February 17th

So to start off my thoughts leading into this week’s roundup, what the absolute fuck, Activision? There isn’t a lot I can say here that more articulate voices haven’t already said, but a coincidence of record profits and massive layoffs is never a good look for a company, period. That being said, I’m wary of other labour stories in games this week being drowned out in the wake of this infuriating news. Unionize, dammit.

The articles I had the pleasure of reading this week don’t talk squarely about labour in games as an at-large topic, but many do segue into this discourse by way of issues of representation in the industry. There’s also some great writing on new games, and, umm, something about Yoshi I’d rather not elaborate on here. You’ll have to see for yourself, readers.

This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

A Far Cry from Narrative Substance

There’s a new Far Cry out, and this one brings some post-apocalyptic trappings of the Annihilation-style variety. Critics, however, are less interested in the more alien stuff and more concerned with human representation in the latest open-world shooty-fest. Two writers this week discuss whether the new game actually has anything new to say.

“There was no interest in redeeming or repositioning the Highwaymen and their leaders later in the story. They were cruel to dogs—to golden retrievers. This was a decision designed to communicate one thing, the Highwaymen aren’t just tacky, assholes with a different world view. To the creators of New Dawn, they were feral savages who had to be put down.”

Towards an Apex of Accessibility

Forgive my headings this week (or don’t). Apex Legends dropped on an unsuspecting community last week, and not only is it apparently pretty good, but also fairly forward-thinking from an accessibility standpoint. There’s always room for improvement, however, and two authors this week discuss where the game meets and misses the mark, respectively.

“When I can’t say it, especially when I’m playing with highly-skilled randos for whom pinging things is the only way I can help, I can feel my skin itching in annoyance. How can I show them that I am present, paying attention, and aware that they’re speaking to me?”

Partially Voiced Dialogue

Even when games make an effort to “include” marginalized identities they still run the risk of speaking around them, or erasing them. What, for example, does a game’s perspective have to do with which identities are given voice, and which are silenced? The same questions can be extended, of course, to the labour culture of the games industry. Six authors this week listen for the voices left out–or cut out.

“While LGBTQ gamers may feel particularly betrayed by these organizations’ lack of consist support for their community, these inconsistencies pose perhaps an even more urgent question: what is the climate like if you are a LGBTQ video game developer who works for one of these organizations?”

Citation Needed

Games don’t exist in a vacuum: they are, of course, products of culture, and so draw upon a myriad of cultural inspirations in terms of the elements and ideas they represent. But what constitutes homage, and what constitutes theft? That last question need not be so difficult; give credit (and compensation) where credit (and compensation) are due. Two writers this week delve into the footnotes of popular games.

“Much of the discussion surrounding Epic’s appropriations is concerned with whether the lawsuits being brought by 2 Milly, Ribeiro, and others, are legally feasible; it centers the letter of the law, asking whether Epic is allowed to lift these dance moves. But this ignores the (at least) equally pertinent question of whether it should.”

Alternating Histories

Videogames have been described as a young medium for decades, but they’re not getting any younger, and indeed are continually accumulating a history and histories of their own. These histories can constitute the timelines (and myths) of their production and evolution, or perhaps they can constitute the personal histories that players and critics bring to games and associate with them. Very often both are involved in some measure. Five authors this week situate different games in different times, both public and private.

“Something about Chop Till You Drop still tastes bad, even though it was released far before the current popularity of shootings in public places. Like playing through the fantasy of a right-wing adjunct, taking his frustrations out on the masses in a now mostly abandoned shopping mall. I can’t imagine actually going to play it again now.”

Just for Fun

I’m going to put a content notification here for Yoshi images of questionable canonicity.

“every time I unlock my phone, I and everybody else in my vicinity have been confronted with a pornographic image of Nintendo’s Yoshi, wearing a thong bikini, under the words “hell yeah I’m a slut.””


Subscribe

Critical Distance is community-supported. Our readers support us from as little as one dollar a month. Would you consider joining them?

Contribute

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