Welcome back readers.

The first thing I want to talk about this week is that Critical Distance is hosting another writing/video essay jam! This time, we’re welcoming submissions in any medium with the theme of First Foot Forward: player agency as explored through the first choice a player makes in a game. Check out the post for more details; this jam will run through the month of February.

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

Atrophy Hunter

This week we’re starting with a few broad-perspective pieces dealing with the games industry, its relationships with other artistic media, and culture writing in general.

The Callisto Protocol is good at all the constituent, component game stuff, and that’s all it is, and that becomes proof that those constituent, component game parts—in isolation of any other ideas or identity—are empty, that mechanics as we’ve come to accept them in most games are, on their own, empty, meaningless, automated, and I’m stuck wondering if it’ll always have to be like that.”

Luminous Insights

We’ve now got a couple of segments specific to new releases. First up is Forspoken, with a focus on its worldbuilding and dialogue.

“All of which is to say that for me, it’s not so much that “the writing is cringe.” It’s that Frey herself is cringing, and by proxy there is a sense that the writers are doing the same.”

Cutting Critiques

Now we turn our attention to the remake of Dead Space, with a pair of perspectives on the background elements of its story setting.

“As in the real world, the crew are simply meat to their distant employers, a sacrifice for their delusional dreams. The Ishimura, is the grinder.”

Context Sensitive

Let’s move now from worldbuilding to text-to-world perspectives with a series of pieces on animals, policing, and prisons.

“To sit down today—in a society which has largely ignored the darkness at its iron-barred core—to an experience like Callisto, a game in which a virus rips through a prison, turning inmates into vicious monsters to be put down, is unsettling to say the least. The game appears hardly aware at all of its connection to the real catastrophic events of our own world. It is utterly ignorant, disconnected from reality in a way that only videogames seem capable of being.”

Stories and Tellings

Next up is a wide-ranging section bringing together perspectives on mythology, legacies, and artifacts.

“The artifacts seem like an unconscious record of these decisions. Dwarves break under social stress or an individual unmet need and make something that records society as it is now, and when society eventually floods or gets eaten by wolves the artifacts remain. Their lists are their own kind of poetry. They stay when everything living is gone.”

Critical Chaser

I would not, on my own, have given Worm Game a second thought as it came and went. I am grateful that this week’s final featured author thought better.

“What Google as a system did was take these developers creativity and time, chew it up, and burn it as fuel for absolutely nothing but some manager’s promotion for having successfully “launched a product”. Playing Worm Game— the embodied, distilled form of those same developers’ creativity— I got to watch this process happening literally before my eyes.”


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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!