We launched a fundraising campaign this week geared at getting our Patreon into a stronger position that can fund more work in the coming years, We have hit the first target, but there is still a long way to go towards our goal of $3000 per month! Please share the campaign with people who might be interested.
In the coming week, I would be particularly grateful for any blog posts about why Critical Distance has been important to you. We’re a fairly unique project that can be a little hard to describe, so I think it’s easier for more people to understand why we’re important to games criticism when people share their own perspectives. We’ve published one such post by Taylor Hidalgo right here:
Poetry and politics
I have been energized this week to learn about innovative ways of doing games criticism, as people use and create software that gives us new insights into games and philosophy. Additionally, some writers offered thoughts on why criticism matters during a time of political despair.
- The Game Isn’t Over: Picking Up My Controller After the Election – FemHype
Charlotte talks about the value of games criticism during a time of urgent political need.
- A New Way of Playing Japanese and English Games Side-By-Side « Legends of Localization
This tool for evaluating localization and expanding your own knowledge of a foreign language has set some critics’ tongues wagging.
- Artist turns Grand Theft Auto V into a ghost city – Kill Screen
Chris Priestman highlights a piece of philosophical artwork created by remixing a bestselling game property.
“Arcier mentions that he was inspired by Titus Lucretius Carus’s philosophical poem De rerum natura (On the nature of things). Lucretius used the medium of poetry to explain the atomism to a Roman audience. It seems that Arcier is trying to do something similar, but using Grand Theft Auto V as a medium, which is perhaps more appropriate for a modern audience.”
Teens and trolls
Some of the best writers in our community have been thinking about the social landscapes that games inhabit, studying two very different focal points.
- Inside The Taboo World Of Teen Pregnancy In The Sims
Gita Jackson reports not just on salacious player behaviour, but also on the modes of play and sharing that are found on platforms such as Instagram that are not often associated with gaming subcultures.
- On Breitbart, Stephen Bannon, and Whether Gamergate Has Anything to Do With Trump | The Mary Sue
Maddy Myers reflects on the strange insight into the rise of the far right that you get after years of working in games journalism.
“Video games didn’t “cause” the rise of Trump and “alt-right” ideologies in America, but the media that we create and consume does say something about us and where we’re at as a culture … and the fantasies that we can’t seem to leave behind. What’s more, the defensiveness surrounding these games is just one of many, many symptoms that has indicated the larger problem, and the growing backlash.”
I suppose Battlefield 1 was scheduled for release after the US election in order to avoid excessive resonance with current affairs. However, this election was not a normal one, and under its long shadow, the challenge to make a AAA shooter that acknowledges tragedy seems more pressing.
- Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story | Gamers With Jobs
A veteran argues that Battlefield 1 actually gets a little closer to the sense of loss that accompanies a soldier’s pride.
- “Battlefield 1: If It Told the Truth” by Ed Smith – Bullet Points Monthly
Ed Smith critiques the ideological portrayal of World War One in a competitive shooter game.
“When history was still unwritten and the reality of modern war was, even for the most dedicated followers of news and literature, difficult to explain, game-makers, whom serve a notoriously young and capricious audience, could almost be excused for repairing to fantasy worlds. […] One worries that game-makers have gotten so used to focusing on superheroes instead of heroes, imagination instead of fact, that it has destroyed their ability to work with even the most readily printable material.”
Models of the world
In the quote above, Ed Smith leans heavily on an interest in history as matters of fact, but often we’re still concerned with how history is portrayed even if it’s in a fictional context. There is some material in the pieces below for significantly rethinking how games portray matters of political concern, in order to try and reach towards a deeper truth.
- Gamasutra: Hamidreza Nikoofar’s Blog – How Ken Levine inserts politics in his games
Hamidreza Nikoofar has been in conversation with Ken Levine about political storytelling. This write-up is not as analytical or argumentative as I usually require pieces to be for these roundups, but I think it should serve as some useful raw material for further writing.
- Gamasutra: Florent Maurin’s Blog – What reality-inspired games are
Florent Maurin argues for a category of game that, unlike an interactive documentary, sets a fictional story in real-world scenarios.
“[…T]he primary journalistic work remained unchanged: you still had to dissect a subject, to expose its inner logics, to understand the causes and consequences at stake. The only difference laid in the way this work would be communicated. Instead of telling “what is”, we had to create a machine that would show “what could be”. Our models would be simplified, of course, but they would work according to rules similar to what we had analysed of the real world.”
Watch Dogs 2
Speaking of matters of concern, these two video reviews of Watch Dogs 2 take different stances on how hacktivists are portrayed in relation to their local environment.
- Watch Dogs 2 Review – YouTube
Carolyn Petit wonders why the hacktivists of this politically-aware portrayal of San Francisco aren’t taking action against gentrification or police brutality.
- Watch Dogs 2 (Review/Analysis) – Writing on Games – YouTube
Hamish Black argues that the portrayal of hacktivists as jocular trolls hits at a truth that’s often neglected when trying to construct a more intimidating antagonist.
Grind and product
Finally, let’s take on the interactions between play and work in esports and game design.
- League Of Legends Teams Call For Changes In New Letter To Riot
Ethan Gach fills us in on labor disputes at Riot Games, with some implications about the structure of esports that I found pretty surprising.
- ‘The Zooniverse’: Where The Grind Actually Matters | PopMatters
Mantas Krisciunas discusses productivity, serious games, and the juxtaposition of “grind” as a waste of time against Science as a worthwhile activity.
“Out of all the reasons why gamers decide to launch themselves into hundreds of hours of repetitive content, I feel like the desire to figure out the world that they’re immersed in is most important. Of course, the real world is the ultimate puzzle and projects like The Zooniverse are finding ways to use our inherent curiosity to, inch by inch, add to the pile of knowledge that might someday lead us to the God-mode code to our own universe.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!