This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Kris Ligman on topics ranging from a Japanese lexicon for fun to getting lost in a crowded games market.
We start out by following up on last week
's lively Mountain
discussion with this analysis from Ian Bogost, who finds the game exemplifies the concepts of alien phenomenology
(My own mountain presently has a glittering meteorite, an enormous chair, an even larger analog clock, a bowling pin, and a bottle of rotgut embedded in it. Game of the year.)
Standard Models and Their Derivations
From Kill Screen's Joshua Calixto we find a compelling look into the fighting game community which has emerged around Super Smash Bros Melee
and Nintendo's resistance to acknowledging these hardcore players:
For [game director Masahiro Sakurai], Melee was more than a sequel, more than a game even. It was his idee fixe, his impossible ambition to create something infinitely deep and comfortably shallow at the same time. Now Melee has become his Pinkerton: A revitalized cult masterpiece, a bolt of lightning caught in a bottle, and the one puzzle piece that could fix everything... if it didn't already belong to another era.
At Paste, Ansh Patel contrasts Kentucky Route Zero's third-act music number to the operatic detour of Final Fantasy VI
. And speaking of JRPGs, at Gamers with Jobs Alex Martinez shares a personal history
concerning the cousin who inspired him, the name he would take, and the first game he experienced start-to-finish on his own: Earthbound
While we're looking back, Play the Past's Angela R Cox asserts that by categorizing games as 'retro' (aesthetically or chronologically), we fundamentally change what they are
That is, when we consider a text as a socially situated object, we find that as textual practices change around a material (or digital, in the case of code) object, the text itself changes as cultural perception and use of the text changes.
At Game Bias, Jed Pressgrove blasts Always Sometimes Monsters
for what he perceives as a sort of shallow pessimism.
And at PopMatters Moving Pixels, regular columnist Jorge Albor analyzes how The Wolf Among Us keeps its sympathies with the marginalized and victimized
throughout its five-part arc.
At Killing of a Goldfish, Jesse Mason has set out on an ambitious historical game criticism project
oriented around Magic the Gathering
, viewing its early expansion sets in the context of their release.
Meanwhile, at Medium, Zoya Street continues to do important scholarship translating from Japanese-language games criticism
. Here, he draws upon Nobuki Yasuda's framework for 'omoshiroi' ('fun' or 'interesting') and 'tanoshii' ('enjoyable') to ask what role, exactly, 'fun' (and semantics thereof) should play in discussions of games.
If this article by Kirk McKeand at IGN on accommodating red-green colorblindness in game design
reveals anything, it's that far too many developers continue to stumble upon accessibility issues by accident. However, it should leave you optimistic that things are, gradually, getting better.
Likewise, on Media Diversified, Jordan Minor foresees a convergence of the afrofuturism aesthetic movement and a new wave of racially diverse games
"Afrofuturism is the intersection between technology, black cultures, the imagination, and liberation with a heavy dose of mysticism," says Ytasha L. Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. "It is expressed through an array of genres including music and literature. It can also serve as the basis for critical theory around culture and/or race. It is a lens to see alternate realities through a black cultural lens." And it is particularly prevalent in literature like sci-fi/fantasy novels and comics books, gaming’s geeky cousins.
[...] Adopting the aesthetic could also give games a chance to be at the forefront of black narratives, an area they are currently lagging behind in to say the least.
Switching gears to talk about the more commercial end of current trends in games, at Eurogamer the one and only Simon Parkin looks into a particular legal wrinkle in the growing world of Youtuber advertorials
, in which some publishers or developers pay video producers for coverage.
In all the discussion on Twitch and Youtube that's been going around lately, not much attention has been directed toward women reviewers and streamers, of which there certainly are many. Here, Kim Correa interviews popular Twitch streamer Jasmine Hruschak.
And Then There Was Silence
At his home site, game developer Brendan Vance has released a 10,000-word tour-de-force on the intersections of games industry, getting lost in a crowded market, and spiritual wholeness
. Summing it up could hardly do it justice, but here are some choice excerpts:
When we observe today's class of small, broke, powerless game studios subsisting from tiny mobile project to tiny mobile project, we typically attribute their existence to an apathetic audience and/or soulless business executives. We neglect to notice how convenient our 'neutral third parties' might find it that these developers are incapable of renegotiating the royalties they pay or, say, founding a new 'ecosystem' of their own. Today we see Valve travelling in the same direction as Apple, and we wonder whether Gabe Newell can 'fix' the madhouse (sic). If you're Gabe Newell the madhouse is not broken.
You Know the Drill
We [...] now live in a world where, paradoxically, the most anti-capitalist measure we could take is to charge money for things. I believe we need to do this whenever possible. Offering your work free as in gratis might seem noble and kind to those who want to see it, but remember that giving things away 'for free' via services like Steam, the App Store or Twitter costs both you and your users far more in the long term than $5 would cost them right now.
Thanks for reading, everyone. As always, we value your submissions, so please keep sending them in by Twitter mention
or via email!
And hey, listen -- Critical Distance is a public resource supported by readers like you. If you like what we do and want to see us continue to signal-boost and connect the most interesting critical thinkers on games from across the web, consider pledging to our Patreon!
Every contribution helps!