Critical Distance: This week in videogame blogging #4

Do games romanticise disasters?

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Critical Distance is proud to bring to the New Statesman a new weekly digest of its popular This Week in Videogame Blogging feature, which promotes the best, often little-known, incisive criticism and cultural commentary on interactive media. This week, we discuss the doomed scenarios and disasters romanticized by games and finding better board games for your children than Monopoly.

Maddy Myers examined our penchant for romanticising disaster. Douglas F Warrick followed strategy games to the end of the world. Ian Bogost warned that algorithm worship puts us in a computational theocracy. And Matthew S Burns stared into the desolate endgame universe of Lindsay Lohan’s The Price of Fame.

But it was Ridiculous Fishing developer Rami Ismail who gave the week its closing mic drop, with a healthy dose of bleak optimism for the present and future of games: "We’re in a creative industry. Of all people, we should know the way we get better isn’t through celebrating our successes, but by reflecting on our failures."

Deep in her home laboratory, Mattie Brice infused wine with tea in an effort to get us to make playfully and play makefully:

I feel like, in an effort to expand the DIY philosophy, we need to see video games, board games, whatever, as few of many objects we play with, and it’s the play we’re after to design. So, I want to let people know there are more objects to create, and things that you might already create everyday.

Meanwhile, Olivier Roeder drove the little silver car past Go, to recommend better board games for kids than Monopoly, as suggested by data.

Clearly, Monopoly can teach kids some bracing lessons about the risk of personal financial ruin. But we can do much better.

What makes a good game? Good games keep players, however young, engaged – and you’re not engaged in Monopoly if you’re bankrupt. Good games also require meaningful action and decision-making – something lacking from Candy Land or Snakes and Ladders – rather than merely blind luck. Games are fun, games engage and games teach. So, which ones do it best?

Javy Gwaltney released a disability and gaming resource list. Thomas McMullan mulled over the everyday lives of videogame characters. Holly Green looked at the dark side of how peers, players and NPCs can influence behaviour in games and art, and S R Holiwell shared an expansive and deeply personal inspection “to talk about our experiences is to talk about the ghosts of feelings, because sometimes it’s worth keeping the spirit alive”.

There is much more available in this week’s full roundup at Critical Distance! Tune in again next week and be sure to follow us on Twitter @critdistance for all the latest and greatest games writing from around the web.

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