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February 8th

…agree on the right, best, most pleasurable, or most aesthetically redeeming aspects of games (or anything) rather than to acknowledge that real differences in motivation, aesthetics, and political concern are at work.


Nobody wants to be accused of being part of the hegemon […] And sure, there are interlocutors who are dismissive in a manner that demands critique or even scorn. But that doesn’t make the very idea of such critiques detrimental or problematic, unless the purpose of the objection is to reframe the conversation around the my-favorite-formalism just mentioned. It also doesn’t mean the two “sides” must…

August 14th

…worlds and vast nothingness have captured people’s imaginations more than anything else this week, with a number of games inspiring a sense of connection and wonderment


  • Debris | vextro leeroy lewin praises the aesthetics of the wide open and the pitch black.

“Debris is a visual aid, an interactive song. A gentle music transformed into a terrifying confession, a full marriage of very conflicting and dissonant aesthetics. A nothingness that demands the attention. A terrifying experience treated as another day at work.”


  • Abzû immerses you in a beautiful

September 11th

…to be hard to come by in the narratives of video games, at least for now, and I hope that we might eventually have the opportunity to play games that feature mother characters that are not either simply demonized or victimized”


Examining portrayals of men, these posts consider the social codes behind the aesthetics of the male body.

  • Welcome to the age of videogame beards – Kill Screen Chris Priestman considers the aesthetics and semiotics of facial hair in games.
  • Queer Characters: BioShock | Vorpal Bunny Ranch Denis Farr explores queer coding and…

Discover a Critical Culture

…and our broader culture. And most importantly, Critical Distance made me feel like I could be a part of the conversation, inviting me to participate in its Blogs of the Round Table and submit my work to This Week in Videogame Blogging.

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Jenn FrankLana PolanskyZolani StewartSexHistoryLaborRacismBodiesNarrativesAesthetics

Through Critical Distance, I’ve learned about games and sex, games and history, games and labor, games and racism, games and bodies, games and narratives, games and aesthetics. Regardless of whether or not games remain a part of my life for years to come, I know the insights of writers featured…

May 21st

…Person Scholar Janet Murray relates resistance to narrative analysis to Natasha Schull’s notion of the “machine zone”.

  • Costs | Problem Machine problemmachine proposes game design aesthetics that reflect entropy and decay.
  • I’m Scared of Everything Now | Unwinnable David Shimomura discusses the disturbing ontological implications of mimics in Prey.
  • Searching for Faith During a ‘Night in the Woods’ – Waypoint (spoilers for Night in the Woods) Shonte Daniels explores the narrative themes of belief, belonging, and sacrifice.
  • The game’s official tagline is “At the end of everything, hold onto anything.” Possum Springs is a…

    Dark Souls

    …of the level design first becomes apparent, where poetic qualities that sing of the game’s deeper themes of hopelessness and triumph begin to arise from the art and architecture of the world.

    “It’s hard to think of another game series that so readily quotes the masters of its art; confidently repurposing the weighty aesthetics and themes of gothic romanticism and yet still maintaining a taste for the weird and the comedic, for parody and perversity.”

    In “Visions of Hell: Dark Souls‘s Cultural Heritage“, Gareth Damian Martin traces the series’ artistic lineage through Friedrich, Kuniyoshi, Doré, and…


    …the series as pushing the medium forward in terms of ongoing conversations around the relationship between videogames and other art forms, but also repeatedly acknowledge that the game is not for everyone due to its at-times abrasive aesthetic sensibilities.

    Essays on a Dying Town

    Much akin to Fyfe’s blog post summarized above, Danill Leiderman approaches Pathologic through the lens of Eastern European aesthetics, though he takes a much more formally academic style. Also like Fyfe, Leiderman comparatively analyzes the original game alongside S.T.A.L.K.E.R., however rather than using tourism as a metaphor to frame the two games, Leiderman instead digs…

    Rob Gallagher | Keywords in Play, Episode 4

    …also profoundly nostalgic. In some ways that are just sentimental and retrograde but in some ways that sometimes seem a bit more sinister and reactionary. I guess people like Robert Topinka have talked about there’s a degree of nostalgia in all right politics and aesthetics, and where some of that crosses over with aspects of Cyberpunk and Vaporwave and these kind of engagements with outmoded but at the time futuristic technological aesthetics that allow people to sort of pine for a time before PC culture notionally ruined everything and civil rights ruined everything. But they’re also I suppose more reflexive…

    April 10th

    Next up, gender and culture tensions emerge in games (very) past and (very) present.

    • [3/3] Militaristic Fantasy, Narrative Drift, and the (Sea) Stalker | Gold Machine Drew Cook unpacks some wildly fraught gender dynamics in Infocom’s mid-80’s foray into junior interactive fiction.
    • ‘Horizon Forbidden West’s’ post-racial world turns culture into costumes | Input Magazine Reid McCarter examines Horizon‘s continuing practice of mining surface-level aesthetics from real-world cultures in service to an already thematicly-shaky post-racial storyworld.

    “Though Forbidden West wants to present an alternative vision of an abstracted, nobler westward expansion, its use of

    Stephanie Harkin | Keywords in Play, Episode 29

    Mahli-Ann: We have this resurgence of the no-shaming like pink and purple colours and actually embracing pink, and actually seeing an appreciation of value for femininity.

    Stephanie: Yeah, totally, and the term techno-femininity, in particular, looks at those intersections of those aesthetics sort of previously gendered activities, things like dressing up dolls – it’s not just the colour pink. But the way that that intersects with technology, with computers, with hardware, software, which has so long been attributed as this masculine domain, this sort of – you know, cold and hard, associated with the military and the science