Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

This week’s games criticism offers insights with implications that go far beyond game design, touching on how we imagine ourselves, our models of morality,  and how we organize our arguments and ideologies. Plus, critics offer some much-needed clarity on some of the controversies that have engulfed online discourse in recent weeks.


From “capital-g Gamer” grossness to theories of creativity, four critics address questions about how good work gets made, and what causes things to get muddled.

“Where Saito portrays the creative process as a soliloquy, Kim portrays it as a dialectic. No action a player can ever take in a video game exists in isolation, because the player alone is incapable of supplying meaning to their own experiences. For this, they require a much larger context in which their actions are made sense of – rules and narrative and goals and a logic that will hold the player’s world together.”


Three pieces examine the narrative styles of games, particularly looking at the question of whether a game seems to be aware of its own context.

“When I stop and look across the increasingly vast areas of human life that fandom is so quick to label “grimdark,” I recognize something unsettlingly familiar. I see a list of all the things that the authority figures in my white, suburban, Evangelical upbringing taught us that only happen to sinful people”


In criticism with an eye on history, Wolfenstein continues to generate interesting discussion – but games with their own complex origin stories have also inspired critics to examine media in new ways.

“we can begin to understand the nature of the monster we must fight, not just in games but in the rest of our not-OK reality. It’s never just one thing, one ephemeral anomaly that disrupts an acceptable status quo. It contains myriad forms”


Business models have been under scrutiny in games of late; these two pieces add some texture to a discussion that can quickly become very repetitive.

“If, as Rowan Kaiser has argued, the old fantasy was about having power, the new fantasy is about accumulating power. The old power fantasy was invincibility codes and infinite ammo. The new power fantasy is the feeling that you’ve earned your success by your hard work alone.”


Critical Distance is community-supported. Our readers support us from as little as one dollar a month. Would you consider joining them?


Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!