This Year In Videogame Blogging: 2016

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Going through the archives of the past year, if I had to boil all this writing down into a single word, it would be “resist.” As far back as day one of this year I found lots of emotive and thought-provoking work in which games critics were all telling each other, in some sense, to “resist.”

Resist orthodoxy. Resist the calcification of “the way things are”. Resist the poisonous ideologies that have taken root.

For seven years, I have created Critical Distance’s annual roundup of the most important games writing. This process of reading through our archives is the main way I make sense of what the year was like. In other years, games critics have noted problems or complained about the staleness of the state of the field. This year, it feels as our collective position has evolved. We’ve become braver intellectuals, more ready to stand against the troubles we see looming ahead on the horizon.

This post is a roundup of the most representative critical pieces of 2016. Critical Distance is proud to present the 2016 edition of This Year In Video Game Blogging!

Pieces on particular games

Every year the majority of criticism is focused on particular games, and this year is no exception. These works are the bedrock of any media criticism, and critics should examine and challenge their objects of interest, be they new titles released this year, or the games of the past.

Firewatch

Oxenfree

The Witness

No Man’s Sky

That Dragon, Cancer

The Division

Homefront: The Revolution

Far Cry Primal

Battlefield 1

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Overwatch

Dishonored 2

Uncharted 4

Kentucky Route Zero

1979 Revolution: Black Friday

Mafia III

Other 2016 Releases

Dark Souls(es)

Fallout(s)

Sonic

Undertale

The Beginner’s Guide

And The Rest

Theory/Design Criticism

Games criticism is not just about particular games, but about an understanding of game design itself. So some criticism isn’t specific to a single title, but to an abstract concept; some sort of idea that is used and seen in numerous places.

Industry Criticism

When most criticism focuses on the player-game connection, the picture of who actually makes games and how becomes blurry. One cannot criticize a medium without also looking at the manner in which the works of that medium are produced, and these pieces often bring out some of the concrete political issues that play out in media creation.

Culture Criticism

The culture that surrounds a medium is reflected in the work and produced by it. Culture is nourished by the people who create art, experience it, and foster spaces for it. Culture is what is at stake when we make games, play them, and talk about them, and these pieces focus in particular on how we can trace culural change in the world around us.

Close Out

I wish you all fulfilling and energizing New Year, and as we move forward after 2016, I will take with me the message that it is vital to resist. Resist the willingness to become complacent. Resist the easy path of accepting what has been said before. Resist, and imagine a better world for the future. Don’t give up, don’t give in and never surrender.

We will resume our weekly roundups in the second week of January. Please continue to submit your suggestions for TWIVGB to our email or @ message our Twitter account.

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