Welcome back, readers.
I hope this finds you well. Here’s a grouping of resources for supporting protests against racist police violence.
Happy twelfth birthday to Critical Distance for earlier this month. March brought us more excellent and creative videos, many of them of the hour-plus running time variety (You’re Welcome).
This Month In Videogame Vlogging highlights the most compelling critical videos about videogames from the previous calendar month.
Concerning: The End
To begin with, essays about the end. The end of life, the end of the world, the endings of games that reframe everything that came before them.
Gris and the Beauty of Grief – Cyril Focht (22:13)
Cyril Focht reads the colour-coded platforming world of Gris as a journey through Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief. (Manual captions)
I Loved Persona 5, And I Hate Persona 5 Royal – Joyce-Stick (49:09)
Joyce takes issue with the reversion to status quo politics implied by the new ending of Persona 5’s ‘Royal’ rerelease. (Manual captions)
Dark Souls 3 is Thinking of Ending Things – Jacob Geller (26:52)
Drawing parallels with the internalised meta-chaos of Charlie Kaufmann directed film I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Jacob Geller highlights the existential ramifications of Dark Souls 3’s portrayal of a decaying world on the brink of collapse. (Manual captions) [Content note: suicide] [Embedded advertising]
As the pandemic stretches on, meditations on the way we pass time – or used to pass time – are becoming increasingly popular. Here are two good’ns from this month.
A Short Video About A Short Hike – Pixel a Day (9:31)
Kat looks at how A Short Hike evokes the nostalgic, carefree feeling of finding ways to fill time while on holiday. (Manual captions)
Gaming In the Quarantine Years – Errant Signal (17:30)
Chris Franklin describes slipping into game after game where slow (grinding for) progress is incentivised, during a time in which real life has lost all its markers of change. (Autocaptions)
Because while every day is groundhog day out here in the real world, in game I can at least entertain the illusion of forward progress or, failing that, numb my brain to everything that’s been going on while we wait for life to resume. Which, now that I say it out loud, is… maybe a little bit unhealthy.
The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated
A lot of videos this month doubled as celebrations of games, sometimes particularly games that the author/s felt had been in some way overlooked. These three did just that.
Why I Cant Stop Thinking About Yakuza Like a Dragon – eurothug4000 (1:00:53)
Maria analyses the environmental details, character complexities, mechanical improvements and personal resonances that made Yakuza: Like A Dragon a standout title for her in 2020, while recognising some of the game’s representative gender imbalances. (Manual captions)
Trapbook Show ‘n Tell: Pagan Ultima VIII Pt 2 – Brendan Vance (1:06:19)
It’s hard not to get pulled into Brendan’s enthusiasm for the environments, assets, soundtrack and adversarial difficulty of the oft-maligned Ultima VIII: Pagan, in this edited Let’s Play. (Manual captions)
You Were Wrong About Final Fantasy X | A Heartfelt Defense of Tidus’ Laugh – Transparency (34:55)
Transparency argue the case that the infamous laughing scene from Final Fantasy X is “one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned cutscenes in videogame history”. (Autocaptions)
Rounding out this lengthy mid-section on overlooked titles, this trio of videos gives us a bounty of work on (variously) delisted games, forgotten games, Sonic games.
The Girl Games Of Lost Media – Bobdunga (1:17:30)
Raven Simone documents her own hunt for the (probably?) never-released Mean Girls title for the Nintendo DS, detouring into some discoveries about the (really) never released Clueless Fashion for the DS. (Manual captions)
Mysterious GBA Games – ThorHighHeels (1:11:38)
ThorHighHeels demonstrates how the generational hardware mish-mash of the Gameboy Advance made it a potent space for wonky design experiments and “ports that weren’t really ports”. (Autocaptions)
The Animation of Sonic Games – New Frame Plus (1:45:05)
Daniel Floyd looks at the character animations of every console-released mainline Sonic game. This is a long one but admirably detailed, and it includes some fun explanations about animation principles such as e.g. why motion-capture is often unsuitable for stylized cartoon characters. (Manual captions)
The meaning and importance of roleplaying remains a boundless topic for video essayists, as demonstrated again by these next few videos.
What I Found In The Leaves – A Sorta Critical Reading About Tea And Video Games – Heather Alexandra (37:40)
Heather Alexandra thinks about drinking tea, Skies of Arcadia, character-actor agency, depression, the existence of souls, and looking for the magic in games. (Autocaptions)
What Kind Of Game Did Cyberpunk 2077 Turn Out To Be, Anyway? [SPOILERS] – Noah Caldwell-Gervais (1:30:05)
Noah Caldwell-Gervais argues that Cyberpunk 2077 was creatively constrained by its noncommittal pastiche approach to both genre and game design. (Autocaptions) [Note: uses gruesome in-game footage]
The Descent into Roleplaying – John Battle (28:13)
John Battle demonstrates how meaningful “roleplaying” – bridging the gap between player and player-character – arises from choosing which thought to voice in Kentucky Route Zero and Disco Elysium. (Autocaptions)
Just Industry Things
Some video makers are continuing to do the good work of shining a critical lens over the processes of videogame production.
How Microtransactions Prey on Disabled Gamers – Access-Ability – LauraKBuzz (11:56)
Laura K Buzz looks at how microtransactions may be designed to take advantage of gamers with a wide array of disabilities, and how, subsequently, disabled gamers may be a much higher proportion of high-spending “whales” than might be commonly assumed. (Manual captions)
How Game Publishers Buy Crunch Overseas – People Make Games (18:54)
Chris Bratt interviews employees of two art specialist studios in South-East Asia to illustrate how employee overwork may be moved even further from public scrutiny. (Autocaptions)
Patents Are Hurting The Game Industry – Darkfry (6:38)
Developers shouldn’t be able to patent specific videogame systems because this inhibits the creative possibilities of the medium going forward, argues Darkfry. (Autocaptions)
How to Become a Game Designer – Game Maker’s Toolkit (15:07)
Mark Brown relays a crash course in some of the broad requirements for becoming a game designer. (Manual captions)
Finally, this trio of essays finds their authors grappling with their complicity of in-game violence.
On Indie, Oxenfree | Story Without Killing – Micah Edmonds (26:07)
Micah Edmonds uses a belated playthrough of narrative adventure game Oxenfree to think about how to go about really enjoying games if not the dopamine-feedback loop of combat. (Autocaptions)
Ski Sniper – SWITCH STANCE – Joe Bush (17:34)
Joe Bush tries to come to terms with his enjoyment of the absurdist violence of Ski Sniper. (Autocaptions)
Was Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War Really That Bad? – Writing on Games (14:05)
The singleplayer campaign of Call of Duty: Black Ops deserves some praise, insists Writing on Games, because it takes itself much less seriously than the previous instalments in the series. (Manual captions)
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