April 1st

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Discussion about guns and unionization looms large in games criticism this week. This roundup features the most important writing on these topics and more – but first, I want to bring your attention to something special that we published this week.

  • Dark Souls Critical Compilation – Critical Distance 
    I was feeling a bit concerned for a while that we didn’t have one of these yet – a near-comprehensive collection of critical writing on this game that people still can’t stop talking about, years after its release. Reading Nic Rueben’s excellent survey of the material, I get the sense that this has come at just the right time – the discourse has matured over the years, and today writing about Dark Souls goes far beyond describing a videogame; it’s contributing to a shared narrative about a quasi-spiritual personal trial.

I can’t begin to say how excited I am to have this published. Please take a look, share it far and wide, and consider supporting us on Patreon so that we can commission more things like it – our current funding level is below the threshold that allows us to create this kind of content.

And with that, we now continue with our regularly-scheduled programming.

Art therapy

Two pieces represent two very different approaches to writing about violent emotions in games.

Fear of art

Continuing the theme of violence, four writers look at the meaning of power in videogame stories.

“Metatext in videogames is super fixated on critiques of some sort of choice made—basically critiques of freedom—because it’s the nearest most horrible thing collectively felt. The fear of art is a fear of potential truth.”

Tactile pathways

Specifically focusing on gun violence, two critics bring out personal reflections on their relationships with weapons.

“I keep coming back to these guns we’re all holding. They’re interesting, and I love to watch the tactile pathways they design through the rooms.”

Far Cry 5

The latest in Ubisoft’s series has, as usual, brought up discussions of the colonialism inherent in a series that aims to create mayhem in exotic settings.

“Far Cry 5’s enemies are not Native Americans, they are instead religious extremists. But the games’ choice of Montana as its ‘frontier’ cannot be separated from the history of that landscape and that word.”

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

An indie game about storytelling and the heart of American culture has inspired some thoughtful reflections, including from people who contributed vignettes of their own. (Disclosure: I did a couple of hours’ work supporting Claris Cyarron’s vignette for this game)

“At all time, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is anxiously aware that it is a video game, and the writing suffers within those very nervous constraints.”

Industry on fire

This roundup ends with a couple of articles about the unfolding developments in labor organizing.

“things in the games industry are not fine. The industry is, in fact, on fire. It chews up young, passionate new entrants, burns them up and spits them out as disillusioned refugees before their first decade is up.”