Welcome back, readers.

This week’s most prominent labour story in games (aside from what is starting to feel like quarterly announcements of bad news from GameStop) is the workplace culture inside indie publisher Nicalis. While most of the stories this year about labour abuse have focused on the largest companies, it’s worth remembering that smaller developers and publishers aren’t immune to shitty workplace practices.

No I haven’t played Control yet but I think I’d like to at some point. With my current work schedule I’m confident I could complete it inside of a year.

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

Novel Approaches

One of the bigger topics in games writing this week is that dating sim KFC is publishing as a marketing stunt. This has elicited not only coverage, but critical reflection on visual novels, dating sims, and how writers receive and cover them. I think reading Ana Valens’ and Kastel’s pieces in conjunction gives some valuable context on how and why western media still seems to struggle with these games, and how a combination of lack of access and willful misunderstanding further feeds that confusion. At the same time, absolutely amazing stuff like Heaven Will Be Mine exists, and Autumn Wright is here to remind readers of that in a brief but powerful way.

Heaven Will Be Mine could be a myth of radical queer activism, the joy we will always make under genocidal institutional oppression, or of the tangled webs of sapphic lovers that we cannot know. It’s a myth foundational to queer spirit. A story about abuse, but not abusers. About the end, and about our beginning.”

Ends Unending

Two authors this week take a longer view in their craft to evaluate not just games they want to say something about, but the wider critical discourse around them, and how that discourse has and has not evolved alongside the games it follows.

“Maybe the reason that we have so much game boosterism and focus on the present is that looking at the shape of things, and how we got here, completely sucks on an emotional level.”

Force Feelsback

Three articles this week all focus on the particular affective experiences games engender for specific audiences.

“As I call the tow truck to begin the expensive, arduous process of repairing the car, I return to that trip through Europe, to my time spent picking apart rust buckets on the side of roads, scavenging parts slightly less damaged than my own. The hardship, the challenge of stretching a dollar for another carburetor, biting nails as I inch my smoking heap of metal to the next rest area. It’s shockingly similar, but far less fun, now.”

eXpand, eXploit, eXploit, eXploit

Games are very often predicated on some mixture of exploring and taking stuff, which inevitably leads to a colonialist design ethos. Two authors this week investigate the handling of these themes in recent titles.

“There’s no polite way of saying it. Greedfall is kind of fucked up. Wrapping yourself in the pageantry of the 18th century means recreating the iconography of colonial expansion and native slaughter. It means emulating a time when supposedly great men failed to do what was morally right, opting instead to do what was politically expedient. To merely call this a tension of Greedfall does it a disservice. It’s not just a momentary tension. It’s the entire game.”


Included here are a pair of excellent design-minded analyses of recent indie titles.

Phantom Rose presents an all too rare experience, a game where status effects aren’t simply nice additions or game-breaking asides, but crucial mechanics that create a rich and varied meta-game, and if you’re anything like me, it’s one that’ll keep you engrossed for countless hours.”

Proto Types

Two pieces this week conduct historical dives on old, overlooked, and invaluable innovations in games–both examples of which were authored by women.

The Sumerian Game was the first narrative video game. And the first video game writer was a woman named Mabel Addis.”

Yester Play

A pair of authors this week reflect on play experiences and broader interactions with gaming culture from days past.

“In a time where we weren’t necessarily exposed to online gaming and interacting cross-continentally through gaming chat rooms, multiplayer games were the perfect way to break down any obstacles we had in communicating.”

Critical Chaser

Fine, I’ll give Final Fantasy VIII another try. Eventually.

“Early on, the game sets an expectation of the unexpected, and it escalates from there. The second mission is to assassinate his wife (!!) on a parade float. A T-Rex lives in your school’s training center. Your school can fly, but you still have to rent a car and buy gas. Your girlfriend’s dog can randomly interrupt your battles. You discover a technologically advanced city hidden from the world (Wakanda, anyone?) and your unknown dad is its president. It all continues, ever upward.”


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!