Welcome back readers.

We’ve got a few updates from around the site to go through. First, the latest Keywords is up, and this episode’s guest is Florenece Smith-Nicholls. Check it out!

Next up, I just want to give a gentle heads-up that Critical Distance typically takes a week or so off somewhere around the holidays. As such, for the next two Sundays (December 25 and January 1) we’ll be taking a little break. Fear not, as the next issue when we’re back (January 8) will cover the whole three-week span in games crit.

Ok, one last thing. I have restated my gratitude to the community repeatedly over the last few weeks for helping us out of a tight financial spot. That gratitude remains, but it’s also impprtant to recognize that Critical Distance is nothing without good crit to read and curate in the first place! I’d dearly appreciate it if you sent friends-of-the-site No Escape some love this holiday, as they currently have their own campaign running to build out some cool new expansions to their mandate in 2023.

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

Industrial Zone

Our opening section this week is about industry trends, industry personalities, and pushing back against those dominant narratives in larger and smaller ways.

“Discussions of representation often revolve around mass, corporate media and can be deeply short sighted, as well as ahistorical. The problem that faces people is not that there is not enough sufficiently diverse corporate media, rather that the access to the art that will speak to them is supplanted by canons and corporations. We should not move toward flat representation, but towards access. We must have access both to the histories of our communities and the resources to make art that will speak to them.”

Text and Theme

Revolutionary politics? Sustainability? Trauma recovery? All in this next section, as our next trio of featured authors unpack recent popular games.

“Aka’s own transition from a soldier to a farmer and problem solver is one from pain to peace, and like my real-life transition, it’s not only a solitary act but one accomplished by finding empathy and building connections—community—with others.”

Case Studies

Our next two highlights this week break down the design legacies of a pair of genre-defining (and genre-subverting) classics.

“So much of Phantasy Star II seems straight-up old-school that, if you’re not already well-versed in the history of Japanese RPGs, it can be a little hard to recognize just how ambitious and innovative it was when it came out. Sega’s Genesis sequel to the Master System classic arrived in Japanese stores in March of 1989 — nearly a full eight years before SquareSoft’s Final Fantasy VII, which is mentioned intentionally as PSII featured one of your playable characters suffering a surprise, tragic, and most vitally, permanent death. An entire planet — the one you spent much of your time on in the original Phantasy Star, not some random location introduced solely for this purpose — is destroyed instantaneously, and it’s something that happens mid-game. Your heroes become fugitives, the paradise of the climate- and artificial intelligence-controlled Algo solar system is shown to be a fiction, and in completing the game, you potentially doom its people. It would take two more games, the entirety of the original Phantasy Star series, to finish sorting through the ramifications of everything that happened in PSII.”

Weird Games

Weird games. Weird games! Exactly what it says on the tin.

“I want to love Scorn. On paper, I should love Scorn. It’s a slow, thoughtful, atmospheric sci-fi horror – my favourite! – with that special kind of puzzling that makes you feel simultaneously both the smartest and stupidest person who ever lived. It sounds great. It looks even better. But it embodies the very definition of style over substance.”

Critical Chaser

Another double feature to close us out this week: horoscopes and poetry!

“Some things aren’t for
time to reveal. Some things
will clear your lungs, if you let them.”


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

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