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April 14th

…And on Critical Missive, Eric Schwarz dispenses with discussion of the setting and story and focuses squarely on a fine assessment of its combat mechanics.

On Kotaku, Patricia Hernandez peels away the layers of how the game’s design puts the player at odds with behaving like a real person. And on How Not to Suck at Game Design, Anjin Anhut criticizes the game’s “straw man racism” as a device by which to alleviate white guilt:

A thing that many movies do, most comics and Bioshock Infinite, is depict the faction in the story representing racism as unequivocally evil. Cartoonishly evil

September 17th

This was a week of controversies. Since one of the most significant issues this week was a famous Youtuber’s racist outburst, the final section of this roundup comes with a general content warning for discussions of harassment, abuse, racism etc. In the mean time, there are plenty of pieces on other topics to look at this week as well, including narrative technique, sound design, and genre.

Hitting home

This roundup begins with two videos that consider the role of sound design in a game’s impact on its players’ emotions and its narrative message.

  • How the song “Undertale”

September 18th

…when related to each other.

  • Wolfenstein of Wall Street: The Gamification of Trading | Gamasutra Blog Samuel Miranda looks at the elements of gamification and how it appears in finance.
  • ReCore: The Kotaku Review | Kotaku Though it isn’t the central focus of the review, Stephen Totilo explores the gravity of a well-designed world, and how that weight impacts the overall experience with ReCore.
  • Canonize This: Overwatch and Schrödinger’s Representation | Not Your Mama’s Gamer Lee Hibbard laments the lack of concrete details in Overwatch’s representation.
  • Futurism, Realism, Racism: Deus Ex and the Quest for Credible Science Fiction | Medium…
  • April 21st

    …indignant about:

    What’s truly inflammatory in 2013 is Infinite as a collaborative work with millions upon millions of dollars and man-hours put into it, couldn’t bother, apparently, to hire a non-white writer to put some proper perspective into the use of racism to justify a white man’s murderous romp through a floating city in the sky. The use of the (mostly non-white) Vox Populi and (black) Daisy Fitzroy as an enemy for the (white) player character to mow down and brutally murder is utterly idiotic [sic], unjustified, and completely insulting. Inflammatory.

    This post by starburp, also linked in Kunzler’s first…

    June 21st

    …caricatures (such as blackface and black minstrelsy). As she points out, some of this may be entirely invisible to those who don’t have to navigate racism in their daily lives:

    My life, my experiences, and the body that I live in makes Cuphead and its artistic style problematic to me because of all that it has come to mean in the last 85 years or so and that’s something that I just can’t let go of. […] The game threatens to draw upon racist caricatures to inform the narrative and give players a series of racism infused bosses and obstructions

    December 4

    …Margins of History | Haywire Magazine Miguel Penabella laments that the fictional history created in Mafia III provides insulation against the real history of racism in 1960s New Orleans.

    Thus, the game expresses racial anger obliquely, directing it not towards real structures that lawfully maintain oppression like the police force, but towards fictional abstractions like the Southern Union and the Italian mafia. Rather than confront the historical sources of oppression in New Orleans as outlined by Whitaker and Moore, Mafia III defers to fictionalization that obscures the relationship between racism and state politics.

    The World Within Games

    • The…

    January 21st

    …2012 essay by James Patton on the modernist aesthetics of stealth and the fantasy of achieving tactical mastery within a complex system.

  • Unreal: How a Survivor Parody Explores the Artificiality of Games and Reality TV :: Games :: Features :: Survivor :: Paste Dante Douglas examines the rhetoric of a game that reflects contemporary media issues around participation and spectatorship.
  • How Sierra and a Disgraced Cop Made the Most Reactionary Game of the 90s – Waypoint (Content warning: racism) Robert Zacny reports on a harrowing story of racism in the police force and grim wish-fulfillment in game desgin.
  • “The…

    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…

    February 7th

    …article on Grand Theft Auto both call out the games’ racism in connection with portrayals of urban crime.

    • Every Game I’ve Finished — Watch Dogs (Sony PlayStation 4)…
    • Grand Theft Auto and the airbrushing of history

    “Watch Dogs is the kind of crap where you don’t feel like whoever laid the egg even really needed a shite in the first place. It’s not just crap, but pointless.”

    “Watch Dogs is a racist video game. That’s not to say it is a bigoted video game—this isn’t pointed. It’s simply the kind of thoughtless everyday racism that infests most cultural

    January 31st

    …violence in Just Cause 3. Jay Barnson used his memories of playing Go and learning AI to put the news of a Go-playing AI in perspective.

    Recognising erasure

    [Content warning: racism and harassment] Tanner Higgin shared an article published in FibreCulture exploring the racial semiotics of 4chan raids on Habbo Hotel and World of Warcraft.

    “[…] trolling more generally oscillates between harassment, lulz, and protest/intervention, creating controversy not just between troll and trolled, but between trolls. I would go as far as to say that all trolling has a version of politics; even those trolls who claim to do