Welcome back readers.

Thanks for stopping in. It’s pretty late in my local time zone, but we’ve got chill conversations running ’round the clock in the Critical Distance Discord. Come hang out!

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

Rolling Start

To start things off this week, we’ve got a set of pieces examining some of the bigger-picture questions around the art that goes into and comes out of our entertainment media.

“Games that give dramatic weight to every part of the experience feel particularly special, and particularly necessary. The hunger for better games is not just for more content, endless content; the hunger is for meaning. Time discarded within a game is not time wasted if that meaning comes through, if the sense at the end is that something of value was accomplished. When the only meaning is that I used to have twenty dollars and now I don’t, then the medium’s potential is squandered. The image of the dead-eyed, hunched-over gamer letting garish colors and a cacophony of beeps and bloops wash over them is ultimately not a stereotype or an indictment of the players so much as it is a reflection of an industry that, even in its creative prime, struggles to conceive of its audience as capable of more than that.”

Notes of Trauma

Here we’ve got a pair of authors tackling the treatment of trauma in recent individual games.

“If Rhok’zhan is the Elder Goddess that Lovecraft could never have imagined, Stardust is a direct repudiation of Lovecraft. Not only is fear never her strongest emotion, she faces fear of the unknown, and even fear of becoming something unknown, with curiosity and hope. Possibly more important than any of that, Stardust is Black.”

Party Starters

Next we’ve got a genre-specific section, unpacking productive tensions in RPGs (or even more narrowly, Square-Enix RPGs).

“The reality is that this series deserves better than half cobbled ideas, cheap emotional pulls and broken narratives—purely because of its fans. Devotees look at works like Days as smarter than might be because it’s all they have in light of a series that does not hold their best interests. That’s the most embarrassing part of Kingdom Hearts.”

Technological Trends

Here we’ve paired a couple of articles anchoring their objext texts in the historical and technological processes that shaped them.

“Presto rejected the surrealism that was Myst’s hallmark; they wanted to take you somewhere you could really believe in. Their execution of their ambitions was often imperfect, but no studio was more wedded to the idea of games as coherent fictions during the 1990s. The body of work that resulted from their commitment is among the most distinctive and memorable of the decade.”

Old Game Plus

Now for a slightly ecclectic association–each of these next three articles focuses on a game that’s been held back in some way by the financial or legal machinations of the industry. To different extents, in different ways, they each live on through the communities that champion them–more often in spite of the efforts of their publishers.

“”If there’s one thing I want people to take away from playing [Madness Returns],” says Jessilyn, “is that working through trauma — no matter how hard or stupid it is — can be worth it.””

Double Take

These are our design-focused picks for the week, looking at camera work and controls, respectively.

“While my rock-climbing days were a short few years of my youth, I still remember the frustrating, gradual process that came with learning a new wall or bouldering route. Core Design replicates this methodical, joyful agony in its mechanics, with climbs that require thought and planning before each step. Players can’t just leap and wait for the game’s net to catch them. Every action is deliberate—even saving.”

Play in Transition

Our next two picks highlight trans play experiences from different angles.

It’s 2024. I finally figured out why it felt like something was off, like something was wrong with me. Unidentified gender dysphoria is a tricky beast. It hides in plain sight, in places that are obvious in hindsight but confounding in the moment. It’s a never-ending voiceless cry that, despite its near-silence, still drowns out the world around you. How do you find self-worth, self-purpose, in this state?

Well, you get really fucking good at videogames.

Critical Chaser

Here’s a cool one. If you’re like me and rate your French as “stumbling”, the author has linked a translation on the same page.


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!