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March 1st

…simulates what you see on screen[…]

But this simulation of physical sensation is, of course, an ideal which many QTEs spectacularly fail to reach, often simply reducing QTEs to basic reflex challenges.

Speaking of physical sensations, over on her blog Mattie Brice looks poetically and thought-provokingly at how our physical bodies are present or not when we play games. She believes that the body is marginalized in play in favor of being seen as “one large controller,” and she protests that “[o]ur bodies are the site of play, where meaning occurs, willing or not.” From this she draws broader political…

April 9th

…being observed.

  • “Glory to Mankind,” by Ed Smith – Bullet Points Monthly Ed Smith argues that Nier: Automata is misanthropic, nihilistic, and misses opportunities to embrace humanity’s complexities.
  • The Trouble with Bodies – First Person Scholar Cayla Coats makes a compelling argument for reading Nier: Automata as a transgender narrative.
  • “The entire conflict of the game is one of problematic bodies. The Gestalts’ inability to control their corresponding Replicants signifies a collective anxiety and mistrust of anatomy—the fear of the physical self rebelling against the mental self. In this battle between Replicants and Gestalts, bodies are the medium of…

    01: Subjectivity

    …qualify the videogame review as a sign or signal, or as a simple tool, for the same reasons that I question the inherent good in maximizing the number of reviews published about a game. Materially, I think the review works to substantiate particular power dynamics between different bodies involved in game production—a circuit that might be reducible to: audience->designers->capitalists/publishers & distributors (broadly defined)*->reviewers->audience. Specifically, dynamics that concentrate wealth for a small community of capitalists who then seldom reinvest their capital into the community commons from which they exploit. While it may be difficult to gate what we might understand as…

    Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

    June 7th

    …a source of distress (Content Warning: discussion of violence, racism, mental health).

    Virtual Bodies

    At his blog Arms Folded Tight, Daniel Parker muses on the aesthetics of games’ “power fantasies,” many of which go beyond our conventional understanding of the term. In doing so, Parker surveys several recent articles on the subject of avatars and how these writers engage in a “power fantasy” of embodiment.

    Elsewhere on the subject of virtual bodies, Kat Hache opens up about their childhood affinity for Legend of Zelda‘s Link and how it continues to influence their self-image.

    Meatspace Bodies

    And at last, we come…

    August 16th

    …Yang muses on the way we model bodies in games, in which their dynamism (or possibly, embodiment) is frequently overlooked:

    Animations are essentially flipbooks; when we flip through the individual pages or frames quickly, we create the illusion of motion. Computer animation helps automate this process by taking human-authored “keyframe” poses and generating the “in-between” frames, or even entire animation sequences through motion capture. Then game engines loop through these sequences of poses to transform bodies along predictable trajectories. When you walk in a game, you’re basically looping over those same 2 choreographed steps over and over.

    What’s totally missing

    This Year In Videogame Blogging: 2015

    …Natasha Thomas and Catt Small — to discuss in a letter series “Videogames’ Blackness Problem.” Samantha Blackmon of Not Your Mama’s Gamer followed up on Narcisse’s piece to discuss another “blackness problem” outside of stereotypes and representations.

    Several months later, Evan Narcisse came back to the issue in “The Natural.” Sidney Fussell at Offworld also continued the conversation, going into the dehumanizing stereotypes of black bodies games deploy and the real world damage this inflicts.

    Juliet Kahn talked with her non-“gamer” sister to get the outsider perspective of what drove her away and continues to drive her away from games….

    June 12th

    …Catalyst is less a river, more a pond, still and stagnant.”

    “All these bodies work together”

    Reflections on the relationships between humans and non-humans are always fascinating to me. Reading the pieces below, I find myself asking whether the humans are being made into machines. I had a different answer for every piece.

    • One Piece Mansion | Something in the Direction of Exhibition Vincent K. discovers an experimental relationship game mechanic from the 1990s and critiques its poor implementation.
    • I am Torbjorn’s Turret | C.T. Casberg creatively meditates on the relationship between an engineer and a machine,…

    Discover a Critical Culture

    …broader culture. And most importantly, Critical Distance made me feel like I could be a part of the conversation, inviting me to participate in its Blogs of the Round Table and submit my work to This Week in Videogame Blogging.

    Archives quicksearch

    Jenn Frank Lana Polansky Zolani Stewart Sex History Labor Racism Bodies Narratives Aesthetics

    Through Critical Distance, I’ve learned about games and sex, games and history, games and labor, games and racism, games and bodies, games and narratives, games and aesthetics. Regardless of whether or not games remain a part of my life for years to come, I know…

    October 22nd

    …the value of Jason Schreier’s book at a time when players seem to have little insight into how their games get made, but casts doubt on whether it offer sufficient critique of the crunch practices that abound in its stories.

    “Naughty Dog’s development of Uncharted 4, in particular, describes in agonizing detail just how demanding the studio’s acceptance of “crunch culture” was on its employees. Worse, it makes it clear that crunch has been internalized within development culture.”

    A Mortician’s Tale

    A small labor game about embalming dead bodies has attracted a great deal of attention.

    June 25th

    …by Blizzard’s Matt Boehm.


    Female subjectivity and memory have been important themes in some pieces this week; additionally, an important call-out was issued about remembering the designers of game patterns.

    • Maternal Bodies: Interrogating Pregnancy-as-Risk in Orphan Black and Bound – Not Your Mama’s Gamer Bianca Batti brings feminist readings of film, games, and medical practice to bear in yet another great piece blending games studies and science and technology studies.
    • Remember Me – Guide to Games – VICE Video Mike Diver picks up another game about memory with a female protagonist.
    • Gwent: Condottiere under a different…