October 8th

What kind of futures can we imagine for game design and storytelling? This week, critics take on the contemporary context of games from a number of perspectives, thinking about how games make us feel, and how it feels to make games.

Coordinating

Three writers this week think about development practices and the language used for making sense of design.

“We should probably stop using colossal wikis for coordinating and sharing knowledge within design teams — that’s a last resort for systems that don’t have clear spatial metaphors. Meanwhile, in video game land, we’re building huge spatial metaphors all the time, so why not use it?”

Courting

In some interesting pieces on strategic design decisions made by games companies, two critics investigate the compromises and bargains made in order to seduce the right developers and players.

“The formal approval process at that time was so daunting that it struck fear into the hearts of many indies. For Shahid Ahmad, who led the developer relations team handling minis, the relaxed approval process the initiative spearheaded was a small-scale realization of a long-term goal.”

Enveloping

Games criticism meets writing on social and environmental justice in these three pieces on portrayals of patriarchy and conservationism.

“For a crisis as enveloping as the Anthropocene, there is a value in this type of universalism. Specific problems abound that require specific solutions, of course, but Future Unfolding, along with other video games, literature, art and music are beginning to craft a new vernacular capable of conveying this shift in expression.”

Elongating

I love writing that explores the turn towards compassion and mindfulness in indie games, and this week brings two excellent essays on the topic.

  • the last guardian | malvasia bianca 
    David Carlton argues that Trico’s emotional responses to battle give players a lens on the nature of violence – allowing them to sympathise with a creature not as battle-hardened as themselves.
  • How Jalopy taught me philosophy – Thumbsticks 
    Josh Wise relates an indie game about touring Europe in a beaten-up car to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – not just because they are both about caring for vehicles, but because they are both about friction.

“A gameplay loop is a lot like a drinking straw. The little crinkled bellows that rest on the rim of your glass are the areas that so many games look to circumnavigate or cut out completely […] What Jalopy does is pull on the straw and decompress those bellows, elongating and revelling in these little moments.”

Weaving

Two critics look at narrative through games, peering into the act of storytelling to discern what kinds of futures might be possible.

“the heightened stagecraft of streaming culture have elevated the performative aspects of PUBG, no doubt helping to make it the phenomenon it has become. Individuals form and break alliances, pull off dramatic plays, and chart their own underdog stories online for hours and hours every week, weaving a collective narrative[…]”


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