Welcome back, readers.
I can’t tell whether it’s more to do with the uptick in coverage on spooky games, the sudden drop in temperature in my area, or the flurry of seasonal Twitter handles in my timeline, but Fall feels like it’s hit all at once.
Some business before we begin this week: we’ve been having ongoing conversations for the last little while about how to better represent and curate video content on the site. We’ve got some new developments to announce soon, and as part of that, I won’t be including any videos for the next month or so. That being said, we are still reviewing video submissions in the meantime, so please keep sending them our way using the hashtag #TWIVGB.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Some difficult stuff up-front this week, readers. Both of these articles recount personal experiences with abuse in the industry, alternately describing the workplace culture that drives people out of games and charting a path forward for safer, more inclusive spaces for game creators. Content notifications are in order here for discussions of abuse, harassment, and suicide.
- For Alec, Thoughts on Transformative Justice – Eileen Holowka – Medium
Eileen Mary Holowka offers thoughts on what communities of players and creators might strive for in the future in confronting abuse and supporting survivors.
- “You seem suspiciously clever for a blonde.” — The California Sunday Magazine
Leslee Sullivant details a personal history of sexism and harassment working at Riot.
“I got to see what existed outside a life spent trying to fight an entire industry. Once that grip loosened?—?of Riot, of all those places?—?I was free to build new worlds, better worlds.”
All Work, All Play
After a spate of labour controversies in the games industry over the past year, I’ve made a point of paying attention to critical conversations on labour justice and organization in games. This week, however, I’ve collected a pair of pieces on the labour we perform within games, ostensibly for fun.
- Final Fantasy XIV Has Changed My Mind About Crafting Systems | Kotaku
Heather Alexandra offers some thoughts on work-in-games, upending game balance, and more.
- The Grind: Back to School – GGW
Evan McIntosh, via Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, reflects on the inter-generational draw of grinding in games and beyond.
“The gentle way that Ultimate Alliance introduces The Grind–such that a witty third grader can figure out what to do and how best to optimize his results–is instructive. There’s buckets full of presentation, a gentle curve through the campaign, and copious rewards for those who venture to infinity and beyond.”
It’s that time of year again, when every other person on Twitter changes their handle to reflect some sort of pop-cultural horror pun. It would be remiss of us not to keep an ear to the ground on spooky games discourse, and so gathered here are three of this week’s highlights.
- Realms of the Haunting – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi turns to the dawn of survival horror to examine an overlooked gem of a spookfest.
- The Exile from Grim Soul | Unwinnable
Deirdre Coyle recounts playing a moody mobile game while at a moody writing residency.
- Letters From Kestlebrook – Marginalia | RE:BIND
Emily Rose takes a walk with meditative horror title Marginalia.
“Part of Marginalia’s pull is the subdued presentation of the scenario, it refuses to resort to jump scares, instead choosing to treat the audience like an equal. There are no patronizing cheap tricks to be found here, this is a ghost story rather than a haunted house.”
Creation in Context
A pair of perspectives this week discuss some of the different conditions under which games are made and distributed, as well as some of the longstanding challenges therein.
- Don’t Judge A Game By Its Cover Jam | RE:BIND
Catherine Brinegar profiles a game jam that uses imaginary Famicom cover art as its starting point.
- apple arcade and unidentified indie games – LeeRoy Lewin – Medium
LeeRoy Lewin situates the discourse around Apple Arcade in relation to much older-issues of discoverability, predatory monetization, distribution, and media coverage in games.
“i don’t want us to clutch pearls over what games have already done. i want us to expand the ground we stand on, to incorporate voices that normally go unheard, and to shed light on things that normally go unseen.”
A pair of articles this week alternately discuss the unexpected cultural history games are suffused with, as well as their potential and utility as instructive historical texts.
- The Legend of Zelda is teeming with Celtic mythology • Eurogamer.net
Cian Maher takes inventory of all the ways in which Zelda is invested with Ancient Irish influence.
- Games can be our time machines • Eurogamer.net
Malindy Hetfeld examines the value of games as temporal and cultural lenses and mirrors.
“One thing is clear – games are very dear to us on a personal level, and we can chart the rapid evolution and growth of the industry by looking at them. What’s more interesting to me is whether at one point, looking back at games, we’ll be able to chart changes to society or even humans as a species, the same way we do with all other media, basically.”
Fresh critical perspectives on new and recent titles.
- Kind Words Offers Lo Fi Chill Beats to Feel Better To | Fanbyte
Kara Dennison discusses the low-impact, feel-good experience of Kind Words.
- The Diversity In 80 Days Shocked Me, In A Good Way | Kotaku
Gita Jackson describes how 80 Days presents characters, cultures, and histories decentred from the eurocentre.
“I was bringing 30 years of baggage with me when I started on my journey in 80 Days. That made playing it again that much better.”
The finest in goose discourse from around the web this week.
- Untitled Goose Game Subverts Stealth Gameplay | Unwinnable
Jeremy Signor meditates on Tactical Espionage Honk-tion.
- 56: Untitled Goose Game | Into The Spine
Elizabeth Henges expresses a playthrough of Untitled Goose Game through a narrative sequence of images.
- Untitled Goose Game reveals the true power fantasy all gamers want – Polygon
Cass Marshall describes the appeal and value of pleasurable pettiness via the Goose Game.
“The real power fantasy that I want to explore through games isn’t blowing someone’s head off with a shotgun or systematically destroying a host of highly trained secret agent enemies. Instead, I want to be the goose from Untitled Goose Game. I want to honk, and I want to steal people’s hats, and I want to watch them try and chase me as I run away on my little goose legs.”
This one may also double the most accessible introduction to astrology discourse for a specific group of readers.
- Destiny Characters and Their Zodiac Signs – Uppercut
Kayla Jouet categorizes the Destiny 2 cast in a way that my Twitter mutuals will appreciate.
“Eva Levante is the Cancer grandmother that all guardians deserve. Who better than Eva herself to bake us cookies and comfort us in times of trouble?”
- The Politics of Passionate Patti – First Person Scholar
Jess Morrissette highlights a bright point of feminine representation amid the mixed legacy of Leisure Suit Larry. In the interest of disclosure, I am co-editor-in-chief for First Person Scholar.
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!