August 18th

Welcome back, readers.

For a discourse that doesn’t exist, there’s a whole lot of cool stuff going on in critical games writing this week. Keep reading, keep writing, and keep making good shit happen, friends.

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

Industrial Devolution

This week’s opening salvo encompasses a quartet of industry investigations and critiques–much of it focused on this apolitical myth that triple-A-publishers have somehow managed to perfect and perpetuate.

“The yearning for the separation of art and politics is one held by those for whom the status quo is their foundation. To be reminded that alternative perspectives not only exist, but are forced to exist by virtue of an individual’s identity threads holes in the comfort the yearners drape over themselves; a comfort that is not long enough by virtue of colonialism, bigotry, racism, sexism, transphobia and capitalism to extend to those of us who are not straight cis white men.”

How the Sausage Is Made

A trio of design-focused critiques and reflections this week examine some of the biggest genres, trends, and patterns in games past and present.

“Catching myself laughing while I was playing, I started to think to myself that Rogue Galaxy would be offering me premium currency to reduce the encounter rate, or max out my weapons immediately so they can be combined. It is that sort of game, before its time in the worst of ways.”

Words on Words

The language of critical discourse is as vital as any other aspect of intellectual labour, and this is no less so in the study of games. It’s also easy to get caught up in salient words and terms, and the same language wielded in different contexts can alternately carry a lot of weight, or be rendered entirely meaningless. The way in which we describe games, genres, and mechanics matters, and two authors this week pursue these ideas to powerful effect.

“true player agency lies not within pre-scripted videogame narratives, but in the players’ interpretations of the game text, in their engagement with fan communities, and in the exchanges that occur between fans and developers.”

Making Sense of Nonsense

A pair of authors this week investigate goofy, funny games, and why those elements of absurdity compliment the rest of the work.

“While many titles wrap their plots and jokes around the game, rather than let these influence or dictate its game’s design, it’s the humor in Attack of the Earthlings that sets its puzzles’ direction.”

Communication and Communities

A trio of articles this week all tackle social questions in gaming from very different angles. Respectively, they encompass a discussion of queer community in MMOs, a close reading of a game all about communication, and a designer’s perspective on the establishment and maintanenace of a healthy community of play.

“To be clear here, kind community design doesn’t mean chanting positive affirmations into your community every single day. (I mean, you can if you want though?) It means creating a safe, low pressure, helpful, and encouraging interactive space among the players. So even when times of tension or anger come up (e.g. a troll), they still actively work together to help make the space a kind and accepting place.”

Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has attracted a lot of strong critical writing from some of the sharpest voices in the discourse. Here are two excellent examples.

“When Lysithea scolded her for not jumping to action when other students were involved in an accident, she ran away and retreated to her room. Lysithea went after her to apologize for being too harsh, but Marianne insisted that it was, in fact, all her own fault. She went even further than Lysithea, saying increasingly disparaging things about herself as Lysithea tried to calm her down. As I watched this scene unfold, the feelings felt uncomfortably familiar.”

Representative of the Medium

Three articles this week focus on inadequately-or-underrepresented voices and perspectives in games–both successes and failures.

“Kingdom Hearts women are rarely given satisfying character arcs. Most women in the franchise end up in underdeveloped supporting roles, or are killed off for the sake of the plot.”

Critical Chaser

I kind of like games even when I don’t, and a lot of that has to do with this kind of writing.

“Almost admirable in its dedication to an incredibly thin premise”


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