This week, our partnership with game criticism site
Critical Distance brings us picks from Lindsey Joyce on topics ranging from the 26 year incubation of Wasteland 2 to a serious examination of Sonic the Hedgehog. At All Costs
This week brings us several sources interrogating the concepts of cost, monetary and otherwise, in relation to games. For instance, both Tami Sigmund and Casey Johnston take a look at free games in terms of their non-monetary costs: Sigmund examines the phenomena whereby casual and mobile players believe
once you pay for a game it ceases to be a game
, while Johnson examines how "real gamers" harshly judge games like
Kim Kardarshian: Hollywood
and its players while simultaneously
spending and investing in freemium games like Hearthstone
Elsewhere, Solon Scott uses Zoya Street's
Delay: Paying Attention to Energy Mechanics to
discusses how marathoning games like
demand players pay a physical and psychological cost while
casual games like Candy Crush and FarmVille have been designed to encourage players to take breaks from the game
Flipping from player to developer, Guillaume Boucher-Vidal
breaks down the costs - financial, emotional, time, social, etc - of operating an indie studio
, and over at Eurogamer, Wesley Yin-Poole tells the story of
the 26 years it took Brian Fargo to bring
Wasteland 2 into existence. Keeping Up with Kapitalism
Speaking of costs and Kardashians, this week brings us more analysis of
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood
through the lens of capitalism. Over at Gawker, Michelle Dean argues that the game, unlike
has a lesson to teach players
: money doesn't buy things of value - for that you need energy and star power. Meanwhile, over at The Atlantic, Megan Garber observes that by refusing to sell anything but herself (as a thing, rather than a person), Kim Kardashian
makes herself a rare but desirable commodity people are willing to pay for
"Empathy, Empathy, Put Yourself in the Place of Me"
This week, at First Person Scholar,
Steve Wilcox argues
that rather than moving us toward a ludic future in which we become more aware of systems and patterns,
Games are inherently about developing empathy towards one another. This begins by thinking of games in the same way that others have thought about art in general: as a means of training the imagination to create new contexts in which to discover new knowledge.
Acting as wonderful support for Wilcox's argument,
Asi Burbak discusses how developing Peacemaker forever changed how he thought about the Isreal-Palestine conflict
There is nothing more challenging than expressing empathy for the other side, especially when your side is under attack…In PeaceMaker, walking in another man's shoes is not only a concept; it's the heart of the simulation.
Conversely, Elena Cresci questions whether it is possible to base a game in a volatile real-world setting, such as Gaza, without belittling those involved in the conflict and concludes, using
as an example, that
when dealing with complicated subject matter it is essential for the designers to make their intentions clear.
Elsewhere, Daniel Nye Griffiths
catalogs several games and how they are being used to change real lives
, including newsgames such as those discussed by Cresci and Burbak.
So Many Feels
Discussing how games touch our emotions, Carli Velocci writes about how choices are presented in
The Walking Dead
and the ways in which such choices can lead to character deaths
, initially agitate her social phobia leading to panic attacks, but also eventually help her to combat anxiety
by allowing her to become more confident in her choices, including what to say in conversation, over time.
Finally, Kenneth Chen examines the intrinsic motivator of guilt while playing the MMO
and discusses how
acknowledging guilt as a game motivator has changed his design philosophies
For those of us who enjoy a good game story, this week brings numerous articles discussing innovations (and, in some cases, failure) to tell the player a good story.
Paul Shumann, for instance, takes a look at the way
, an FPS game, employs a novel listening mechanic in order to
focus both mechanics and story on a respect for history, faith, and humanity
Over at PopMatters, G. Christopher Williams discusses how
puts its game on rails
in order to tell a horror story about frustrated progression. Careful, this article contains spoilers!
Elsewhere, Critical Distance's own Eric Swain
indulges in the minor story moments
by discussing (with spoilers) two moments near the end of
Quest for Infamy
that add important character dimension to Roehm, the player character.
Sam Z. writes about the story in
(spoilers here too)
the love story of this digital game lightly critiques the digital world.
Daniel Galera has a wonderful long-form read this week that lets you
relive the wonder of Prince of Persia
while simultaneously making poignant observations about agency, algorithms, youth, love and more.
Zolani Stewart, who has also recently joined the Critical Distance team, brings us another long-form read this week about the history of
Sonic The Hedgehog and his status as a fluid media object moving between mascot and fully realized character
Finally, Perter Christiansen uses
and its allocation of processing power to craft narratives to
trace the historical paths computer have taken to be better simulators of physic than creators of story.
Do you like Adventure Games? Do you know their long and stories history?
Leigh Alexander does
and her most recent Let's Play is of the "pure" adventure game,
Curse of Crowley Manor
Speaking of historical adventure games, Emily Rose and Pierce Huxtable
talk with Roby Miller about the story and score of one of the most popular adventure games ever:
Myst Let's Talk About Sex [and Gender], Baby
In an open interview, Cara Ellison talks with Nina Freeman, among other things, about
how sex informs her game design
, and the control she garners via game creation.
Also this week, mrsdawnaway discusses the
literal objectification of women in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Painting someone turns that person from a ‘someone’ to a ‘something’; you can possess a painting in a way that it is impossible to possess a person. So when Yuga is running around Hyrule acquiring pieces for his art collection (to use his words), he is, quite literally, objectifying these people. In my opinion, it is no accident that most of these people are women, since the Zelda games have a history of treating women as objects participating in a man’s destiny rather than agents of their own.
Elsewhere, Corey Milne
argues that the Tower of Latria is a sustained assault on the player's sexuality.
Warning: article deals with sensitive issues such a rape.
Over at Killscreen, Zach Bugdor
compares and contrasts the success of women in doom metal to the hard-fought success of women in games
to argue that:
Adherence to tradition, or worse, to a fanbase, has rarely produced relevant and vital art... Imagine the kinds of experiences we’re going to get as more women flood into games; as the default protagonist shifts from White Vengeance Man to something infinitely more interesting and rich; as all types of new settings and characters and conflicts and mechanics come to life; as the palette of creators becomes increasingly vivid. Take a Look, It's in a Book
Leigh Alexander has
announced her new book, Clipping Through on Gumroad
, but has done so with a critique of the games writing market. Alexander says,
I want there to be alternatives — not only for myself, but for the very idea of a mature career for experienced people who want to continue writing and speaking in games.
In this spirit, we also want to link you to
Robert Yang's write up of the book ZZT by Anna Anthropy
Speaking about the importance of accessibility issue in games, Richard Moss notes that
increasing accessibility is never a wasted effort
, nor is it hard to include. As he quotes Mike Zaimont in pointing out:
It takes very little time, and if more people can potentially enjoy your game, there’s really no reason not to do it. Other Sundry
Other good reads this week include Nick Dinicola's article on propaganda in
Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag
examines the creeds of the Pirates, the Assassins, and the Templars and the philosophies that guide them
as well as how each creed is presented within the game as a lure for the player character rather than as an alignment the character already maintains.
Justin Keverne has
produced an extensive and incredibly detailed analysis of Thief
. Keverne discuss the stealth system, the environmental design, story, and more.
Rainer Sigl interviews Casey T. Brooks about in-game photography.
Dennis Kogel wrote about
and Nordic LARPS as a way of exploring political and societal differences.
Kevin Staubli summarized the recent
Over on Superlevel's new forum, Leonard Ritter, on half of the team behind
, talked about their difficulties
selling the idea
of a psychedelic "everything in the entire world" simulator.
So Long, Farewell
Thanks for spending some of your day with us. We value both your readership and your submissions, so please keep sending them our way via
As a final remember, please remember that Critical Distance is funded by readers like you. If you like the work we do and aren't already a supporter, we hope you'll consider
pledging to our Patreon