@bisonhero: Hey! I used to build Gunpla back in my late teens/early 20s, have built a Tau army for WH40k, and over the last year, friends have been gifting me Gunpla and urging me to get back into it! This is the first gunpla I've built in like... eight or so years, probably!
@devil240z: Those are the same sorts of things! Federation vs Zeon eventually became Extreme Vs, which is built around 2 v 2 fights. The story/arcade modes always have a little more happening though, and Force specifically looks like it's going to have a weird, new mode (called Force mode) that offers some more "campaign"-y features.
I totally understand the impulse to separate out the games that do this with mechanics from the ones who do it with narrative, cultural, or thematic content. This review fundamentally rejects that separation, and it's the third piece I've written this year that touches on these topics. The first was this piece on Paste about Subterfuge and the "Formalism" debates of January, the second was this piece for my old Patreon about "immersion." The long and short is that I want to move away from a method that centralizes mechanics as the most important element of games to analyze--and I say that as someone who, I think, is at my best when I'm analyzing the mechanics of games.
So when you write "The Souls series and Fez (and many other games) intentionally engender that external experience. Their puzzles and systems are obscured to the point where they expect collaboration to be a necessary part of playing the game to completion," my response is that games like Cradle, Gone Home (a game with an "external" component that I was a big part of), and Her Story also intentionally engender that external experience, except through narrative instead of "puzzles and systems." For that matter, Dark Souls does this too! Much of my love of that series comes not only from unpacking the complex systems, but doing (and reading) the collaborative detective work necessary to grasp the narratives being told through its use of forensic storytelling.
Believe me, I understand that this position is not the normal one. It's also a position that has a strange and storied history. For a long time, many players would answer a question like "What's this game about" by only explaining the game's story ("In MGS, you're a spy being sent into a base to stop a nuclear attack,") and as systems literacy has improved, many average players have gotten better at talking about the actual moment to moment play ("MGS V is a game where you sneak into bases, use tools to locate and retrieve resources, and manage enemy attention. Also sometimes you can't spin all the plates at once and things explode into a whole beautiful mess.") So I can see how the push that I and others are making to consider games holistically (and not just as little boxes-of-mechanics) might seem retrograde. But I think if it is actually done holistically, and doesn't privilege narrative or aesthetic or mechanics over the others, we'll end up creating better, more comprehensive, and more emotional criticism.
Obvs I don't think everyone will follow me on this path, and I don't think it's the only valid path towards creating good games crit, but I hope that at least better explains why it is I tackle stuff the way I do. Thanks again for your comment, it was fantastic.