July 2020

Hello, Readers.

It’s late August 2020, by which I obviously mean it’s time to think about videos from July 2020. Here’s where you can support protesters against police violence in North America.

These columns seem to be getting larger every month, thanks to all the great critical vids being made and your help in alerting me to them. More and more I find myself saying “oh but I can’t leave this one out”, even as I am mindful of word counts and attention spans. Keep sending them our way.

This Month In Videogame Vlogging rounds up the best vods of videogame criticism from the previous calendar month.

 

The Ugly-good, the Ugly-bad and the Dissonance

Why do some games pedal in off-putting. gritty and gruesome visuals, sounds and stories? These four video-makers have some ideas.

Digital Playgrounds

The relationship of videogame spaces to the form, feeling and rules of play gets a dynamic inquiry from these four excellent essays.

  • Fortnite: The Party That’s a Platform – Errant Signal (41:13)

    Chris Franklin suggests Fortnite’s design directs players more toward social or casual rather than competitive play – a design system that has merits until you consider the cynical capitalising of social pressures that accompanies it. I particularly like the deliberate and considered engagement with the views of other critics in this one, something video essayists could – on the whole – bear to do more often, just imo. (Autocaptions)

  • The Virtual Spaces of Garry’s Mod – Chariot Rider (20:16)

    Chariot Rider discusses the way videogames relate rules to space, and how Garry’s Mod (perhaps uniquely among games) explores and exposes this relationship in a way that reflects emergent forms of play in real life settings. (Autocaptions)

  • seaside – Just Fine – Umbrella Terms (4:00)

    Umbrella Terms recounts working through anxiety with seaside, a basic picture game. (Manual captions)

  • Why I Love Super Mario Beach Levels – eurothug4000 (11:31)

    Maria continues her exploration of visual aesthetics with a personal ode to the beach levels of Marios Sunshine and Galaxy. (Manual captions)

Identity

Under this large umbrella are four videos grappling with issues of identity and inclusion around games, game-makers and game communities.

Geography Lessons

Grouped here is one video contemplating the horrendous environmental and political impacts of videogame production on developing countries, alongside two contemplating the depictions of specific places (both sites of extractive and colonial violence) in videogames.

RPG History

Videogame labels tend to obscure development histories – these two videos show a bit about how the evolution of RPG subgenres is often less straightforward than we might imagine.

Regular Deities

To finish up for July, two thoughtful investigations into how and why game-makers portray certain character motivations and actions. Also a Polygon video, because I needed the laugh.

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!