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Author Archives: Eric Swain

Episode 20 – The Founderhead

September 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

Our regular podcast host Mattie Brice needs a bit of extra time for her latest interview, so we’ve dug into our archives again for yet another heretofore unheard Critical Distance Confab episode. In this installment, Eric Swain interviews our very own founder and former head curator Ben Abraham.

Part of the original games blogger boom in 2007-2008, Ben Abraham has always found himself focused on the community of critics. It led him to try and bridge many of those working unknown and segregated by the internet’s distance to eventually founding a curation site (this one!) to bring all the best writing.

Also in this podcast, we discuss some of his other notable projects and his obsession with Far Cry 2, the focal point of a few of those projects.

Direct Download

SHOW NOTES

SLRC

Permanent Death – The Complete Saga

Frank Bilders is Dead

A Post-Comment World

i am ben abraham

Replayability is NOT a word

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 19 – A Critic By His Window

August 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

This month we bring you another interview from the unheard archives. A few years ago Kirk Battle, going under the pseudonym L.B. Jefferies, was one of the most prolific critics of the burgeoning amateur bloggers arising from the boom of 2007 and 2008. Now he is retired from the video game criticism game. We look back on his time as a critic and his view of criticism itself.

In addition to being a personal inspiration to podcast moderator Eric Swain, Kirk Battle was named Critical Distance’s 2010 Blogger of the Year.

Direct Download

SHOW NOTES

Banana Peppers Martinis

PopMatters – L.B. Jefferies

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Review

Zarathusra Analysis

ZA Critique: The Darkness

ZA Critique: Okami

Lester Bangs rant

Pauline Kael – 1234

Samuel Johnson and Video Games

Does Video Games Need a Lester Bangs?

The New YouTube Video Games Criticism: An Interview with “moviebob”

Does Video Games Need a Pauline Kael?

On Design Centric Criticism

Telling Tales in Gabriel Knight 2

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 18 – The Great Curator

July 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

This month’s podcast is all about a subject near and dear to our hearts: curation.

Here at Critical-Distance we curate games writing and other forms of criticism. But what about curation of the games themselves? Steam is getting flooded with new releases to say nothing about the games that never seem to get the spotlight at all, hidden away individual projects scattered around the web.

For this month’s podcast, Mattie brings two curators of small, free indie games (Merritt Kopas and Chris Priestman) to discuss the process and the philosophy behind what games they try to give the spotlight to and what audience they are trying to reach.

Direct Download

CAST

Mattie Brice: Alternate Ending

Merritt Kopas: mkopas

Chris Priestman: Warp Door

SHOW NOTES

Forest Ambassador

Forest Ambassador Patreon

Forest Ambassador Twitter

Warp Door

Warp Door work in progress

War Door Twitter

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 17 – The Blogfather

June 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

Due to some unforeseen circumstances (namely, an impromptu digital game conference), Mattie Brice is unavailable to bring us a podcast this month.

Fortunately, we dug into the archives and found this gem: an unreleased interview with Michael “Brainygamer” Abbott. Recorded about two years ago, most of what we talk about is his historical perspective from the beginning wave of internet bloggers and critics and his own view on video game criticism.

We hope you enjoy!

Direct Download

SHOW NOTES

Brainy Gamer Podcast

Bloody Play

I’m your huckleberry

A conversation about Braid

Prince of quitting

RPG Syllabus

Unplayable

Portal on the booklist

Seeking the light

Look at the camera and smile: No More Heroes and the New Wave

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Episode 16 – The Artist Formally Known as Critic

May 15th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

Welcome to the first podcast in the brand new Critical Distance Confab!

We were so impressed with Mattie Brice’s moderation of our Black History Month podcast that we’ve asked her back to helm a new, monthly series. Each month on the 15th, Mattie will be tackling exciting, weighty topics flanked by special guests from across the critical landscape — and perhaps a few surprises as well!

This month, Mattie sits down with fellow critic-developers Lana Polansky and Cameron Kunzelman, to discuss how they got involved in game design, why game development interests them, and how becoming a developer has changed how they write about games.


Direct Download

CAST

Mattie Brice: Alternate Ending

Lana Polansky: Sufficiently Human

Cameron Kunzelman: This Cage is Worms

SHOW NOTES

Rise of the Videogame Zinesters

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

March 23rd

March 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (1 Comments)

The Game Developers Conference is over and Kris will be back in the saddle next weekend. Hello to any new potential readers we may have picked up over the last week. Let’s get This Week In Video Game Blogging started.

Critical Proximity

While the inaugural meet up of game critics and writers was last weekend, there have been a few responses in the meantime.

Mike Joffe of Video Games of the Oppressed wrote about his take on attending the conference and how he learned to stop worrying and love the myriad and nebulous concepts none of us can agree on.

Joshua Comer focused on the particulars of jargon, a concept brought up in many of the talks and various attributes of it as a useful tool and a barrier to communication.

Meanwhile, Nick Hanford, The Man of Many Frowns, decided not to respond to one concept, but all of the talks through the lens of audience and who the talks were for and how the talks addressed the concept themselves.

And on the Critical Proximity site, Richard Terrell put up the Roundtable Maps, a dynamic snapshot that grew out of the roundtable talks held after several of the talks.

GDC

While not all of us were fortunate enough to go, there was much discussion to be had about the recent Game Developers Conference.

On Paste Magazine, Maddy Myers wrote about what she had to consider about how she dresses when she goes to conferences or conventions like GDC and how it ends up hiding who she truly is.

Matthew Kumar delivered a detailed write up of Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue postmortem for Edge Online.

Held concurrently to GDC, across the street is the Lost Levels conference as an ‘unconference.’ Mike Joffe posted the full version of his talk he gave on non-human play.

And finally, cartoonist Elizabeth Simins had what must be the shortest interview with Peter Molyneux ever and produced it for Kotaku in comic form. If this doesn’t spawn a Molydeux style game jam I don’t know what to do with you all.

Social Effect of Games

Looking at human’s response to video games for a sociological perspective.

Katherine Cross for Feministing looked at some success stories in the RPG realm – Dragonfall and Pathfinder – that put another nail into the coffin for the idea that sex sells and anything else is doomed for failure.

Mrs. Dawnaway wrote a piece for Big Tall Words about the implications of makeup in Mass Effect.

And Mike Rose delved into the seedy world of digital gunrunners who circumvent the Steam trading system to make a quick buck off of Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

This is where everyone sort of wanders about towards their own interests

Edward Smith wrote a trio of posts about Silent Hill 2 looking at the long intro walk in the woods, the character of Laura and a closer look at the subtle meanings behind the nurses’ design.

At Kill Screen Alexander Saeedy wrote about the archaic design as why he quit playing Baldur’s Gate II. The submitter did qualify that he wasn’t sure if Saeedy had made it through the admittedly somewhat lengthy and dull opening dungeon.

Mutlimedia Editor G. Christopher Williams at PopMatters looked into Device 6 and how it takes a different route towards its metanarrative of player/game relations.

Mark Chen calls Depression Quest the most important game he’s ever played.

Francisco Dominguez had some questions while figuring out his reading of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, so he went to the source, Dan Pinchbeck.

Robert Rath calls Ground Zeroes the first Metal Gear Solid game that gets, like the tagline says, Tactical Espionage Action right.

Leigh Harrison looks at the super lengthy Darksiders II and how that and its repetition are, in a way, something to be admired.

Stephen Beirne looks and the concept of exploration by eschewing the normative model of an open world filled with collectables for something far different filled with weird sights.

And Austin C. Howe wrote a defense of Super Metroid‘s backtracking for his blog Haptic Feedback.

Dispatch from our Foreign Correspondent

Amélie Middelberg writes about sexist abuse in her gaming life and the various internet projects dedicated to documenting such instances of harassment.

Tobias Martin Schwaiger considers how the movie adaptions of Resident Evil manage to enrich the source material, despite its own heavy use of cinematic devices.

Speaking of films, Benjamin Filitz talks about the Dota 2 documentary Free to Play and its uncomfortable existence as a Valve product documenting a Valve product.

On Polyneux, Doreen shares her personal experience with The Last of UsLeft Behind.

Other Types of Game Criticism

All before were words on a page.

Extra Credits looked at the design benefits of collectable games like Magic: The Gathering.

Campster aka Chris Franklin follows up on his look at Thief with a an analysis of the newest entry in the franchise.

The Ontological Geek has a new podcast and episode 2 takes a long look at the concept of the asylum level in video games and what it means.

Final Points

The Ontological Geek is holding a call for articles for Romance Month in April. Likewise The Journal of Games Criticism with open for submissions for their second quarterly issue. The deadline is April 19th.

Thank you for reading. If you have any suggestions for the weekly roundup please submit them via our email or @ message our Twitter account. If you like the work we do here and wish to support us with more than kind words you can at our Patreon page.

Also, you can spread the love for good criticism at the Unwinnable Weekly. Check out their Kickstarter.

Episode 15 – Black History Month

March 5th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

In honor of Black History Month or maybe, as the discussion recognizes, in submission to it, we at Critical Distance are honored to be host to a discussion of three highly intelligent black critics to discuss both the concept of Black History Month and what it means to be black in video games and the wider culture. Now, I’ll just get out of the way and let them take it from here.

CAST

Mattie Brice: Alternate Ending

Zolani Stewert: The Fengxi Box

Evan Narcisse: Kotaku

SHOW NOTES

Bow Nigger

The Arcade Review

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Direct Download

 

Episode 14 – In This The Year Of…

January 16th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (Comments Off)

And comes close another year and along with it our fourth end of year look back podcast. 2013 is behind us and we at Critical Distance look one last time at the major points that occurred along the way. We did our best to keep the podcast as manageable as possible, time wise. This year, instead of breaking it up between the events that happen and games that came out we’ve done them all at once in a single chronological run through of the year.

CAST

Eric Swain: The Game Critique

Kris Ligman: Dire Critic

Alan Williamson: Five out of Ten

Cameron Kunzelman: This Cage is Worms

SHOW NOTES

FUCK VIDEOGAMES

Tropes vs. Woman in Video Games

The Creepy Side of E3

The Collapse of the Animal Crossing Economy and the Rise of Villager Trading

Video Game Therapist

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Part 1: Direct Download

Part 2: Direct Download

Enjoy!

January 12th

January 13th, 2014 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (Comments Off)

After taking a break from the year end specials, we at Critical Distance are back. I, Eric Swain, will be stepping in as your curator this week to present a double sized This Week In Video Game Blogging.

Connect the Dots

Eric Swain GMing style of Shadowrun Return at PopMatters. Also at PopMatters, G Christopher Williams wrote how Knock Knock managed to digitize the children’s game of hide and seek, while Nick Dinicola wrote how the game of Need For Speed: Rivals is at war with its soundtrack.

Sven Bergström of Sneaky Bastards penned a manifesto for 2014 on the nature of pure stealth games and their relationship to action games.

Brendan Vance wrote The Cult of the Peacock about the overwhelming influence of The Design of Everyday Things to the exclusion of artistic decisions and detriment of the work and to the designer saying,

Now, instead of manuals, we have interactive tutorials. They take about fifty times longer to produce, three times longer to consume, and players hate them so much that their highest aspiration is to become completely transparent. Currently I spend most of my waking hours developing them. It should come as no surprise that I hate them too.

Jaymee Mak wonders with regards to feminism and representation why the ‘why’ is always left out. She asks just such questions in interviews with developers Brenda Bailey Gerschkovitch, Kirsten Forbes and Mathew Kumar using their work as a springboard.

Soha El-Sabaawi spins out her reaction of The Escapist’s recent No Right Answer video on Anita Sarkeesian, commenting ‘there is no right answer, but a wrong way to discuss.’

Isaiah Taylor interviews Amanda Strawn, the voice actress of the infamous homeless black woman NPC from Dues Ex: Human Revolution to get her side to the character and the issue.

Stephen Beirne at his blog Normally Rascal talks about the inclusion of sexual assault in Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes in relation to Kojima’s own track record.

Todd Harper looks at the presentations of character designs in fighting games and balancing the design between the game’s need and that of harmful stereotypes.

Patrick Miller peer reviews the No Show panel by Todd Harper and Maddy Myers and how most of the outward presentation reflects poorly on the work they were trying to accomplish.

Kris Ligman on Gamasutra says, ‘Fire Emblem Awakening is a triumph of good design and advertising and not casual appeal.’

James Marion likens The Sims to Our Town and how it is the player’s hand just like it is the director’s hand that grant’s the stage meaning.

Jeff Mummert at Play the Past looks at how video games aren’t really understood and to be used as texts in the classroom the understanding of player’s position and their agency is necessary.

Gaines Hubbell at Higher Level Gamer examines the ideal of a video game as a text and how we approach them as open works in the face of mainstream critics unconsciously insisting they are closed works. Also at Higher Level Gamer, Erik Bigras examines a game outside the norm for the NES why it was once a – Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus – prescription and what it can teach about asthma.

Dave Own wrote a feature for Polygon about Super Columbine Massacre RPG and how its purpose of working through the tragedy like many of the books and films in its wake was missed given the medium it is a part of.

Kevin Sultan on Gamasutra looks at the psychological anthropology in video games paying particular attention to images and what we consider monsters.

Jamie Madigan at Psychology of Games looks at studies performed at the Capilano suspension bridge in Vancouver where it turns out a heightened sense of danger can be transferred in the mind onto ancillary events. Some video games may do the same thing to get player attached to the characters in The Walking Dead and The Last of Us.

Adrian Froschauer wrote a guest article for Ontological Geek examining the illusion of choice in The Walking Dead and how it is that illusion that is much more important than any actual outcome in The Walking Dead. Also at Ontological Geek, Bill Coberly looks at the moral choice presented in FTL, in particular the confrontation with non-hostile slavers and the unspoken implications of all your decisions.

Robert Rath looks at the pirate life on display in Assassin’s Creed IV and how the game fits you into the world through quests and encouraged behavior.

Daniel Korn comes back to Pokemon with Pokemon X/Y and find everything from the villains to the rivals to the through quest utterly lacking even by Pokemon standards.

Eurogamer published a piece by The Secret Developers to keep them anonymous about their troubles with the Wii U and how these difficulties and lack of support has caused a lot of third-party support to quietly retract games that were once announced for it.

Pietro Polsinelli had indie developer Daniel Benmergui on the Design a Game podcast to discuss Storyteller, his puzzle game/system for creating visual stories.

Emily Short critique’s Gone Home as a work of interactive fiction and the larger trend of “presenting most of your story as backstory” as a means to get around many difficulties in writing interactive fiction.

Mark Filipowich wrote some of his thoughts on games writing and community involvement with links to quite a few other writers’ pieces and their responses to the current situation from Patreon to creating new games writing outlets.

Zolani Stewert launched the first issue of the Arcade Review, a digital magazine focusing on criticism of experimental games. It includes pieces by Line Hollis, Lana Polansky, Alex Pieschel and Zolani Stewart himself. Also, Objective Game Reviews launched while we were away. Finally, a site that gives nothing but truly objective reviews of video games.

Closing Credits

Thank you for your patience. We are now back to a normal schedule. Because of recovery and last minute scheduling snafus almost every single link above was a suggestion sent in by our readers. A big thank you to all of you. So remember, please send in any suggestions you might have through our email submission form or via Twitter mention.

This Year In Video Game Blogging: 2013

December 30th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Swain in Spotlight: - (12 Comments)

Here we are at the end of 2013, on the cusp of a new year, we at Critical Distance look back at all of the great criticism of the year. We trudged through the 1265 links we featured in the 2013 entries of TWIVGB and then checked the additional 50 recommendations you, the readers, submitted for consideration. From all of that we did our best to whittle a curatorial list of the most memorable, most important and most representative critical pieces of year. Critical Distance is proud to present the 2013 edition of This Year in Video Game Blogging.

Publications

Originally we called this print, but as the world moves towards digital, the specialist publications have begun to emerge. What used to be collaborative blogs has emerged into specialist publications with a wide variety of voices and names contributing.

Alan Williamson’s first full year of Five Out of Ten magazine put out a load of great work. Too many names to list here – 17 in all – contributed high quality critical work in its pages.

Another digital magazine, that got its start this year, is Zoya Street’s Memory Insufficient with 7 issues to its credit so far.

Ghosts In The Machine is a short story anthology of 13 pieces by a variety of video game critics edited by Lana Polansky and Brendan Keogh.

Critical Video Game Blogging

Every year the focus of most of the work is on the games themselves, ranging from a holistic overview, to narrowing in on a single aspect or connecting it to the greater trends and themes of the medium. This is true for games of the present and of the past.

Without a doubt the most talked about game of the year is Bioshock Infinite. Cameron Kunzelman was kind enough to collect a lot of the early writings of the game soon after its release.

Leigh Alexander examines her own reaction to Bioshock Infinite and finds that the same formula is cracking at the seams as time has passed it by.

Matthew Armstrong calls the game out on the difference between subtlety and cowardice, “trying to play dress-up as an intellectual exercise in what video games can accomplish.”

Meanwhile, Tevis Thompson takes not only the game to task, but the mainstream reviews and their lack of critical rigor towards it.

While Bishock Infinite may have generated the most, Gone Home certainly generated the most variety. In an emotion reflection by Merritt Kopas, she revealed that she cried a number of times. “This is a videogame. About girls in love. That shouldn’t be exceptional in and of itself, but it is.”

Leigh Alexander explores the nostalgia and the reflections of the time, Riot Grrls included, within Gone Home. Almost as a counter Maddy Myers explains how the game doesn’t reflect her experience of high school or the world.

Scott Nichols on his blog Gamerly Musings explains why he spoiled a certain aspect of the narrative in his review of Gone Home and why he felt it wasn’t something people should have held back.

Clockworkworlds’ Austin Walker reads between the lines of many of the artifacts of Terrence’s past and finds he may be the victim of child molestation.

Todd Harper looks into the Christian artifacts and what they represent about the different members of the family regarding their faith and the game as a whole.

Naomi of Dead Pixel looks at the one point in the game where Kaitlin asserts her own will over the player’s to keep her sister’s privacy.

Tom Chick at Quarter to Three asserts that The Last of Us has real heart, but not much else.

Errant Signal’s Chris Franklin calls The Last of Us “perhaps the best possible version of a fundamentally flawed design ideology; a perfect implementation of an imperfect idea.”

Stephen Beirne looks at The Ladder of Us and how Naughty Dogs seems terrified of its audience.

At Medium Difficulty, Javy Gwaltney focuses in on Bill, one of the secondary characters, and how his depiction resonates out to the larger world of the work.

Leigh Alexander writes for Gamasutra on the untimely tragedy of Grand Theft Auto V and for all the open world bluster, how confining the game ultimately feels.

Cameron Kunzelman asks why GTA5 is so conservative, saying about the series, “[it] has always been about selling our own shitty culture back to us and then explaining that we’re transgressive because we buy it.”

Anjin Anhut at How To Not Suck At Game Design deconstructs that satire of GTA5 or lack there of and how it can’t subvert what is already too outrageous.

Meanwhile, Tom Bissell writes a letter to Niko Bellic about Grand Theft Auto V at Grantland.

Proteus co-creator Ed Key responds to contentions that his game was not a game by asking “What Are Games?”

L. Rhodes chimes in that the discussion surrounding Proteus is less to do about the experience of playing it than it does justifying Proteus.

Ian Bogost, meanwhile, wrote a trio of artisanal reviews about the game.

Line Hollis compares Dear Esther and The Stanley Parable and what they have to say about fate and a deterministic universe.

Chris Franklin aka Campster, commits to a holistic reading of The Stanley Parable since its meaning only becomes apparent when viewed as a possibility space and not a single true playthrough.

Eric Swain on his column at PopMatters, took a look at the use of the camera in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Kentucky Route Zero‘s indifference towards video games’ platonic ideal.

Also at PopMatters, is G. Christopher Williams piece about Rogue Legacy and its reflection about the contemporary economic status quo. And Scott Juster, of the Experience Points duo, labels Papers, Please as a game about the “banality of evil.”

Brian Boudreaux of Players Delight refutes the thinking of how Beyond: Two Souls is possibility space is limited and muses that the game’s biggest step forward was also taken too early.

At Unwinnable, Kris Ligman deconstructed Johnny’s place as a part of the Saints Row franchise and how him ending up pushed to the side in Saints Row IV mirror’s the series trajectory as a whole.

Rhea Monique writes about Tomb Raider and how the scene of her being choked deeply affected her.

Todd Harper explains why Actual Sunlight was just a little too much for him to bear and appreciated it didn’t go for the easy ending.

Gilles Roy at Play the Past looks at Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and what it has to say about storytelling and historical witnesses.

At Kill Screen, Emanuel Maiberg explains how Call of Duty: Ghosts ends up turning the player into both a terrorist and a Nazi and how it’s a pity it isn’t self aware enough to realize it.

Soha El-Sabaawi writes about the horror of the iOS indie game Year Walk for Ontological Geek.

Brendan Vance dives into a deep close reading of Liz Ryerson’s Problem Attic.

The Extra Credits crew closely reads a single line in The Walking Dead and its wider significance in the work.

Martin at Oh No! Video Games has a short piece on the thematic reading of episode 4 of The Walking Dead.

Austin C Howe explores the postmodernism nature of Metal Gear Solid. James Clinton Howell looks at MGS4 and how it calls attention to how we become indifferent to human life by its own indifference to human life.

Zolani Stewart looks at how Mortal Kombat 4 is different from its fighting game brethren. Mark Filipowich expands upon it and charts the trajectory of Mortal Kombat‘s violence and what it meat over the numerous entries.

Chris Plante wrote a postmortem on The Bureau: XCom Declassified‘s 7 year development cycle for Polygon.

At Medium Difficulty, Samantha Allen wrote A Dead Space Memoir and its mirroring of her own pain.

Psepho at Commuter Gaming did a close reading of the virtual spaces in Porpentine’s howling dogs.

In his column at The Escapist, Robert Rath explains why Corvo from Dishonored is not an honorable gentleman.

Max Chis calls Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days the anti-shooter long before Spec Ops: The Line.

Ceasar Bautista takes Susan Feagin’s The Pleasures of Tragedy and applies it to Far Cry 2.

Alex Duncan of The Animist blog look at what The Unfinished Swan as to say about creation and self-creation.

Matt Sakey at Tap Repeatedly puts his Roman History degree to use and explores why Total War: Rome II fails to allow the player to be Roman.

Liz Ryerson counters the indie game scene’s trusisms regarding Michael Brough’s Corrypt.

And finally, like last year, we end this section on Sparky Clarkson’s epic round up. He enlisted the help of 14 critics to help explain the greatness of as many 2013 releases in alphabetical order as possible.

Theory Blogging

A Lot of writing focused on specific games, but there was also a lot of writing thinking in the abstract. Not just the games, but regarding criticism itself. It’s work about our views and our understanding.

So of course we start off with Darius Kazemi’s slideshow FUCK VIDEOGAMES. As well as Liz Ryerson’s eye-destroying slideshow response RE: FUCK VIDEOGAMES.

Anna Anthropy saved me a lot of headaches by writing the only Formalist v. Zinester piece one needs to read: “The FORMALIST VERSUS ZINESTER debate is as real as the NARRATOLOGY VERSUS LUDOLOGY debate, which is to say not at all.”

Tangentially related, is Dan Cox explanation of The Mechanics of Twine.

Aevee Bee explained The Tyranny of Choice and its hold of game criticism and design. At Mammon Machine, Aevee Bee also wrote about need to explore beyond simple meaning, but also into the craft and form of our medium.

Mattie Brice wrote her clarion call for game centric criticism and design with Death of the Player.

Liz Ryerson wonders why she should love video games when the games seem embarrassed by their own nature and cannot love themselves.

Chris Franklin explains what Ludonarrative Dissonance actually means in the face of so many incorrect assertions and usage.

Zolani Stewart explains the problem with gun in video games is their lack of weight in the medium.

Shane Liesegang of Bethesda wrote a piece explaining the concept of Impressionist Gameplay.

Lars Doucet explains his newly coined term Procedural Death Labyrinths on his blog Fortress of Doors.

Reetesh Yelamanchili explores how the world itself is understood as a game through the works of Game of Thrones and The Wire.

Line Hollis thinks about how video games fail to meet the narrative arc without a serious change up with their rules within their run.

Culture Blogging

Gaming is much more than theory and works. It intersects with the real world. Any art form can only truly be understood by the culture that surrounds it. Art affects people and in turn people affect art. One must look at the people as well as the work.

The material isn’t as bad as previous years. however, I will not vouch for the comments and to be on the safe side, this section bears a Trigger Warning for discussions of sexism, harassment, rape and imagery of brutal violence towards women.

Anita Sarkeesian uploaded the first four videos of her Kickstarted series Tropes vs. Woman in Video Games covering the Damsel in Distress in three parts and Ms. Male Character in one.

Jenn Frank for Gameranx deconstructs what Dead Island Riptide‘s headless woman torso statue says about the culture that produced it and what it represents.

Trigger Warning end.

Polygon’s Tracey Lien looks into the past to find the story the now calcified stereotype of video game being for boys.

Samantha Allen wrote An Open Letter to Games Media about their comment policies and the image they are projecting at re/Action Magazine.

In addition, she wrote about her work using video games to teach intersectionality at Emory University, first with Halo‘s Skulls and then with Bastion‘s Idols.

Simon Parkin wrote an expose for Eurogamer about the Video Game Industrial complex and their complicity in advertising guns in the wake of the Newtown shooting and the NRA’s deflection of responsibility.

More studies are always being called for, so Jody Macgregor decided to see how those studies worked and what they actually had to say about behavior.

Micheal “brainygamer” Abbot makes the humble case that in aggregate what we are consuming in our medium cannot be healthy for us and we must examine ourselves.

Ian Williams describes the cycle of exploitation in the industry that is the de facto norm.

Keep Your Politics Out of My Video Games” Chris Franklin undermines, as he explains that such a contention is not really possible.

Related, Aevee Bee uses Penny Arcade to explain the slow death satire appears to be experiencing thanks to puffed up self importance and abdication of responsibility.

Simon Parkin says you should quit calling yourself a gamer lest you be tainted by what the community has become.

At Unwinnable, Nate Andrews looks at the bizarre entity and community that sprung up around Salty Bet.

Mark Filipowich laments upon the ephemeral nature of the internet and potential loss of all the great writing because of the dreaded 404.

Blogger of the Year

And now may I present Senior Editor, Kris Ligman:

It has become customary in these end-of-the-year retrospectives to highlight the contributions of a particular writer, or writers, who helped define the year’s critical discourse.

In the past, the honor of “best blogger” has gone to a newcomer or standout writer who went from standing near the periphery of our reading of games writing to take center stage in an ongoing, ever-evolving critical discussion. Each year, these breakout talents have helped to raise the discourse to new heights. Previous year winners include L.B. Jeffries (2010), Kirk Hamilton and Kate Cox (2011), and Brendan Keogh (2012).

This year, we are proud to name two remarkable women, Liz Ryerson and Samantha Allen as our joint Bloggers of the Year.

Liz and Samantha have each left an indelible mark on how we thought about and discussed games in 2013. From her provocative game Problem Attic to her in-depth level analyses and essays, Liz (@ellaguro) reminds us of the raw, deeply-felt appreciation for structure and form that so ensnares us when we first come into contact with games. Coming at the medium from a different but equally captivating perspective, Samantha (@CousinDangereux)’s explorations of game systems as teaching tools and commentary on social systems and personal growth, and her heartfelt appeals not just to game-makers but journalists and community leaders to up their game and provide safer spaces for everyone, reveal the sort of profound emotional intelligence and personal candor she brings to all of her writing.

We salute you both, Liz and Samantha, for your many contributions over the past year. And we look forward to your future work!

And Never Thought Upon

If I had to sum up the year overall, I’d say it seemed a bit bland, as if a malaise descended over everything. Something left and everyone puttered about, waiting for something to come. It of course had its high spots as you can see above and on my cutting room floor. Quality work will always exist. But 2013 seemed more like a gearing up as the universe gets its ducks in a row and everyone rushes about the stage to get into their places. We all felt like we were setting up and now hopefully we can get some payoff come the new year. A big thank you to all those who emailed in their suggestions and to all my colleagues new and old at Critical Distance.

Next weekend we are back to the usual routine. So please don’t forget to send in your suggestions for TWIVGB to our email and our twitter. From all of us here to all of you out there, have a Happy New Year.