin Western values: the male adult and the liberal state. Each is a conceptual object that we expect to function perfectly—right up to the moment that they break down completely when confronted with something they were never built to deal with. The New Colossus is interested in what it would take for either of these to fall apart.”

Conflicted past

In more writing that looks at gaming’s relationship to the history and contemporary state of racism, three pieces consider games that portray the past.

“Instead of stripping the burnt black cork from the minstrel and presenting a clean white face, while still singing like Calloway or Armstrong or Waller, modern media that seeks to borrow from America’s conflicted past should do so in a way that reckons with what that past tells us about ourselves.”

What binds everything

These four pieces look at open-world, tabletop, and live-action game dynamics; three of them, with a particular focus on how they can be used to challenge white supremacy or patriarchal behaviours.

“Lead designer and co-founder Carlos Gómez Quintana has said his interest in the Mexica derives from an early encounter with Gary Jennings’ Aztec, a flawed text rife with noble savagery. This is really what binds everything in Dragons Conquer America together.”



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