Welcome back readers.
Monday Mulligan strikes again, but I’d like to think it was worth the wait; we’ve got another big issue this week stuffed to bursting with the good stuff. Take a load off and settle in for a spell.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
All Corporations Are Businesses
Let’s start the issue with our industry-level selections for the week.
- Legendary Industry Veterans Get Candid On Ageism In Gaming | Kotaku
Alyssa Mercante chats with some familiar figures to discuss the physical, structural, and cultural barriers that ostracize older developers.
- The man who owes Nintendo $14m: Gary Bowser and gaming’s most infamous piracy case | The Guardian
Patricia Hernandez sits down with the guy Nintendo decided to make an example out of (curator’s note: Critical Distance does not recommend hacking a Nintendo Switch, nor does it recommend consulting the innumerable easy-to-follow step-by-step guides for doing so).
“Pirates are usually fined in court, but Bowser’s case was meant to draw attention. “The sentence was like a message to other people that [are] still out there, that if they get caught … [they’ll] serve hard time,” he says. As he tells it, Bowser didn’t make or develop the products that sent him to prison; he “just” updated the websites that told people what they could buy, and kept them informed about what was coming next.”
New ‘n’ Tasty
This time we’ve gathered our reading list on new-and-current games in one place, combining shorter impressions and longer meditations.
- ‘Bahnsen Knights’ Game Revels in ’80s Pulp Fiction | PopMatters
Luis Aguasvivas looks in on an Argentinian pulp visual novel with a generous helping of German nihilism.
- Silent Hill: The Short Message Has Me Worried For The Franchise’s Future | Kotaku
Willa Rowe doesn’t find a lot of depth or nuance in this latest Silent Hill sampler.
- ‘Persona 3 Reload’ Still Can’t Imagine A World That Respects Trans People | Inverse
Robin Bea finds little to celebrate in Atlus’ choice of no representation over bad representation.
- CAN YOU PET THE DOG? | DEEP-HELL
Bryn Gelbart gives The Last of Us: Part II a deep (hell kritiqal?) examination.
“Nothing can hit like watching Ellie’s face contort and make itself ugly as she snuffs out another human life, and the knowledge this is what she wants. You are the engine and what you want is immaterial, she is driving you. The tension of The Last of Us, what makes the whole thing go, is being the passenger.”
Next let’s focus on creative and experimental moments in wider franchises.
- Ys III Wanderers From Ys: Hope would always be there | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi goes to bat for The Weird Ys.
- Is it Alt to Like Call of Duty These Days? | Unwinnable
Elijah Beahm wonders if good creative work is going overlooked in the glare of the tentpole floundering franchise and its neverending attendant discourse.
“Black Ops 3 is effectively the best Ghost in the Shell game we’ve ever received. Infinite Warfare easily has the meatiest campaign in years. Cold War is a choose-your-own-adventure spy thriller. Vanguard offers an anthology of meaningfully distinct microcampaigns. Now Modern Warfare 3 offers an unparalleled amount of player agency in a franchise often derided for de-prioritizing agency for spectacle.”
How about a Final Fantasy/Kingdom Hearts double feature?
- Revisiting Midgar – Three Moments in the History of Final Fantasy VII | Pixpen
Sam Howitt reviews Final Fantasy VII through the years.
- Martyrdom and Misogyny Are the Machines That Power Kingdom Hearts | Paste
Grace Benfell looks back at the character everyone is rightly upset got a raw deal. That’s this one, right?
“Sora’s willingness to die and Kairi’s weakness are facts of the world. Even Sora’s friends simply go about trying to save him, in faith that he can be saved. There is sorrow that he is not there with them, but there is also certainty that he is still out there. Sora’s sacrifice is sad, but it is not questioned. Sora does not hesitate. He dives right in. It does not even seem a burden to him.”
Lifestyle, loneliness, and liminality are the dominant themes in these explorations of digital places, unplaces, and our transient existence between the two.
- Romanticize Your Life! | Unwinnable
Emily Price finds the friction points in trying to cozy up your life through consumption and aesthetics.
- Creating Livable Virtual Spaces and Cultivating Community | Killscreen
Jamin Warren chats with Mélanie Courtinat about bringing art into immersive virtual worlds and communities.
- Backrooms, Liminal Spaces, And The Subliminal Menace Of Loneliness in Indie Horror Games | The Candybox Blog
Nathalie Lawhead presents a travelogue of dreamy, ominous, virtual unplaces.
“Video games are the closest thing that we have to existing in someone else’s dream. Carefully constructed fantasies that we share with players. These are our fever dreams, both pleasant and awful.”
It’s a Pal World
Welcome to an ultra-rare Quad Chaser–Quad for Quad Damage! Consider this a suggested reading order for maximum psychic peril.
- Palworld’s One Good Question | Gamers with Glasses
Nate Schmidt finds in Palworld a mirror for our disengagement from animal cruelty.
- Palworld’s skin-deep Pokémon parody is part of a bigger horror story | Rock Paper Shotgun
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell weaves in the nebulosity around Palworld‘s copyright with its edgy send-up of animal exploitation.
- The Pokémon parody in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth innovates more than Scarlet and Violet did | TechRadar
Cat Bussell examines what changes when Yakuza does the ‘mon thing with actual people.
- Why Don’t We Just Kill the Kid In the Omelas Hole | Clarkesworld
Isabel J Kim’s short story takes the dilemma posed in the previous three articles to its maximal state.
“Most days, Omelas is sunny and beautiful and nothing bad happens. And then there will be a day that is overcast and cloudy, and on that day, people die in circus accidents and carbon monoxide leaks and start harassment campaigns on twitter. And sometimes on that day people die through lethal injection. So it’s clear that sometimes the kid is alive and suffering, and sometimes the kid has been killed and doesn’t exist.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!