March 20th

There is something almost supernatural about a Sunday. It comes with a feeling of warmth, of relaxation, and happiness. Perhaps a few years ago, it would’ve been an ideal time to sit back with a newspaper, but in these modern days, perhaps it would also be wonderful to grab a tablet or phone, settle into your favorite chair, and come along with This Week In Videogame Blogging!

Dividing Lines

Over on Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Kishonna Gray explores the dynamics of empowerment, and lack thereof, in Tom Clancy’s The Division. Particularly at the expense of persons of color.

On Gamasutra’s blogs, Stanislav Costiuc finds a flaw in The Division’s Dark Zone, a lack of wild to its wild west philosophy, which undermines the tension it should have.

Heather Alexandra, for ZAM, takes politics of consumerism and power to task in their review for The Division. It explores how a game fundamentally about killing and looting practically couldn’t be anything else.

It’s all so forced and ugly; this is a game about social downfall and what happens when structures break down and a massive part of the experience is shooting other looters in order to get your own loot. It reaches the realm of unintended satire and almost becomes actual social commentary.

Mechanical Stories

Richard Taylor Pearson, on his site of the same name, makes a case for Terraria as a playful tool for writers.

Elsewhere, on alphr, Thomas McMullen does a deep exploration of architecture as a narrative mechanic, exploring how architectural spaces in Bloodborne and Manifold Garden are intrinsic parts of storytelling, and how they’re described in relation to non-digital spaces.

“That’s exactly what we think of when we think of a city, and urban design and architecture,” Sale tells me. “The interaction of people, using these physical things to express themselves and create a collective city.”

On Play the Past, Jessie Craft similarly explores architecture in Minecraft, and how its Education Edition made an excellent platform as a 3D cultural heritage modeling tool for a class of students. “By building our model in Minecraft, it is very simple to update a building or site according to the latest publications regarding new archeological finds and theories.”

At Arcade Review, our very own Zoya Street muses on the storytelling-slash-scrying nature of both The Eldritch Teller and Oracle via tarot reading, and how their parallel concepts intersect glaringly in how they result.

Players as Mechanics

The analytical eye of Problem Machine opens the category by speaking on how consuming art is a conscious choice, and one that must be perpetrated by its onlooker. Over on Haywire, Leigh Harrison weighs in on how Firewatch manages to effectively leverage this, and the player, into the narrative, but does so with the awareness that it should have played this narrative out without the distraction of a more typical thriller.

Hot on the heels of Problem Machine’s thoughts of consumption, Matt Sayer over at Talk Amongst Yourselves speaks about not playing games. After all, as it’s said in the article, “Loving a game you’ve never played might sound antithetical, but the medium is more than just interaction.”

On other shores, PopMatters and Nick Dinicola take a look at travel, and how the hazards of exploring space make the space more validating for its travelers. “When I say travel should be difficult, I don’t just mean that we should always be under the threat of death, just that travel should require more thought than simply holding a control stick in a certain direction for a certain amount of time.”

Human Valuables

Drew Dixon, over at GameChurch, shines a light on Darkest Dungeon’s commoditizing of humans, and how doing horrible things in the name of a little capital can become natural.

Back on Not Your Mama’s Gamer, Ashley J. Velaquez speaks of how This War of Mine: The Little Ones makes its horrifying decisions an unavoidable consequence of its subject matter.

Back at ZAM, Boen Wang takes a journey through the Biblical parallels in That Dragon, Cancer, speaking on the power of the altar, faith, and the inherent victories found therein.

From Great Height

(Spoilers for Life is Strange below.)

Running parallel with inevitability, over on Paste, Holly Green foils a personal story with the weight of decisions in Life is Strange, and how the human desire to resolve problems itself sets up a great deal of opportunity for failure.

Perhaps the most hypnotically tempting promise of Life is Strange is the hint of control in a world otherwise out of the player’s hands. We’ve all been in difficult situations where we wonder what could have been if we’d had the chance to go back and change one key decision. Would it have helped anything?

Patrick Lee, over at The AV Club, addresses the same part of Life is Strange in a different way, putting an uplifting spin on the nature of heroism.

Instead, when it matter most, players are robbed of Max’s powers and, in their place, offered a power fantasy that lets them be better, more caring, more supportive people.

Picking Up Where Last Week Left Off

In response to a post we highlighted last week, G. Christopher Williams and PopMatters look at virtual boyfriends, and how they’re more than likely a continuation of a trope iconic to the romance literature subgenre.

Leaving Off for Next Week

If looking at this list lit your fires, and the passion to write has been kindled, it’s worth checking out the March topic for our Blogs of the Round Table.

If your support is of a non-writing nature, Critical Distance is supported by readers like you, so please consider pitching in to our Patreon. Likewise, you can help us out in a non-monetary manner by pointing out articles we could feature in posts like these. We accept suggestions every week for inclusion on @CritDistance, tagged with TWIVGB, or by emailing us directly.

Thank you, as always, for taking this journey with us, and we look forward to seeing you next week.

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