Welcome back, readers.
First off, police still haven’t been defunded yet, and most officers who have killed Black people behind the cover of a badge are still free, so here are some links to start your day:
- Donate to The Bail Project
- Donate to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
- Hire Black Game Developers
- Donate to the Black Trans Protesters Emergency Fund
This has also been a week of the industry cleaning its own houses. Or at least starting to. It’s something we’re thinking about here, too. Critical Distance provides a cross-section of games discourse history, and sometimes the voices we include in that history turn out later to have been really harmful people. As such, the Critical Distance team will be meeting to discuss and codify a permanent set of best practices and policies to ensure that our platform actively listens to survivors and remains a safe and accessible space for their voices and their work.
On a higher note, have you seen the most recent TMIVGV? Connor is really killing it over here, so check out his roundup and keep sending in your video recommendations!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
We’re starting this week off with a bold vision for the future of game dev, and maybe some good soundtracks to accompany that future.
- Divest from the Video Games Industry! – Marina Kittaka – Medium
Marina Kittaka makes the case for decentralizing and dismantling the contemporary corporate games industry, along with all of the abuse–labour, emotional, sexual, racial, and more–it shelters. You owe it to yourself to read this piece for the nuance of its critique and the practicality of its actionable items, none of which I can adequately summarize here with a blurb or a pullquote.
- The Best Game Soundtracks in Itch.io’s Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality | Paste
Dia Lacina has a lot of new games to play from the Itch bundle, and here she highlights some standouts from the soundtracks.
“But these are more holistic suggestions, and this is a specific column. Our interests here are soundtracks. And while there are hundreds of incredible scores in this bundle, and any three of them would have been fantastic, worthy inclusions—I’m in a mood.”
Three authors this week look at big-picture ideologizing elements in games, both overt and not-so-much, alternately hopeful, clumsy, and cynical.
- Escape System | Into The Spine
Waverly interrogates the Zero Escape series–and the ideologizing logic of choice-driven systems design in games generally–in light of our growing collective awareness that meaningful, equitable change and justice must come from and work outside the corrupt systems that have rigged the game from the get-go.
- UNCHARTED 2 – DEEP HELL
Skeleton thinks about all the guns that all the military divisions, PMCs, and Nathan Drake-types leave lying around as part of the broader western project of Fucking Up Everyone Else’s Homes.
- The World Unsettled | Bullet Points Monthly
lotus reflects on the hardship–and opportunity–presented by the choice to start anew in Pathologic 2 with a world freed from the baggage of colonial capitalism.
“The “peace” of the Diurnal ending is a fantasy. To long for a return to order is to long for the peaceful enclosure of the prison, and the systems of death and extraction that make white peace possible.”
The secret, here at Critical Distance, you ask? The secret, dear reader, is that here every month is Wrath Month. Here are ten cool pieces this week centering queer voices, ideas, perspectives.
- Pride Week: Towards more speculative sex • Eurogamer.net
Sharang Biswas ponders normalization of more kinds of sex and representations thereof, in games and beyond.
- The Queer Potentiality of Suikoden – Insert Cartridge – Medium
Charles Payseur seeks queer possibilities among the 108 Stars.
- Pride Week: LGBT+ streamers and the importance of communities • Eurogamer.net
Ed Nightingale chats with Tanya DePass about some patently non-shitty people you might consider following instead if your problematic fave just got banned from Twitch.
- This Makeshift Life — Personal Reflections on Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Carolyn Petit writes about finding enough in oneself.
- Pride Week: Witnessing the rise of LGBT+ representation. • Eurogamer.net
Lottie Lynn recounts the positive trajectory of queer games representation over the years.
- Pride Week: Life is Queer • Eurogamer.net
Izzy Jagan writes about feeling seen in Life is Strange.
- Essay On Valorant and Transition – Renata Price – Medium
Renata Price muses on making space–both within a toxic gaming community and within her own body.
- Finding Self-Love Through Queer Romance and Video Games | Kotaku
Chingy Nea tells, well, not a love story, but one with a happy ending, through Animal Crossing, FFXIV, and more.
- Take Your Time: Understanding Myself in Life is Strange | Into The Spine
Stacey Henley reminisces about how Chloe Price was the right character, in the right game, at the right time.
- Final Fantasy VII Remake Misunderstands the Power of Drag | Sidequest
Grace Benfell articulates how, in denying Cloud joy or agency, Wall Market misses the point of drag.
“I don’t need Cloud to be trans or gay. I don’t need him to subvert notions of gender. I, and the works of my peers, can do those things. I suppose I also don’t need a better version of this scene. But I want Cloud to have a moment alone, a smile, wondering at the selves he could be, wondering if he can escape the traumas that define him.”
We’ve got two selections this week critically unpacking the gaps in meaningful, nuanced masculine representation in games.
- EPISODE 4 – MASCULINITY by DEEP HELL • A podcast on Anchor
The Deep Hell Dot Com Podcast is back, this time musing on masculinities, queerness, role models, and daddies in games.
- Where Are All the Video Game Boyfriends? – Uppercut
Alan Wen seeks out more space in games for feminine desire and Hot Boys.
“Does having a “strong, independent female protagonist” mean she’s suddenly without the desires that Nathan Drake, Geralt of Rivia or countless other leading men have? Granted, a lot of sexual content is gratuitous and unnecessary, but no one’s ever going to tell Geralt, “my dude, don’t you have more important things to do than getting your rocks off?””
A trio of design-minded pieces, looking alternately at accessibility, worldbuilding, and the tensions of computer-mediated roleplay.
- How Supergiant Games made the hack’n’slash accessible with Hades | Rock Paper Shotgun
Ruth Cassidy breaks down how Supergiant’s latest takes steps to bring disabled players to the table.
- Rogue  – Arcade Idea
Arcade Idea approaches the *checks notes, we need a better genre name* granddaddy of, uhh, Nethacklikes as the antithesis, the inverse shadow of tabletop adventure games.
- Super Metroid and Building Believable Worlds | Jeremy Signor’s Games Initiative
Jeremy Signor celebrates Maridia, biomes, and world designs that elide rudimentary categorization.
“What could have been like every other aquatic level actually becomes a melancholy, lonely trek through a far flung feeling series of caves, coves, and warehouses.”
Three meditations on retro classics. Well, one is nouveau-retro, but still…
- RESTLESS DREAMS – THE MEN’S TOILET
Ed Smith presents the first installment of a (possibly?) book-length examination of Silent Hill 2.
- Baby Thief – Gloomwood (Demo) | RE:BIND
Emily Rose plays a retro revival FPS that brings the boomer shooter revival trend full circle by aping the beloved stealth series.
- Prepare to die – Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi braves the depths of King’s Field and lasts more than five minutes.
“Confidence carrying me to places where common sense refused to tread, I continued to pick my way along submerged paths hidden in the salty gloom to a dead end decorated with an enormous waterfall. I held my breath. There had to be – had to be – a secret cave behind this impenetrable rectangular block of polygons coated in blue textures – that’s just the rules… and there was. Well, what else was there to do but optimistically charge inside brandishing King’s Field’s equivalent of a rusty butter knife and wreak righteous havoc on the denizens within?”
We’re bringing back a little levity this week. It’s important to find things to smile about, even as we discipline ourselves to stop looking away from all the things worth getting angry about.
- An Excerpt From Glengarry Glen Nook | Kotaku
Ash Parrish did this.
- I have transformed The Last of Us Part 2 into a dog simulator – Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart ekes out a bit of good-boy warmth in a pretty bleak game.
“Dogs are my favourite animals. I have two of them and they are right next to me even now as I type away. To say that I feel passionately about not wanting to hurt these lovable creatures is perhaps the biggest understatement of the year, so while I have been enjoying The Last of Us Part 2 a fair bit, killing dogs really sucks.”
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