It’s time for our year-end mega-roundup of games criticism! The purpose of this feature is to create a representative snapshot of the year, curated from the links we shared. I have been doing this for several years, and every time I have approached the task, it wasn’t until I went through our archives that I was able to bring the year and its myriad discussions into focus.
Understanding 2017 needed no such effort. The violence against truth, knowledge and wisdom intruded into our lives on a daily basis. We are a site dedicated to spreading what pieces of truth, intelligence and wisdom on the medium of games as we can gather. The powers that be in 2017 seemed to be against those ideals.
Katherine Cross perfectly illuminated the constant and continuous attacks that truth suffered throughout the year. How can one resist and keep one’s head, in an environment where one doesn’t know what information is genuine, and what sources are spammed with hatred and bile? She answers with sincerity, honestly, and through the promotion of truth, avoiding knocking down falsehoods and thereby deigning them with a sense of legitimacy.
It may not mean much in the face of the vulnerable being hurt. As I write this, Puerto Rico is still without power and its people dying, millions of children have lost their health care, families are being torn apart by an extra judicial hit squad to be rounded up without trail or recourse in detention facilities, and black men and women continue to face the stigma of guilt — to the forfeiture of their lives — for the sin of existing in the eyes of the police and the status quo enamored society at large.
In the face of all that real, physical harm being done, worrying about truth can feel so ignoble. Further, talking about video games in this tiny sphere we deal in feels even more so. Yet, this is the platform I have. It may be flicking peas in a hurricane in the grand scheme of things, but on truth I shall not bend. I dedicate the 2017 edition of This Year In Video Game Blogging in the name of truth and the spread of whatever wisdom that may be gleaned.
Critical Video Game Criticism
From examinations of Nazi killing to the lies of our own mythmaking to the reexaminations of works past, the games themselves has always been the forefront of the medium’s criticism. Whether that that lens be focused inwards to the work’s interior meaning, or directed outwards to the context of the contemporary world.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- Wolfenstein II: a good argument for games to get political | Gamasutra – Bryant Francis
Bryan Francis hopes developers will copy Wolfenstein II‘s methods of being a purposeful political entity the same way many hope developers would copy the Nemesis system.
- Wolfenstein 2 and Mending Broken Things | brkeogh – Brendan Keogh
The “things” in this case are people. Brendan says that The New Colossus doesn’t have a strong message, but gives form to a range of emotions felt in the current climate and acts as a call to action.
- I’m Glad Wolfenstein 2 Didn’t Let Me Fight Hitler | New Normative – Nic Reuben
Nic Reuben is happy that the game portrays Hitler not as some Übermensch, but as a decrepit, deranged, old man, denied the heroic death demanded of fascist ideology, undercutting its power.
- Why it feels wonderful to be German while Wolfenstein is alive and fantastic | Video Game Tourism – Pasal Wagner
Pascal Wagner grew up in Germany and learned the horrors his country committed. In Wolfenstein II he finds a release valve, a kind of therapy.
Middle Earth: Shadow of War
- Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is at war with itself over slavery | Polygon – Cameron Kunzelman
Cameron finds that Shadow of War wants desperately to be about something, but puts in no more effort than set dressing. It says nothing, overpowered as it is by “frictionless fun.”
- The Orcs of ‘Shadow of War’ Face a Fate Worse Than Death | Waypoint – Cameron Kunzelman and Austin Walker
Austin Walker comes back to the Middle-Earth series to join Cameron Kunzelman in a discussion about fantasy slavery, loot boxes and existential horror engendered within.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
- Does Mass Effect: Andromeda get past old colonial ideas? Not quite | Gamasutra – Katherine Cross
Katherine Cross finds that Andromeda attempts to challenge the legacy of colonialism only replicating “a kinder, gentler form of it.” Only in escaping its fantasy can we truly critique it.
- In defense of Mass Effect: Andromeda and other messy games | Polygon – Sophia Park
Sophia Park understands that Mass Effect: Andromeda and others are messes, but takes issue with how we discuss, evaluate and ultimately dismiss them as if they had nothing to offer.
- Yokoo Tarou’s Eternal Recurrence: Transhumanism in Nier: Automata | A Fun Derangement of Epitaphs – Kastel
Kastel delves into the myriad existential ideas in Nier: Automata, as the robots and androids contend with what it means to be human.
- The Erotic Death Drive of Nier: Automata | Bullet Points Monthly – Julie Muncy
Julie Muncy centers her piece on the sexuality of the game’s characters and the symbology around it, as they cannot fully engage with the creative act, only their destructive purpose.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Breath of the Wild’s Quiet Guidance and the Lessons of the Great Plateau | Elite Review – Evan Conley
Evan Conley dissects Breath of the Wild‘s tutorial area, and how it guides the player learning how to play the game and open them up to the possibility space.
- Breath of the Wild: The Best Game Ever | YouTube – Cool Ghosts – Matt Lees
Matt Lees compares Breath of the Wild‘s design philosophy against other open worlds, and argues that it remembers what maps are, among other details that affect your head space.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
- Due Diligence: Horizon Zero Yawn | Hawywire Magazine – Leigh Harrison
Leigh Harrison likes the game, but has trouble with its story, especially in light of the annual discussion of games needing stories – some, like this one, may be improved without.
- Horizon Zero Dawn Joss Whedon and the Problem with “Strong Female Characters” | Paste Magazine – Holly Green
In the light of the public allegations against Joss Whedon, Holly Green uses Horizon Zero Dawn to say that the real strong female character is about agency, valuing them on their terms, not their ability to kick ass.
- Persona 5 deserved better: a translator’s take on a subpar script | Polygon – Molly Lee
That title pretty much covers it. Molly Lee educates her audience about what translation is and, using a few choice examples from the game, what choices the process consists of.
- Perversion Subversion – Examining Hentai Sensibility | YouTube – Extra Credits
The Extra Credits crew look at two games and see how they engage and subvert the common Japanese tropes of “perviness.” One bad example – Persona 5 – and one good example…
- The Transformative Violence of Yakuza 0 | Ploughshares at Emerson College – Patrick Larose
Patrick Larose examines the violence in Yakuza 0, finding that it may not be realistic, but has an artistic purpose in conversation with a legacy of crime fiction and actual history.
- The Empty Lot – Yakuza 0 | Heterotopias Zine – Astrid Budgor
Astrid Budgor compares the plot of the game to the real life real estate boom in Japan of that era. The empty lot around which the plot centers is a synecdoche of late capitalism, and how “it demands the subjugation of human life.”
- Pyre and Responsibility | YouTube – PostMesmeric – Alex Carlson
Alex Carlson examines how Pyre‘s liberation rites create a conflict between the character’s utility to the player and the responsibility towards desires of the characters.
- Making History with the Music of Pyre | YouTube – Game Score Fanfare – Mathew Dyason
Mathew Dyason looks over the subtleties of Pyre‘s dynamic score that alters its tunes and styles to fit the matches. He ends on how the ending song reflects your story.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Mental Health in Video Games | YouTube – HeavyEyed – Mitch Cramer
Mitch Cramer finds Hellblade “a long-overdue understanding of psychosis and those [he] knows that suffer from it.” He positions it in the current landscape of media that examine mental illness.
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice | YouTube – Critique Quest – Noa
Noa goes through various elements of Hellblade and how they all contribute to the narrative and experience of Senua’s journey.
Night in the Woods
- Night in the Woods and Nostalgia | Paste Magazine – Dante Douglas
The nostalgia that Dante Douglas speaks of is for an image of America that has passed. The factories and mines have left, taken away by the greed of old men at the expense of the towns and people that live there.
- Searching for Faith During a ‘Night in the Woods’ | Waypoint – Shonte Daniels
Shonte Daniel uses faith as a lens to examine the need of the characters in Night in the Woods to hold onto anything or anyone in the face of the crumbling city.
- Angels in America and Log Cabin Republicans: How Dream Daddy’s Joseph Reflects Gay Conservatism | Fashionable Tinfoil accessories – Vrai Kaiser
Vrai Kaiser finds Dream Daddy‘s character Joseph not to be bad representation for gay men, but reflecting reality to a scary degree, and ultimately that representation means variety.
- Dissecting The Dream Daddy Discourse | Women Write About Comics – Melissa Brinks
Melissa Brinks voices her annoyance with the language of surprise and condescension that frames the mainstream success and attention that visual novels have gained.
- Even in the Fancy Utopia of ‘Tacoma,’ Labor Politics are Still Hell | Waypoint – Dante Douglas
Dante Douglas argues that the future of Tacoma has become almost feudalistic, and writes about the game’s explorations of labor versus capital.
- Tacoma Is Immersive Theater for Completionists | Outermode – Oliver Fox
Oliver Fox frames Tacoma through the lens of theater productions like Sleep No More, and examines what the virtual version affords its audience.
What Remains of Edith Finch
- An Ode to the Cannery Level from What Remains of Edith Finch | YouTube – Super Bunnyhop – George Weidman
George Weidman feels that Edith Finch‘s cannery level should be inducted into the canon of great, studied levels, for its ability to make you relate to humiliating drudgery.
- The Villain of Edith Finch | YouTube – Joseph Anderson – Joseph Anderson
Joseph Anderson goes through What Remains of Edith Finch, then commits to a reading that the older generation’s family mythmaking facilitated the harm and deaths of the younger generations.
- 17776 | SBNation – Jon Bois
Jon Bois’ speculative sci-fi, imagining a future where everyone lives forever and variants of football occupy the world’s time, all presented as only the internet can.
- A Football Spiral Universe: What 17776 and David O’Reilly’s Everything tell us about art | ZAM – Eron Rauch
Eron Rauch sees the similarties between Jon Bois’ work and Everything through their portrayal of interconnectedness, the human need for categorization, and how that affects art.
- Cuphead and the Racist Spectre of Fleischer Animation | Unwinnable – Yussef Cole
Yussef Cole doesn’t call Cuphead racist, but is disappointed in its appropriation of Fleischer’s cartoons with no awareness, as it “offers up a bleached white past, while pretending nothing was lost in the process.”
- The Physical Glass Ceiling: When The Git Gud Mentality Turns Ableist | Paste Magazine – Holly Green
Likewise, Holly Green doesn’t call Cuphead ableist, but calls out the limited viewpoint that excludes others and abuses those who may not be able to play and enjoy these games.
Other 2017 Releases
- Rock, Paper, Guard Breaks: a Mechanics Deep Dive Into For Honor | Gamasutra – Wesley Rockholz
Wesley Rockholz explains the construction of For Honor and the particular balance problem: “where predictability should be punished, predictable defensive play is unpunishable.”
- Why PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ violence is Important | YouTube – Writing on Games – Hamish Black
Hamish Black explains the emotions and headspace PUBG engenders through the swiftness and omnipresence of its violence.
- Watching History Fade Away in ‘Call of Duty: WWII’ | Waypoint – Rob Zacny
In the face of family members that served through it, Rob Zacny sees the latest Call of Duty failing their generation, as it doesn’t reflect the Second World War or the realities of people who lived it.
- ‘Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ Draws from the Real-Life Cartel War | Waypoint – Robert Rath
Robert Rath details the real world facts of the cartel war and how they are reflected in Wildlands. He goes on to point out the game’s support of Washington’s controversial and dysfunctional Kingpin Strategy, as well as the responsibility of fiction in educating and valorizing.
- A Game About Syrian Refugees and WhatsApp | Waypoint – Chris Priestman
Chris Priestman examines Bury Me, My Love, and how it portrays the refugee’s experience, one where loved ones are still in danger, and where all you can do is text and wait.
- Reaching out towards the past in Assassin’s Creed: Origins | Eurogamer – Gareth Damian Martin
The Assassin’s Creed games were always at their best when recreating long ago milieus; Gareth Damian Martin find Origins to be no different, when flying high above the ancient architecture as the eagle Senu.
- The Endless Light and Hunger of Cities in Games | Waypoint – Chris Priestman
Chris Priestman uses games like Gravity Rush 2, Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor and NaissancE as metaphors, to explore the idea of cities as living things that expand of their own volition.
- An Ornament in the Void – Prey | Heterotopias Zine – Gareth Damian Martin
Editor-in-chief Gareth Damian Martin explores how Galina Balashov, interior designer of space stations and space craft, influenced Prey‘s Talos I as a shift away from previous trends.
- The New Flesh – Observer | Heterotopias Zine – Astrid Budgor
Astrid Budgor finds that in not fetishizing the cyberpunk milieu, Observer manages to remain true to the themes of the genre in a modern context.
- How ‘Resident Evil’ Finally Lived Up to Its Title | Outside Your Heaven – Matthew Weise
For Matthew Weise, Resident Evil VII‘s strength is in how it manages to be terrifying, moody and restrained for so long. It ultimately disappoints, but he wishes more games disappointed like this.
- How AM2R and Samus Returns remade Metroid 2 – Game Maker’s Toolkit | YouTube – Mark Brown – Mark Brown
Mark Brown compares Metroid 2‘s two modern remakes and how they change it into the mold of Metroid and Super Metroid in the name of “fixing it” making it lose its own original identity.
- In Defense of Yooka-Laylee | YouTube – KingK – Daniel McElhone
Daniel McElhone “H. Bomberguy-s this joint” by recognizing the game has problems, but takes issue with many of the complaints and how they seem based in a misunderstanding of the genre as a whole.
- Destiny 2: The Kotaku Review | Kotaku – Kirk Hamilton
By fanfic-ing the experiences of a number of types of Destiny players, Kirk Hamilton explains the many different draws Bungie’s game has, and the many things that may tire out those same players on it.
- The New ‘Need for Speed’ Sees a Future Where Loot Boxes Are in Control | Waypoint – Austin Walker
Austin Walker sees the Fast and the Furious fantasy the game advertizes, but in his time playing it found the bigger draw to be the feeling of the casino, and the need for one more pull of the lever.
- Subnautica is Terrifying | YouTube – Ninox – Tyler
Tyler tells his story of his time on the ocean world of Subnautica, and of using it to confront, not always successfully, his fears of the deep.
- Video Game Tries To Tackle Gang Violence In Chicago, Fails | Kotaku – Gita Jackson
Gita Jackson asserts that We Are Chicago fails to present the reality of black life in poverty, pointing to education as a cure-all, but never examining the systemic roadblocks to it.
- What Remains of the Body in A Mortician’s Tale | Ploughshares At Emerson College – Patrick Larose
Patrick Larose sees grief in A Mortician’s Tale through the routine of preparing bodies for those who need to say goodbye, and describes how the game portrays different ways people do so.
- Deus Ex (Spoilers) | YouTube – Errant Signal – Christopher Franklin
Chris Franklin views the conspiracy-theory-laden Deus Ex through very different eyes in 2017; while much of the material remains relevant, it’s presentation feels so very dated.
- I’m But a Tool of Totalitarian Capitalism in ‘Beholder’ | PopMatters – Nick Dinicola
While ostensibly about being in a totalitarian communist state, Nick Dinicola finds that, in Beholder, he ultimately becomes a totalitarian capitalist, because everything take money to do.
- Crime and Punishment in Prison Architect and Democracy 3 | Games That Exist – Alex Pieschel
Alex Pieschel criticizes both games as framing crime through their system as a pathology inherent to certain communities, rather than an output or an effect of their circumstances.
- Opened World: Complacent Politics | Haywire Magazine – Miguel Penabella
Miguel Penabella criticizes Assassin’s Creed: Liberation for its dubious message of addressing racial politics, as it puts the emphasis of individual action at the expense of systemic change and those that fight for it.
- Tyranny and the Language of Power | YouTube – Noah Caldwell-Gervais – Noah Caldwell-Gervais
Noah Caldwell-Gervais explains how Tyranny portrays the way that existing in an oppressive regime insidiously alters the way you think and behave, closing off resistance by bringing you over subtly, and the difficulty in properly resisting.
- Choosing the impossible: Did BioShock define the last 10 years of video games? | AV/Gameological – Matt Geradi, Sam Darsanti, William Hughes, and Clayton Purdom
A group of writers look back on the 10-year-old BioShock and the influence it has had on the gaming landscape over that time.
- Spec Ops: The Line…5 Years Later | YouTube – Raycevick – Lucas Raycevick
Raycevick looks back on Spec Ops: The Line and finds that it holds up superbly well, in his in-depth examination of the details of its mechanics and narrative. Mutliplayer not so much.
- The First Few Lines of Final Fantasy VII Are A Little Different In Japanese | Kotaku – Tim Rogers
Tim Rogers goes back to Final Fantasy VII, 20 years on, this time playing the game in both languages to analyze the little differences in meaning and nuance.
- Yoko Taro: Weird feelings for weird people | Medium – ZEAL – Ruben Ferdinand
Ruben Ferdinand looks back on Yoko Taro’s pre-Nier: Automata games, analyzing their style, thematic direction and emotional writing.
- Ico | Something in the Direction of Exhibition – Vincent Kinian
Vincent Kinian, before looking at the game itself, examines the concept of “games as art” and what that means for the ur-example, Ico, as it’s used in that construction.
- The Last Guardian and the Language of Games – Game Maker’s Toolkit | YouTube – Mark Brown – Mark Brown
Mark Brown explains how Fumito Ueda understands that games speak loudest through their design, and uses The Last Guardian story moments to demonstrate this.
- Why Does Everyone Hate Mercy? | Medium – Apple Cider – Nico
Apple Cider explores the titular question, seeing it as more than just mechanical entitlement, but with sociological components: healing is framed as a feminine activity, and therefore “lesser.”
- In Defense of Dark Souls 2 | YouTube – Hbomberguy – Harry Brewis
Harry Brewis finds plenty of interesting things about Dark Souls 2 in its health mechanics, combat encounters, level design, and narrative, and even coins the term “play conditioning.”
- Superposition: The Genre of Life is Strange | YouTube – Innudendo Studios – Ian Danskin
Ian Danskin explains the warring genres of Bildungsroman and Lynchian psycho-drama that exist within Life is Strange and how they inform the final choice and your personal reading of the game.
- Full Throttle Scenery Studies | 304 – Ben Chandler
Game artist Ben Chandler examines various screens in Full Throttle, regarding the mise-en-scène and other art elements – this started on twitter, and was then collected into a PDF.
- Tales from the Borderlands: The Oral History | Campo Santo Quarterly Review – Duncan Fyfe
Duncan Fyfe interviewed most of the major creative talent from Tales from the Borderlands to uncover behind-the-scenes stories and decision making.
Whether focusing on the concepts of interactivity, the direction of new technologies or debates on the strengths and weakness of the medium, some criticism is more interested in concepts over singular works.
- Queering The Controller | Analog Game Studies – Miguel Sicart
Miguel Sicart examines various controller alternatives designed and created specifically to facilitate queer and erotic play through tactile engagement.
- The Quest To Make A Better Video Game Controller | Kotaku – Kirk Hamilton
Kirk Hamilton looks at attempts by several manufactures to perfect the existing base design through numerous tweaks.
- Rethinking ‘Interactivity’ | Gamasutra – Taekwan Kim
Taekwan Kim begins by explaining the common fallacy we build up regarding player agency’s relation to gameplay and interactivity. He goes on to dismantle that notion and get at the underpinning constructs as things with their own dialectical arcs.
- Illusion of choice is better than choice: choices and illusions as narrative mechanics | Gamasutra – Barisbi Alborov
Barisbi Alborov understands that the feeling of agency is key and explores the question of whether that can be better achieved through actual choices or the illusion of choice.
- Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged? | First Person Scholar – John S. Ehrett
John Ehrett examines League of Legend‘s community regulation systems and their shift, along with other MOBA’s, to provably less successful “Big Data” solutions to community management.
- Consent systems | Raph Koster’s Website – Raph Koster
In light of the rise of VR, Raph Koster details the need for systems allowing players to give or withhold consent, and the numerous still-relevant solutions he and his teams came up with decades ago.
- Virtual Atrocities | Real Life Magazine – Linda Kinstler
Linda Kinstler examines the use of VR to create environments to simulate the atrocities of the Holocaust in order to impart understanding. It also examines the moral burden of the idea, as both the gamification of atrocity and the witnessing of suffering from a detached distance.
- “If you walk in someone else’s shoes, then you’ve taken their shoes”: empathy machines as appropriation machines | Radiator Design Blog – Robert Yang
To quote Robert Yang, “VR empathy machines are just VR Appropriation machines. They are fundamentally about mining the experiences of suffering people to enrich the self-image of VR users… or, even worse[…] to enrich the cultural appeal of VR brands?”
- Can Games Handle Multiple Perspectives? | YouTube – Cagey Videos – Kevin John
Kevin John does a survey of games that have you play multiple characters, and the trends of how games utilize such an idea.
- How Game Designers Protect Players From Themselves – Game Maker’s Toolkit | YouTube – Mark Brown – Mark Brown
Mark Brown explains numerous systems across many games that either encourage or punish certain play behaviors, pushing players towards the designer’s intended experience.
- Black Skin Is Still A Radical Concept in Video Games | Waypoint – Yussef Cole and Tanya DePass
Yussef Cole and Tanya DePass explain that most games are not technically equipped to display black skin properly, comparing these challenges to early Kodak film and the work involved in creating the movie Moonlight.
Bogost, Games and Stories
- A Dream of Embodies Experience: On Ian Bogost, Epistemological Gatekeeping, and the Holodeck | Not Your Mama’s Gamer – Bianca Batti and Alisha Karabinus
Responding to an argument made by Ian Bogost about games and stories, Bianca Batti and Alisha Karabinus approach it from the angle of patriarchal exclusion, arguing that it dictates a hierarchy that doesn’t reflect the medium’s creative output.
- Narrative Isn’t The End, But A Means To Reach It | No Coast Gaming – Emma Anderson
Emma Anderson asserts that Bogost’s assertion is sort of irrelevant, as storytelling has evolved beyond simple engagement with plot. A work’s most important aspect may not be the series of chronological events.
- In The Shadow of the Holodeck | Medium – Charles J Pratt
Instead of outright denouncing Bogost’s assertion, Charles Pratt explains the context in which much of his piece are written; a ‘debate that never happened’ over a decade ago.
Bad At Images?
- Are Videogames Bad at Images? | Medium – Zolani Stewart
Zolani Stewart asks the titular question not as an inherent quality, but one of prioritization. As a culture, video games lack visual literacy as a method of communicating ideas.
- Bad Images | Medium – Midboss (Em)
Emilie Reed also sees an issue with bad images in games, and offers a recalibration: incorporating pattern into our understanding of video game aesthetics, as they are historically more important to the medium, and as important a source of beauty as the image frame. (Editor note: earlier in the year, Em worked with us on Visual Essay Jam, a proactive intervention into visual literacy in games criticism.)
- The Art of Nothing: A Look at Negative Space within Videogames | Medium – Amr Al-Aaser
Several months prior to Zolani’s piece, Amr Al-Aaser explained the artistic use of negative space, and argues that by using this thinking with regards to video games we can better understand them.
Video games do not exist within a vacuum. They exist within the confines of the arena that produces them. From government policies to monetization to platforms and more, it is the industry from which video games are born as they are in all their attributes.
- How closing borders kills understanding, and censors art | Gamasutra – Brandon Sheffield
In response to the American government’s Muslim ban, Brandon Sheffield calls out the effect it will have, by closing those cultures off from the larger creative community and burning bridges.
- Game Deveopers Speak Up in the Face of Obamacare Repeal | Waypoint – Joseph Knoop
In the face of the determination of the Republicans to repeal Obamacare, Joseph Knoop tells stories of developers saved through treatment afforded by the ACA and the effects should it be repealed.
- Undocumented Immigrants Describe Life Under DACA, and How Games Helped Them | Waypoint – Patrick Klepek
In the light of the administration’s dissolution of DACA and ICE thugs, Patrick Klepek reports on those who lived under the saving grace of the act and how they used video games for self-care from the stress.
- Are loot boxes gambling? | Eurogamer – Vic Hood
That’s not Vic Hood asking, that’s the question asked by governments and industry advocacy groups to less-than-satisfactory answers.
- The Origin of Loot Boxes and why they are a Form of Gambling | Gamasutra – Josh Bycer
Josh Bycer ignores the distracting details of the debate and cuts to the core of the loot box design, which is by definition a form of gambling.
- Loot Boxes Are Designed To Exploit Us | Kotaku – Heather Alexandra
Heather Alexandra pulls out the research of B.F. Skinner, to explain that inherently, loot boxes are there to exploit our psychology, regardless of whether or not they affect gameplay.
- The debate over microtranscations isn’t really about money at all | ZAM – Eron Rauch
In the face of the new loot box menace, Eron Rauch takes us to East Asia, which has dealt with them for far longer, as well as the games outside the hardcore that made the practices common. Yet, in the end, Rauch laments how our conversation is dominated by talk of money and parameters defined by marketing teams.
- Why I worship crunch: An industry veteran tackles a controversial subject | Polygon – Walt Williams
This is an except from Walt Williams’ book Significant Zero. In it he discusses the seductive hold that overwork has on certain creative types drawn to the industry, and the damaging effects he submitted himself to rapturously.
- Crunch Culture Is Never Just About Individual Choice | Waypoint – Cameron Kunzelman
In response to Walt Williams’ excerpt, Cameron Kunzelman takes issue with its framing or overwork as an individual choice, in the light of its systemic implementation and exploitation by companies upon its workers.
- Valve is not your friend, and Steam is not healthy for gaming | Polygon – Tim Colwill
Tim Colwill details years of action taken by Valve that pull aside the curtain to the illusion that is the “Good Guy Valve” persona that was never really earned. In the end, Valve is just like any other tech company seeking to disrupt a market.
- Code of Conduct | Real Life Magazine – Daniel Joseph
Platforms control the future of capitalism, Daniel Joseph explains. They expand the control of monopolies of old by enclosing the ecosystem around it, driving further activity by which they profit. This does not just affect video games, and will soon touch all aspects of life.
How the Sausage is Made
- How American Game Companies Avoid Paying Income Tax | YouTube – Super Bunnyhop – George Weidman
George Weidman investigates the earnings of several of the largest AAA publishers and explains their practices of hiding those earnings in tax-free accounts all over the world, leaving billions in liquid reserves.
- Why Video Games Cost So Much To Make | Kotaku – Jason Schreier
Investigative journalism by Jason Schreier derived the $10,000 figure that helps developers calculate a game’s budget with some degree of accuracy, as long as something doesn’t go wrong. From there, it’s just a matter of math.
- A month on the road: My indie developer road trip | Polygon – Blake Hester
Blake Hester goes gonzo across America, from Utah to Philadelphia, Austin to Minneapolis, to meet with indie developers and the creative communities they’ve set up.
If the industry is where video games are born, the wider culture is where they live. From video streaming to exhibitions to pushing against the status quo, video games are part of the wider attitudes of where we are and where we hope to be.
- At Play In The Carceral State | Waypoint – Various
The Waypoint staff and freelancers came together for a week-long series of features “investigating the relationship between America’s cultures of incarceration and play”; from Gitmo, to surveillance states, to Dungeons & Dragons in prison, and more.
- IMPALING MARIO, REVERSING SONIC: Inside Pedro Paica’s Bootleg Games | Medium – ZEAL – Henrique Antero
Henrique Antero looks at the work of Pedro Paiva, a series of short games with a counterculture ethos and a bootleg sensibility. Most notable is the compilation created by his students when he was hired to give art classes to juvenile offenders. The games reflect the students’ entrapped feelings.
- How Twitch is turning ‘always be streaming’ into a career with zero balance | Polygon – Ben Bowman
Ben Bowman explains how Twitch’s changes have created a system where the streamer needs to be online more and more, in order to gain success and maintain it.
- Dying to stream. | Medium – Joe Marino
Joe Marino tells his story of how streaming for a living put him in hospital for heart surgery, and how it cost the lives of other streamers far too young.
- Black Streamers Are Here To Save The Gaming Community | Fan Bros – Andray Domise
Andray Domise profiles several black streamers, and explains how in defense against the toxic barrage that is the mainstream gaming community, this counterculture promotes “a common thread of genuine kinship that binds them together.”
- The three reasons YouTubers keep imploding, from a YouTuber | Polygon – Michael Sawyer
Michael Sawyer asserts that there are a lot of problems with the YouTube community, and most of them stem from YouTube itself. PewDiePie may be the catalyst to write the piece, but the problems are systemic to the platform and all tie back it.
- Let’s Play Copyright Threat Raises Questions About The Law And How To Use It | Kotaku – Cecilia D’Anastasio
With Campo Santo’s Sean Vanaman filing a DMCA notice against PewDiePie after his latest incident, Cecilia D’Anastasio asks several lawyers about the legalities of the issue, and gets back just as many different answers.
- Racism in the games community: yes i play (and write) | Not Your Mama’s Gamer – Kishonna Gray
PewDiePie says a racist slur on stream, and Kishonna Gray is here to say this isn’t new, just brought to light thanks to the constant recording that is now commonplace. The slurs are the community, and it’s time the community cleans up.
- My post “Day of the Devs” observations bout how people view/treat art games and their creators | Nathalie Lawhead – Nathalie Lawhead
Nathalie describes experiences seeing the public engage with their game at a public event – it all started off great, but became hostile when people brought their kids. Their behavior was in-line with how streamers and YouTubers talk about games.
- Exhibiting Difficult Games | Matheson Marcault – Matheson Marcault
In response to the Nathalie Lawhead piece, Matheson Marcault further explores the techniques used by festivals to open people up to the experiences offered by non-traditional games.
- Cuba: Where underground arcades, secret networks and piracy are a way of life | Polygon – Brian Crecente
Over the course of a week, Brian Crecente visited Havana to meet with professors, game-makers, journalist and players, to get a feel for the Cuban gaming culture.
- Why the spirit of Flash gaming must never die | Eurogamer – Edwin Evans-Thirlwell
Adobe has discontinued support for Flash, and many of those games may soon vanish. Edwin Evans-Thirlwell asserts that the technology is not as important as the “ethic of adventure, freedom and camaraderie.”
- Do We Need A Soulslike Genre – Game Maker’s Toolkit | YouTube – Mark Brown – Mark Brown
With so many games taking notes from the Soulsborne games, Mark Brown explores whether or not that constitutes a genre and whether it should be named after a single title.
- Picture in a Frame | Medium – Amr Al-Aaser
Amr Al-Aaser has some idle thoughts about how we talk about genres when they’re framed around particular titles, ala Metroidvania, and how that becomes constricting as a pass/fail evaluation on its own.
- A Post-Modern Ideology Delivery System | Medium – Amr Al-Aaser
Amr Al-Aaser explains that cyberpunk has become an aesthetic whose iconography is losing its meaning, and thus has been “co-opted to build capital for commercial products.” It ends up going against everything it stood for.
- The Fun is Over, We Have to Get Serious about Games | Gamasutra – James Cox
James Cox’s art game was taken off Steam as pornography, because it displayed sexuality outside of the usual crass commercialism of titillation or humor. He uses this as a call-to-arms to get serious about the artistic nature of the medium.
- Making political videogames may not work. But we have to try | ZAM – John Brindle
John Brindle highlights a series of microtalks from GDC that touch on “how and to what extent games can really change the world.”
- Politically meaningful games under neoliberalism | Memory Insufficient – Lana Polansky
Lana Polansky’s piece engages with video games in our current times, the class politics of digital media, art as a political force and their intersection.
- What Happened | brendan vance – Brendan Vance
Brendan Vance responds to a piece that drew a line from early internet edgelords through Gamergate to the current crop of political reactionaries. He find fault in the logic as it ignores that these beliefs and systems have always been here, bubbling under the surface and sometimes above the surface.
- Joysticks & Killing Joy: A Game Scholar’s Take On Sara Ahmed’s Living A Feminist Life | First Person Scholar – Adan Jerreat-Poole
Adan Jerreat-Poole explores the image of feminist killjoys in the arena of academia, and sees a way forward in embracing it in all its facets to improve the world around them.
- Against simpler times | Radiator Design Blog – Robert Yang
Robert Yang: “We’re still alive. We can still make new energy, new movements, and new alignments. And yeah, it won’t feel the same. It won’t feel like what we had before, or even what we think we had before. But I promise you, at the very least, whatever it is — it will be ours.”
I wish everyone better luck and better lives come the new year. 2017 was hard all around. Hold on to those close to you and keep each other safe. I’m out of eloquence, so I’ll just say: rest, stay healthy and come the new year, fuck em up and fuck em up good.
The weekly roundups will resume once we’ve recovered in the second week of January. Please continue to submit any suggestions for TWIVGB to our email or @ message our Twitter account.
Critical Distance is completely community-sourced and funded. If you are willing and able, please consider signing up to our Patreon to help us continue to do our work curating and archiving. Every little bit helps. If you can’t afford it, spread the word far and wide.
From us at Critical Distance to all of you, have a Happy New Year.