Welcome back, readers.
Despite presently being shipwrecked on Koholint Island and simultaneously stranded in Azeroth I had the pleasure of reading a bunch of cool games crit this week. Also, apropros of absolutely nothing specific happening in games news this week, have a friendly reminder to directly support the independent artists and creators you love.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Control is shaping to one of those high-profile releases with the right kinds of hooks to keep it in the critical spotlight for an extended period of time. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play it myself, but much of what I’m reading–including the two excellent pieces below–indicates a game managing a highwire act between the bewilderingly provocative and the witheringly banal.
- Secret Adventure — Control | Carolyn Petit
Carolyn Petit expresses enjoyment at Control‘s provocative interrogations of power and player agency but critiques the game’s lack of a meaningful follow-through.
- OBJECT OF POWER – DEEP HELL
Skeleton scrutinizes Control‘s power fantasy to ask why it’s always, always a gun, and to interrogate why there’s such an ironclad linkage in games between firearms and fun.
“There’s no point in weighing in about whether a videogame needs to be ‘fun’ but I certainly want even miserable experiences to be interesting. Control is able to do both, the borders of the real world safely far away. I know I shouldn’t enjoy it all, because I know someone right now is coveting their own Object of Power and planning to do horrific things with it. I can’t help but think that maybe the name isn’t just tongue-in-cheek.”
Working at Play
Gathered here are three very different examinations of the narrative intersections between labour and games. These go in some pretty unexpected and delightful places.
- The Ultimate Fantasy of DOOM is Telling Your Boss to Fuck Off | Fanbyte
Rosh Kelly breaks down how the workplace rebellion begins at E1M1.
- Affa-gotta-go – Coffee Gets You There | RE:BIND
Emily Rose and Mx. Medea measure the pace of precarity.
- #3: He rather flex his muscles — unlike that troglodyte Sonic, | Boy Toy Box
Blake P. paints a portrait of an echidna as a young reactionary.
“Knuckles has a short temper. He’s a perpetually angry young guy. He feels obligated to follow his own sense of justice, even if it’s misinformed. He has a hate-love affair with a sexy bat in Sonic Adventure 2 which is never properly explained, but again they’re cartoons. Is Knuckles, perhaps trying to overcompensate for failing to be the impenetrable macho archetype — an Atlas carrying the entirety of Angel Island on his back? An unsung hero?”
We’ve got two fantastic pieces on games and accessibility this week, presented by two writers whose physical relationships with games have necessarily shifted and evolved over time.
- When Every Game is Hard Mode | Gamers With Jobs
Colleen Hannon revisits disability discourse with a perspective grounded by real and present embodied barriers to gaming in all its forms.
- Video Games are Reshaping My Relationship with My Chronic Illness | Sidequest
Zainabb Hull recounts responding to chronic illness with renovated relationships with gaming, backlog downsizing and curation, and mobile games.
“Changing the way I play games is reshaping how I relate to my mind, body, and illnesses. I’m slowly accepting my new limitations, although this process is absolutely not a linear one, and I’m starting to take the pressure off myself to constantly perform and produce to society’s expectations. I’m learning to be okay with being imperfect. I’m understanding how my own standards for myself are shaped by ableist capitalist white supremacy, and that moving beyond my lifelong perfectionism might be less of a betrayal to my overachieving Virgo ass, and more like compassion for my ambitious, tired, chronically ill self.”
As Skeleton over at DEEP-HELL described last week, gaming has an ahistorical bent to it. Ideas are explored furtively, only to be abandoned and buried in favour of repetition and cyclicality. What games and ideas are left behind? And how do we keep a record of them? Two writers this week respectively discuss each of these questions.
- The Platforming Genre That Might Have Been | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor excavates an alternate history of non-linear 2D platformers beyond the Metroidvania canon.
- Curation of Creation | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar discusses the value of digital curation in an age where there’s so, so much art and so many spaces and platforms in and on which to access it.
“With so many wonderful outlets for this necessary space that artists and creators can thrive in, what more is there to say? Keep the visions for these places alive, they’re desperately special and need to continue for the sake of the medium.”
The way games cast and characterize social interactions and dynamics can be a pretty big deal for players, especially those players on the margins. Two writers this week explore the possibility spaces of social capital games can offer in relation to gender and sexuality.
- How Final Fantasy XIV Shuns Typical Gender Roles – Uppercut
Elizabeth Henges discusses how Square’s MMO bucks the trend in games of pigeonholing siblings and twins in particular into gendered roles.
- Video Games Are For The Bisexuals | Fanbyte
Victoria Rose identifies a contrast between welcoming experiences for bisexual players in games and the real-world erasure and invalidation they experience.
“Regardless of their sexuality, those characters in our favorite games, especially RPGs, accept us. Sadly, that nearly 100 percent hit rate in the virtual world is far more favorable than the reality. In a way, bisexual romance in games is absolutely a respite from the real-world struggles bisexuals face every day.”
Two authors this week present and detail storytelling opportunities in games which allow players to broaden their narrative horizons beyond dating a sexy mascot.
- 8 Great Visual Novels to Play While You’re Waiting for the KFC Visual Novel with Hunky Colonel Sanders | Paste
Natalie Flores offers a palate-cleanser for the uptick in interest in marketing tie-ins last week.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses Surprisingly Calls Out Its Own Problematic Romances | Paste
Dia Lacina finds a better path to supporting her students at anime theocracy school.
“The politics of horny are less of a marketable bullet point than the politics of gunning down brown people or their monstrous stand-ins. No one, as I recall, ever pulls Commander Shepard aside in Mass Effect to talk about how maybe it’s inappropriate to bang the subordinates in her direct chain of command, in the middle of an interstellar invasion no less. But Fire Emblem does. So, I backed up into my beliefs, and decided that Byleth wasn’t going to date one of her students.”
You knew I was going to include something to do with the Goose Game, and if anybody this week was going to have something artful and inspiring to say about the gosh-dang Goose Game of course it was going to be Austin Walker.
- ‘Untitled Goose Game’ Is Like Playing Hitman… as a Goose – VICE
Austin Walker celebrates mischief and chaos by drawing parallels between an unlikely pair of games.
“Like the world’s greatest assassin, a goose sees the world differently than regular folks. You or I see a busy marketplace as an obstacle to walk through or a place to shop in. But Hitmen? Geese? They see everything they need to silently build a chaotic Rube Goldberg machine.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!