Category Archives: Housekeeping

GDC, Critical Distance, scout badges, etc


A few items.

I will be at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco again this year. It’s next week, so if you needed to make travel arrangements based on that piece of information… um. Oops. I’ll try to remind folks earlier next time.

Additionally, I will be giving two talks adjacent to the conference this year. The first will be at Critical Proximity, the very first games criticism and games studies conference being organized by Zoya Street. My talk will be on Critical Distance’s curation policy and will briefly touch upon some of the stuff that’s happened recently (which I’ll get into below). The other talk will be at Lost Levels and is just a small, casual thing about exploring asexuality in games. Please check the events’ websites for more info.

If you’re going to be around and happen to spot me (I made my haircut very easy to recognize this year), come say hi. I have little ‘bits of flair’ (mainly Night Vale scout buttons but also a few iron-on game patches and other things) that I’m giving away, just for fun.

Next thing. You can now help fund Critical Distance through Patreon. We’ve already raised enough to bring me on as senior curator full-time, and I really cannot thank everyone enough for making that happen. Everything we raise from here on out will go toward accelerating the expansion projects I outlined a few months ago, plus a few more I have up our sleeves.

One of the first orders of business will be the wiki, because we already have a wiki guy (hi Erik) and the whole thing is basically ready, we just haven’t had the opportunity to launch it. So keep an eye out for that.

Finally: I’m no longer doing news for Gamasutra. This relates to the previous point about doing Critical Distance full-time. I’m still doing freelance gigs and you’ll be seeing one of my first big print features in Official Xbox Magazine soon, but please refer to Gama’s official contact page about getting things onto that site.

(And yes, I know it still lists me as a news editor on that page, but I’m sure they’ll get to that at some point.)

These last few months have been really rocky which is the main reason I’ve been negligent about updating the blog. I’m really excited about the new direction my life’s taken lately and I hope to have more to share with you all soon.

Gone Funded Me


So, this was a thing.

I was expecting, by today, to be doing a blog post in which I urgently requested my readers to take some time out of their day to look over my GoFundMe page and consider kicking in a dollar or two toward my trip to GDC, which in addition to being something of a game journo/dev Mecca also offers a pretty big career opportunity for me, as an MMO community lead wanting to work on Some Game Other Than The One For Which I Currently Work. I was expecting to get maybe 50 dollars or, at best, barely squeak by with enough donations to cover the wages I would lose out during my days on the road… I certainly wasn’t expecting to completely meet our funding target in less than 24 hours, or for the outpouring of support from friends and colleagues even after that to help improve the quality of the trip, work off Jason’s vet bills and make the conditions under which I work and try to make time for Critical Distance a little bit easier to bear. The last couple days have been nothing short of stunning and the words do not exist to adequately express my gratitude.

So I’ll try large fonts.


Critical Distance alum and very generous supporter David Carlton has written up a post making his case for why it would be nice if we can continue to see donations come in on the funding drive. The trip will likely be more expensive than I’ve budgeted and there are a lot of outstanding financial issues beyond the scope of the conference in March for which I would deeply appreciate the helping hand.

Recently I was denied for food stamps. This was the second time that I’ve applied and been rejected, and neither query was made as a spur-of-the-moment thing. My student loan repayment bills are starting to come in. My insurance has rejected every claim to help me cover desperately needed medical costs and recently I was hit with yet another large charge for unmade payments to one of my care providers. No matter how I run the numbers or how much I tighten my belt (and it’s quite tight- I’m averaging three days between solid meals and for as much as I could probably do with some dieting, that isn’t how steady weight loss works), I am just not earning the money I need to be making if I want to keep living in my current place, receiving the care and paying for the medication I need to keep functioning… far less run a volunteer operation like Critical Distance on the side. I’ve been looking into moving up to the San Francisco Bay Area for a while now but though I have a few friends up there with whom I’ve discussed getting a place together nothing has yet gelled, and even if it did, I couldn’t afford the moving costs. It’s really about as stuck in a rut as it’s possible to get.

I’m not by any means asking to be lifted wholesale out of my present situation and exonerated from all responsibility, financial or otherwise. I believe in hard work (I think you’ll find most people do) and in climbing out of whatever pit into which I’ve dug myself. Even sharing the details of my current hardship goes against everything I was brought up to believe was appropriate: talking about money is gauche, talking about not having it is humiliating, and so on and so forth. It was difficult to set up something like a funding drive. In fact, not even 12 hours prior to posting it I was having a backroom panic about needing to quit C-D, leave my current social circles, and, as these things go when one has a mental illness, take more drastic actions with myself… So the fact that we made our funding target so quickly only shows me that a great many people –friends, colleagues, readers, even total strangers– already sympathize with what I’m going through and know that this isn’t the equivalent of asking for a handout. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

Any support I receive from here on out is definitely a bonus, much-needed and deeply welcome, and if you will take the time to consider sending a little bit of cash my way on top of the amount that has already been raised I can promise you that it will be put to good use. I am thankful to all the support you have given me so far, whether in the form of a donation or sharing the link or just offering your moral support. It has all been wonderful. And I can’t wait to meet so many of you in March.

New Horizons

Late last month, Alan Williamson (whom many of you will recognize as half of Split-Screen and the man behind Critical Distance‘s latest incarnation of Blogs of the Round Table) approached me asking if I wanted to be in on a new webzine of his, Five Out Of Ten. The timing was short notice–he wanted to approach me for the next issue, but another contributor had had a scheduling conflict and needed to back out, leaving him a writer short for the premier issue–so I gathered up some ideas that had been kicking around and tried putting them into words. They each came out decently–at least, enough so that I don’t stand out too awkwardly next to the likes of Brendan Keogh, Lana Polansky, Bill Coberly and Alan himself, all of whom are spectacular writers and whose work here is as grand as always.

The zine comes priced at £5.00, although you can donate a little more, if you like. The cool thing is that revenue for the magazine is split evenly among the five contributors, so basically if you pay £5, you’re paying each of us £1, which is cool because that means I can take that money and start saving toward the things I need to Write More Stuff for you, like coffee and antidepressants. That’s a pretty awesome cause, right?

Each author contributes two pieces to the collection, one pertaining to the theme “new horizons” and the other on a subject of the writer’s choice. Here’s a little preview of my two so you can sneak a peek before buying your very own copy, which is available as a DRM-free PDF suitable for most platforms.

Piece #1 – New Horizons – “Letting the Sunlight In”

On indie games, Papo & Yo and the virtue of an individual voice.

The final summit of Papo & Yo is set far above the familiar Brazilian favela in which the rest of the game takes place. Our player-character, Quico, travels above the clouds on a magical skylift which bears him and the monstrous alter-ego of his father toward the floating island of a mystical shaman. Around them, rusted iron siding and discarded tires float alongside the fragments of family homes, suspended weightlessly across the sky just as other improbable mountains of shacks and lean-tos rise up to meet them.

It’s a profoundly destablizing moment, even in a game premised on a departure from the normal laws of physics. What starts out as an imaginative trek through the muddy, rain-drenched city streets of a boy’s childhood adventuring spaces soon becomes an increasingly desperate escape from violence. Finally the world Quico has spent the entire game cleverly bending to his will is coming apart at the seams of its own volition, as reality starts to seep back in.

Piece #2 – Writer’s Choice – “Unfinished”

On the nature of unfinished things, unfinished people, and The Unfinished Swan.

“This is your college education,” my father says, waving a hand toward the home studio he had invested countless weekends into, to say nothing of far more money than his railroad job paid. It’s lined with hand-made sound insulation panels and stocked with enough recording equipment to make some professional studios green with envy. “So we all need to work together to make this record label work.”

In the end the biggest barrier to our father’s dreams of a music career is himself. Every weekend and most evenings he cloisters himself away inside his home-made studio, plucking at the same chords over and over, searching for a note that doesn’t exist. Later, he loads the recordings into his Mac and plays the clips again and again, iterating by degrees, never finishing. Eventually he scraps the whole song and starts over on guitar, plucking strings, never finding whatever it is that he’s listening for.

Sooner or later he’ll say that it’s our fault that he can’t find it.

The Unfinished Swan isn’t simply the title and explicit goal of the game; it’s the singular work which ties the family of three together, and provides the player with the game’s theme. Unfinished things, unfinished people. Children doomed by their genetics to the sometimes-beautiful, mostly-horrible agony of being artists. Of facing the void of boundless creativity and having to sort out the path to not going insane for themselves.

Those who enjoyed my previous bit in CTRL-ALT-DEFEAT on growing up among hoarders will recognize some resonance here–but hopefully not too much familiar territory. You can go buy your own digital copy of Five Out Of Ten now.

Good morning, 2012.

I woke up sometime this afternoon to a loud banging upstairs, suggesting my upstairs neighbors were either moving out or moving something large and heavy in. Prior to this I had hibernated for nearly 36 hours straight after the five days’ worth of insomnia, all-nighters and excessive caffeine intake which comprised my MA exam week.

USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Critical Studies program puts its second-year MAs through three of six available exam subjects. These are 10+ page essay responses on delivered prompts due within a 24 hour period. Even if you’re an efficient writer, it’s pretty punishing. I managed to be done by midnight for my first two exams but the final one kept me awake until about six in the morning, a mere four hours before the deadline. So I elected to take an extended vacation, not to visit the fam, but to visit my bed. David Carlton, luckily, filled in for me for TWIVGB over at Critical Distance— thank you for that, David.

I guess since I have exactly two seconds before I pass out again in preparation for the first day of my last semester tomorrow, I’d catch everyone up on what I was doing these past few weeks.

Critical Distance Confab

First, I showed up on a podcast with the rest of the Critical Distance cabal, in a five hour mega-podcast reflecting back on the Year 2011. Eric Swain moderated, Ian Cheong sounded American, Ben Abraham was pretty laid back, David Carlton lamented that we don’t feature mobile releases enough, and Katie Williams was very very quiet until we started discussing the Freeplay Panel. Fun was had by all and I think I’m tied with Ian for number of cursewords.


Subsequently the other editors and I aided Eric in determining our final list for 2011’s This Year in Video Game Blogging. Apart from doing my share of the whittling and participating in a very long Skype conference, I also saw to it that Eric’s tenses were consistent.

Everything that made it onto TYIVGB is very good. Not all the pieces on there were my decision, but this is a collective process among six very distinct editors no two of which have the same background in approaching this kind of work. We all strove to feature the best of the year’s offerings from many different authors. Here’s to 2012 being an even more diverse and dynamic year for the ludodecahedron.


I agreed to Ian a while ago that I’d do a few articles for him for Gameranx. I’ve written two so far, the first of which you can already go and read on the site. It’s about how Mass Effect is actually a hypercapitalist dystopia, and as consequence, why I think it’s a more interesting sci-fi universe than the giants it seeks to rival. The second one, when it appears, I’ll also remember to link here. Um, if I remember.

Oh, if you’re wondering, my new year’s resolution was to pass my MA exams. So, here’s to hibernating for the next 365 days.

WordPress is trying really hard to impress me.

Nothing says “I love you for all the money you gave me” like bejazzled flash animated blog metrics.

Bit of a break. Yes, again.

(fanart by spidercandy)

As I’ve alluded to elsewhere, my health has never been the greatest and between recent downturns in that area, E3 this past week and my day job, I’m pretty much in burnout mode. I also have a surgery scheduled next week and can’t be sure of my recovery time. At the moment I am going to assume a full week’s hiatus, to be on the safe side. My schedule at PopMatters should continue as normal, as that’s written in advance anyway.

(My friends keep telling me not to apologize for being sick so I had to rewrite this a few times. Sorry. Damn, I did it anyway.)

Oh look, new people!

…Oh hi there.

If you’re just popping on over from Ben Abraham’s link, welcome to Dire Critic! I do a link roundup very similar to Ben’s on the six days of the week he doesn’t do one, so I hope you stick around.

I also write my own stuff about videogames now and then but, eh, that’s not as interesting.

No roundup tonight.

I have food poisoning. It’s the very opposite of fun.

Brief hiatus

Taking a few days off for health reasons. And, er, term papers.

See you all soon!

Holy shit it’s a blog.

I feel so Web 2.0.

Hello and welcome to my new WordPress. Changes pending and all that. My name is Kris Ligman and I am some shade of a woman who writes incessantly about videogames and posts a lot of links.

As the new home of the Daily Link Roundup (which now needs a new Dire Critical name) I’ll do my level best to keep this thing regular, interesting, regularly interesting and interestingly regular.

There, Eric. It exists.