Welcome back readers.
Halloween the calendar holiday may nominally be over for the year, but like any enthusiastic spooky month reveller keen to get their money’s worth out of all the costume pieces they gleaned from the Value Village racks, we see no reason not to indulge in the macabre a little while longer. Read on. . . if you dare.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Trope or Treat
Let’s start this issue off with a look at some of the spanners in the horror genre’s toolbox.
- On Being Chased | Unwinnable
Emma Kostopolus unpacks the emotional and psychological implications of a well-worn horror movie trope applied to videogame menaces like Nemesis.
- Rats Like Stars in the Sky: The Horror of A Plague Tale — Gamers with Glasses
Christian Haines sees the horror of the Plague Tale games as by-the-numbers–no, no, not like that.
“What makes them monstrous? It’s the rats, of course, the rats in numbers. The horror in the Plague Tale series is mathematical as much as it’s aesthetic or narrative. It comes from accumulation, from the buckling of visual form and structure under the weight of squirming pixels.”
Let’s zoom in now on a particular game that has been making the rounds recently. I have a feeling Scorn will be with us for a while as it continues to inspire banger pieces like these.
- We Scorn Friction at Our Peril | Unwinnable
Steven Nguyen Scaife wonders if Scorn is simply too polished for players to abide friction in its design, and observes that the expectations are very different for horror games with a more lo-fi presentation.
- Another Corpse, Another Monument | Bullet Points Monthly
Grace Benfell finds strewn through the ruined halls of Scorn, where the reciprocal cycles of life and death are rendered transparent, the failures of Empire and liberal optimism.
“The fleshy quality of Scorn’s infrastructure makes its world almost seem inevitable, evolved and grown, rather than built. In this end, empire is inarguable; one being is doomed to dominate another. That domination will bloom into a monument of its own. Scorn’s logic of matter, where all things are flesh, leads to this kind of conclusion. It’s far from the spiritual life of christianity or the material glory of Carl Sagan’s “star stuff.” Still, even the promise of “star stuff” ties you to gunpowder as much as rocket fuel.”
It’s the end of daylight savings this weekend, so let us now wind the clock back to the late 90s and an odd pairing of games, neither of which is strictly horror, though both do intersect with different avenues of the uncanny.
- 022: Sin and Punishment: Successor of the Earth | canon fire
Amr Al-Aaser looks back at Treasure’s boundary-pushing N64 3D shooter.
- Saving Sacred Pools: Sega’s Million Dollar Adult Game – Gaming Alexandria
Dylan Mansfield recounts the history of a lost Sega game–now rediscovered–from the twilight of the FMV era.
“Sacred Pools is a lost relic from a long-gone era of Sega. It is a look into an alternate universe where the company put out games for adults — and on the PlayStation!”
In this next section, two authors unpack how colonial positionalities influence and undermine game design at all levels.
- The Stray’s Plummet Into a Strange Future | Unwinnable
Saniya Ahmed finds Stray‘s environmental storytelling to be an Orientalist mishmash.
- victoria 3 | cohost
M þ Swampcroft observes a fundamental shallowness to the possible utopias of Victoria 3, and that shallowness is rooted in the game’s white, European, imperialist bones.
“Ultimately, I dream of a world that’s bigger than Vicky 3 will currently let me build. i don’t want anarchy and communism that only considers white europeans and ignores historical contexts of the nations and groups we’re leading when we play. that’s not solidarity.”
Two pieces now on the ideas and anxieties of modern living refracted through the worlds of recent games.
- The big bird in the sky and the worm who ate Spiderman’s lunch – GlitchOut
Oma Keeling ponders the absurd futility of replicating Twitter in a Spider-Man game.
- Sable | The White Pube
Gabrielle de la Puente reflects on Sable, and endings, and not wanting things to end.
“I think of Sable’s premise again. Even though I chose to end the game, I wasn’t quite ready. I thought I was – I chose my mask – but I wasn’t. And that’s true every night in real life.”
Some Travelogue to close out the week.
- 6,303 days in quarantine | KRITIQAL
Taylor McCue contemplates community and entropy on the zombie-infested streets of Urban Dead.
“The biggest threat in Malton isn’t zombies, it’s entropy.”
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!