This week brings a selection of powerful and timely articles about inclusivity within games as well their overlapping communities of play, design, and criticality. With a shift by some major journalistic outlets away from scored reviews, as well as continued troubling reports about the dismissal of game developers who stand up for principles of identity and inclusion, I don’t believe it’s possible to overstate the need for ongoing reflection on who is represented–and who is excluded–in games.

There was no shortage of quality discourse on other topics, either. As the week’s big triple-A release, Marvel’s Spider-Man generated a lot of writing, and some of the finest examples are collected below. Other recurring themes that saw careful examination this week include the shifting legacies of role-playing games, the relationship between games and time (both specifically and conceptually), and the boundaries between design and interactivity.


Three articles this week reflect on the identities included, excluded, and effaced from games and their surrounding cultural spheres.

“In honor of folks freaked out about how many things they “have to” do to advance their career, I present a very partial list of things I’ve been encouraged or expected to do/know since I got into games.”

Playing Roles

Three authors this week look at role-playing games from different angles: stagnation, legacy, and reputation.

“I decided to prove people wrong. With science. That’s why I took a deep dive in the Steam RPG Maker tag, gathering data about all 559 tagged games released to this day.”

Designed Experiences

Four authors this week weigh in on the impacts varying design choices in games have on their play experiences.

“I think ultimately the message of the game is that if you’ve been benefitting from a destructive system, you have a special responsibility to help dismantle that system and create a more just replacement.”


With the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man this week, there was no shortage of writing on the game. Here are three of this week’s finest examples of criticism.

“Being a 23-year-old living in 2018, the game’s version of Spider-Man has his own official account on the game’s in-universe Twitter stand-in, tossing online quips around with the same ease that he hurls bad guys across the battlefield. Said social media platform is absolutely filled with Jameson’s online fans and detractors, discussing his show, arguing with each other, and, in one memorable case, offering up a good old-fashioned fake account mocking him at every turn.”

Time Trials

Four articles this week look at how different games situate themselves in time and manipulate its flow.

“Outer Heaven, a paradise for career soldiers, is undone by a raw recruit. Metal Gear, a playground for its designer, is undone by the player. Big Boss and his descendants spend numerous games attempting to rebuild this paradise. It’s hard not to see the parallel to Hideo Kojima, making game after game and attempting to rebuild his private, player-resistant fortress.”



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!