The best games writing from around the web.
The Weekly is your round-up of all the best in games writing and related spaces. Reviews, news, features, and more await you each week as the curators of Good Games Writing scour the Internet for the best of the best.
Hello and welcome! We missed you so — each of our three curators scattered across this great country of Canada and wound up horribly lost in the woods. Along the way we found out more about ourselves and, well, wound up back here to you. Even being in the middle of nowhere (three distinct nowheres, for the record) we heard news of Apple and Epic and Google creating a blood feud not unlike the Hatfields and McCoys. Polygon has the best explainers on the topic: here’s but a few.
In our absence–and indeed all planned absences–we ran the first of our new collections. Lucas ‘ThirdKoopa’ Guimaraes found the best writing on Supergiant Games for your pleasure last week. Behold! If you’re interested in being a guest curator hit us up on Twitter @GoodWritingVG for more information.
The Usual Suspects
A trio of Animal Crossing related posts kickstarts our week and maintains the cozy game’s stranglehold on our usual suspects list. All three posts are about storytelling and connection in their own ways. At Video Dame, Renate Plehwe explores the concept of social distancing while interviewing those who have had virtual celebrations in lieu of physical ones. A similar piece lands at Uppercut, though it connects more with the daily lives of those interviewed, opposed to the one-off events. At Into the Spine, a personal essay explores the same themes, tying in the recent updates to make this one feel simultaneously fresh and evergreen. We want to be clear here: While these three pieces certainly cover similar themes we believe each stands on its own merits. Consider this a mini collection of sorts.
The Last of Us Part II gets due consideration from Blake Hester who approaches it from a lens of addiction (trigger warning: alcohol addiction). His discussion on cycles–addiction, OCD, violence–spoke to us on varying personal levels. This is a meditation on many topics beyond these cycles, too, so there’s something for everyone looking to engage more deeply with the medium.
Ghost of Tsushima is certainly a usual suspect by now and we suspect it’ll hold that place for the next few months. Reid McCarter, with the help of several academics, delves into the world of samurai, unearthing nuggets you may not have known. History buffs will love this. At Bullet Points, David Shimomura examines the game’s antagonist in relation to the game’s themes, a certain psychology, and even Hannibal Lecter.
The grotesque nature of Carrion is a human eating beast of its own. Patrick Klepek discusses the notion of being empathetic with a monster with the game’s designer, feeding (erm) the narrative of its so-called reverse horror mentality. While we don’t necessarily buy that, hearing more about the intentions of the game’s designers post release is a welcome reprieve from the hype cycle of games marketing…and yes, we know this is just that post-release, but we enjoyed the glib responses enough to include it.
Finally, back to Animal Crossing we go, as Alexis Ong adds to the literature on New Horizons as a protest tool, contextualizing it in Singapore, which has popular dynamics worth further scrutiny.
“I did a writeup recently where I said that foreign influence was used to rubbish a lot of claims, like protests for LGBT rights and many other issues,” says Yeo. “[This discussion] needs to be seen in the wider sociopolitical history of Singapore, where the claim of foreign influence has been used… the idea that when anyone tries to stand up for the persons that are not exalted by the PAP state ideology, then the state ideology would respond with this tag of foreign influence.”
While we’ve alluded to the fact the imbroglio between Apple/Google and Epic is likely to be a major story moving forward we’ve not yet read widely enough to confidently include coverage in this section. It is likely this story will continue to develop and unfold over time.
At Bloomberg, Jason Schreier reports on the open revolt of Blizzard’s staff as they share their own pay in an effort at creating better conditions within the notoriously stingy and inhospitable company. For ArsTechnica, Scott White looks at the community built around MUGEN, a program that has seemingly endless possibilities for creating fan-made fighting games, himself creating a piece that’s as much history as it is reporting.
“The feeling of schadenfreude doesn’t hit when we watch just anyone fail dramatically. A big part of feeling joy in someone else’s pain is dehumanisation — seeing others as an enemy or “less than” you. “
Check this out
Over at Nintendo World Report, they’ve created a comprehensive video on all things Metroidvania on the Switch, so if you’re looking for game recs from some of the best Nintendo-oriented types out there, this is as good an entry point as any. We even found ourselves learning about games for the first time. Neat.
If you, like us, have had your head in the sand the last while, you may be surprised to discover that ‘blaseball‘ is less a typo than ‘covfefe’. We had no idea why our social feeds were jammed with references to this so we went digging. We required Gita Jackson to get us oriented into what the thing actually is and is not. We then turned to Eric Van Allen to give us the deep dive we had been longing for all this (short) time. And then we turned to Alice O’Connor to help us feel like we’re part of the cultural zeitgeist.
Odds and Ends
It’s that time of the article where we link dump the things that don’t fit neatly within our other arbitrarily defined categories. Normally we have a reviews section but this time we don’t! Cool, let’s put this awesome Paper Mario review in here for your reading pleasure! Music themed posts have been very in vogue of late and GamesRadar has this cool feature full of interviews from the people who bring you the soundtracks of Assassin’s Creed, Horizon Zero Dawn, Control, and beyond explaining what they aim to accomplish.
Strategy gamers will appreciate this brief walk down memory lane on Shogun: Total War that promises to be the beginning of a larger series of appreciating the best PC games at PC Gamer.
People who paint the landscapes they see in games absolutely exist as the CBC reports. Games as diverse as Firewatch, Red Dead Redemption, and No Man’s Sky have been the sources of inspiration for these painters; some of which are getting actual gallery space to showcase their work.
Finally, as we enter the best time of the year to enjoy a good ol speedrun, this piece on speedrunning obscure games starring Barney and Shrek, among so many other oddities, is pure joy, so settle in.
Brown, Fraser. “20 years ago Shogun: Total War started a long legacy, but it was almost a very different game” (PC Gamer: August 13, 2020) <https://www.pcgamer.com/20-years-ago-shogun-total-war-started-a-long-legacy-but-it-was-almost-a-very-different-game/>.
Collins, Leah. “Stuck at home? Try painting what you see in video games. These artists do” (CBC: August 7, 2020) <https://www.cbc.ca/arts/artists-video-games-painting-1.5675147>.
Copestake, Hannah. “Waking Dreams and Wish Fulfillment in Animal Crossing” (Into the Spine: August 10, 2020) <https://intothespine.com/2020/08/10/waking-dreams-animal-crossing/>.
Dwiar, Rob. “”Music is what emotion sounds like”: How composers use music to change the way that your favourite games play” (GamesRadar+: August 10, 2020) <https://www.gamesradar.com/music-is-what-emotion-sounds-like-how-video-game-composers-use-music-to-change-the-way-that-your-favourite-games-play/>.
Garst, Aron. “Fall Guys taps into the irresistible psychology of epic fails” (WIRED UK: August 15, 2020) <https://www.wired.co.uk/article/fall-guys-epic-fails>.
Griffin, Sarah Maria. “Paper Mario: The Origami King review – a hilarious postmodern delight” (The Guardian: August 4, 2020) <https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/aug/04/paper-mario-the-origami-king-review>.
Haile, Jeffers. “Animal Crossing and the Stories it Tells” (Uppercut: August 13, 2020) <https://uppercutcrit.com/animal-crossing-and-the-stories-it-tells/>.
Hester, Blake. “The Last of Us Part II: Over and Over Again” (Unwinnable: August 11, 2020) <https://unwinnable.com/2020/08/11/the-last-of-us-part-ii-over-and-over-again/>.
Hill, Mark. “Barney, Shrek, and Other Monsters: The World of Obscure Speedruns” (Fanbyte: August 6, 2020) <https://www.fanbyte.com/features/barney-shrek-and-other-monsters-the-world-of-obscure-speedruns/>.
Jackson, Gita. “Blaseball is the Real Return of Baseball” (VICE: July 21, 2020) <https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/n7w44w/blaseball-is-the-real-return-of-baseball>.
Klepek, Patrick. “How ‘Carrion’ Built Empathy for Its Fleshy Monster” (Vice: August 14, 2020) <https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/4ay5x3/how-carrion-built-empathy-for-its-fleshy-monster>.
McCarter, Reid. “Like ‘Ghost of Tsushima’? Here’s what you may not know about samurai.” (The Washington Post: August 14, 2020) <https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/08/14/like-ghost-tsushima-heres-what-you-may-not-know-about-samurai/>.
O’Connor, Alice. “Blaseball may be text-based but it inspires the best fan art in sports ” (Rock, Paper, Shotgun: August 11, 2020) <https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/08/11/blaseball-may-be-text-based-but-it-inspires-the-best-fan-art-in-sports/>.
Ong, Alexis. “In Singapore, Free Expression in Games Has Become a Lightning Rod Issue” (USGamer: August 13, 2020) <https://www.usgamer.net/articles/singapore-free-expression-games-censorship-feature>.
Plehwe, Renate. “Islands Apart” (Video Dame: August 11, 2020) <https://videoda.me/islands-apart-56eb5e4ba09>.
Schreier, Jason. “Blizzard Workers Share Salaries in Revolt Over Pay” (Bloomberg: August 3, 2020) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-03/blizzard-workers-share-salaries-in-revolt-over-wage-disparities?srnd=technology-vp>.
Shimomura, David. “Join or Die” (Bullet Points: August 13, 2020) <https://bulletpointsmonthly.com/2020/08/13/join-or-die-ghost-of-tsushima>.
Van Allen, Eric. “How Blaseball Became a Collaborative Sports League of Peanuts and Hellfire” (USGamer: August 12, 2020) <https://www.usgamer.net/articles/blaseball-interview-feature-making-of-peanuts-and-hellfire>.
White, Scott. “How the MUGEN community built the ultimate fighting game crossover” (ArsTechnica: August 10, 2020) <https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/08/how-the-mugen-community-built-the-ultimate-fighting-game-crossover/>.