Welcome back readers.
We have a bunch of announcements to pack in this week, so bear with me because there’s important and exciting stuff to discuss!
Kotaku Interview with Ben Abraham
First, Kotaku just published an interview with Critical Distance founder Ben Abraham about his recent publication of an extensive study through his organization AfterClimate about the state (or in some cases, inaction) of carbon net-zero efforts across the games industry. It’s a wide-ranging and urgent talk well worth your time!
Second, we’re launching a new ongoing community event on our Discord, courtesy of coordinator Rinoa Carmichael:
Critical Distance Open Mic Night!
There is so much great games writing on the internet, but where do we talk about it, and improve our own? Much like Critical Distance gathers some great games writing, we would love to gather some writers. (And readers too!)
We will have our first open mic night on Friday, December 2nd, 7PM NY (11PM LON, Sat 3rd, 10AM SYD). Coming just to listen is OK!
This Open Mic is a chance for people to talk to other writers about what they are doing, or to ask others for advice. We are open to a lot of different kinds of conversation around writing. There will be a chance to listen to what people have been working on recently too. This is a great time to ask people questions to explore ideas you want to write about yourself, or possibly ask questions to those more experienced in the field than yourself!
Save Critical Distance!
Finally, and more sombrely, we are launching a GoFundMe. The short of it is that we are in dire need of financial support from our community to cover the costs of some accountancy filings to preserve our legal status as a nonprofit entity. Any overhead will also help us keep the lights on and keep the project going. We are not taking this step lightly. We have been doing this work for nearly fourteen unbroken years, and hope to continue on for many more, but we ultimately need your help to make that happen.
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
The Devil’s in the Details
This week we open with two pieces examining the military-industrial complex from both poles, looking at how the logics of capitalism and imperialism are expressed through play, satirically and sincerely.
- Workplace Woes | Videodame
Krista McCay breaks down how Going Under captures both the cheerful veneer and the underlying rot of the workplace grind.
- Three Minutes | Bullet Points Monthly
Kaile Hultner breaks down every second, every atom of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s perfect first three minutes.
“The philosophy of jus ad bellum is laid bare as a farce here, in just these three minutes. War is “just” because the state says so; the fight goes wherever we point our guns next. The people the state considers to be allies are mere tools; enemies are whoever the state designates as such, for any or no reason. This kind of self-reinforcing logic may assuage the troubled souls of generals and bureaucrats, but if it was right, if it was in any way actually compelling, military recruitment numbers wouldn’t be at their lowest point in decades, and game franchises—like Call of Duty—wouldn’t be pivoting to making insensate battle royale theme parks out of War on Terror imagery even as their vestigial single-player campaigns grow more desperate to prove their own necessity.”
90s arcade racers are front-and-centre in these next two highlights.
- Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 8: Virtua Racing -FlatOut- | Kimimi The Game-Eating She-Monster
Kimimi evaluates how an early arcade racing legend’s brilliance shines through in a latter-day budget port on PS2.
- The Last Ridge Racer | The Arcade Blogger
Tony Temple chronicles the rescue of a relic.
“Let’s celebrate the fact that the last Ridge Racer Full Scale in the world has somehow been saved from the clutches of disaster at the eleventh hour, thanks to several people’s efforts, and one day it will be rebuilt and playable again.”
Here we have a pair of design-focused pieces looking alternately at addiction and horror, both in games well-loved and games well…played.
- How ‘Candy Crush’ Trapped Us in the Machine Zone | ArtReview
Lewis Gordon reflects on addiction, monetization, and the mechanical crush that keeps players corralled in the candy store.
- Silent Hill, Rule of Rose, and the aesthetics of nightmares | KRITIQAL
Hyacinth Nil unpacks how restrictive design and the logics of unreality complement one another to uncanny effect in the upper echelon of horror games.
“It’s relatively easy to create monsters that horrify and unnerve, more difficult to create ones that get under your skin and linger, and harder still to effectively use unreality and uncanniness to build worlds that work like nightmares. Rule of Rose and Silent Hill demonstrate the power of this mode of horror.”
Two highlights this week looking at inclusion and representation in mobile and indie spaces.
- How My Favorite Mobile Game is Choosing Inclusion | Sidequest
Ennis Bashe takes an honest look at queer representation in the much-beleaguered mobile visual novel landscape.
- Butterfly Soup 2 demands a higher standard of Asian representation in video games | Eurogamer.net
Liv Ngan discusses how Butterfly Soup 2 treats the third culture experience with nuance and sincerity.
“Playing through this part, I didn’t feel like I was staring at my monitor watching a story. All of a sudden I was 19 again, stranded in the humidity of Hong Kong and suffocating under the weight of the realisation that back home, the white people never saw me as British, but in Hong Kong, I couldn’t call myself Chinese either.”
Now for a pair of lookbacks at older, underappreciated, but nonetheless influential games.
- Before The Remake: In Defense Of The First Witcher Game | Kotaku
Claire Jackson looks back at the original Witcher and (most) of its rough edges with fondness.
- The Fool’s Errand  | Arcade Idea
Art Maybury puzzles through a game working outside the established box of adventure conventions.
“It gives to the history a whole philosophy and tradition from outside video games, mixed with its own novel concepts that could only be done in video games. It is a digital work inspired by those magazines full of brain teasers you see at supermarket checkout stands and their more sophisticated and upscale sibling, those analog gamebooks that give its puzzling some kind of overarching throughline and cohesion through things like a narrative scaffolding or a meta-puzzle or even a real-world treasure hunt.”
A short and poignant piece from Spine closes out our week.
- Forward, Always Forward – Into The Spine
Megan B. Wells goes with the flow in Outer Wilds.
“Bear witness, the game seems to say, because no one steps in the same river twice. It is not the same river, and you are not the same person.”
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!