Welcome back, readers.
I find I’ve been short on words the last couple of weeks. Maybe it’s end-of-summer blues, maybe it’s just the usual ebb and flow of my energy as a grad student who wears too many hats. But there’s still lots of great critical games writing happening every week, and it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to read it and share it.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We’re starting off this week with four articles that examine games through a social lens, whether it’s about how we play together, or how games themselves examine different meanings of together-ness. Or how knowing how much better than you your friends–or even complete strangers–are at playing the game can completely demolish your soul.
- I Played Breath of the Wild With My Sister And Put Her Through Hell | Kotaku
Narelle Ho Sang thinks through the pleasure of sharing single player experiences.
- Hot Topic – Coffee Talk | RE:BIND
Emily Rose taps into social chemistry of an indie mixology sim.
- My Language-Learning App Has A Leaderboard And It’s Ruining My Life | Kotaku
Gita Jackson proposes that perhaps not everything needs to have a competitive angle.
- The Library of Babble – Following Footsteps in the Sand | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar looks at an indie experience that turns online interaction into an introspective, meditative experience.
“We become wrapped up in the aesthetics of interaction, the anxiety over how we phrase our approaches to others, resentment for the lack of Likes given to a reply, or profound sadness from lack of engagement with our own posts. We lose sight of one another, trapped in a system of numbers and a sea of words. Babble feels like the direct opposite of this; clear, concise, subtle. It’s a place in which we don’t have one-to-one interactions, or discourse, or exposition; instead it’s a place of retreat, one to go to when weary and wanting nothing more than the simple pleasure of sharing ourselves with one another.”
Three articles this week look at the stakes of game-worlds–how they’re put together, what kinds of rules govern them, what those rules mean, and what we take back to the material world after spending time in virtual ones.
- Minecraft, Sandboxes, and Colonialism | Folding Ideas – YouTube
Dan Olson delves into the settler colonial implications of Minecraft‘s village mechanics.
- UNDEFEATED – DEEP HELL
Skeleton looks at a small slice of a game that gets the Superman thing right by making the world vulnerable instead of the Super Guy.
- How Pokemon Sword and Shield Could Tackle Brexit | Fanbyte
Cian Maher reflects on the allegorical potential of Pokémon‘s goofy villainous teams.
“Pokemon is renowned for many things, from its creepy and charming animalia and enchanted car keys to what seems to be a functional post-scarcity society. However, the cults of personality that act as its antagonistic forces are responsible for some of its funniest, darkest, and most intriguing moments. Their ideologies are sometimes a tad confused, but often align with sinister real-world ones.”
Bodies at Play
Two authors this week look at intersections of games and the bodies we use to play them. How can we create space in games for a wider range of bodies? How can we reclaim bodies from harmful or marginalizing representations? What are the stakes for thinking more critically about our bodies in relation to games?
- How I Use The Xbox Adaptive Controller To Play Forza Horizon 4 One-Handed | Jalopnik
Andrew P. Collins offers a practical account on how to put Microsoft’s accessibility-minded peripheral to use.
- Problematic Bodies | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor describes how camp can be employed as a tool to subvert and reclaim gay masculine stereotypes in games.
“Camp represents our self-image as viewed with the limiters off. It’s what we would be like if the social contract didn’t inhibit us in any way. Is the fact that Cho Aniki portrays gayness as living embodiments of a phallus meant to other us? Absolutely. Would we own that image of ourselves if given the chance? Hell yes we would.”
Pushing the Medium
Two articles this week each look at games and experiences that push against the edges of their respective media, playing with their affordances to challenge what kinds of narrative and affective experiences can be achieved through our contemporary technological conceits.
- Don’t Look Now — Real Life
Laura Maw explores anxieties of control, power, and surveillance in VR.
- The Yellow Bowl (Judy Malloy) and Hypertexts of Juxtaposition – Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling
Emily Short looks at early hypertext work The Yellow Bowl and uses it as a springboard to discuss the wider tradition and legacy of parallel text works.
“Reading this text, I immediately feel a kind of discomfort I’ve come to recognize. When text is presented to me this densely on a page, and there are this many affordances for things to do, it makes me anxious that I will not be able to read it thoroughly.”
Just thinking about how long the FFVII remake release schedule could take makes me anxious. I guess now that Kingdom Hearts III is out I needed something new to have these arbitrary feelings about. Thank goodness I’ve never heard of Star Citizen.
- The Top 7 Columnar Basalt Formations in Games | Fanbyte
Virginia Paine mines popular games for some fun geology trivia, and I go straight to Super Hell for this pun.
- Five Things That Will Come Out Before the FFVII Remake | Fanbyte
Vrai Kaiser finds a creative way to map out the time we have remaining until slightly after the heat death of the universe.
“if I remember my time with the original game correctly, should mean that we’ll have the entire FFVII experience in… about 37 discs”
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!