November 20th

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.

“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.

“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.”

Battlefield 1

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.

“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.

“[…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.

Grind and product

Finally, let’s take on the interactions between play and work in esports and game design.

“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!