This Year In Videogame Blogging: 2018

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Another year has passed and now is the time to look back and take stock of the year that was. For Critical Distance that means crafting our mega roundup, with links curated from all the year’s weekly roundups and bolstered by recommendations from the community, into a representative portrait of the year. And from this particular portrait I was surprised to see very little of 2018 itself take shape. Instead, I saw all the previous years and decades leading up to 2018 reexamined.

Reading Catherine Nichols’ piece reminded me of the saying, “the age-old battle between good and evil.” I was reminded because, as Nichols explains, the concept is quite new and has little basis in our founding myths, in the classics so revered as the bedrock of the western canon. And yet such a phrase is emblematic of the thinking that colors our entire view of the world. We believe there are bad guys who must be opposed by good guys, nothing more, nothing less. This is how it is, how it always was, and how it has to be. Right?

Often it feels like videogames exist in their own tiny bubble completely at odds with the rest of the world. This is on purpose. They are meant to be a refuge from the real world. Right? But like the phrase “age-old battle between good and evil” that too is just another unsupported myth. Videogames have always been connected to the real world. They are made by real people, not logos. They are played by real people, not demographics. To say these things out loud, both statements feel obvious, yet old beliefs remain.

In going through the criticism of 2018, it wasn’t so much about 2018 as much as it was about how we got to 2018. The things we take for granted, so much so that we don’t even think about them anymore, were reappraised and often found wanting. It was a year of no longer accepting facts without support, nor truth without wisdom. For the 2018 edition of This Year in Videogame Blogging, let all assumptions be challenged and no myth given the credence of reality.

Industry Criticism

Videogames are reflective of the means and conditions by which they were produced. They are difficult to produce, but do not need to break those that produce them. Yet, beyond just the people they affect, the working conditions cannot help but set the tone for the wider medium both in and out of the games themselves.


Company Abuses


Dev Culture


Loot Boxes

Too Many Games

Culture Criticism

Communities of play are where beliefs about videogames matured into the present attitudes we have today. Their constant repetition led to the calcification of the underlying notions into doctrine and to the virulent reactions against those outside those norms.






Theory/Design Criticism

While more esoteric than the more concrete areas of criticism, those based on things and people, it can be more than useful to understand concepts. From there, a different future can be planned out away from the ties of present reality and the things and people stuck in the rut even as they try to escape it.


  • Single Player as Local Co-Op | ZEAL – Sophia Foster-Dimino
    Sophia Foster-Dimino draws a comic whereby she discusses playing games in non-standard ways, including with multiple people at the controls at once, and how this alters the experience in unexpectedly pleasant ways.
  • Artificial Identities: An Essay | PEM Playtime – Katherine Cross
    Katherine Cross examines what is behind our conception of identity in role-playing games and how this can reveal a player’s true nature.
  • Apathy Machines | Real Life – Rob Horning
    To run counter to the current conception of VR as empathy machines able to help improve the world, Rob Horning undermines the underlying assumptions that lead to that conclusion and how the current commodification undermines the effect empathy is supposed to engender in the first place.
  • Do Videogames Turn Us Into Bad People? | Paste – Holly Green
    Holly Green looks at the data that helps answer that question and realigns our common understanding of what motivates players to what actions. It’s not the events that sway them so much as how their decisions align with their self-perception of their personal values. Games won’t turn you into a bad person, but they can reinforce tendencies you already have.



Critical Video Game Criticism

Ultimately, any conversation about an artistic medium needs the subject by which all other conversations revolve. Art will outlive the artists and can perpetuate beliefs better than any individual ever could. Games construct our view of the medium’s past and will be the lens by which those in the future will ultimately see our present. They are the conversation.

God of War (2018)

Far Cry 5

Red Dead Redemption 2

Detroit: Become Human

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Life is Strange 2

Hitman 2

Fallout 76

  • Fallout 76 | Deep Hell – Sam Kittrel
    Sam Kittrel examines a Polygon article on Fallout 76 and is frankly a little disturbed by the slavish devotion to the brand to the point of the author disregarding his own feelings while playing it.
  • How Fallout lost its soul | Polygon – Katherine Cross
    Fallout was about the existential threat of nuclear annihilation, a dark satire of the mid-20th century. Katherine Cross doesn’t ascribe the latest entry’s failure as something individual, but the inevitable end of a long downward spiral once the franchise changed hands.

Battlefield V

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine

Shadow of the Colossus (2018)

Other 2018 Games

Card Games

  • ‘Artifact’ Isn’t a Game on Steam, It’s Steam in a Game | Waypoint – Will Partin
    Will Partin goes down the rabbit hole of metagames and how Steam’s new digital card game works. In it he finds a rather cynical game whose economic metagame perverts whatever it could have hoped to be. It’s not any more exploitative than other card games, so much as it’s better at obfuscating it and becomes more insidious as a result.
  • magical capitalism | killing a goldfish – Jesse Mason
    Likewise, Jesse Mason, explains in extensive step-by-step detail how capitalism distorts the design of Magic: The Gathering which itself leads to the company grasping for top-down control of the culture around the game, which in turn leads to players buying into the concept that what is best for the game is what is best for the company that makes it.


Close Out

There are no easy answers. It is difficult to let go of long-held if not cherished beliefs. The drive for truth can be short, but the drive for wisdom is never-ending. I wish you luck and good fortune on your long trip throughout 2019.

The weekly roundups have resumed. Please submit any for TWIVGB to our email or @ our Twitter account.

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Welcome to the New Year. Hands up and cover the face. It’s going to be another rough one.