April 21st

Welcome, readers.

There’s a lot of looking back in critical games writing this week, which makes sense to me, since for many it’s a holiday weekend and we are in kind of a lull period between GDC and E3. Big releases have slowed a bit as well, and Sekiro is still commanding a large number of headlines. Who knows: maybe next week I’ll be blessed with a deep dive on how Johnny Cage as a representation of masculine excess has evolved over the years (or, alternatively, a treatise on why Scorpion and Sub-Zero should Be Together).

Right now then, there’s room to reflect on games and experiences of the recent past–from six months ago, from a few years ago, and I’m totally here for it. This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Discourse Dies Twice

If I’m being honest, I’m a little exhausted thinking about how much oxygen the difficulty debate around Sekiro has taken up since the game came out, and I’m hungry for alternate and more complicated critical takes. Three such examples are included here!

“What if we instead didn’t think of being good at a videogame as a skill at all? It’s easy to buy into this idea if you belonged to the group of people who was routinely made fun of for being into videogames instead of the real sport of the hour, but this attitude was harmful when it was directed towards people who enjoyed videogames then and it’s harmful when used against people who would like to enjoy a game now.”

Narratives, Payoffs

Four articles this week thoughtfully examine the consequences of game narratives both in and out of universe. Whether it’s deciding to date the misanthropic jerk in Dragon Age, or the fallout of an industry that makes bank on the narrative trauma of its creatives, there’s some great work to consider here.

“The games industry loves to eat its children. That’s because it’s not interested in creating anything lasting or meaningful, it’s interested in hit-seeking to line the pockets of shareholders and to buy Bobby Kotick another yacht. It’s a component of the entertainment industry very much in that way. I think about this while knowing that this friendly tool called Twine, that hobbyists and amateur game-makers used to craft their own little interactive stories, is now being used by Netflix to mine data from users, including mine, presumably for the benefit of advertisers, as Esquire reported in February.

Edgelords and Overlords

It’s difficult to look away from the bad guys–be they (playable) villains in games or real-world grief-grifters cashing in their influence to ominous ends. Three pieces this work examine the state of villainy on virtual and material fronts alike.

“Holding a riotous audience captive, keeping the frivolity from descending into chaos, is a real concern of streamers, who must continue to produce perceived authenticity while preserving an atmosphere that seems to exist outside the rules governing other spacesStreamers must produce the carnivalesque on demand, day after day.”

Time and Space

Time creates distance–from our prior selves, from prior places, from prior experiences. Going back can be painful, but also illuminating, as it allows us to take the measure of our personal growth. Three authors this week travel back and document what they find.

“It felt good to litter those pages and pages and pages with color and life and pain, to physically show myself how hard it was to lose my fiancé. That deliberate choice: to shred or not to shred, to hold on, let go, or pass on that grief (or hope) to someone else makes The Book Ritual so memorable.”

Just for Fun

God help me and my already-precarious time-management skills if I ever get into The Sims.

“The only unrealistic aspect of The Sims 4‘s new freelance careers is that Sims get paid on time.”


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