In lieu of having a Twitter account to express my surprise and gratitude for being named 2017’s “Blogger of the Year” by the fine folks at Critical Distance (honoring last year’s work), I turn here to better convey my thoughts in the long-form. Thanks to Critical Distance for the honor of being named alongside Heather Alexandra and Chris Franklin, two other writers I deeply admire for their contributions to games criticism and culture. Of course, much praise should be directed to my excellent editors as well; Joshua Trevett, Zeiya Speede, Daniel New, and Tom Baines have fundamentally shaped my authorial voice to what it is today. As this will be the only space I have to address this honor, I’d also like to shout out the team at Haywire Magazine and Thumbsticks for always vouching for my work, as well as the various other publications I’ve written for, which can be found here.
Finally, I’d love to curate some of my favorite pieces from both Alexandra and Franklin that I frequently return to both as pieces of personal interest and needed contribution to the field. In a main feature on games history for Kotaku, Heather Alexandra tackles the pressing issue of games preservation while also considering the various printed ephemera and accouterment such as guidebooks and merchandise that are just as crucial to fully understanding the culture behind a specific game. Moreover, her thoughts on the player’s relationship with Trico in The Last Guardian inform some of my own thoughts on the game (which is my 2016 game of the year, mind you). Alexandra’s guest columns for Giant Bomb are also great, particularly her necessary argument about visibility of marginalized peoples both onscreen and behind the scenes that provide their authorial imprint and labor.
“Visibility cannot be enough in an industry that does not allow minority voices to participate in the creation and performance of the characters meant to represent them nor can it be enough in a wider games culture that holds a loud and dangerous subset of reactionaries who will not even broach the existence of minority characters in ‘their’ games.”
On the audiovisual side of games criticism, Franklin’s examination of the games of Brendon Chung (Blendo Games) is one of the most comprehensive analyses of a single developer I’ve come across. More than just simply looking at his most famous games like Quadrilateral Cowboy or Thirty Flights of Loving, Franklin unearths the rich depths of Chung’s early career in looking at the Barista and Citizen Abel games as establishing a stylistic lineage that we’re familiar with today. His video essay on Burnout Paradise represents one of those rare critical analyses of racing games, a topic I’ve been dancing around for a while now. By interweaving thoughtful observations on the game’s resourceful use of space, he makes a persuasive argument for the game as a masterful open-world experience. Finally, his well-argued polemic on photorealism in games takes into account the intersections of videogame labor, industry, and capital while also considering realism beyond graphical representation to gesture towards realism in terms of narrative, systems, characterization, and setting.
I’m glad that people have enjoyed our work, and certainly look forward to producing more criticism and collaborating with talented people throughout this year. Cheers!
Miguel Penabella is a freelancer and comparative literature academic who worships at the temple of cinema but occasionally bears libations to videogames. He is also a contributing editor and columnist for Haywire Magazine and a columnist for Thumbsticks. His complete written offerings are archived here, but can also be found at Kill Screen, PopMatters, First Person Scholar, Playboy, Unwinnable, etc.