Alright, here’s the prelim list I came up with off memory, cut down to 10. Only the 2000s.
Old Man Murray (Erik Wolpaw + Chet Faliszek + Kevin ??) - Crate Review System - 2000
Unbiased game scores, solved almost 20 years ago!! (Also says something about game level design)
Jane Pinckard - Sex in Games: Rez+Vibrator - 2002 (NSFW!) https://www.gamegirladvance.com/2002/10/sex-in-games-rezvibrator.html
What can we write about? What’s taboo?
Always Black (Ian Shanahan) - Bow N***** (racism, slurs including a questionable ableist one) - 2004
Games as individualized experiences, not cordoned off consumer products.
Kieron Gillen - The New Games Journalism (refers to the above piece, so also slurs) - 2004
A “manifesto” that reverberated. “The worth of gaming lies in the gamer not the game”
Tim Rogers - “the literature of the moment” (a critique of mother 2) - 2005? (Does start off w/a prostitution reference) https://web.archive.org/web/20050228211730/http://www.largeprimenumbers.com/article.php?sid=mother2
He’s always done stuff to his own drumbeat. Consider how into the postmodern aspects this and one of his other famous pieces about MGS2 are (http://archives.insertcredit.com/features/dreaming2/). How sincere, how “truthy” is some of his writing? Honestly I’d only ever actually fully finished one of his essays/videos before, but his just finished translation series on FF7 for Kotaku seems great/vital (from what I’ve watched; I found it b/c of this list).
James Clinton Howell + Jerel Smith (ed) - Driving Off the Map ( A Formal Analysis of Metal Gear Solid 2) - 2007 http://www.deltaheadtranslation.com/MGS2/
A serious, eye-opening thematic examination like nothing I’d seen before
Clint Hocking - Ludonarrative Dissonance in Bioshock - 2007 https://clicknothing.typepad.com/click_nothing/2007/10/ludonarrative-d.html
A crossover of a more academic definition + analysis, concept which seeped into “traditional” games media and was then happily misused. Also note the line in the sand between reviews and criticism here.
Tracey John interviewing N’Gai Croal - Newsweek’s N’Gai Croal On The ‘Resident Evil 5’ Trailer: ‘This Imagery Has A History’ - 2008
Might be more fair to link to something N’Gai actually wrote, but the web archive of his old Newsweek blog is hard to go through… but the convo N’Gai started about RE5 + portrayals of otherness felt huge at the time, and his answers are all great. I’d say N’Gai Croal and Kieron Gillen were maybe two of the most important critics of the time.
David Sirlin - Playing to Win - 2000
Maybe some people won’t consider this “criticism.” He wrote articles about the mindset of competitive fighting game players basically pre-internet, and two concepts he introduced are still extremely meaningful not just to modern fighting games but to multiplayer game design and balance in general: the “scrub” mentality (about the parameters of play and how different people approach play differently), and yomi (about knowing what your opponent will do and countering it, and then also knowing what your opponent expects you to do and doing something else). Been lots of debates in Hearthstone and Overwatch about lack of counterplay + mismatch(making) between competitive vs. fun mentalities. Turned into a book later.
Zero punctuation - Fable Lost Chapters (Profanity) - 2007
Video-based criticism, extremely popular. He did provide insight along with all the boner jokes, bet there’s some questionable stuff in some of his other videos (he’s done a billion by now), but he paved the way (?) to Jimquisition/Extra Credits/Angry Joe. Thought about 1up Show or one of their podcasts too (personality-based, semi-casual convos between games journalists on podcasts + video) . But I dunno, hard to just choose one. Did find the “it’s almost too good” vid: https://youtu.be/PiyN4nEFLhg?t=990 (also swearing).
Subjectivity of canon etc etc. No books (not linkable) or academia (don’t know). Took into account reach, which by definition does mean marginalized voices are not as represented. All the Leigh Alexander stuff I remembered was 2011+ (also her old blog is gone), was aware of Tom Chick but nothing particular came to mind. Borderhouse blog is defunct. Blogosphere in general…
I’ll maybe try and get it somewhere more “permanent” later so it’s not just living in a small forum thread.