It’s me, Critical Distance’s resident vod-sifter. I’m back from my unintended sabbatical aka the painful and all-consuming process of finishing my thesis for submission. I’m all better now, thanks. Wish I could say the same for my thesis!! Heyooooo. (If any of my markers are reading this, please disregard the previous joke. My thesis is impeccable, as I’m sure you are by now aware!).
Because I missed a few months of video updates, I’m going to cheat slightly and cover the backlog in multi-month scoops. Let us pretend, temporarily, that the column is called “These Months in Videogame Vlogging”, or perhaps even “Those Months in Videogame Vlogging”. So to begin this new and probably short-lived format, let’s all take a journey back to the months of March and April.
Those Months In Videogame Vlogging highlights the most compelling critical videos about videogames from the specified calendar month/s.
Auteur Personalities in the Workplace
PMG’s exposé reminds us that all workplace hierarchy’s can be problematic, not just those of triple-A behemoths.
Investigating Three Indie Superstars Accused of Emotional Abuse – People Make Games (40:53)
People Make Games follow three stories of indie-famous game personalities involved in perpetuating hostile work environments for their employees, revealing patterns of skewed power distribution, the unspoken dangers of auteur mythology, a lack of employee protection protocols in small studios, and inaction from the one renowned publisher that links them all. (Manual captions)
Walking the Good Walk
This next trio of videos are on different elements of videogame pedestrianism. There isn’t total thematic congruency here, but I find them a satisfying grouping, nevertheless.
In Defence of Walking Simulators – Pixel A Day (21:10)
Kat argues that so-called “walking simulators” exercise restraint to highlight quiet emotive possibilities and challenge audience expectations for bloat and excess. (Manual captions)
Video game walks are the most important thing that you don’t notice – Polygon (15:38)
Jenna Stoeber explains some of the complications involved in the creation of modern videogame walking animation cycles. (Manual captions)
GoldenEye 007 (Children of Doom 1997) – Errant Signal (1:04:30)
Chris Franklin discusses how many of Goldeneye’s innovations came through adapting Virtua Cop-style corridor shooters to the single analogue stick of the N64, making it an interesting point of evolution for console first person shooters. (Autocaptions)
The following collection of vods discuss death as motif, pastiche, and videogame mechanic, in amongst broader elucidations about game worlds and the experience of play.
I Beat the Dark Souls Trilogy and All I Made Was This Lousy Video Essay – Noah Caldwell-Gervais (5:05:39)
Noah discusses his experiences of playing through every Dark Souls (and their DLCs) against the mythology of the series’ difficulty, and how these things contribute to an understanding of the game’s internal narratives and world-building. For obvious time management reasons I don’t make a habit of watching ultra-long videos like this for the roundup, but I’m making an exception for this one because a) I accidentally watched most of it in five-minute chunks of procrastination while in the depths of Thesis Hell and b) it made me genuinely excited to give this series another go. (Autocaptions)
…the whole point of Dark Souls is that it is not like life— it is rational, consistent, predictable, and fair. It’s possible to get stuck – I did myself, and more here in Dark Souls 3 than any of the other games in the trilogy – but that isn’t because they’re hard “like life”, it’s because they’re hard as a way to challenge my ability to work within their systems under strict limits, creating as thin an edge as they can between success and failure. The games do this not because this is how life feels, but because this is dramatic. Because this is play. Because walking on that knife’s edge requires being completely absorbed in the present tense of the experience, and that is something that life rarely gives us an opportunity to do.
Overwhelm and Our Relationship To Difficulty – Talen Lee (5:24)
Talen Lee finds their “gamer ego” tested by the flexible difficulty of platformer Overwhelm. (Autocaptions)
A Video About Elden Ring and Death – laborkyle (7:57)
Kyle compares conceptual death in Elden Ring to Kierkegaard’s despair of the eternal from The Sickness unto Death. (Autocaptions)
The Gothic in Devil May Cry [Literature & Architecture in DMC] – thegamingmuse (30:46)
Citing examples from many renown gothic novels, thegamingmuse looks at how the Devil May Cry series echoes tropes of gothic fiction and architecture in its depiction of emotion, family ties, gender and sexuality. (Manual captions)
The release of Elden Ring inspired further discussion about how developers go about building open worlds in the next pair of videos.
The Open World Is Not Enough (The Jimquisition) – Jim Sterling (15:01)
James Stephanie Sterling argues that Elden Ring’s level of detail and care is something all “open world” games should aspire to. (Manual captions)
Why The Best Open World Is A (slightly) Closed World – Adam Millard (21:00)
Adam Millard argues that, while towers are often blamed for poor or lazy open world design, the real challenge facing developers of open world games is to get the player to build their own relationship to the world – something that can be aided by subtly guiding players while giving them the illusion of complete freedom. (Manual captions)
Why Your Brain Didn’t Like Playing The Last of Us 2 – Screen Therapy (57:22)
Courtney Garcia argues that a lot of the widespread discomfort players felt with The Last of Us 2 comes from the game breaking with several psychologically important “rules” of narrative (such as narrative schemas, affective disposition, and parasocial relationships). (Autocaptions)
Why I Prefer Realism Over Fantasy in Games (is there a gaming niche for me?) – Asmara (18:59)
Asmara thinks about why she’s drawn to “human storytelling” videogames with (present-day, earthy) realist settings rather than (otherworldly) fantasy settings. (Autocaptions)