This Week I Read: Is game criticism criticism art

Trying something new this week: because there’s a ton of stuff I liked and want to share with you, I’m going to try to drastically cut down on my editorializing. Although I’d really prefer to comment on everything I share here, as a way of incensing the conversation, I’m worried it might come across as me downplaying what I’m linking or stepping on its toes. It also cuts down on the time it takes me to write these things, which hopefully means I end up sharing more and doing it more frequently.

Links and articles that contain minor spoilers (minor narrative beats or gameplay segments, etc.) will be marked with a *. Those with major spoilers (major plot twists of story beats) will be marked with a **.

At Indie Haven, Laura Kate shared 10 hints for indie developers when communicating their game to the press.

The person/people living at Failnaut provided the other side to this: tips for the press when pursuing coverage of indie devs.

Ian Bogost shared a talk he gave from this year’s UX Week on the nature/understanding of fun. Two links in and already I’m editorializing: I found this video when researching my post the other day about what constitutes a game (self-plug 1). It’s very enjoyable and insightful and is fairly ripe with ideas to explore on the subject.

Tevis Thompson used BioShock Infinite** as a springboard to dismay over the current state of game reviews as the first port of call for games criticism. It was a bit of a contentious piece this week past, one perspective of which is related in some Magical Wasteland fiction: At Ashby Manor.

Mat Jones wrote for The Average Gamer* about a wee game called Apathy, examining the systems here to find out if they actually worked or not at describing political apathy. Having played the game myself, I can safely say… I don’t know either. I’m linking the game at the arse end of this post so feel free to skip thee now and try it out yourself. Speaking of Mat Jones, on Oh No! Video Games! he also took to task an attempt by Sony Access to illegitimize criticism of Beyond: Two Souls and helping to sustain an unhealthy critical atmosphere.

Mattie Brice on the problems of making your way in the game critic sphere.

Not a feature piece but still worth a look is this Gamasutra article on Brenda Romero’s advice on designing, as reported by Kris Ligman: “Care more about being respected than liked.

Also related to Brenda Romero, I came across this piece by Elizabeth Sampat on Romero’s board game, Síochán Leat. I’ve an ulterior motive for sharing it – one that breaks away from the intended positivity of these TWIR posts – because cultural imperialism really sets me off. When first I read this article and the comments underneath it, I found it remarkably alienating. Rereading it now, the feeling intensifies. Although I don’t want to diminish the personal story conveyed there, without meaning to Sampat disregards and overwrites actual Irish identity.

Irish and Irish American are two different, separate cultural identities. But Sampat and the commenters put forward Irish American experiences and histories and barefacedly name them “Irish”, as if the American aspect of their experiences are universal to the identification.  “I am— my family is— Irish. Completely and fiercely and ridiculously Irish, in the way that only Americans can be.” “Only Irish people can put this game together.” So where do I, or everybody else born or raised or living in Ireland, fit in to the identity? Am I less Irish than Americans? Are Irish Americans as Irish as me? My entire national and cultural identity is being totally blanked; “Irishness” is redefined as “relating to Irish Americans” as if it’s just the most obvious thing in the world. I’ll tell you now, it feels like a co-opting of my culture and denial of my existence and experiences, and those of everyone I know. The way they call it “Gaelic” – nobody here calls it that. The experiences related in that post are not Irish.

I have no problems with people accepting Irish heritage as part of their own or identifying as Irish American, so long as care is taken not to ignore and negate the lives and experiences of Irish people in Ireland, now.

Next on the list is a write-up Merritt Kopas’ talk at the University of Victoria on the question: what are games good for? It’s an interesting read. I’m not really convinced of the argument that games are great at displaying systems, though – I think there’s a certain sort of people for whom the systems in games are very interesting, but it doesn’t seem to stand as a general rule for the medium. The lack of insight of games as systems narratives evidences as much, as does the lack of demand for it by players. I’d like to see The Last of Us discussed in the same way dys4ia usually is, and vice versa.

Liz Ryerson on how game festivals are exclusionary through their environments and structure.

Sarah Catherine’s wee comic and post about female pronouns in games, on Bloodpact Girlscout. You’ve no idea how rare it is to be identified this way in a game.

Lastly, anna anthropy wrote that we don’t always need to spend our energy tilting at AAA windmills.



A few games here for you, finally. First I’ll give you my own, called Your Cybernetic Arm Is Useless Against This Sort Of Spooky Alien Ghost. It might not even work for you but all feedback is mega appreciated.

Be sure to check out Apathy by Zacqary Adam Green, a game possibly about meaninglessness in the face of political social structures.

Personal Trip to the Moon – “a game about dysphoria and astronauts.”

43 thoughts on “This Week I Read: Is game criticism criticism art

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