In the eddies that have formed in the wake of the GamerGate movement, and older conversation has gained new life. In particular, there’s a great deal of new discussion surrounding the value of criticism.
That discussion, particularly where it pertains to the critics themselves, is fraught with countless opportunities to do harm. The idea that modern critics, particularly those in the incredibly small niche of games writing, fail to produce useful or valuable work is one that every critic gets to face following the wrong kind of attention on social media. All it takes is a particular word, an implication in a headline, or just an errant screencap for the whole thing to just go off the rails.
But, then, everyone’s a critic.
Beyond the apparent meaning of that phrase, though, I do like to credit the vague ideas behind that very vocal criticism. Not the desire to harm writers – there’s too much harm in the discussion as it is – but the desire to see better criticism, to understand and assert what good criticism should do. These kinds of thoughts, ruminations, and considerations are what make people become critics and writers in the first place. Games writing thrives on the kind of material that involves thinking about something specific broadly, or something broad specifically.
So, in that way, everyone is also a critic. Not just someone who criticizes, but someone who engages. Games writing, in the online space, has developed into something far bigger than monthly gaming magazines and occasional discussions in now-extinct LAN Cafes. Gaming discussions have spilled onto the Steam store pages as User Reviews, aggregate sites like OpenCritic and Metacritic have opened the doors for user input, Twitter timelines are built up of professional and amateur commentators alike, and YouTube has given the rise of the amateur-turned-professional game critic, Let’s Player, and academic.
More than ever before, professional games writers are just one part of the bigger picture. Every second, every hour, every day, every week, every month, everyone’s a critic. For such a small niche, the endless opportunities to find and absorb a new perspective on games has exploded well beyond how it’s ever been regarded before. The old models of games writing, with limited space and typical editing structures, doesn’t make up the vast majority of writing anymore, nor is it an exclusive indicator of good content. While editing and professional experience is invaluable, the gaming community has a great deal more out there, and some of it at least as good as the professional stuff.
Those writers, creators, and videographers are all critics. And their work deserves the same praise, visibility, and readership that their equally talented peers get.
Critical Distance, in as much as it’s a place to catalog wide works of games writing, is also a gallery for the indies, the artfuls, the hopefuls, the professionals, the amateurs, the dabblers, and the everyman critics. Critical Distance does the hard, but profoundly important work of recognizing that even if we aren’t all the most popular, most well-read, or most known parts of the games community, we’re still all critics.
Everyone’s a critic.
And having a space that views these great works as peers, whether from Polygon or a free Tumblr blog, is something astounding. Critical Distance values good writing for good writing’s sake, and that is something both critics and readers need more of.
If you believe strongly in the work Critical Distance does, please consider pitching in to the Patreon. The work that happens here, both creative and curatorial, can only happen with the sort of dedicated work that its editors put in on a constant basis.