August 4th

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Welcome back, readers.

I’m always surprised, in an exciting, fun kind of way, by how writers seem to sync up with one another from week to week on different topics in ways that aren’t necessarily guided by the games news cycle. One week, it feels like lots of people are looking at old RPGs. Another week, it’s survival horror.

This week, it’s magical realism in game storytelling. I’m here for it. It’s awesome.

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

Magic Circles

We’re opening this week with four authors who are each concerned with how game narratives and worlds can be a little bit “extra” in their presentation or structure in the interest of more clearly articulating a connection back to the material world. This often involves the adoption of magical realist conventions, even in seemingly unlikely genres (military espionage, anyone?).

“By leaning so heavily on impossible, fantastic things, Metal Gear breaks ranks with military fiction and instead becomes magical realism. In doing so, it is better able to communicate the impossible horror of war.”

Under the Hood

A pair of pieces this week present deeper examinations of how stuff is made and put together in games–specifically animation and musical composition.

“Set to sounds as wide-ranging as a twanging bluegrass guitar and a ghostly theremin solo, the travails of protagonists Conway, Shannon, Ezra, and others carry a melancholy quality as Babbitt’s music builds a sense of both regional flavors and otherworldly atmospheres.”

Points of View

Our experiences with games are profoundly affected by the perspectives those games afford. Who is the protagonist? Who is playing? How are they playing? What is the arc, or trajectory of the experience? Three authors this week examine games, each with a focus on some kind of shift in perspective from the usual, from the conventional.

“As the mistakes of our past threaten our future, perhaps it’s no wonder that people are drawn to stories about attempting to break free from a negative cycle.”

The Play’s the Thing

We’ve got four great articles this week each with a focus on the affordances–and limitations–of play experience. How do game narratives integrate and synthesize an interactive component? What concessions–if any–need to be made? Is anything left out?

“There’s something powerfully irreverent about the poor game design at play in Endless Challenge Easy. They’re mostly a collection of levels that bring joy to the person who designed them. A person likes Yoshi’s, so here’s a level where you can run around mounted on a Yoshi. This person liked the new racing mechanic, so here’s a little race. It’s this snapshot into the world of the person who made the level, for the price of your time.”

Queerness and Coverage

The range of experiences available in games has broadened tremendously over the last few years–but to what extent has public discourse kept pace, or failed to keep pace? Further, what kinds of queer identification can we uncover in yesterday’s games? Two authors this week unpack these questions.

“The act of transformation is a powerful concept in queer circles, and if that power can come from beefy dudes beating up on baddies, all the better for us.”

Critical Chaser

An unranked list is probably the safest kind of list to go with if it’s going to include both Morrigan and Flemeth.

“Bayonetta is a dumpster fire living in the body of a drag queen. A drag queen with magic hair, whose eyes control the whole of reality, and whose feet can fire high-caliber pistols. She looks like a French fashion illustration even while she’s carrying her daughter/self in one hand and killing angels with the other. To her, motherhood is just like everything else: a performance. And damn if she isn’t a great performer.”


Subscribe

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

Contribute

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