Disappointment in Critical Distance

Can you elaborate on what you dislike about critical distance?

I was away at a tournament when I received this. I made it out of pools, so that’s progress.

Critical Distance is ostensibly a project to compile all the good games writing. Reading through their compilations shows either a serious bias in subject matter on the part of those selecting entries to highlight, or that there simply is no one talking about gameplay.

I’ve spoken to a few people representing other perspectives on how games should be, and the frequent perspective I receive is that, “yeah, gameplay is interesting, there should totally be people out there covering that, but I’m more interested in the story,” or, “gameplay and the rest of the game are equally important,” but what I don’t see is a lot of people talking about gameplay, or game mechanics if you prefer.

I went to a game exhibition run by Kill Screen in Manhattan once actually, and unfortunately the only game I wanted to play there (Grow Home) was on a laptop that got locked and they didn’t know the password. Then when it was unlocked, the game didn’t work, rendered a bunch of black geometry. I talked with some people there, journalists for Kill Screen, and they told me the games they liked were only games that “explored what games could be”. Then I was informed there was someone on their site who actually did really in-depth reviews of games and was supposedly a hardcore gamer, having done their bayonetta 2 review. Ctrl + F “Dodge Offset”, one result, no description of what it is, how it works, or why it’s even a good thing. It was purely a namedrop for cred. I throw pretty much any review of a platinum game in the trash if it doesn’t mention dodge offset (related, it annoyed the crap out of me how there was no BM cancel offset in MGR). http://killscreendaily.com/articles/hell-bent-leather-bayonetta-2/ This is a bad writer. This is a bad writer that another bad writer told me he envies and aspires to be more like. For comparison, http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1siersp this has a lot more details about the actual game, where the prior is empty adulation with a billion flowery little phrases to say, “it’s cool”. http://www.twitch.tv/europeanspeedsterassembly/v/6695652?t=29h55m30s Almost immediately into this you hear how much of a joke Bayo 2 is in general.

To wrap up the tangent, here’s another example of good writing, as described by something that is itself good writing.

Critical distance makes me frustrated because it’s implicitly saying that nobody has anything to discuss about gameplay. They can discuss the writing, the use of sexuality, the way a mechanic might contextualize part of the world, the demographics of players, patents, diatribes about “pure fun”, but almost never mechanics.

Do they assume this mechanical stuff goes without saying? That people never make mistakes on it? Is it just that their blog ring is entirely uninterested with it and they don’t have access to the people commenting on how to put together mechanical game systems? Or is it that there is no one out there saying these things at all? They tend to regard formalism as a boogie-man, but from whence does the boogieman come? Is it a fear of the audience, the rabble?

If I asked them for a listing of articles about how to construct a system of game mechanics, or the shortcomings of mechanical systems from purely a design point of view, would they be able to supply me with anything?

Where did the interest in games go? Does it exist at all? Why is it so hard to cultivate it, even among people who pay lip service to the idea that “gameplay is the most important thing”?

So I go to Critical Distance, see a ton of articles that I really wish I had an alternative to reading on a long train ride or car trip, and feel disappointed.
Then I guess I feel disappointed in myself for not doing a better job producing my own content.

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