With Kris spending the entire week at GDC, I stepped in to take the reigns for this week’s Critical Distance roundup. As Critical Proximity was last week and Kris apparently has spent a good deal of time explaining Critical Distance to a bunch of new people, mostly middleware developers, I figured this would be a good time to go over much of the basics around Critical Distance as we still get asked much of this.
Critical Distance is a curatorial site started by one Ben Abraham back in April of 2009 and was head of operations and the weekly roundups known as This Week In Video Game Blogging or (TWIVGB) until around mid 2011 when he passed the reigns onto present curatorial head and chief of operations Kris Ligman. While many of the editors on staff do minor things behind the scenes – some of which has yet to be unveiled – a big part of the job is reading, lots and lots of reading and picking up the reigns for a week when Kris has other engagements (see GDC).
Most of us maintain large RSS feeds filled with many, many sites and blogs. However, Critical Distance relies primarily on crowd sourcing submissions of links due to the fact the internet is a very large place and much of it is unknown to us until it makes itself known. We accept submission via the Contact page that will send it to the site’s email or by @ messaging the site’s Twitter account. All submissions are considered.
Due to a certain history, I recuse myself regarding anything I myself have written, relying on others to consider its suitability for me.
The specifics of what makes it in and what doesn’t are up to each individual’s taste, preference and curatorial style. There is a lot of overlap as we will include pieces we recognize as important or relevant even if we do not think them as any good. The goal isn’t to find the best in any week, but to represent the conversations happening. For instance, this week it was about Critical Proximity and GDC, except for anyone not personally invested in either it seemed to be a free writing week. That happens sometimes. There is no central debate or focus and lot of people talking about the games they want to.
It also should be noted that while we have accepted things like previews and reviews it is a very rare occurrence and must do something to raise above the form it is slotted into and be more than a consumer driven effort in the marketing cycle of the industry. Similarly, though not exactly, it is rare for non-written work to appear (videos, podcasts, comics, e.g.) but the reasons there are more complicated. For instance, I apparently am the only person on staff that listens to podcasts.
On Critical Distance the TWIVGB generally go up late Saturday to very early Sunday morning though it has fallen back in some occasions to Sunday evening. It is then later cross posted to Gamasutra either Monday or Tuesday.
We run an irregular podcast – the Critical Distance Confab or CDC podcast. Or rather I run an irregular podcast highlighting either individual voices in the critical community or we host discussions on games that have come out a while ago that we have some distance on or other important topics like our recent one on Black History Month.
Another irregular feature we run is the BoRT (Blogs of the Round Table) where Alan Williamson gives a writing prompt or question on some subject and will collect any entries he finds or is submitted for BoRT. There is no curation process in this feature. What is submitted for the topic under discussion is, at the end of the month, linked.
And our big tentpole features that are very rare at this point due to the difficulty in putting one together are the Critical Compilations. Based off of some work Micheal “Sparky” Clarkson did on his own blog back in 2009 they are a grand curation effort of the many different discussion threads based around one game. We have Critical Compilations on Braid, Bioshock, Fallout 3 and many others. We do accept offers from outside writers to write one for us if they wish to put in the work of not just collecting links, but properly framing them.
We also now have a Patreon for the site that will go to supporting Kris as this has become a more full time endeavor as the years have gone by. It also goes to paying the expenses of hosting and allowing us to get off the ground a number of projects we’ve wanted to do for a while now, including a archival effort of critical writings and a wiki.
Whether you have been a Critical Distance reader for a while now or have just recently found the site, thank you.