June 2nd

Welcome back, readers, and happy Pride Month!

Many of this week’s selections can be related back to the notion of inclusivity in some way. The decisions you make as a designer to include (or not include) accessibility and/or difficulty options affects who is included as a player and who can experience the game. Meditations on kitsch, quirkiness, and appropriative design weigh in on which designs (and which designers) are included in the hegemonic sphere of legitimacy. And, of course, there is the ongoing struggle for safe inclusion in gaming communities. If you want to get really meta about it, there’s the question of which outstanding articles among so many options get included in these roundups every week–and that’s a question I spend a lot of time racking my brain over.

In general, though, inclusivity is both a great boon and worthy goal for games and gaming–and I hope at this point that’s there’s absolutely nothing remarkable in that claim.

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

The Diff-course

I am not walking back that terrible pun. Anyways, Pathologic 2 is out, and it’s both really good and really hard. This has prompted quality writing advancing the difficulty conversation in games in thoughtful ways, as is the case in these paired examples.

“Difficulty is not synonymous with accessibility, which is the process of enabling as many players as possible to engage with a game, regardless of physical or cognitive ability. Color-blind options, subtitles, audio/visual cues, button mapping and the capability to adjust how button presses operate, and support for assistive technology are all accessibility options. They do not make the game less difficult. They provide players with access to engagement with games regardless of neurological and physical differences that are often not accounted for in game development. And while not synonymous, difficulty modifiers can enable access.”

Timeless Exclusivity

Some incredible work this week on the politics of exclusion in games and gaming communities–be it representation in games, gatekeeping and delegitimization, or the blunt instrument of hot takes.

“The territory of gaming is a metonym for the homeland: Defending it is like defending the status quo, and the processes of appropriation that renews the cultural terrain for profit and for consolation. Driving SJWs and queers out of video games so that you can enjoy them as the reparative safe space you’ve long experienced them as is good practice for driving them out of your country altogether.”

Mixed Feelings

Can stories in games be compelling? Yeah, of course. Do they require design interventions specific to their interactive nature? Yep, that too. Does this cause tensions sometimes? Absolutely. Do game narratives ever just knock it out of the park? You bet. Three articles this week collectively work through all of these questions.

“One of the things that makes Night in the Woods work so well is that it preserves a moment of enormous uncertainty in the United States, thanks in part to the political parallels. The cult’s biggest problem (economic stagnation) is one real-life Baby Boomers blame specifically on young people.”

By Design

We’ve got a pair of awesome articles this week offering deep and detailed examinations of design philosophy in games. One focuses on the idea of conveying a sense of the infinite, while the other zeroes in on the colonial acts of appropriation and repackaging.

“Like colonial explorers, game designers like themselves in the role of innovators, venturing out into the seemingly uncharted world of folk games and appropriating gameplay principles:  A world where no-one owns mechanics and they can be sold as innovation.”

Placing Spaces

Any quality discussion of space–virtual or otherwise–will encompass the function(s) of those spaces as well as the form. In the specific context of games, that discussion may encompass critical contexts that may not immediately relate to the mechanical or narrative design of a space. Two authors this week offer deeper dives on particular spaces in games.

“I spent a lot of my early life hanging out doing nothing – I don’t feel upset about it. There are times of the day when you just want to watch the clouds pass by, and times of the day when you don’t know what you should be doing. Ringo Ishikawa is a lot of those moments, if you want them to be.”

Online, Over the Line

A pair of articles this week each lay out some social best practices in game communities–be it for self-care in managing the online presence for your indie game, or simply not being a jerk in a competitive gaming scene.

“There’s a way to do it with love that makes your gaming community more supportive and more powerful. There’s also a way to do it spitefully, with an overtone of superiority and abuse.”

Critical Chaser

Oh no.

“Grip-enhancing products are used by weightlifters, climbers, and pole dancers — but those are all activities where a sweaty hand could mean a serious injury. Is it necessary for playing Call of Duty? Well, maybe not. But ask yourself this: is it necessary to play Call of Duty at all?”


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