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Author Archives: Eric Swain

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: - (0 Comments)

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: - (0 Comments)

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: - (0 Comments)

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.

Now Accepting Submissions for TYIVGB 2013 Edition

December 13th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Swain in Announcement: - (0 Comments)

This may be short notice, but once again we are opening reader submissions for the annual This Year In video Game Blogging feature. If last year is any indication this is an especially liked feature of our little year end look back that we do at Critical Distance. Oh, oh so popular.

Like in previous years, we are crowd sourcing posts in addition to my own culling efforts. The rules and types of things we are looking for in the recommendations are the same vague guidelines mixed with some judicial sense. The only real hard and fast rule we have for this feature is that the post, video or whatever else has a 2013 post date. That’s from January 1st to whenever you end up sending in your suggestion. This isn’t the same as for a weekly round up, this is for the whole year. We are looking for the best of the best. To help, here are our so called criteria to give an idea of what we are looking for.

1. Any piece of writing that just sticks out in your mind. After all this time to the end of the year, you still remember it or keep seeing it brought up. Pieces that get cited to this day. Examples from previous years include:

-The New Games Journalism by Kieron Gillen ‘05
-Ludonarrative Dissonance by Clint Hocking ‘07
-Taxonomy of Gamers by Mitch Krapta ‘08
-Permanent Death by Ben Abraham ‘09
-Video games can never be art by Roger Ebert ‘10
-The Pratfall of Penny Arcade – A Timeline (aka Debacle Timeline) by Unknown ‘11
-Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line by Brendan Keogh ’12

2. Any pieces that are an excellent example of larger trends within the conversation from the critical community surrounding the big games of the year. Last year that would be Spec Ops: The Line, Journey, The Walking Dead and so on. We want examples pieces highlighting the discussion that took place around the games of this year.

3. Any example pieces from the important critics/sites that stood out this year. These are the pieces that highlight or are representative of the critics’ writing and work throughout the year. And of course, you can nominate your own work.

4. Any pieces of excellence pertaining to gaming culture that highlights a conversation fro this year. Large compilation pieces are preferred should they exist or pieces that otherwise capture the scope and variety of the conversation.

5. Any pieces that may not pertain to the larger discussion around a title, highlight an important topic nor is a piece of great significance for years to come, but is simply an exceptional piece of beautiful writing.

These are rough guidelines as to what we are looking for. Please email all links to our email. DO NOT use Twitter or message on Facebook. We will not be checking those for the yearly submissions. Take your time, consider carefully and send us in your favorite examples of criticism. If you need more help you can check previous years TYIVGB for the type of thing we are looking for. Also, and this is a personal request, please try and keep the number of links under 50 for my own sanity. The deadline is Midnight December 25th Eastern Standard Time.

You can send in an many emails as you like with links. If you forget one or remember one later, send it in. Please put TYIVGB or some other indicator that it is for the yearly roundup in the subject line. And maybe, a few words on why you think a piece should be included. Please don’t make me regret saying this part again this year. A few words, not essays.

We thank you for your time and hope you have a happy December. I’m already freezing.

November 10th

November 10th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (0 Comments)

It’s getting rather dark and rather chilly around here. Another week, another list of links for This Week In Video Game Blogging.

Video Games Both Great and Small

Horror month continues a little past October with Zachary McAnally looking at Slender: The Arrival‘s horror design and Soha El-Saaawi explaining the journey of Year Walk.

Emanuel Maiberg at Kill Screen looks at the new Call of Duty and how the campaign ends up turning you unintentionally into a terrorist and a Nazi. While E.T. Brooking at The Escapist explores the real world space faring weaponry that has and could exist.

Becky Chambers of The Mary Sue relates her experience with Papers, Please from both sides of the customs booth, both in the game and in real life. Levi Fowler wrote ‘What AntiChamber Teaches Us About The Nature of Religious Texts’ for GameChurch.

Bendan Vance talks about intrinsic and extrinsic features of a work and how Liz Ryerson’s Problem Attic is an example of a game fully designed with intrinsic meaning instead of “paying lip service to aesthetics.”

Ethan Gach asks “What is Final Fantasy?” in the respect that the games have always changed and mutated over their many iterations and looks at the core of what makes a quote/unquote Final Fantasy game.

Nathan of Metopal.com compares Baseball to Spelunky in regards to their various levels of play and the deceptively simple descriptions of how they play.

Eric Swain at PopMatters explains how most games that claim to be cinematic fail to take advantage of the techniques of film and how Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a game that incorporated such techniques into its camera.

Stephen Beirne wrote a piece at Gameranx claiming that BioShock Infinite‘s combat design was a step backwards from BioShock 2.

Alisha Karabinus at Not Your Mama’s Gamer explored how thanks to her age and our journey with her in Season One, that taking control of Clementine in The Walking Dead Season Two could be path to a new empathy to girls’ and women’s situations in trying circumstances.

State of Things Orbiting the Medium

Bob Chipman explains the changes that happened to criticism in the public sphere over the last century and how it wasn’t always consumer oriented, but theory oriented in his latest Big Picture Show episode.

Cameron Kunezlman looks at the complex relationships indies and AAA industries have with one another, especially the workers of each. Speaking of which, Ian Williams looks at the distressing reality of Video Games and Labor.

Emanuel Maiberg now shows the other side of the debate in ‘what big data can’t teach us about video games.’

At the Monochroma development blog, Burak Tezate?er looks at the expressionism art style and its relationship to video games.

Gender and Race Tied Up With Lace

In her Edge column, Leigh Alexander explains how those fans that get defensive of their favorite games over criticism end up displaying the same sensitivity they vilify in others who are not explicitly catered to.

Sindey Fussell explains why the main answer towards equality in the medium is in the end another silencing tactic in favor of the status quo.

At The Border House, Mark Filipowich explores how the relationship between sex and politics is presented in three different games.

PBS Game/Show asks the question ‘Are Games Racist?’ answering yes, though not for the reason one might think.

See You Next Week

Thank you for reading. If you have created or see something you think is worth including a future edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging, please contact us by sending a mention to our Twitter account or use our email submissions form.

October 27th

October 27th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (1 Comments)

Your resident librarian of games criticism is back in the seat again. We have a wonderfully diverse collection on the recommends shelf of This Week In Video Game Blogging.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto is a very popular subject as of late. We decided just to put them out on the front shelf; it seems to be the topic of the moment.

Stephen Beirne on the Huffington Post writes about how it normalizes violence, not through causing it, but by creating an atmosphere where people cannot recognize it. Furthermore, Beirne suggests that the satire defense merely exacerbates the problem.

Cassandra Khaw at US Gamer talk about how unrealistic Michael and his family are given that she grew up with a real world analog to him. It isn’t so much social criticism as it is the high flung fantasy of an executive.

Spann at Arcadian Rhythms is a little disappointed at the criticism towards GTA5‘s most heinous mission and how under read it’s used in regarding Trevor and his character.

Mark Serrels says Los Santos is a place he’d never want to visit on Kotaku. And Johnny Kilhefner at Unwinnable regards existence in Los Santos as condemning a person to a slow death and eventual end by one’s own hand.

AAA

Kimberley Wallace put out a new piece published by Game Informer about how confronting despair can influence a reading and ultimately the ending choice in Beyond: Two Souls.

Paul Haine looks at running in games and how the culmination of elements in Remember Me finally made him slow down and walk to the benefit of the game and his enjoyment.

Also, a brand new work from the highly reclusive author – first in a long while I must say – came out this week. Our own Kris Ligman – yes her, right over there – published a piece at Unwinnable deconstructing Johnny Gat from the Saint’s Row series.

Indies

Leda Clark goes back to the cultural initiator of the boom and digs deep into the psychosis of Braid by looking at oft overlooked elements.

Alex Duncan looks at creation and self creation through art in The Unfinished Swan on his The Animist Blog. Don’t get much about this gem.

Rob Parker of First Person Scholar tries to reconcile Jesper Juul’s understanding of game and failure with regards to the art of Papers, Please.

Stephen Beirne sees Gone Home as three games wrapped into one.

Daniel Joseph sees Howling Dogs and Kentucky Route Zero as a new type of game entering into the general public’s view and hopefully laying down the groundwork for what the next world will look like.

Look Back

We also have a number of new writings on classic titles for the vintage player.

Ed Smith did a insightful retrospective of the original Tropico and how perfectly it mirrors how politics really works and why so little ever gets done.

Eric Swain continues horror month at PopMatters by looking at a classic adventure game now again once widely available and how I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is more faithful to the concept of horror than most other games.

And Liz Ryerson collects her three critical walkthrough videos of the first chapter of the original Doom and of the subtle nuances of the level’s design and hidden storytelling.

Social Issues

We have a treat this week. Stanford was kind enough to to show the study that demonstrates how sexualized game characters have a demonstrative detrimental real world effect of self esteem and cognitive ability. Yes, no paywall or anything. JSTOR is usually so picky.

Darius Kazemi and Nina Huntemann list off the three least powerful woman in gaming. many repeat entrants this year.

Robert Rath in his weekly pamphlet says that we need more soldiers to write about games.

And if you are willing to go into the viewing room we have a set of companion videos from Idea Channel. Controlling vs. Being Your Video Game Avatar and Are you Weird if You Play as the Opposite Sex? That second one comes close, but manages not to fall into any pitfalls.

Miscellaneous

Those? Oh sorry. I haven’t gotten around to reshelving them yet. Sure you can have a look.

L. Rhodes at Polygon says sequels are sometimes good for gamers. He also wrote about how copyright law pertains to Super Mario Brothers and video games in general for Medium.

Jason Johnson wrote an interesting look inside the “failed” utopian New Games Movement.

And Mitch Dyer wrote on the all too depressing and all too real question of ‘how long can video games matter?” This is given their iterative qualities instead of artistic and how each new game forces obsolescence on their predecessors.

Eric Keeps Forgetting the Closing Section So Kris Had to Write This Part

Thanks for stopping by! As usual we welcome all outside submissions, so please send us your recommendations via Twitter mention or our email submissions form.

Also, we are still on the look-out for foreign language correspondents! In particular, we are looking for readers familiar with French, Spanish, Russian or Japanese games writing, although we welcome all comers, of course. If you think you can help out, please drop us a line!

There are a few days left to submit to this month’s Blogs of the Round Table, so please consider taking part!

See you next week!

Episode 13 – The Raidy Bunch

October 9th, 2013 | Posted by Eric Swain in Critical Distance Confab: - (0 Comments)

For quite a while now Lara Croft and her Tomb Raider franchise has been wallowing in irrelevance. One too many subpar games with date control scheme and sensibilities holding it down. Then, earlier this year, the reboot of Tomb Raider launched the franchise back into the public eye and brought with it much examination and discussion. Three people were driven to have a voice-to-voice conversation about it. They did so. This is that conversation.

Podcast: Direct Download

CAST

Zach Alexander: Hailing From the Edge

Kris Ligman: Dire Critic

Cameron Kunzelman: This is Cage of Worms

SHOW NOTES

Tomb Raider Review Mutliplatform

The role of her life.

Legends Of The Hidden Template

Regarding The Pain Of Avatars

Tomb Raider: Lara Croft and the Secret of the Tenth Death Totem

Tomb Raider: How long does it take to become an axe murderer?

Where have I heard the wind in Tomb Raider before?

Why The Fearful Hero Is A Good Thing For Video Games

What five games say about violence

Notes on Tomb Raider

This isn’t the article I wanted to write about Tomb Raider

Opening Theme: ‘Close’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

Closing Theme: ‘Wishing Never’ by The Alpha Conspiracy

September 1st

September 1st, 2013 | Posted by Eric Swain in This Week in Videogame Blogging: - (1 Comments)

Sunday afternoons are made for being lazy. Just stretch out, scratch the nearest cat tummy and watch the dust particles float on by. But there are still posts to read and link lists to curate. So on with This Week in Videogame Blogging.

Gone Home and Papers, Please

Because two great tastes go together.

Kate Craig, artist for The Fullbright Company wrote a post on the company blog explaining some of the subtle symbolism with flowers used in the game.

Jorge Albor talks about the concept and realization of family in Gone Home over at PopMatters.

Claire Hoskings wrote for Polygon the six lessons for creating believable female characters using Gone Home to highlight each point.

At Ontological Geek, Matt Schanuel calls Gone Home the act of soft transgressions. And Oscar Strik sees both Papers, Please and Gone Home as games about stories the recognition we should pay more attention to those of others.

Stephen Winson at his blog The Good, the Bad and the Awesome, sees Papers, Please main flaw is that it sets it in the communist bloc as if that were the only government to slide into a bureaucratic state.

Masculinity

To protect and abuse.

Maddy Myers of Paste questions her reading of Hotline Miami has a satire of masculinity given its sequel’s start and satire in games as a whole and the relevance and necessity of authorial intent for it to be there. She mentions The Castle Doctrine as part of that.

Jason Rohrer explains his choices regarding families with mechanical value as it relates to the player’s behavior regarding them and how changes to the family changed player behavior.

Journalism

Games and Otherwise.

Laura Kate says that she is not a Journalist, because the relationship between writer and subject isn’t the same in the games press.

Jeff Kunzler, someone who actually works in advertising, has a few things to say about Adblock and their recent move into advertising. He’s positive on the whole thing.

And Robert Rath in his Critical Intel column at the Escapist goes step by step over the mainstream news media’s incompetence and harmful reporting regarding a tragedy with an 8-year old, his grandmother and a video game that was mentioned only into get attention.

Unwinnable

They all talked about sleeping this week.

Edward Smith says to stop and smell the roses as video games never seem to let you have those moments to actually absorb what is going on.

Nick Robinson says sleep is boring, but video game all nighters are interesting.

Nick Michal seems to go a little off the deep end into the surreal. How did the hero get here? Is this a beginning or an ending?

Assorted Close Readings

Random video games.

At PopMatters, Mark Filipowich takes his turn on the Final Fantasy is dead debate, saying the series isn’t dead, it isn’t even unwell, but rather healthy because it is still with us in all its incarnations. G. Christopher Williams, meanwhile, looks at the current state of the MMO and laments it fails to offer the same incentive towards friendship as it once did.

Jonas Jürgens at Thunderbolt Games played The Sims 3 and was bored out of his mind as he desperately searched for substance.

Caitlin Oram looks at I Am Alive and its portrayal of the apocalypse and notes that the greater danger is with other humans not monsters.

Aggrodrago, real name unknown, looks at the effectiveness of a simple camera control change towards teaching the most important lesson in the beginning of The Last of Us.

Paw Dugan does a quick overview of the music in Persona 3 and how it ties the game’s story together.

And Edge looks at The Making of: The Last Express.

Culture

Ethics regarding in and out.

Dan Solberg wrote a profile for Kill Screen on the Marina Abramovic Institute and game creator Pippin Barr’s part in it.

Ethan Levy defends himself on Kotaku against being called a cancer on the industry to explain a few things to people.

Reid McCarter at Digital Love Child says that playing the classics isn’t always easy, but it can be valuable to struggle through the dry material because the experience can be worthwhile.

Joe Webb of Ludic Poop, talks about the elitism of the “pure gaze” that arises in every medium to propagate the notion the form is more important than its connection to the real world and how such a stance by the hardcore is used to alienate bros as well as content critics.

Wrap Up

Thank you for visiting. Don’t forget Blogs of the Round Table is still going on till the end of September. We take recommendations every week via both email and twitter. Welcome to the new month and the end of summer.