This week’s roundup is overshadowed by questions about what happens when we die, as well as what kind of work we do during our short time here. Take a moment for some quiet reflection as we look at some of the most remarkable writing on games published around the web this week.

The Senselessness of the World

Games can actively alter the way that players view things, by manipulating context and posing questions. These two pieces describe different ways of seeing that are mediated not just by the screen, but by interactive facets of user experience design.

“Hearing legible sentences amidst deserts of tape noise isn’t difficult when the mind has already accepted that an oily clump of fairly abstract geometry is meant to represent rocks or a flattened computer rectangle stands in for a household door.”

Development culture

Crunch has been a major topic of discussion recently, and this week is no exception, as two writers address labor issues in fiction and in industry.

  • tacoma | malvasia bianca 
    David Carlton highlights some of the aspects of Tacoma that make it remarkable for its time, and not merely a logical next entry in the walking sim genre.
  • Playing for Real: Sweatin’ Pixels – Haywire Magazine 
    Jesse Porch lauds the value of Jason Schreier’s book at a time when players seem to have little insight into how their games get made, but casts doubt on whether it offer sufficient critique of the crunch practices that abound in its stories.

“Naughty Dog’s development of Uncharted 4, in particular, describes in agonizing detail just how demanding the studio’s acceptance of “crunch culture” was on its employees. Worse, it makes it clear that crunch has been internalized within development culture.”

A Mortician’s Tale

A small labor game about embalming dead bodies has attracted a great deal of attention.

It read to me as though, now that these lives had ended, I was expected to just … move onto the next one. That’s not what death was supposed to feel like, I thought; death was supposed to be some eternal sorrow.”


Spiritual and ethical systems presented by games are examined in these two pieces, which consider world design as well as the rules that govern a player’s in-game destiny.

“Whereas the consequences for immoral behavior is usually subtle in AAA or COTS games, consequences in serious games are swift and unmerciful. […] Serious games don’t play with a variety of consequences, because they’re too focused on condemning this behavior or encouraging that action.”


This week, writing on who is included and who is abused by games culture involves issues both symbolic and concrete, covering not only the stories games tell but also the financial cost extracted from vulnerable players.



Critical Distance is community-supported. Our readers support us from as little as one dollar a month. Would you consider joining them?


Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!