September 23rd

This is my fourth week as Senior Curator for Critical Distance, and I am at once in a never-ending state of learning and growing, and having the time of my life. I’m beginning to recognize patterns and trends in games discourse–not only within the confines of a week, as I trace linkages between different voices–but also from week-to-week, as new games replace the old (faster and faster these days, as Cameron Kunzelman observes), while themes recur and gain traction.

It gives me hope, for example, that there’s so much quality writing these days talking about inclusion, accessibility, and diversity in games. I’m also delighted to see much-needed critical introspection this week on dadification, Nintendo, romance games for women, spatial design, and more. So join me on a trip through this week’s roundup, keep thinking, and keep playing. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Opening Access

I noticed lots of writing this week on making game spaces–be they game worlds, workplaces, or sites of competitive play–more inclusive and more accessible, and I’m always excited to see this stuff, as it’s a cause close to my heart. Here are five of this week’s finest examples.

“Those who don’t watch esports bring up another important aspect: the issue of animosity and toxicity. Still part and parcel with large areas of the gaming community, esports players are not yet held to the same standard of professional behaviour that exist for other sporting events.”

Next to Nookliness

There was a lot of writing on Nintendo this week, some of it pretty strange, but what stood out for me the most was the way in which authors closely examined both Nintendo’s unique proximity to the warm place in our hearts, and in turn, the unrivaled dedication its fans can give back. This is not an endorsement for getting warm fuzzies over a corporation, but I do find it interesting how Nintendo has capitalized upon the particular affects of its customers. Here are four examples of writers exploring these ideas in interesting and important ways.

“Whatever the ups and downs, Broth is able to come back to his love for Mario, a passion that goes beyond the intricacies of platforming and into the world, characters, and overall aesthetic.”

Power Trips

Protagonists in games are often a locus of power, and that power is often violent–physically, emotionally, culturally, or otherwise. I came across two thoughtful articles this week which scrutinize the institutional power wielded by protagonists in big-name titles.

Revelations follows the Orientalist tradition of homogenising Eastern cultures to establish a dichotomy between East and West. This stereotypical depiction is highlighted by Ezio’s success: the game suggests that a Western man’s expertise and hard work is all it takes to train inexperienced men and women to the point of independence.”

Relationship Status

Friendships, romance, and family ties all went under the critical lens this week, in four really successful thinkpieces.

“there was definitely some resistance within our own company—people firmly believing that games made specifically for female audience just would not sell. However, Ms. Erikawa was firm in her beliefs, insisted that “there are just as many women in the world as men, of course there can be a separate market,””

Space and Place

What goes into the design of a virtual space? And how, in turn, can that space be made to feel like a lived place? Two authors this week answer these questions by looking at two very different games.

“If you’re generous towards Shenmue’s intentions and strengths, you could say it is a game about being somewhere.”

Moral Philosophy

I encountered two very different articles–one working from game design, the other from distribution–that both touch upon some common anxieties of being a player/consumer. Here they are.

“In that culture of production, what Virilio would call a war, the fans get to scream at each other about what game is going to “win” E3. Or they can debate over whether Red Dead Redemption 2 or Battlefield V is going to be the “better” game of 2018. We can discuss, seriously, whether a lack of puddles demonstrates a “downgrade” of a video game. What unites these video game culture questions is that they all assume that we are living in a ruin made of things to come.”

Just for Fun

Once again, I couldn’t help myself this week. Incidentally, I also couldn’t help pre-ordering the PlayStation Classic.

“Why don’t those controllers have analog sticks? The original PSX didn’t get dual analog sticks until 1997. If Sony were to give those to us immediately, it would sour the experience. Wait a couple of years, then charge us $50 apiece.”


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