June 28th

Welcome back, readers.

First off, police still haven’t been defunded yet, and most officers who have killed Black people behind the cover of a badge are still free, so here are some links to start your day:

This has also been a week of the industry cleaning its own houses. Or at least starting to. It’s something we’re thinking about here, too. Critical Distance provides a cross-section of games discourse history, and sometimes the voices we include in that history turn out later to have been really harmful people. As such, the Critical Distance team will be meeting to discuss and codify a permanent set of best practices and policies to ensure that our platform actively listens to survivors and remains a safe and accessible space for their voices and their work.

On a higher note, have you seen the most recent TMIVGV? Connor is really killing it over here, so check out his roundup and keep sending in your video recommendations!

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

Grind-Up/Ground-Up

We’re starting this week off with a bold vision for the future of game dev, and maybe some good soundtracks to accompany that future.

“But these are more holistic suggestions, and this is a specific column. Our interests here are soundtracks. And while there are hundreds of incredible scores in this bundle, and any three of them would have been fantastic, worthy inclusions—I’m in a mood.”

Against Empires

Three authors this week look at big-picture ideologizing elements in games, both overt and not-so-much, alternately hopeful, clumsy, and cynical.

  • Escape System | Into The Spine 
    Waverly interrogates the Zero Escape series–and the ideologizing logic of choice-driven systems design in games generally–in light of our growing collective awareness that meaningful, equitable change and justice must come from and work outside the corrupt systems that have rigged the game from the get-go.
  • UNCHARTED 2 – DEEP HELL 
    Skeleton thinks about all the guns that all the military divisions, PMCs, and Nathan Drake-types leave lying around as part of the broader western project of Fucking Up Everyone Else’s Homes.
  • The World Unsettled | Bullet Points Monthly 
    lotus reflects on the hardship–and opportunity–presented by the choice to start anew in Pathologic 2 with a world freed from the baggage of colonial capitalism.

“The “peace” of the Diurnal ending is a fantasy. To long for a return to order is to long for the peaceful enclosure of the prison, and the systems of death and extraction that make white peace possible.”

Wrath Month

The secret, here at Critical Distance, you ask? The secret, dear reader, is that here every month is Wrath Month. Here are ten cool pieces this week centering queer voices, ideas, perspectives.

“I don’t need Cloud to be trans or gay. I don’t need him to subvert notions of gender. I, and the works of my peers, can do those things. I suppose I also don’t need a better version of this scene. But I want Cloud to have a moment alone, a smile, wondering at the selves he could be, wondering if he can escape the traumas that define him.”

Man Up

We’ve got two selections this week critically unpacking the gaps in meaningful, nuanced masculine representation in games.

“Does having a “strong, independent female protagonist” mean she’s suddenly without the desires that Nathan Drake, Geralt of Rivia or countless other leading men have? Granted, a lot of sexual content is gratuitous and unnecessary, but no one’s ever going to tell Geralt, “my dude, don’t you have more important things to do than getting your rocks off?””

Building Blocks

A trio of design-minded pieces, looking alternately at accessibility, worldbuilding, and the tensions of computer-mediated roleplay.

“What could have been like every other aquatic level actually becomes a melancholy, lonely trek through a far flung feeling series of caves, coves, and warehouses.”

640×480

Three meditations on retro classics. Well, one is nouveau-retro, but still…

“Confidence carrying me to places where common sense refused to tread, I continued to pick my way along submerged paths hidden in the salty gloom to a dead end decorated with an enormous waterfall. I held my breath. There had to be – had to be – a secret cave behind this impenetrable rectangular block of polygons coated in blue textures – that’s just the rules… and there was. Well, what else was there to do but optimistically charge inside brandishing King’s Field’s equivalent of a rusty butter knife and wreak righteous havoc on the denizens within?”

Critical Chaser

We’re bringing back a little levity this week. It’s important to find things to smile about, even as we discipline ourselves to stop looking away from all the things worth getting angry about.

“Dogs are my favourite animals. I have two of them and they are right next to me even now as I type away. To say that I feel passionately about not wanting to hurt these lovable creatures is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year, so while I have been enjoying The Last of Us Part 2 a fair bit, killing dogs really sucks.”


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