This week we continue a look at industry and cultural practices in videogames while several authors offer critical approaches to their favourite games.
Let’s start this week with a pair of visually based pieces of criticism about turn-of-the-century JRPGs.
- Chrono Trigger and Structural Perfection | YouTube
Patrick Holleman reviews, expands upon and updates the narrative analysis of Chrono Trigger he wrote in his 2012 book.
- Laura Knetzger
Zeal presents this comic by Laura Knetzger that describes the author’s first time experience with Final Fantasy Tactics.
Challenge and Gatekeeping
Difficulty is again the focus of much debate about what extent it contributes to making games what they are versus how it shuts people out of games entirely.
- How video game difficulty became a cultural battleground | Eurogamer
Simon Parkin argues that the fixation on challenging games is rooted in an infantilizing attitude toward less challenging difficulty settings that emerged from the competitive, sports-based arcade era.
- The Physical Glass Ceiling: When The Git Gud Mentality Turns Ableist | Paste
Holly Green takes a different tack, contending that the ‘Git Gud’ mentality excuses a lot of ableism in gaming culture
“We do this a lot in videogames. I think I’ve done it a lot in videogames. Sometimes I’m hypercompetitive, mostly as a response to the anticipated rejection of my peers. In my rush to get ahead of the criticism, I’ve been obnoxious. But looking back at my life, it’s also been a pattern. There are many times where I’ve overcompensated for my mental or physical health because I didn’t want to feel different, or less than.”
This week there have been a number of retrospectives looking both at the development history and critical work about different games.
- ‘Neopets’: Inside Look at Early 2000s Internet Girl Culture | Rolling Stone
Nicole Carpenter interviews several former Neopets players about the game’s gender inclusivity and the community it provided.
Girls on Neopets took what they needed from the site and used the skills acquired there to further develop a burgeoning digital girls’ culture, whether it be in expanding their guild pages into personal sites, teaching others to code, or exchanging those skills for economic gain in Neopets.
- The Real Fakery of the Ouija Board | Kotaku
Riley MacLeod writes a brief history of the ouija board and discusses the movements that made it rise and fall in popularity.
- Chrono Cross, environmentalism, and a world without humanity | Medium
On his medium blog, Nate Ewart-Krocker notes a line of dialogue in 1998’s Chrono Cross that left a major impact on him when he first played it. In tying the line to the game’s broader existential and environmental themes, he writes to better understand the game responds to the history and place that created it.
- Different as they are, Supergiant’s games all explore tolerance and the ways we we deal with disaster | PC Gamer
Malindy Hetfeld compares notes with lead writer at Supergiant, Greg Kasavin, about the motifs that connect the studio’s three games.
Abuse in Industry
Unfortunately, this week also prompted conversations about how figures in the videogame industry continue to participate in sexual assault and in exploitative labour practices.
- Inside the Sexual Misconduct Allegations Rocking NeoGAF’s Last 48 Hours | Waypoint (content warning: discussions of sexual assault and slut-shaming)
Patrick Klepek summarizes how NeoGAF shut down after moderators quit in protest of allegations of sexual assault against the site’s owner Tyler Malka.
- Video Games Are Destroying the People Who Make Them | New York Times
Jason Schreier pens a piece about the grueling hours and relative powerlessness of videogame developers, who often suffer serious health consequences of their career choices.
“While many jobs are demanding, the conditions in this industry are uniquely unforgiving. Most game developers in the United States do not receive extra compensation for extra hours. They may gaze with envy at their colleagues in the film industry, where unions help regulate hours and ensure overtime pay. Their income pales in comparison to what’s offered in other fields with reputations for brutal hours, like banking and law.”
- Mixed Media: Unfamiliar, Overfamiliar | Haywire Magazine
April Tyack looks into the class and family dynamics of Little Red Lie
- Doki Doki Literature Club is an uncontrollably horrific visual novel | Polygon
Victoria Rose looks into the effectiveness of Doki Doki Literature Club’s horror, a metafictional visual novel that unsettles its player’s expectations.
“Scenes” I expected to be cute are overlaid with static and blacked-out eyes, and characters sometimes zoom in with uncomfortable closeness. The game knew that I knew this wasn’t normal, and it used that as a tool to make me uneasy.
- Middle-Earth: Shadow of War is at war with itself over slavery | Polygon
Cameron Kunzelman reviews the latest Lord of the Rings game as a halfhearted critique of slavery, where the game encourages the player to participate in the practice the story condemns.
- A Brief History of Rappers Who Dress Like JRPG Villains | Kotaku
Gita Jackson fills everybody’s unrecognized need for a look at famous rappers who dress like an evil god who thirsts for absolute destruction.
- FPS Special Issue Call for Papers: Mad/Crip Games and Play | First Person Scholar
First Person Scholar has released a call for papers on the subject of disability and “madness”
Critical Distance is community-supported. Our readers support us from as little as one dollar a month. Would you consider joining them?
Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!