Welcome back, readers.

There’s another large Ukraine charity bundle running since last we published, this time running through Humble Bundle. Check it out!

This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.

Industry Angles

We begin this week with an interview and a commentary, respectively, centred on industry practices and trends.

“I’m not willing to concede that traumatising, upsetting and otherwise abusing workers is worth it if you get a decent videogame at the end of the process because there hasn’t been a videogame yet worth all that. There will never be a videogame worth all that, sorry.”

Designed Experiences

We move on now to a trio of pieces that all invoke design along different axes: mechanical, narrative, and thematic/structural.

“The game’s inciting violent encounter with the military world turns Max’s life into a video game. The life before his wife’s death is only rendered in hazy photography; it’s only after her murder that Max’s world becomes grey, pixelated hallways. The game explicitly ties military tech with Max’s own video game hell.”

Rising Action, Falling Action

Both of our next featured authors played, by their own assessments, good games. But the context of play leaves an indelible mark on the play itself. In the former case, a culimination, a catharsis; in the latter, a weariness, a resignation.

  • Beat Saber | The White Pube
    Gabrielle de la Puente describes the catharsis of coming back to Beat Saber, years later, after Long Covid lets up enough to allow her to do so.
  • Review: Destiny 2: The Witch Queen – No Escape
    Kaile Hultner surveys Destiny 2, with its practice of vaulting off prior incarnations of itself, mountains of plot-critical lore and all, and asks, even at its best, who is this game for anymore?

“We already know that the next expansion is going to be called Lightfall, and the one after that is The Final Shape. This gives us a pretty decent understanding of what’s going to happen, barring any superficial twists. We also know that there will continue to be Destiny 2 well after these expansions, which unfortunately kind of sucks the tension out of the room. Coupled with the apparently new policy of vaulting entire expansions after just three or four years, I’m genuinely of the opinion that it simply doesn’t matter anymore, if it ever did. It’s just a premium content veneer they place over a live service package every year or so at this point. It’ll continue to make them money.”

Huge Tracts of Land

This week we’re splitting the Elden Ring selections up into four sections. First off we have a pair of critical reflections on the outcomes of From’s shift to a larger open-world design.

  • Souls as a service | KRITIQAL
    Axe Binondo sees Elden Ring‘s increased scope as putting it more in line with the logics of service games that seek not just to invite you to their worlds but keep you there to the exlusion of others.
  • Coming to Terms with Elden Ring and Open Worlds | Paste
    Rosy Hearts observes that Elden Ring doesn’t really undo any of the more fraught logics of open world design, even as it enacts some of them more gracefully.

“This is one of the goals of corporate videogame development: to not challenge the player’s agency or ideals, but to create a smooth, immersive, computational environment that is seemingly infinite. It is because of this complete awe-striking mass that the ludo-ecosystem obfuscates the code, the labor which created it, and even ourselves as it begins to normalize not playing for the sense of value, but playing for the sake of something empty. Something that does not bring us anything, aside from endless completion, endless tick boxes to check, and a clouded sense of play and work.”

The Painted World

Our next two Elden highlights examine art, religion, and culture in the game world and our own.

“How do we relate and negotiate our place in this Order? How do we deal with a God who is real but does not care? How do we assign meaning, whether to the alluring promise of a bright and welcoming heaven, or to the wide open possibilities of a life of free will, naked and alone, in the cold, beckoning darkness.”

Jolly Cooperation

Next, we stop to discuss the social elements at play in From’s asynchronous multiplayer approach.

“It certainly feels good to see the Enemy Felled message and pick up new weapons or trinkets. But I truly relish the glowing white runes that signify a message from another player, or the spectral image of a friend from another dimension running ahead in a dungeon or clambering through rocky terrain.”

Critical Chaser

No Fun this week, only Serious Methodology.

“In order to complete this arduous, malodorous task, I needed the right tools for the job. To that end, I have devised the SWOMP system to rate a poison swamp from each game.”


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!