Happy New Year! Or maybe not so happy. 2018 has begun, and it has already brought some powerful games criticism that puts playful interactive media in dialogue with decline, decay, and the death of civilisations. Lighting up the darkness are examinations of meditative practices and visions of a life beyond oppressive social norms.

In-game photograph from Assassin’s Creed: Origins, by Dia Lacina – see link below.

Being seen

Two writers address how game designs put players into different visual modes, and thereby change the whole nature of play.

“Video games have historically been rather solitary things, and when you stick them in a museum they just sort of sit there and get a bit sad. Kinect, though, is all about being seen.”

Disorder and healing

(Content warning: mental illness)
These four fascinating pieces of writing look at the impact of games on mental health and how they portray mental illness.


Queer theory has a strong impact on two pieces published recently, that both address how media and storytelling affect the norms that guide our society and determine who fits in and who is left out.

““Gender essentialism” is the theory that our gender differences are innate, universal, and—according to transphobes—biological. Atlus’ games are rife in [sic] essentialism.”

Pervasive numbness

Unsurprisingly, there is a growing sense of decay and collapse after reaching the end of 2017; these writers reflect on how that has come out in game design.

“This system of gathering as much social media currency as possible, only for a vague sense of reward, reminds me of the pervasiveness numbness that comes with consumerism.”

Normal apocalyptic

Three critics highlight games that challenge received genre conventions relating to zombies and the apocalypse.

“Normal apocalyptic stories come from a place that assumes now is worse than then, but these four walls called reality puts pressure on the idea that the social world was hunky-dory before. These characters work through their real traumas, each enumerating the ways that they were excluded from living full lives before the dead started rising.”



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