Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

It’s been a week of mystery and wonder, as multiple critics show us the limits of what we can really know about games -some arguing that this unknowability is in fact how games work. Along the way, we learn about some new ways to do critical analysis. First, we’re going to think a bit about spaces, places, and traversal.

Ant farms

Three articles look at how city building simulators imagine the worlds being designed, and the power of planning and management.

“The true fantasy of the city-builder is this: not just control of a tiny world that you can shape like a garden and watch like an ant farm, but an exercise in making abundance and the practice of sharing it with everyone who wants to call the same place home.”


Two pieces looked at how the design of spaces, and movement through them, serves the aesthetic goals of a game.

“The concept of prospect and refuge is broadly applicable in level design, but relatively few game designers have to understand it in detail. The div[id]ing line between those who do and those who don’t is almost always genre.”


Three pieces seem to indicate that we don’t really know very much about player interaction, shining a light on something that makes this medium dark and mysterious.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater leans into its abstraction of action into button presses because it knows that you cannot truly capture the action of skateboarding with anything like this interface; Skate hides behind a mask of gestures.”


There were some fascinating ideas shared this week about how critics and other folk involved in games imagine their own work, all challenging some common assumptions – or at least, challenging assumptions that I personally certainly had subscribed to all this time.

“we could bask with full confidence in the delightful absurdity of our chosen art form. There has been a critical breakdown of meaning, but maybe that means there’s a chance for something more interesting and more inventive to rise to the surface.”


  • Introduction — CapsuleCrit 
    Issue 2 of Capsule Crit is out – I’ve included a couple of pieces from it in this roundup, but the whole thing is definitely worth a look.
  • Papille – Editorial – Papille – Medium 
    The Game Happens crew got in touch with us this week to announce their new Critical Distance-inspired curation project for Italian readers. It’s exciting to see this work being done in other languages!