Welcome back, readers.

It’s taken me until the wee hours of the morning local time to do so, but we’re here with the latest crit, and we’re calling it Sunday gods darn it!

Around the site, Connor’s latest TMIVGV is live and you should check that out too!

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


Norco continues to make critical waves. Here are the pieces about it that stood out to me this week.

“On a good day, Norco is a bastion of beautifully evocative storytelling that invites any player to take refuge in its world. On a bad day, it cuts deep as a sobering, but loving portrait of a modern dystopia—a community on the edge of great change. But on a personal level, it’s a game that understands who we are and what the internet has made us—how this digital constellation of fragmented subcultures has shaped the way we see the world and our place in it. There are few games in the world like Norco, and it belongs unequivocally in the highest tier of narrative experiences in the medium today.”

Mending Runes

Can’t call this an Elden Ring section, exactly, or even a soulslike section, precisely speaking, but there is a thread here in how these kinds of games make us think about ourselves and our selves, as players, as bodies, as travellers, as people.

“Laws divide the body like a chart outlining cuts of beef on a cow. Bodily autonomy disrupts this process. Now, we’re getting to the heart of the problem. The body is a battlefield. Yet, bodily autonomy does not exist. We are each individually owned by a state, a kingdom marking us with tiny masks.”

Cultural Dimensions

Two studies of games both within and as cultures comprise our next section.

“Deep down, video game culture clearly wants this fight picked. If nobody’s around actually picking it, we’ll shadowbox ghosts instead, because we’ve just gotten that reliant on an inferiority complex from the medium’s protracted and painful adolescence.”

Hard Corps

Next, we’re looking at hardness, both as difficulty and intensity, as gameplay and culture.

“Looking back, it seems like what they wanted to see games achieve (and what they meant by “hardcore”), was something close to the spirit of the “indie game” movement of the mid-2000s. If games like FezBraid or Super Meat Boy had been released in 1999, the hardcore set of the time would have hailed them as the future, likely much to the confusion of their peers.”

Loving Lookbacks

I wasn’t willing to make a tag called games-from-the-past-that-did-one-thing-ridiculously-well, but that’s more or less the vibe on this one.

“The end game of Total Annihilation games was often two enormous economic engines building multiple gun emplacements that would be in any other game the single campaign-ending tool and shelling corners of the map at random with explosions a few hundred meters across just in the name of softening them up. The only thing the game asked of you to get to this point was time, and, well, not taking a more aggressive stance.”

Design Tensions

This week’s design-focused selections explore fresh new topics in player experience and sound engineering; check ’em out!

“Pessimistically, it might seem like the rock-star developers of the time threw a sound into their splashy new game because they could and didn’t find it annoying enough to remove. Then every game that followed in those footsteps re-created that sound, perhaps without even consciously considering why it was being included. That might be one way to read it.”

Narrative Tensions

Our next two featured authors this week explore narrative possibility in games–whether those possibilities are under-explored or take us to satisfying new heights.

“Game creators need to incorporate reversals and interruptions into their narrative design more. There’s a lot of potential in complicating the player’s definition of agency in gameplay. I agree with Uchikoshi’s: we need more games that aren’t just power fantasies but ones that explore the nature of power and those who are adversely affected by it.”

Critical Chaser

Treat him with respect.

“In Barbie Horse Adventures: Riding Camp, you can take your horse on trails and get rewarded for collecting stars, proving the accuracy and control you have over the horse. In Elden Ring, I’ve substituted collecting sparkly stars for collecting the heads of enemies. It’s basically the same thing.”


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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!