May 19th

Welcome back, readers.

While there has been no shortage of bad press about crunch in games development over the last several months (and rightly so), it seems that there are still large studios who haven’t fully committed to acknowledging that there’s a problem in the first place. This, of course, brings about the question of boycotting games versus supporting the often-vulnerable developers who produced them under exploitative conditions, which is the subject of one of this week’s selections.

Rage 2 is out, and there’s some good critical writing on that, too! I’m still waiting for a treatise on Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s burgeoning (b)romance, though.

This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Ableist id-ioms

While much of the discussion on Rage 2 so far has been concerned with the fact that, as Gita Jackson puts it, the game is “caught between Good Stupid and Bad Stupid”, a subset of that discussion has zeroed in on the popular generalizations about disfigurement and disability the game props up. These two selections elegantly encapsulate that important conversation.

“It appears to me that the designers were just cribbing dysmorphic features that occur in real life and applying them to the game’s monsters, then naming them “mutants” and going on their way. Why do they look the way they are? Because they’re “mutants.” No additional thought went into that.”

Second Quest

What keeps us coming back to the games we’ve already completed? How are games uniquely positioned to reward repeat visits? Two authors this week reflect on the replay.

“In managing to incorporate the idea of replaying the game into the game’s story itself with subtlety and style, Heaven’s Vault is one of those experiences that shows what the medium can do that others cannot”

Spaces of Play

Two articles this week alternately examine the virtual and material spaces at stake in games.

“With a potential vision of the future calling for a lack of boxes and all of our games in the cloud, I reflected on how important these boxes were in building my own personal spaces. Will something be lost on the way while transitioning to an all-digital future, or could this change possibly be for the best?”

Design Documents

These three articles all converge on matters of design–be it in individual titles, broader genres, or in the pushing of a game beyond its original designed uses into therapeutic applications.

“A well executed Horror game is simply one which evokes the requisite emotional responses in its audience, fear, tension, panic, and perceived near-futility. A Horror themed game by contrast is one that evokes any number of Horror pastiches, monsters, eldritch entities, slasher villains, and body horrors that doesn’t stick the landing of transmuting these discrete elements into the emotions one is trying to invoke within the player, a subjective if key facet of the experience.”

Social Links

Out of what materials are our connections with others formed, and how does that speak to games? Two selections this week critically examine how our links in games with others are formed, neglected, or broken.

“I didn’t care to put back together my original family because, frankly, they were a bunch of arseholes who only redeem themselves if Kassandra does all the work. Meanwhile all around Kassandra was that truer, more caring family. For me this was a game about cutting blood ties, about not letting familial connections control you and about embracing those who are already there for you.”

Player Praxis

Though there is a perception from, uhh, certain subsets of player communities that politics have somehow invaded games as of late, I think it’s fair to say that all games are already political in the sense that all art is political. More productive questions emerge, I think, in examining how the politics of creators and designers affects the politics of their craft. Is a game’s ethos compromised, for example, if a game articulating something provocative is the production of developers or management who are exclusionary, exploitative, or toxic? And then the big question: should you purchase that game? Two authors this week wrestle with these questions.

“Until P Studio can come to grips with these conflicting viewpoints, I just can’t see them doing a playable woman justice. We don’t need any more instances of oversexualizing young girls who’ve already been traumatized by sexual assault, or portrayals of gay men as aggressive predators on the prowl for high school-aged boys to take against their wills.”

Critical Chaser

I’ll cop to getting away with similarly Hail Mary takes in graduate seminars, but I don’t recall any of them being quite this fun to read.

“Mewtwo technically didn’t apologize to Ash after murdering him in The First Movie, but again: Byronic hero. Also, baby steps. Anyway, the Church of England supports him.”


Plugs

  • Memory Trading – First Person Scholar 
    Catherine Brinegar locates the power of storytelling and shared player experiences in Caves of Qud‘s richly-textured procedural world. Disclosure stuff: I edited this piece.

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