This Year in Videogame Blogging: 2023

It probably doesn’t bear repeating that 2023 was a roller coaster of a year. The highs were very high, the lows were very low, and we spent a lot of time rapidly oscillating between the two points. Was 2023 the “best year” for videogames? Only if you look at the number of hot releases that came out this year. But as always, if you broaden the scope of your view, deeper, more complex narratives emerge. For instance, several certified bangers came out in 2023, but those tentpole releases were punctuated by mass layoffs across the industry, with the total number of people fired inching closer and closer to 10,000 even as December was coming to a close. Not even games media was spared from this sudden industrial contraction, as at least two major outlets – The Washington Post’s Launcher and Vice’s Waypoint verticals – shut down, and independent site Uppercut Crit dramatically scaled its output back this fall.

This year also saw numerous examples of games and the world intermingling in messy and complicated ways. Multiple film and television adaptations of popular games hit screens, from The Super Mario Bros. Movie to The Last of Us, giving critics cause to question the presence of these works in relation to their ludic predecessors. Prominent game developers spoke out on issues ranging from established genres and their knock-on effects to development sustainability and investor reluctance to greenlight new projects. We watched the last of the major mergers-and-acquisitions from 2021 and 2022, Microsoft’s absorption of Activision-Blizzard, finalize despite government pushback. Game developers around the world continued the years-long push to unionize the industry, with some successes and some setbacks.

The industry also once again found itself having to contend with social issues around colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and most notably, a rapidly-unfolding genocide in Gaza. If the silence on any of these issues, especially at prominent fall and winter industry events like the Golden Joysticks and the Game Awards, is any indication, that response has been sorely lacking, to say the least.

All of this is to say: there are many, many justifiable reasons to not want to celebrate this year. It would be extremely easy for us to say, “let’s take a raincheck, maybe come back next year if the vibes improve at all.” But something we discovered while writing this caused us to push back against that impulse. 

Where is all the good writing about games? It’s everywhere.

In 2023, 589 articles by 292 writers at 140 different websites were included in Critical Distance’s weekly and monthly roundups. Yes, the big sites like IGN and GameSpot all made appearances, but overwhelmingly we heard from small and midsize independent outlets, researchers specializing in particular areas of game studies and videogame history, and dozens upon dozens of individual bloggers whose desire to engage critically with games on their own terms shone through extremely brightly. Even as things seem like they’re at their darkest, hundreds of flowers have bloomed in that twilight.

Since 2009, Critical Distance’s mission has been to “facilitate dialogue,” “build a foundation for ongoing conversations between developers, critics, educators and enthusiasts about critical issues in games culture,” and create “a compendium of the most incisive, thought-provoking, and remarkable discussion in and around games.” With the way social media has fragmented over the past year, it can sometimes be hard to see these ongoing conversations. But reading the works our Senior Curator Chris Lawrence collects each week with the help of attentive Critical Distance readers and community members, seeing the unexpected and interesting ways they connect with each other, and then being able to zoom out to see hundreds of writers in spirited dialogue with each other… this is worth celebrating.

Without further ado, here is a list of some of the best, funniest, most tear-jerking, claim-staking, and rabble-rousing pieces of videogame blogging from 2023.

Calling Out Crisis

It would be remiss of us to start this year’s roundup without talking about the situation in Gaza ourselves. Unequivocally, the actions the state and military of Israel are taking and have been taking against millions of innocent Gazans since early October constitute genocide. There is no way to handwave the murders-by-airstrike of 20,000 Palestinians – the wide majority of whom have no connection whatsoever to Hamas, and have invariably included journalists, academics, artists, musicians and thousands of regular people trying to simply exist – to refer to it as anything but a genocide. We must not be silent about what is still happening every hour of every day.

When this has been mentioned by certain members of the games industry – whether on the dev side by folks like Rami Ismail and Younès Rabii, or on the media side by folks like GameSpot Managing Editor Tamoor Hussain – the response back is usually some vulgar variation of “what does this have to do with videogames?” This further erases Palestinian gamers and game developers, who struggle to make and enjoy media in this industry despite living every day under fire, but it also exacerbates a broader, longer-standing issue in the industry: the tendency to aggressively pretend the world has no effect on what we do, and vice versa.

Here are two essential pieces that go to great lengths to explain what’s going on.

  • The Games Industry Must Not Stay Silent on Palestine | People Make Games (38:55)
    A half-hour explainer at People Make Games on the situation in Palestine by Tamoor Hussain, featuring interviews from Rami Ismail, Executive Director at, and Rasheed Abueideh, Palestinian developer of Liyla and the Shadows of War.
  • We Have To Talk (Again) About How War Games Depict The Middle East | Kotaku
    Alyssa Mercante talks to Muslim & Arab developers and critics about the distorted ludic narratives of a caricatured Middle East that normalize real-world atrocities.

    “For as long as I can remember, video games have used Middle-Eastern settings for first-person shooting…that has significantly impacted how the world sees that region and the people from there,” GameSpot managing editor Tamoor Hussain said via email. “[Games and other forms of media and entertainment] present the region as places to be blown up and as having populations that are all evil cave-dwelling terrorists, whether that’s Call of Duty soldiers mounting Spec Ops missions to kill dangerous militants or Tony Stark proudly standing in front of a backdrop that is immediately recognizable as the Middle East…When you see those same settings in real-world news reports for long enough, the line between truth and fiction can blur.”

The 9,000-lb Elephant In The Room

According to third-party tracking site Game Industry Layoffs, over 9000 people have been fired in the games industry through layoffs in 2023 alone. These pieces attempt to track and make sense of this rash of terminations.

Media Metacommentary

Several occasions in games this year gave cause for the media to look inward and examine itself critically. These pieces represent the scope of these examinations.

Climate Consciousness

This year was officially the hottest year on record, according to international climate monitoring organizations like Copernicus and NOAA. Climate change has never been a situation we can ignore, but this year especially felt like the elephant was rampaging around the room. This was reflected in quite a few of the games that came out this year, as well as these excellent pieces of criticism.

Game Histories

Videogame history is vitally important to preserve for our collective understanding of the medium as well as for our ability to put games in a broader sociohistorical context. Yet at the same time, it seems that more and more of this history slips through our fingers on a daily basis, thanks to forces of physical decay and corporate negligence. Games media, itself perennially at risk of that same entropy and negligence, nevertheless tries mightily to preserve as much of that history as they can. These pieces stand out as exemplars of critical and journalistic work in this vein.

Games and the People Who Make Them

To categorize the conversation in and around the videogame industry as only being about layoffs would be reductive. There were other manmade (discursive) horrors beyond our comprehension to talk about this year, like Unity almost destroying smaller game developers for a few extra bucks, and the strange notion that every dev studio should be like Larian Studios, makers of Baldur’s Gate 3. But beyond even all that, 2023 saw a large number of developers speaking candidly about their works in informative and thought-provoking ways.

Genre! What is it Good For?

We tend to use genre as a convenient shorthand when describing the ways certain games are like other games. But how these genres come to be formed doesn’t happen in a vacuum and the effects they can have on the industry can sometimes be quite profound.


There are questions around film adaptations of videogames that aren’t “So when are we going to get a good one?” These questions typically involve the content of such adaptations, what creative choices film directors made to adapt the game in question, and how the adapted works sit in conversation with each other.


There have been a lot of remade videogames in the past handful of years.

These remakes range from simple graphical remasters to fully-rebuilt worlds. Are they labors of love, cynical cash-grabs or something else entirely? These pieces get to the bottom of that question.


There’s nothing like a videogame’s “silver anniversary” to remind you of the unceasing passage of time and your own mortality. These pieces do the double duty of remembering the games and the contexts they released in.

Ways of Relating

What do games do to our understanding of the world and vice versa? What are games’ possibilities and limitations with regard to presenting different perspectives from our own?

Indie games

This year saw a tidal wave of incredible indie games come out, and these critics were there to capture as many of the experiences they had to offer.

Major Releases

The biggest releases of the year tend to be discourse magnets. In this penultimate section we’ve collected a lightning round of critical works: 16 pieces from all aspects of games media that celebrate and critically examine the newest blockbusters of the day.

Callisto Protocol

Tears of the Kingdom

Final Fantasy XVI

Baldur’s Gate 3

  • I broke Baldur’s Gate 3 by playing as a party of bears | PC Gamer
    Christopher Livingston causes problems.
  • DON’T YOU WANT TO? | Deep-Hell 
    The most challenging part of reading Skeleton’s work is deciding where to end the pullquote so here’s a whole damn paragraph on the banality of hotness in BG3.

    “who am I baldur’s gate 3? with this endless parade of hunks, twinks, rude-girls and doe eyed cultists who begin and end every night with a rigorous facial programme. there is no space for me to be ugly or weird or misshapen, I need to be handsome I need to be hot and most of all I need to be ready to fuck or kill at a moments notice. that’s really what we’re getting at when we talk about what it means to be an adventurer in one of these broadly colonialist fantasies where everything is solved at the tip of a sword except for statecraft, politics, the shape of the world or anything we want to change. there’s scarce room for changing the world, but lots of room for saving it. exactly as it is, forever. save-scumming is built right into the fabric of faerun. if I fuck up or die I roll back to the last save. whenever I am done with faerun it is still faerun for all of the R.A. Salvatore’s of the world to fuck around in. their tools, my playset, just as cardboard backedd and clam-shelled as it needs to be for the price tag.”

Armored Core 6

Lies of P

Cyberpunk 2077/Phantom Liberty

Alan Wake II

Critical Chasers

At the end of each weekly roundup, Senior Curator Chris Lawrence chooses a “Critical Chaser,” a funny, informative or creative work (or all three) that punctuates the week’s discourse. These digestifs are worth celebrating in their own right, so we asked Chris for the chasers they thought would best round out the year. They provided us with the following list, in no particular order. Enjoy!

One Year Down, Many More To Go

And with that, 2023 is over. With hundreds of articles curated into our weekly roundups this year, this list can only hope to be a glimpse of the totality of games criticism. But as always, we hope this annual roundup has captured the essence of the year, warts and all.

Thank you for reading and supporting Critical Distance this year and every year since 2009. Your support truly means a lot to us. If you want to see what we’ve got going on in 2024, come join us on Discord! It’s the best place to interface directly with the Critical Distance team as well as submit your own recommendations for our weekly roundups. We’re also on X/Twitter, Facebook, Mastodon, Cohost and Bluesky! Come say hi there as well.

Tags from the story