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May 17th

…of the lines between reality and fantasy by not the players, but the authority figures.

Finally yet importantly, Carolyn Petit looks at how a graphic novel challenges the convention of videogames:

Why do we simply accept that so many games present violence as the only way to solve a problem? Why do we accept so many narratives about brave heroes fighting evil and rescuing the girl without ever questioning how the narratives are constructed precisely to leave us with no room to ask questions about whether the bad guys are really so bad or whether what we’re

November 15th

…already imbued this particular entertainment product with, are all justified, that the game they have yet to play is indeed going to be fucking awesome.

Fallout 4, Plausibility and Witchcraft

In contrast, Kill Screen’s Reid McCarter discusses the role of Dogmeat in Fallout 4 as a measure to “keep the player grounded amongst the immensity of Fallout 4’s environments”:

Games like Fallout 4—games with sprawling worlds, in which the player decides when, or if, to take part in specific story beats—differ from the directed narratives of media like film and books. Unlike the carefully…

April 24th

…Normative Institutions | Not Your Mama’s Gamer Ashley J. Velázquez compares the politics of Call of Duty and This War of Mine.

“Not only are aspects of gender present, but generational constructs are as well. Grandparents, parents, and children are all bodies experiencing war in varied ways, challenging the normative perceptions of what war is, what war means, what war does, and who survives war.”


Discussions on the gendered (and species-dependent) division of emotional labor emerge in writing on relationships in game narratives.

  • Even More Daddy Issues: Fatherhood and Gendered Labor…

May 15th

…pieces written on it. However, here I want to be more selective. I think that the two links below bring rare expertise to the fore and complexly imagine how historical reality and game design might be brought face to face.

  • Battlefield 1 Historical Trailer Analysis | THE GREAT WAR Special (video) This moment by moment reading of the costume, mise-en-scene and landscapes by a WWI expert is startling in its level of detail and in what it reveals about the kinds of narratives about the war that the trailer seems to hint at.
  • Battlefield 1 and the

June 12th

…that Lionhead had such a great history of innovation,’ said one source. ‘We’d already done experimental things with stuff like Kinect, with Journey, that proved we could pull off different ideas. ‘The other thing you could say is that Lionhead was the studio that Microsoft was willing to risk.’ “

“An open-world game is cluttered”

Peeling back the lid on non-stop, nonsensical action adventures, two games critics look at narratives that have fallen flat.

  • Uncharted 4.5 This comedic text adventure acts as an interactive satirical critique of Nathan Drake’s dramatic mishaps.
  • By Aiming Big,…

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…

January 29th

…see previously hidden narratives and experiences.”


For some thoughts on how inclusion and exclusion function, these writers reflect on how artists meet, who they represent, and who gets to participate.

  • Gamasutra: Brandon Sheffield’s Blog – How closing borders kills understanding, and censors art Brandon Sheffield talks about the value of movement across national borders for art and cross-cultural communication.
  • A Normal Lost Phone Tries To Explore Trans Identity And Falls Short Heather Alexandra argues that attempts at “empathy games” on transgender experiences very often veer into voyeurism.
  • Busting the myths around sociological…

April 30th

…Ligman enjoyed the sincerity and straightforwardness of the spatial narratives in the game that provoked this discussion.

“There is something charmingly outdated in how What Remains of Edith Finch plays itself completely straight — right down to its narrated diary entries and blinking red beacons — that makes the whole game feel like a time capsule, a callback to a not-so-distant past when we believed non-violent first-person games were fertile ground for gameplay innovation, instead of just another genre that had been discoursed to death.”

The blueprint

The metadiscourse wasn’t limited to this old

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

A reading list on trans representation in games

  • It’s Time to Talk About it: Atlus, Naoto, and Transphobia | This relatively early piece on trans representation in gaming by Mattie Brice still stands out for its detailed analysis. Mattie also wrote pieces for the Border House Blog on other trans characters in games (see her portfolio for a list), and went on to create Mainichi, a game about her own lived experience as a trans woman that received widespread attention.
  • Empathy Game Anna Anthropy’s game Dys4ia became emblematic of the rise of transgender narratives in gaming. Here she talks about the pitfalls of such a game