Welcome back, readers.

You may have noticed I tend to repeat plugs for the same causes in our intros for several weeks after they cease to become topical. Yes, yes I do. Anyways, here’s an extensive and detailed resource if you would like to find out more about how to support Asian-American communities near you.

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

You and Me Against the World

This week’s issue opens with a focus on found families and the bonds that bring warmth to otherwise bleak worlds.

“The feeling of emptiness is critical to the games, as it encourages the player to bond with their companions. The games don’t exactly give you much choice in any case as they are all linear titles, but even so, if these spaces were filled with lore, they would be a distraction from the companions you’re spending time with.”

Life of the Party

In our next segment, we’ve got a pair of pieces looking back at retro JRPGs, with a focus on systems and characters, respectively.

“It has been over twenty years since I played this game, really played this game, really fucking played this game. And what lasts to me are stories about people. About characters who love each other or who still inspire warm feelings or who remind me of things I wished could be true.”

Horror and Hauntings

It feels appropriate in an increasingly time-slipped era that we’re observing the Easter holiday with a trio of articles that would be right at home in a Halloween-themed roundup, so here they are, stellar works of criticism all of them.

“When you view the people you’re supposed to love as part of a transaction that benefits you, the place that you call home can start to warp and rot. Devotion, the latest game from Taiwanese developer Red Candle Games, makes this very literal and shows the dangers of transactional love.”

Inclusive Play

Two articles about beeing seen, the need to be seen, and the commonplace narrative and mechanical structures that alternatrely facilitate and inhibit meaningful representation.

“Some of my other favourite video game romances (like Evie Frye and Henry Green from Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate) have no sexual content implied, and that’s beautiful and refreshing. Hades and its options to romance either Megara or Thanatos likewise builds around genuine experiences and getting to know them as people, rather than getting them into bed. These more human interactions have me yearning to replay and engage, and nothing would change that drastically if the main character or significant other was asexual. What’s their favourite music? Best spot for a quiet read with a book? Hobbies and pets?”

Mechanics in Context

Next up we’ve got two pieces of design-minded writing unpacking systems and design principles, and how these elements tap into conversations about affective play and accessibility.

“So, what Ghost of Tsushima does, fundamentally, is present an avenue for Jin to do exactly what I’m doing with this piece: to reckon through the written word with the flaws of our fathers or the times we fail them (because it always somehow feels like it’s our fault, too). By looking at how Jin uses poetry to reckon with big, nebulous concepts like legacy and death, we can consider the benefits of trying to wrangle these things within ourselves by externalizing them through the written word. We cannot fully come to terms with things in the handful of syllables present in a haiku, but we could not come to terms with them if we were to write a novel either.”

Critical Reviews

This week we’re once again featuring writiers looking at failures and flaws, this time in a review format, with a film adaptation and a promising game that doesn’t live up to the demo, respectively.

“Though there are gestures at narrative – a bodacious woman who may or may not blend into the femme fatale archetype, a rival musician whose angst arises from past insecurities and betrayal, the investigation into a shooting that implies murder mystery, etc. – and I was actively trying to follow along, I got the sense that most of Genesis Noir was meaningless nonsense, astrophysics jargon thrown in a blender with existentialist conclusions as the other ingredient. While Genesis Noir aspired to be the Carl Sagan of games, it ultimately became the Neil Degrasse Tyson in its ethos.”

Critical Chaser

Honestly I couldn’t look away from this one till I’d read to the bottom.

  • SQIJ! | Bad Game Hall of Fame 
    Cassidy observes April Fool’s with the all-too-true tale of a deliberately disastarous speccy port born of exploitative working conditions and specc-tacular mismanagement.

“By all accounts, staff at The Power House should’ve taken just one look at what Creighton had handed them, and quickly determined to throw it away. If there was a single iota of professional pride left between the whole lot of them; they’d have realized how unreasonable they had been through this whole fiasco, let the unfortunate teenager off the hook, and simply given up on making a Spectrum conversion of SQIJ! available to consumers. Better to do that than subject them to the mess Jason had sent their way, and risk losing valuable trust with their audience. But of course, we all know by now what it was they wound up doing.”


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!