Header

Here it is, the last regular This Week in Videogame Blogging of the year! It seems fitting that it should land on Winter Solstice — or Summer Solstice, for our friends down under. Stay cool and hydrated over there!

Anyway, as you might expect, we have a bit of a short one this week. Worry not, though, as next weekend we’ll be running our 2014 edition of This Year in Videogame Blogging! We’re still seeking reader submissions, so if you have something you want to get in, be sure to do that quick like.

Now, onto this week’s treats!

All Together Now

The crew of Shut Up and Sit Down (that is, the best board game blog happenin’ around these parts) have been counting down their top 25 board games of all time — and here’s the top five!

Kill Screen is running an interesting set of end-of-the-year features as well. Here are some highlights: Chris Breault on the (sometimes nonsensical) ubiquity of map illumination as a game mechanic and Gareth Damian Martin with a look at architecture in games, particularly in recent experimental works such as Shadowing, Abstract Ritual and NaissanceE.

On the developer side, Adriel Wallick (pioneer of the Train Jam) spent her 2014 making a game a week. Here’s her post-partum of the experience.

Design Notes

In his regular Critical Intel column, Robert Rath has a few notes on what Far Cry 4 gets right — and wrong — about its Nepalese setting.

Elsewhere, in Aevee Bee’s zine Zeal, Brian Crimmins has some fond words for Sakura Taisen‘s portrayal of Japan’s Jazz Age from 1912 to 1926.

PopMatters’s Jorge Albor, who is Chicano, found himself unexpectedly relating quite a bit to the complex racial politics of BioWare’s Dragon Age Inquisition. Meanwhile, at The Gaming Intelligence Agency, Nich Maragos finds pleasure in the ‘mundane heroism’ of Fantasy Life.

Gone Home‘s Steve Gaynor turned up at Matter this week as part of its New York Review of Videogames. Gaynor analyzes both The Evil Within and Alien: Isolation and finds that both, in their attempts to play to nostalgia, venture to strange places.

And this one’s good for a chuckle: at Playthroughline, Ed Smith does a snark-filled readthrough of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption

Lastly for this section, I leave you with the always-incisive Liz Ryerson, whose newest post is a little bit about Brendan Keogh’s book, a little bit about Goldeneye, and a lot about Perfect Dark.

Beyond the Mat

(That’s the name of a very good WWF documentary, incidentally. I recommend it!)

Back with Matter’s New York Review of Videogames, author Kerry Howley pens a riveting essay on the complexities of EA Sports: UFC and how it, perhaps inadvertently, rings true of the hardships of its subject matter.

In a stroke of synchronicity, this week also brought us an interesting entry from Kotaku, where editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo has some complicated thoughts on playing through WWE 2K15 as a fan-made simulacrum of deceased wrestler — and murderer — Chris Benoit. (Content warning: Although it doesn’t get in-depth, this article does refer repeatedly to Benoit’s murders.)

Visual Novels

In her first guest piece for Polygon, my fujoshi partner-in-crime A.M. Cosmos makes a strong case for the localization of adult-themed visual novel DRAMAtical Murder. Meanwhile, the one and only Emily Short shares an in-depth narrative analysis of “pigeon dating simulator” Hatoful Boyfriend, noting that it seems odd that the visual novel scene and interactive fiction scene don’t seem to overlap more than they do.

That Old Canard

BioWare designer Damion Schubert — no stranger on these pages as of late — offers a firmly worded argument for why the supposed pervasive “progressivism” in games reportage does not actually exist:

As an example, IGN, Gamespot, Polygon and Kotaku all wrote dozens, if not hundreds of articles on every possible angle of Shadow of Mordor when it came out. One of those was the very silly ‘kiss vs kill’ article about the tutorial […] which is no big deal. But in this case, [certain readers] were led to think this was the norm – that most games writing was actually analysis like this.

This is not at all the case, of course. Most of the articles talked about the sick graphics, the incredible killer combos, the brutal death scenes, where to find all the easter eggs and paid lip service to the pretty-cool-but-really-unnecessary Nemesis system. Just like all the old magazines did when they were printed on tree pulp. These articles represent 95% of games media coverage, talking directly to gamers in their own language, and they rarely raise an eyebrow. That tiny 5% though, the people who decide to try to write about games with unusual perspectives are the ones who cause outrage.

Pairs Well With

Consider the following a red wine to go with the above’s butternut squash.

At The Atlantic, Laine Nooney pens what is, at first blush, a history of computer games’ first published work of erotica (and predecessor to Leisure Suit Larry). But it is more accurately a rumination on a period in the tech industry’s all-too-recent past where computers were not yet colonized as the domain of heterosexual men. (Content warning: images may not be considered safe for your workplace or your young relative reading over your shoulder.)

The letters [objecting to the adult ad] in Softalk, in some backwards way, show that the world of computing was once more diverse than we’ve ever imagined. Women were teaching computer literacy classes in the interstate outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. Men were defending an ideology of computers as “sexless tools.” Softporn wasn’t the distillation of computing’s misogynist kernel. In 1981 the microcomputer and its allied industries were not already destined to become a space where women are violently harassed for discussing inequity, or simply presumed to have no native interest in technology. Its future was not yet determined, and need not have played out the way it did.

[…]

In some sense, Softporn is least interesting as a game, and most interesting as a piece of social theater. While Softporn seemingly affirms every long-suffering trope gaming has to offer — its latent misogyny, its middling cultural stakes, its limp internal humor — it was also developed under shifting social and spatial constraints within an emerging populist computer culture. Softporn flexed a predictable, uninspired muscle against disorienting technological and social circumstances that we long ago forgot were ever disorienting.

And to All a Good Night

While this marks our final regular weekly roundup for the month, you are encouraged to still submit your TWIVGB recommendations by email and Twitter! Normal roundups will resume the second weekend of January.

If you want to submit your links to our This Year in Videogame Blogging mega-roundup, remember that we are accepting these only by email. Go here to learn more. The deadline is December 24th!

Also, if you’re in the writing mood, there’s still a little time to get in on this month’s Blogs of the Round Table prompt, “New Game+.”

Critical Distance is proud to be funded entirely by its readership! If you like what we do and want to help us toward our next important funding goal, please consider signing up for a small monthly donation!

Hello everyone, it’s Lindsey here with another weekly roundup. Before we get started I want to remind you that, as the year comes to a close, we’re looking for submissions for our end-of-the-year roundup. But for now, let’s take a look at This Week in Videogame Blogging!

History and Culture Clashes

Quite a few of the submissions this week talk about how history and culture are both used and confused in games. For instance, Corey Milne uses the recent news about Greece’s pleas to have their artifacts returned to them rather than loaned out by the British Museum to draw parallels to the Uncharted series. Milne argues that Nathan Drake is nothing like Indiana Jones, but is more accurately a thief with no respect for other cultures.

From a different perspective, professional archaeologist Sarah Ingram plays through Tomb Raider and amongst other observations (such as how poorly written Lara is) she notes that the game’s more aligned with treasure collecting than archaeology.

The next two submissions deal more directly with how history is used and how it creates meaning. Austin Walker examines the interaction between genre and history and how that informs or influences criticism, using Attack of the Friday Monsters as a lens for discussion. Alternately, James Patton looks at the ways contemporary Western cultural, political, and religious values are placed in historical contexts unfairly and illogically.

Bridging from that, Claire Hosking provides an Australian perspective on the recent Grand Theft Auto ban in Australian Target and K-Mart stores. Hosking details the important difference between Australian and US perspectives on culture, speech, and criticism and how this relates to perceptions of the ban itself.

To end this section on a brighter note, Christopher Sawula, a postdoctoral fellow, historian, and teacher explains what makes Valiant Hearts not only a good game, but the only one worth using to help students understand the emotional, social, and cultural contexts of World War I.

The State of Criticism and Curation

This week also presents us with two opportunities to get a bit meta. Over at Game Informer, Matt Helgeson examines the rate of production of video game content, criticism, scholarship, etc against the loss of it due to poor archival and curatorial work in the field

This week also brings us the playable criticism of systemic prejudice in Parable of the Polygons created by Vi Hart and Nick Case.

Design and Development

Working in the game industry is tumultuous anywhere, but Anton Paramonov discusses the more unique and specific challenges Eforb faces as a development studio based in the Ukraine. For instance, he notes this as an unique position to find your business: “It’s tough to fall asleep in one country and wake up in another.”

Elsewhere, Holly Gramazio talks about her work designing place-based (parks, hotel rooms, etc) games — not all of which are digital.

Meanwhile, Damion Schubert discusses the concept of resonance (or really the lack thereof) in Civilization: Beyond Earth.

Over at GameSound, Kenny Young shares an email conversation he had with the late Ralph Baer about the development of game audio.

So technically this is more about child development than game development, but bear with me, as this week Andy Baio details his experiment in child rearing in which he had his son play through video games in chronological order beginning with the Atari 2600 to see whether (and how) it would alter his son’s perception of contemporary games.

Sex, Sexuality, Gender, Performance and the Political

Responding to art with art, Cara Ellison discusses the stolen moments found in Anna Anthropy’s Queers in Love At the End of the World in verse form.

Over at How To Not Suck At Game Design, Anjin Anhut asks: “What can be gained if we use the concept of gender performance for our efforts to change the culture?

Elsewhere, Katherine Cross discusses the character Oh Eun-a in Hate Plus and how she, and the other female characters, are caught in the “unfinished revolution” of social mores that no longer fit.

At The Mary Sue, Victoria McNally covers Aisha Tyler’s recent remarks at the Paley Center about women in the gaming community, both as players and characters.

Podcasts

If your eyes need a break from the screen, there’s some good stuff for your ears this week too!

This week, our own Eric Swain and the Moving Pixels Podcast takes on Spec-Ops: The Line, while The Crate and Crowbar more broadly discuss the things we do in games we’d like others not to see. Even more broadly, Dan Golding’s new podcast “A Short History of Video Games” discusses video game history across the generations. Lastly, Justice Points invite Javy Gwaltney on to talk about his work and his thoughts on paid writing in addition to discussion about more recent game news.

Mélange

Serving up a “Worst of” list rather than a “Best of” list, Jed Pressgrove dishes up an analysis of the ten worst games of 2014 whose “insidious” marketing ploys are hidden beneath technical and artistic completeness.

Over at The Game Critique, Eric Swain talks about elegance in writing and a(n ironically inelegant) piece written by Mark Rosewater from 2004.

Elsewhere, Alex Pieschel writes a detailed history of glitches as aesthetic, discovery, and performance.

At Play/Paws. Melody conducts a close-reading of Transistor’s themes (including elitism, surveillance, censorship, and virtuality) in this three-part series.

Final Mentions:

As always, we’re grateful for our readers and those who have submitted works. If you see something you think we should feature, don’t forget to submit it to us via a Twitter mention or through email. Keep in mind if you are submitting something for This Year in Video Game blogging, you must submit by email!

Also, in case you missed it: StoryBundle has brought back the very first videogame bundle, which includes Ralph Baer’s Videogames: In the Beginning and Brendan Keogh’s Killing is Harmless.

Feeling in the writing mood yourself? Consider participating in this month’s Blogs of the Round Table while there’s still time!

Finally, we’re thankful for the support of your readers. We reached some important funding milestone recently, and we’ve got some great things planned for 2015, so if you aren’t already a supporter, please consider becoming one!

Apparently there has been a cold snap in Britain this weekend. I haven’t noticed because I’ve been printing off all of the good games writing and making a cozy little nest from it. Come sit by the fire and help yourself to a hot chocolate. Welcome to This Week in Video Game Blogging!

Stoking the Fires of Thought

Carolyn Petit returns to Grand Theft Auto V, talking about its Australian retail controversy. Petit observes that the freedom afforded to the player in GTA is naturally dictated by the developer, and it invariably skews towards the freedom to commit acts of violence. Speaking of games that have a troubled history of representing women, Dan Jolley is working to improve Techland’s reputation with Dying Light.

Daniel Starkey has been on a roll lately. Following his review of Never Alone for Eurogamer, he’s written about the representation of American Indians in game development, with excerpts from an interview with John Romero.

Blazin’ Squad

Stephen Beirne has published a substantial work – or least, the first half – on the art of camera and composition in Final Fantasy VII (the other half is available now to his Patreon backers, and he’s even made a nice PDF). Beirne also examines the consequentialism of Anthony Burch’s ‘morality run’ of BioShock, which we featured last week. Wait a minute, didn’t Ed Smith do a similar thing for Five out of Ten last year? (spoilers: yes.)

Evan Conley stretches the definition of ‘little’ in this essay on horror in games as pure “Gothic-horror” compared to a mere feeling of tension, and whether The Evil Within is actually an action game with elements of survival horror. For a different kind of horror, Paul King looks at crime drama game The Detail (piece has a self-described content warning for discussion of sexual violence), which comments on the true nature of choice as well as portraying the darker aspects of humanity.

For a more banal kind of horror, what about the terror of having to play yet another Assassin’s Creed game or finding that your old save games contain a past version of yourself that you’d sooner forget?

Poking the Embers

We’ve reached the Gamergate section – I know, I don’t really want to write about it either, but there were a couple of great articles that warrant a mention. Keith Stuart’s interview with Zoe Quinn at the Guardian is one of the most comprehensive chronicles of the whole situation and would be a useful thing to have on file for inquisitive, well-meaning relatives this holiday season.

Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris is the latest victim of an ‘investigation’ and her response is much more pleasant than the reporters deserve (disclaimer: Mitu, like all fans of good things, previously contributed to the Critical Distance Patreon). Laralyn McWilliams writes a message of hope for those who have been affected over the past few months: “it’s not about where we are right now. It’s about where we’ll be when it’s done.”

Elsewhere, Corey Milne writes about how the ‘Game Awards’ as a thinly-veiled marketing exercise. They could save a lot of money by just skipping the awards, ordering in a couple of pizzas and uploading all those trailers to YouTube from the comfort of an office.

Speaking of YouTube, Feminist Frequency has a new video: instead of the usual format of Anita Sarkeesian’s critical features, this highlights 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male.

Blog Ring of Fire

Have you read something great that we missed? Send us your submissions by Twitter mention or through email. We’re also accepting submissions for This Year in Video Game Blogging 2014.

Here’s something great you might have missed: the new issue of Five out of Ten is out today, at a new lower price! The writing is particularly strong this time, because I’m not in it.

Blogs of the Round Table is back for December (wow, they’re doing a much better job than when I was in charge): get more details and submit your writing here. All welcome!

Don’t forget that Critical Distance is community-funded by awesome people like you! We recently reached our first funding target of $2000 – thank you to everyone who has supported the site, you’ll all wonderful – but with further funding we can pay our hardworking team members and invest resources in the future of the site. Please consider signing up for a small monthly donation!

Right, I’m off to watch this video about how Jackie Chan is the master of action comedy. Until next time…

Hope for all our US readers you had a lovely, stuffing Turkey Day and didn’t spawn too many family brawls. For everyone else, happy weekend. Welcome to This Week In Video Game Blogging!

Bioshock and Beyond Earth

Bioshock is back in the critical eye. Anthony Burch at his blog No Wrong Way to Play decides to see what the consequences of the little sister decision is by never using any of the Adam earned from making a moral choice and finds the game lacking in its response. Meanwhile, Rick Stanton at Rock Paper Shotgun looks at the legacy of Looking Glass Studios in regards to the Bioshock series.

On the other half of the header, Katherine Cross writing for Polygon finds that Beyond Earth can’t top Alpha Centauri. Peter Christiansen writing for Play the Past, focuses on the Beyond Earth‘s tech trees and notes that while in many ways it is no different than Civilization’s determinism approach to technology, in others it matches with recent historical understands of Actor Network Theory. And Errant Signal’s Campster feels the game has a bit of an identity issues between Civilization and Alpha Centauri‘s different styles and themes.

AAA Themes

Jamie Patton finds the Assassin’s Creed series through III to fail by creating an everlasting present of anti-colonialism values that devalues actual history and our ability to change for the better.

Romance author Ruby Duvall takes and does not take issue with a Dragon Age: Inquisition side quest dealing with a character liking a romance serial and the serial’s inclusion as part of the greater world of Dragon Age. Looking at Bioware’s other major property, Dara Khan at Videogameheart thinks through the theme of transhumanism being presented in Mass Effect‘s final choice and finds it doesn’t mesh with what the rest of the series has been about.

At TransGamer Thoughts, Heather Alexandra explores at one of the most underlooked games of the past few years, Binary Domain, and how it deals with AI and what it means to be human.

Meanwhile, George Mylonas looks to a more recent game, Alien: Isolation, and how it functions through the research done about the horror genre.

Interactive Fiction

You may remember a few weeks ago we posted a piece on Alter Ego by The Digital Antiquarian. His wife, Dorte, has written a follow up from the point of view of a woman playing the game as a woman. Later that week, he focused on what looks like the final game in his “digital book” series, 1987’s Portal. It doesn’t look like something that would be out of place in the modern day’s more avante guarde Interactive Fiction scene.

Javy Denton muses on driving alone at night and how Glitchhikers nails the need to talk to someone in the wee hours, even if it’s just other parts of yourself.

The Feel of the Game

At The Butter, Brian Oliu talks about the feel of being the superstar that NBA Jam evokes. It’s not about winning or losing, but putting on the most amazing basketball show possible.

In The Binding of Issac: Rebirth, one starts off with a normalish looking body and by the end has transformed into a monstrous blob of flesh. At PopMatters, G. Christopher Williams explains how it is a statement of freedom in a way, “free from established rules and stricture, free to continue to grow into something other than what others desire it to be.”

In his review of Never Alone, Daniel Starkey comments on how happy he is, as an American Indian, that any tribe would get a game made in conjunction with them to valorize their history and beliefs as “an interactive piece of folklore.”

And Cara Ellison, in her NSFW column at Rock Paper Shotgun, chats and laughs with some real world lesbians about the hilarious failures of Girlvania, an ‘All-Girl Sex Simulation’.

Design

Our own Zach Alexander goes back to a notable title in the mobile battle monster game genre, Puzzles and Dragons, and digs into its exploitative practices against the genre uninformed, likening much of it to capsule machines.

The Extra Credits crew praises the Dark Souls series for its approach to scalable difficulty.

Criticism on Criticism

Nick Capozzoli comes back to his own blog, to unpack the recent statements about opinion and objectivity of Youtuber Total Biscuit. How, when boiled down, the complaints always seem to be, “Why Wasn’t a White Guy Consulted?

Brendan Keogh decides to return the favor to Darius Kazemi and review his book on Jagged Alliance like Kazemi did to his book two years ago. In it, Brendan continues the conversation about approach towards long form criticism.

Melody of Melody Meows About… talks about the need to defend oneself from the purposefully compulsive nature of many of today’s video games. They are designed not just to be enjoyed, but all consuming to the detriment of everything else.

Wrapup

Remember, we are always accepting suggestions for our weekly roundups. Just submit them via our email or @ message them to us on twitter.

If you’re quick you can submit a piece for November’s Blogs of the Round Table.

If you can, please support us and the good work we do here at Critical-Distance through our Pateron. If you can’t afford it, but want to help, signal boost our efforts.

Thank you and have a lovely week. I’ll be subsuming myself into the end of year curation mines.

Hello everyone! Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging! Let’s get started.

Profiles

In The New Yorker, Ben McGrath writes a profile of Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, professional Starcraft II player and “the most accomplished woman in the young history of electronic sports.”

Some exciting happenings: our own Mark Filipowich is heading a series at Good Games Writing to highlight women writers, scholars, journalists, and critics in gaming. There are already three profiles posted, on Alice Kojiro, Becky Chambers, and Rachel Kowert. Make sure to take a look at their fantastic work!

Ikea Materia

Chris Cesarano revisits Final Fantasy VII, reflecting on the game’s characters, plot, and his personal history with it.

And speaking for PBS, Kill Screen’s Jamin Warren discusses the game design paradigms inherent in IKEA’s store layouts. (This is a topic Dan Golding latched onto in 2009 as well.)

Pop Goes the Media

At PopMatters, Jorge Albor writes on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare‘s failure to meaningfully and consistently explore its themes, and Nick Dinicola defends Alien: Isolation‘s inconsistent cat-and-mouse systems.

Design Notes

In Gamasutra’s blog section, Josh Bycer examines two styles of stealth game design, what he calls “Active and Reactive” designs.

At Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Cara Ellison has another segment of her S.EXE column, where she looks at Girlvania and its subversions of the “sex simulator.” The Go Make Me a Sandwich blog has a piece asking why sex in videogames is so dull and unsatisfying.

And at Videodame, Ludeshka reflects on her childhood playing early PS1 and Genesis games.

We Are Videogaming

Simon Parkin looks back on the year-old Grand Theft Auto V and the various perspectives players bring into the game.

And Lastly,

At Paste, Javy Gwaltney uncovers Advanced Warfare’s surprising portrayals of disability in character and action.

Regular Business

Some final notes: remember that you can submit an article to us by email or on Twitter.

There is a little time left to get involved in this month’s Blogs of the Round Table prompt, “Home Sweet Home.”

And if you’d like to support the work that we do here, you can help us continue our curating work at our Patreon. We’re scraping $2,000, which is just enough for Senior Curator Kris to do this full time. So help us out!

But that’s it for this week. Happy reading, and take care.

It’s half past five in the morning here, and I’m asking my phone’s AI if she obeys Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. She’s stonewalling me, I think. So, in the meantime, welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Design Notes

At Melody Meows, the titular Melody has published the third part in an ongoing essay series on Atlus’s Catherine, a fraught game which nonetheless invites some interesting analysis. Here, Melody attempts to tease out the game’s “true” ending and in the process makes a few pointed observations on how the game’s morality system is, ultimately, not representative of any morality we might know.

Speaking of our complicated relationships with some games, over on PopMatters regular columnist takes aim at the recently released Bayonetta 2 and how it is like attending a Beyonce concert in both form and function.

Meanwhile, on the Justice Points Podcast co-hosts Tzufit and the Apple Cider Mage chat with scholar and game developer Michael Lutz on the intersections of Shakespeare, performance and gameplay.

And at Kill Screen, Shonte Daniels compares the rise of ‘auteur’ games with a similar 20th century movement in the world of poetry.

Deep Dives

At The Digital Antiquarian, Jimmy Maher performs a meaty retrospective on Activision’s seminal 1986 Alter Ego and its key developer, psychologist Peter J. Favaro.

Elsewhere, Kyle Kallgren’s usually film-focused video series Brows Held High goes for the interdisciplinary approach this week with a fascinating analysis of the interplay of the visual languages of games and cinema — taking as its starting point Gus Van Sant’s experimental ‘road trip’ film Gerry and its unorthodox source of inspiration, Tomb Raider.

Gonzogunk

We’re seeing an observable downward trend in the frequency of thinkpieces on The Hashtag Which Must Not Be Named, but like any good horcrux, we’re still a ways from seeing it die off completely.

The first thing to keep in mind is that this wave of harassment is not new, and it is long from defeated. Pointing to several instances just in the last few months and just within games, scholar and treasure Katherine Cross highlights how minoritized individuals are still frequently targeted disproportionate to their voice or prominence in the discourse. (Content warning: misogynist and transphobic slurs.)

Ravishly’s Jetta Rae DoubleCakes has been running a series of fantastic interviews, including two from among Critical Distance’s own ranks, contributor Lana Polansky and alumna Mattie Brice.

There has also been a recent push within certain sectors of game design academia which has urged solidarity. Over on Gamasutra’s Member Blogs, USC’s Interactive Media and Game Design chair Tracy Fullerton has released a joint statement on behalf of much of her faculty condemning the harassment campaign which has dominated the discourse of the last few months.

Finally, for a good cathartic chuckle, the ever-reliable Damien Schubert has designed a highly accurate pie chart on the true influence of “social justice warriors” on game development.

My God, Pure Ideology

Thanks for reading! As always, we welcome your submissions by Twitter mention or through email.

The November Blogs of the Round Table is under way and looking for your contributions!

A signal boost: the Montreal-based Game History Annual Symposium 2015 has put out a Call for Papers for its 2015 conference. French and English papers will be accepted, deadline January 15th, 2015.

(Do you have a site, zine or conference looking for submissions? Let us know and we’d be happy to link it here!)

Finally: remember, Critical Distance is community funded by readers like you! We’re closing in on our very important $2,000 funding target, which brings with it more features and our proposed print anthologies, so please consider signing up for a small monthly donation!

How are you all this fine, crisp, chilly autumn day? And you in the southern hemisphere can keep your bragging to yourself, thank you very much. Eric here to take you on another journey through This Week In Video Game Blogging!

Bayonetta 2

Bayonetta 2 continues to stir up conversation both as a sexual entity and in the game’s other facets.

Apple Cider Mage picks up the sex positive/sex negative discussion around the titular character as an opportunity to explore what is actually meant by both terms in a feminist context.

Todd Harper, however, is tired of the discussion around Bayonetta’s body and sexuality behind it to the exclusion of everything else. To that end he posted a series of short posts on the game as capable of instilling joy, dance and music, the angelic facade of the monsters and Bayonetta’s love of the camera and vice versa.

Ben Ruiz continues on this with a set of videos on his development blog going into extreme detail about the technicalities and depth of Bayonetta 2‘s fighting system.

Military and Politik

Kill Screen’s Chris Priestman, instead of leaving the image of “Hold X to Pay Your Respects” and calling it a day, talks about why Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare fails to earn that interaction.

Jake Muncy also condemns the use, but instead goes on to talk about grief and our odd aversion to dealing with death at funerals. Muncy then talks about two games that managed the ritual of dealing with grief far better than CoD:AW.

At Polygon, Charlie Hall puts the spotlight at a different type of war game, with This War of Mine‘s focus shifted a few yards off screen from Call of Duty‘s soldiers and instead focuses on the cowering, surviving civilians trapped in the conflict.

Meanwhile, at Ontological Geek, Tom Dawson turns his eye back to 2012’s Spec Ops: The Line and why it asks “How many Americans have you killed today?” and if that isn’t sending the wrong message.

Finally, Robert Rath talks about a different type of war, the War on Terror, and how Shadows of Mordor is a mirror of that conflict. He says the game fails Tolkien’s world by eliminating the themes of idealism, suspicion of power and our better natures triumphing to instead mire itself in modern cynicism, realpolitik and victory coming from tactics and the willingness to do anything.

History

History Respawned invites Dr. Zach Doleshal on to discuss the Eastern Bloc through the lens of Papers, Please.

And the game history e-zine Memory Inefficient volume 2 issue 5 on religion and game history has come out, featuring articles from L. Rhodes, Austin C. Howe, Danielle Perry, Mauricio Quilpatay, Jon Peterson, Amsel von Spreckelsen and Stephanie Cloete.

Contemplation

Sometimes one needs to only lean back and think, letting the mind wander for no practical end and see what connections can be made.

Alex Jones compares the feeling of driving at night between Glitchhikers and Euro Truck Simulator 2.

Zolani Stewart explains expressionism paintings and their lessons to understanding worlds like that of Sonic Adventure 2.

Horror Games

At Outside Your Heaven, Matthew Weise feels like he should like Alien Isolation more than The Evil Within, but he finds that the former just retreads too much ground.

On Gamasutra’s member blogs, Sergio Hidalgo has some words on the mental tax on developers making horror games, drawing from his personal experience.

Craftsmanship

A concerning not only with content, but with how that content is both delivered and expressed.

If you missed GDCNext, Raph Koster has put up his slides from his talk from that conference, “Practical Creativity.” More than a few of the slides are thought inspiring, even as just a rough outline.

Sam Kabo Ashwell of These Heterogenous Tasks wrote A Bestiary of Player Agency a few weeks back. It’s a long piece that goes into quite a number of different types of mental and physical play spaces and how the various implementation affect our behavior and what we get out of the game.

My colleagues at PopMatters Moving Pixels have also talked about different implementations. Marshall Sandoval writes about the use of regional authenticity to create the texture of real places rather than the bland settings of regurgitated copies of copies of copies. Also, G. Christopher Williams looks at the addition of a first person view to Grand Theft Auto 5.

Then there is David Canela who, on his Gamasutra blog, notes the many binaries in Dark Souls that mirror the thematic binaries at play in that world and how the oft overlooked sound is another of them.

Dispatches from Vienna

Joe Köller has these links to give from across the pond.

The essential story this week: apparently a German theater ran a stage adaptation of The Secret of Monkey Island. Videogame Twitter noticed it too late to make it to an actual performance, but the image gallery alone is worth clicking that link.

Austrian student paper Progress has a special on games this month, which includes a bit of media history by Helga Hansen, as well as Anne Pohl’s summary of recent GamerGate nastiness, among other things.

Meanwhile, Mina Banaszczuk talked about being an inexperienced player in MMOs.

Pixeldiskurs also has a recording of a talk Michael Schulze von Glaßer gave about his new book on games and the military-industrial complex.

You Know What This Is About

No seriously you do.

We missed this one from a few weeks ago: PBS’s Idea Channel tackles the issue of how to create responsible social criticism through media. So many good lessons here, like how saying something causes people to X is not the same as saying something causes X to be thought of as normal.

Indre Viskontas ends her Inquiring Minds interview with Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage on the anger directed towards woman in tech and videogame fields.

And finally, stand-up comedian Brock Wilbur gives his story of how he was doxxed by the hashtag and how absurd it is as someone who has nothing to do with video games. At one point, he quotes his mother’s reaction to the whole ordeal:

Why don’t they just take away all the Halos until boys learn how to play nice?

#TakeAwayTheHalos indeed.

Lighten the Mood

After all that, I need a laugh. Here’s Conan O’Brien trying and failing to cross a street in Call of Duty.

The Usual Footer Stuff

Please send any link recommendations to our Twitter account or by email.

We have a new November prompt, “Home Sweet Home,” up for Blogs of the Round Table.

Critical Distance is funded by readers like you! If you like what we do, please consider pledging a small monthly donation through our Patreon.

And I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I’m cold.

Ahh, the weekend after Halloween. I hope you all had fun, dear readers? I know my cat did. Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Design Notes

At Eurogamer, Simon Parkin has yet another gem of a feature for us, this time on the origins of the political utopianism undergirding every modern MMO:

Bartle gave [the source code for multi-user dungeons] away not to get famous and not to get rich. He did it because, in this virtual world, he saw a better blueprint for society. MUD was a place in which players were able to succeed according to their actions and intelligence rather than an accident of birth into a certain social class or fortune. “We wanted the things that were in MUD to be reflected in the real world,” he says. “I wanted to change the world. MUD and every subsequent MMO that has adopted its designs are a political statement. I should know: I designed it that way. And if you want the world to change, then making people pay to read your message isn’t going to work. So we gave it away.”

This was also a great week for horror-themed close reads, as you might imagine. At Normally Rascal, Stephen Beirne runs through Fatal Frame 2‘s projector room with a fine-toothed comb, while at Videogames of the Oppressed, Mike Joffe concludes his three-part analysis of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with a meditation on the game’s setting as the childhood home of its protagonist.

These two sound-oriented articles pair nicely together. At Game Sound, Kenneth Young compares the auditory approaches used to introduce characters in two science fiction games, Destiny and The Swapper. And over at his personal blog, Harmonix’s Dan Bruno shares some notes on Mother 3‘s music-based battle system.

Context Cues

Taking notes from the recently released Bayonetta 2, Paste’s Maddy Myers argues that the term ‘male gaze,’ which game critics borrow from film studies, is in fact woefully inadequate for describing the ways sexualized game protagonists can be inhabited and made empowering by their players.

On the subject of sexuality and women, Todd Harper shares his impressions of the queer characters in Borderlands the Pre-Sequel, in particular how his impressions are inflected by how media has treated similar characters in the past.

On another subject, Marshall Sandoval showed up at PopMatters Moving Pixels again this past week to reflect on the recession’s influence on the recent uptick of cyberpunk in games.

Illustrated Herstories

Kill Screen’s Chris Priestman has a neat feature on Rachel Weil’s FEMICOM art installation, which Leigh Alexander also profiled earlier this year.

Actually It’s About…

At his review blog, Erik Twice notes that, indeed, games journalism is mired in very real problems, albeit ones which don’t seem to have crossed Gamergate’s radar.

Meanwhile, at Salon, Arthur Chu writes empathetically about the social ostracization and resentment behind much of the movement’s rage. And Zoe Quinn — who should need no introduction, if you’ve been following the Gamergate debacle at all — addresses latecomer ‘moderates’ to explain why good-faith discussion may no longer be possible, if it ever was:

This is not a debate with two sides. It never will be. It makes it really hard to have a conversation about anything when it feels like one side has a gun under the table. Even if the gun isn’t yours, even though you don’t condone it, it’s there all the same. Treating it as though it were a mere matter of difference of opinion when one group has been relentlessly ruining lives and trying to cover it up, and the other is made up of people targeted by that group, treating them equally is NOT fairness. It is NOT balance. It is falsely seeking the Golden Mean for the Golden Mean’s sake, while discarding the spirit of fairness it represents by asking victims of a group attacking them for weeks or months to defend their right to live their lives without that. Even if every single false justification that GamerGate has given for their existence was true, even if I was the Machiavellian hellbeast they make me out to be, no one deserves to be GamerGate’s target. No one deserves to have their real lives ruined over video games.

Someone punching you in the face isn’t a dialog, and it’s not something you should be called upon to prove yourself undeserving of.

Lastly, Laralyn McWilliams addressed her fellow developers in a Gamasutra blog, arguing that the games industry should look upon the hostility toward women it has created the same way it addresses a user experience problem:

These past few months have been challenging, to say the least. Personally, I hear more women in game development talk about leaving our industry every day than I usually see in several years. What has been happening and continues to happen is having a profound chilling effect on the women on our teams. It will be yet another reason women leave this line of work, and yet another reason many talented young women about to graduate will choose to use their skills and energy elsewhere in tech. Your opinion about whether those feelings are justified or correct doesn’t change the fact that the current climate and culture is alienating them. Your point of view on journalism and ethics and even on harassment doesn’t change their experience with the systems of our industry and the culture around it, and the impression left by those experiences.

Even if each of us didn’t make every element in the game they’re playing, each one of us is on the game development team for our culture as a whole. We’re watching the usability session in action — right now, today. Yes, it’s painful and frustrating. Yes, you may want to argue with the player on the other side of the one-way mirror who doesn’t understand your carefully crafted controls. Yes, you may feel shafted because a handful of malicious players are griefing a segment of the player base without your permission, and now you’re on the hook to fix it.

But as experienced developers, we all know the answer is not that “She’s playing it wrong.” The systems of our industry are failing her.

Speed Racer Was a Good Movie

Thank you to everyone for sending in your link recommendations by Twitter mention and email! Please keep it up!

The October Blogs of the Round Table has concluded and you can read its roundup here. And once you’re done with that, pop on over to November’s prompt post, “Home Sweet Home.”

Memory Insufficient has a new Call for Submissions, this time tackling the subject of alternative histories in games. Maybe we’ll see some more about Rachel Weil’s installation in this issue?

That’s it for this week! We’ll see you next time, and until the– hmm, what does the header for this section mean? Oh nothing. Just watch the movie. Here’s my cat dressed as the cat from Sailor Moon. Happy Halloween!

IMG_0161

Readers, I am tired. As, I suspect, are you. For months now, the discourse has more or less been held hostage by a vocal, angry contingent of self-described gamers who have rendered countless people afraid to engage in social media, afraid to speak publicly, even afraid to remain in their homes. Yes, Virginia, there is a terrorist element in games, and the introduction of national and international coverage in this debacle has put more lives at risk, rather than validate or protect the people this “movement” has already hurt.

Regardless of where you stand on the “issue,” to deny how it has ruined and endangered people’s lives is to turn a blind eye toward the stated, well-documented facts. This isn’t part of a “side” to be debated. You have people, many of them women, almost all of them already disinfranchised in some respect and hardly the movers and shakers of an industry, in fear for their lives. The time to respond to this was over two months ago.

Those who know me personally know I locked my social media accounts ages ago and have avoided making any public, personal comment on current events, outside of simply collecting and curating the words that others have put together. I still, even as I write this lengthy forward to the week’s roundup, feel too afraid to truly speak my mind about what has become all of our lives since August. Just collecting and posting others’ thoughts has been enough for my name to show up in conspiracy charts, accusations of ‘scamming’ our patrons, my private Facebook profile screencapped, nasty emails, the whole lot — just for linking, not even editorializing. Who knows what will happen as a result of my writing this?

The long and short of it, readers, is that something here has to break, and by the looks of it, it’s not going to be That-Hashtag-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named to fall apart first. It’s going to be us.

Now. Having said all that, let me try to muster one last brave face for you and get through this week’s roundup. Welcome to This Week in Videogame Blogging.

The Devil’s Backbone

At The Guardian, Simon Parkin offers up a profile on US politics’ recent move to include game developers in an ongoing conversation on future warfare, thus deepening the connection between games and the military-entertainment-industrial complex.

Also in the vein of military games, over at Vice the seasoned Leigh Alexander attempts to pin down that most inscrutable of creatures, Metal Gear Solid 3. In doing so, she reveals some of its least talked about, yet incredibly compelling commentary on the dirtiness of war.

Hollow Bodies High

At Polygon, Claire Hosking shares a solid takedown of the Damsel in Distress trope and just why, precisely, it’s creatively lazy. (Content warning: Polygon’s choice of stock imagery peppered throughout the piece features close-ups of terrified women tied up and gagged. Why this seemed a good idea to anyone, I’m not sure.)

Meanwhile, at Paste, Gita Jackson dashes off a missive questioning why, for a game which so heavily features fashion as a gameplay mechanic, the costume design in Final Fantasy X-2 is so awful. At Gamasutra’s Member Blogs, Tiny Cartridge’s Eric Caoili goes to some length to illustrate just what makes the card game Netrunner exciting from an inclusivity standpoint.

Finally, at Kill Screen, Dan Solberg has an excellent profile on independent game developer and artist Lilith, creator of Crypt Worlds.

Also, a brief shoutout, but Gaming Intelligence Agency has loads of coverage from IndieCade if you find yourself wanting more.

Dispatches from Vienna

First Person Scholar has begun a partnership with its German-language counterpart, Paidia. As our German Correspondent Joe Köller notes, the fruits of this cross-pollination have already begun.

Two strong pieces from Videogame Tourism: Agata Góralczyk muses on human interaction in post-apocalyptic games while Dan Heck entertains a thought experiment on a large-scale crossover game.

At Herzteile, we find a podcast interview with board game developer Andrea Meyer, while at Kleiner Drei there’s an exciting interview about Lady Internet, an upcoming communication network for women.

This Ain’t the War You’re Fighting, It’s the Red October

If you follow one link in this week’s roundup, let it be this one: Dan Olson’s latest episode of Folding Ideas is a whammy of a breakdown on the Gate of Gamer and why, even if only a minority of the “movement”‘s participants harass, all of them benefit. This line in particular is worth isolating:

The use of terror tactics, even if only by a minority, has created an environment of fear that all members enjoy the privilege of.

While not directly addressing the Gate of Gamer, developer Stephanie Bryant picks apart one of its popular retorts, which certainly predates the campaign: why “just make your own game!” is so oblivious.

I leave the final word to our own Mattie Brice, who more than anyone else has hit the nail right on the head on why the fight against harassment is more like provocation, largely playing into the same spectacle which has already hurt the industry’s most vulnerable members:

This line of thinking seems to come from a couple of factors from what I can see: the ‘logical’ one of if society can see that people in the hate campaign are awful people, they don’t get credence, and the selfish one, that they want to do something but can’t bring themselves to a level where they feel like they can make a real difference. There’s a lot that goes into these two feelings, but simply, society already sees games culture as aberrant and horrible, and therefore doesn’t need to see it get worse to be convinced, and this entire conflict isn’t about gamers and wanting to feel like you’re a good person, it’s about the continual victimization and marginalization of minoritized people in games. It was in the beginning, always is, and yet there hasn’t been any real, healthy effort to counter this. Instead, people waste their energy dealing with people who can’t be convinced, and make bloodsport of it.

It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of A Song

As always, thank you to our readers who send in submissions via Twitter mention and email. You make these roundups stronger.

Reminder, you have a few more days to get your submission in for October’s Blogs of the Round Table topic, “Masks.”

Critical Distance is community funded by readers like you. If you want to help us weather this brave new world with such people in it, please consider signing up for a small monthly donation. We are very, very close to reaching our next funding target, which is essential if we’re to move ahead on some of our larger projects like the print anthologies.

Someone still loves you, Jakob Dylan. Not, you know, for “One Headlight” or anything. Just because someone has to.

Anyhow, readers — it’s the weekend after IndieCade and I’m back in the saddle. Let’s tuck in with This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Come On Back to the Five and Dime, IndieCade, IndieCade

Speaking of IndieCade, if you didn’t happen to attend, you missed out on some great talks!

Over on Gamasutra, Bryant Francis has an excellent write-up on a well-received panel led by Shawn Alexander Allen (Treachery in Beatdown City) on issues of racism in tech and game development.

Ian Bogost, he of the perpetual mic drop, spoke during IndieCade’s Sunday microtalks session titled “Why ______ Matters” and has generously posted the full text of his talk online. Here’s a sample, in which he deftly deconstructs the ‘specialness’ of games on the level of culture creation:

Whereas previously culture fought, won, and lost its battles at the scale of mass media — think of Madonna and Bart Simpson and Murphy Brown — now we do so in isolated pockets of niche media hobbyism. [Washington Post writer Alyssa] Rosenberg sees this as an unexpected victory. “Everyone can win the new culture wars,” she declares, because “all stories have a chance to be told.”

The problem with Rosenberg’s account is that fragmentation becomes Balkanization, which becomes recuperated into Libertarianism. Mutual hostility becomes “do what you want, just don’t foist it on me.” Pushed to its limits, all fandom becomes apartheid.

[…]

This state of affairs ought to chasten us. It ought to revise our understanding of the scope of the work before us.

For example: if you want to fight for diversity in games, then absolutely you should fight to broaden representation among players, creators, and characters.

But there’s another kind of diversity: the diversity of our interests and our dispositions, of the company we keep and the influences that inspire us, the people and the groups and the industries and the materials that we contact. It has to do with having dealings enough with the world such that it is no longer possible to be seen as a parochial backwater not even worth opposing let alone supporting.

We have become too comfortable here in games.

Lastly, Liz Ryerson has shared a revised version of her talk from the ‘Influences’ panel, in which she discusses the hard road to really waking up to what games can do and be:

this “new flesh” [from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome] is as another way of looking at digital devices as extension of our bodies – and embracing them as body parts we exercise full autonomy over. because if we don’t, we can easily fall under the order of strong, powerful cultural programming that favors the aims of corporate ideology and the military-industrial complex.

[…]

the problem with fighting back against the tide of all this powerful cultural programming is we’re often bad at envisioning and embracing this new flesh as a tool of progress amidst these vast corporate structures colonizing the internet. in his movie A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Slavoj Zizek looks at the many apocalypse scenarios increasingly saturating popular media of the last ten years and asks: why is it so much easier for us to envision in the cultural consciousness a total apocalyptic collapse of society than it is to imagine a fairly minor-shift in our ways of understanding and constructing the reality of our situation?

the answer is that is the logical endpoint of the ideological path we’re following now. and there is something intensely painful about, in the midst of this, realizing our own bodily autonomy, and our ability to make even a subtle a shift in our understanding and construction of reality. it’s a struggle, and it involves experiencing a lot of pain.

Class is In Session

In Gamasutra’s Member Blogs, Felipe Pepe salutes the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons — which also marks the 40th anniversary of computer role-playing games based upon it.

Independent critic Lulu Blue has been replaying the original Kid Icarus lately and remarks that it seems to exist during a weird transition point in Nintendo’s 1980s design philosophy:

Maybe it wouldn’t be until Kirby’s Adventure that they’d finally let up and greenlight such a revolutionary idea such as “action game that isn’t prohibitively difficult”. While there were games like Dragon Quest before it, with similar staple ideas such as “a game anyone can beat****” they were often tacked on with a billion [contingency] asterisks that amounted to “a game anyone can beat by spending enough time repeating the same trivial task over and over again and smashing their head against a rock (and also pressing the A button in front of every rock)”. Kirby was maybe the first game of Nintendo fame to not have that gotcha, but regardless of whether it was, Kid Icarus was NOT that game.

Meanwhile, in the newest installment of History Respawned, Bob Whitaker sits down with history professor Michelle Brock, an expert on early demonology, to discuss the cultural and religious underpinnings of Blizzard’s Diablo franchise.

One Does Not Simply…

The new Middle-earth game, Shadow of Mordor, continues to inspire a lot of discussion.

On her personal blog, Carolyn Petit notes the game does poorly by its women characters, killing off many and damseling a woman warrior.

Over at Loser City, Jake Muncy digs deeper into the game’s innovative enemy AI system and how its potential is squandered on the narrative’s thematic contradictions:

[O]rcs don’t quite fit into the world Tolkien created. They don’t fit into the order of the world that Gandalf describes to Frodo, where mercy is absolutely right and redemption is always an option — however distant a one. Tolkien’s world is, after all, based irrevocably in his Catholic sensibilities; his non-Lord of the Rings contributions to the universe feature a benevolent creator God and make it clear that the wizards are maiar, essentially angels. It’s important that even Sauron chose to be evil, deliberately rejecting the goodness inherent in all creation.

Orcs are different. They’re evil simply by nature, inherently corrupted. In Tolkien’s rendering they have no culture and no language of their own. […] Orcs exist in a permanent state of exception, absolutely Other, nameless and killable in droves. They’re two-dimensional and infused with imported racist prejudice, given no depth in a world full of it.

[By contrast, Shadow of Mordor‘s] Nemesis system gives the orcs much-needed culture and depth. They have names, they make small talk. They have parties and feasts. They live in a constantly changing feudal society. […] Orcs are victimizers, but they’re also victimized, set in longstanding oppressive power structures.

[However, for] as much as the Nemesis System feels like a solution to the orc problem, it also reifies and even magnifies it. Orcs are still cannon fodder in the same way they’ve always been. It’s a bizarre double bind: our orcs are special unique snowflakes, now kill all of them.

Nuke It from Orbit, It’s the Only Way to B– Oh, I Already Used That One

Alien: Isolation is another game to see some sustained discussion in the last couple weeks, and it’s easy to see why.

Notorious list-maker Brendan Keogh shares his collected thoughts on the game and in particular, how it manages to show off far more raw personality than comparable big-budget games.

At Vice, Cara Ellison takes a few well-deserved potshots at Isolation‘s one major fumble with regards to its level design: the needlessly expository graffiti.

Meanwhile, at Polygon Danielle Riendeau has high praise for the game’s treatment of its protagonist, Amanda Ripley, as truly befitting the heroine template exemplified by Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien film series. And from a visual standpoint, PC Gamer’s Andy Kelly shares how the game stacks up next to the aesthetics of the original film in a side-by-side slideshow.

Finally, at Eurogamer, Jeffrey Matulef shares a bit of optimism that Alien: Isolation is but the latest in a broader trend in high-budget, first-person games (including The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite) to offer a more contemplative, sedate experience.

Listen and Believe

As we now enter our third month of the debacle that has come to be known as Gamergate (though in fact, it’s been going on since July or even earlier, for some of those affected), it’s important to keep the profile high and the dialogue open. With that in mind, like much of our Gamergate coverage, these links come with a General Content Warning for strong descriptions of harassment, stalking and slurs.

Let’s start with Brianna Wu, who became the third woman to be driven from her home in two months due to credible violent threats on her life. On XO Jane, she shares a first-person account of being targeted, including screencaps of threats sent to her.

Touching on Anita Sarkeesian’s recent XOXO talk (which this subsection also derives its title from), Damion Schubert has been busily collecting the stories from women from all “sides” of Gamergate, proponents as well as targets and others completely uninvolved, who nonetheless have been subject to harassment, doxxing and other attacks. On her tumblr, Secret Gamer Girl has also collated the experiences of many women targeted by the loosely-defined movement.

The Awl’s John Herrman takes a different approach, reprinting the comments and tweets from parents who have discovered their children are participants in Gamergate.

Also, on The Daily Beast, Arthur Chu (who has never actually written for Critical Distance, despite reports to the contrary) draws an astute comparison between Gamergate and the Disco Sucks “movement” of the 1970s. It’s all great, but here’s a sample:

Just look at the rhetoric used by angry 1970s rock fans to bash disco. It goes beyond just finding the music unpleasant, it invokes the rhetoric of legitimacy. Disco artists aren’t “real” musicians. They don’t play their instruments live, like rock guitar gods; it’s too “produced,” it’s too “studio,” it’s fake.

Moreover, guys who listen to disco are fake. They dress in expensive leisure suits and hang out at fancy clubs. They don’t get down in the dirt and tear it up like us hard-core, genuine, masculine fans. They’re not real men, and women like them for not being real men, which is unacceptable. […]

And there’s the aggrieved underdog stance, calling disco artists and producers “elitists,” spinning a narrative that rock was authentic music made by blue-collar kids in garages while disco was being “pushed on” America by corporate labels. (Are you kidding me? Led Zeppelin the hardscrabble underdogs vs. the Bee Gees? That’s as ridiculous as saying Call of Duty fans are oppressed compared to people who like indie text games about what it’s like to have depression.)

Gamergate reached the front page of The New York Times this week, due largely to a school shooting threat called in over a scheduled appearance by Anita Sarkeesian. With the NYT coverage, many game news outlets have come forward officially denouncing Gamergate. However, just ahead of this development, Jetta Rae DoubleCakes published this strongly-worded editorial at Ravishly which urges news writers to properly frame their Gamergate coverage, and it’s still relevant:

So eager [are some outlets] for that “big scoop” that they didn’t bother to look at what they were picking up. Or to check if it was toxic. […]

The willful ignorance of the media, both mainstream and “niche,” has fostered an antipathy without fear of reproach. […] And every second journalists sit there tapping their lip with their fingers, ahhhh I wish there was a word for people threatening to harm bystanders in public if their demands are not met, if only we’d gotten on this sooner—it emboldens the violence.

Soft Reset

It’s tough, but we have to keep moving. In light of some of the above links, and in particular Ian Bogost’s calls to diversify the critical and cultural landscape of games, let’s look at a few writers who are doing just that.

First, at Haptic Feedback, Austin C. Howe has a look at the recent wave of dismissiveness toward reflexive games (what he calls intertextual games; that is, games which comment upon or are “about” games) and concludes that by doing so we not only diminish these titles but risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Speaking of taking things one level above, here’s Stephen Beirne reviewing an interactive review of Dontnod’s ambitious but flawed title Remember Me.

And here’s a couple plucked from our own contributors. At Paste, Lana Polansky describes her recent venture into card gaming, in particular the simple 1965 game Nuclear War and its critique of the titular subject matter:

But one of the game’s best little touches is that, here, in state of war, there is a nonzero chance that everybody dies. When war is declared, it can’t be undeclared until the first player to launch a missile is knocked out of the game. That means genocide must effectively be committed before peace can resume—there is no going back. However, a losing player can go out by detonating all their playable nukes at once, and therefore has a chance to take out another player with them. There’s nothing in the game prohibiting every player from being taken out, losing their entire population. This means that, in all likelihood, you either end up with a pyrrhic victory or, quite literally, no one wins.

Also, our own Eric Swain is starting a project on his blog The Game Critique, aiming to start folding in criticism from other media forms as a means of diversifying how we approach games. Have a look.

Entering the Sublime

A couple hearty pieces for the road. At PopMatters Moving Pixels, Scott Juster takes a look at The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and the subtle ways it subverts player expectations.

Also from Scott Juster his long-time blog partner Jorge Albor, a brief podcast discussion on games and eating, from our gustatory traditions to our Soylent futures. Mmm.

And So I Send You Out Into the Night, Not, I Hope, Unarmed

That’s it for this week! As always, we value your contributions via Twitter mention and email.

There is still a bit of time to get involved in October’s Blogs of the Round Table. It’s a fun topic touching on Halloween, so I encourage you to give it a whirl!

Did you know we’re commissioning new features? Because we are! Head over here to learn more.

And a few more sites and resources to relax into your Sunday:

-Arcade Review is a quarterly magazine edited by our contributors Zolani Stewart and Lana Polansky
-Five Out of Ten, edited by our sysadmin overlord Alan Williamson, has just released its 10th (!) issue, “Heart.”
-Memory Insufficient is a great free zine edited by Zoya Street.
-Forest Ambassador is an important, free curated resource for small independent games, run by Merritt Kopas.

Did you know? Critical Distance is community funded by readers like you! If you like what you do and want to help us get our “BOTH SIDES” knuckle tats for when we get sent to Games Journalism Prison, please consider signing up for a small monthly donation!