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. Some themes are for older audiences.
It was a week of big bucks and bluster: That statement may well be said of the world outside of games as much as the gaming scene itself. Rumours that have long since circulated turned out to be true: A Call of Duty set during the Cold War may have been the worst kept secret in gaming, but then again, the same could be said of a Batman game with the Court of Owls as the antagonistic force. There was considerably less money on display as Nintendo spotlighted indie after indie on the Switch but their Indie World Showcase certainly was a show. And, above all else, this was the week Epic Games sought to cast itself as David battling Goliath(s), waging a propaganda style campaign we really didn’t need to see.
We’ll start with a piece that is opinion rather than reporting but in reading the author’s view it informs as much as it opines. At GamesIndustry.biz, Rebekah Valentine chides the “sinister” propaganda being churned out by Epic in its battle against Apple and the anger machine it is generating in the process.
On her YouTube channel, Laura Kate Dale runs down the recent trend of games hiding their accessibility features, calling out the likes of Pokemon, Paper Mario, and Ghost of Tsushima in the process, highlighting how they can improve along the way.
At Vice, Patrick Klepek tells the story of a gamer who “wanted to play a card game, and ended up spending nearly $6,000 to help the world remember something that’d been forgotten”. Fans of Atlus’ games, finding hidden treasures on eBay or at flea markets, and those that want to recapture the feeling of obsessing over something will enjoy this piece.
REVIEWS & CRITICISM
Plenty of new games out recently but perhaps none come with the storied history of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. The latest release captured the imagination of The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo:
“Of course, I was not actually flying from L.A. to Chile; the last time I took a real airplane trip was in January (to make matters worse, it was to Newark). Yet my in-game epiphanies about the misleading nature of maps and borders were quite real, and they are a testament to how unusually deep a digital experience Microsoft has created.”
Nintendo’s announcement of a half dozen eShop releases meant a flurry of review activity around the collection. Spiritfarer has likely seen the most interesting writing thus far with Eric Van Allen’s thorough breakdown of the game and Natalie Flores’ exploration of the game’s characters and story standing as our favourites thus far, though we suspect it may well become a usual suspect.
Another standout from Nintendo’s #IndieWorld showcase has to be Raji: An Ancient Epic. At NME, Alan Wen notes the unusual nature of gaming, where non-Western (or Japanese) worlds are seemingly never explored.
I was entranced by exquisite murals depicting stories of just a fraction of the many Hindu deities, recounted by Durga and Vishnu like old memories; the ambient strings of the sitar and ravanahatha as you traverse each area, suddenly interrupted by the excitement of tabla drums when a combat section kicks in.
Here on Liftoff!, William Dowell digs into the physical and social interactions featured in A Short Hike.
Additionally, if you’re looking into the newest tactics-style release, Othercide, then GameSpot‘s review is comprehensive and bitingly technical.
Horror is central to Sunless Skies despite its window dressing perhaps appearing anything but according to Ruth Cassidy:
To run low on fuel may see any crew member thrown out among the stars to gamble on the attention of the gods that they might accept a sacrifice in return for a small amount of aid—if you’ve even earned their notice to start with. It’s a risk that only sometimes pays off, and a choice that will come back and haunt you.
Our usual suspects are to the point this week: We’re going to dive into Final Fantasy, Ghost of Tsushima, and The Last of Us Part II. Sorry, animal crossers.
Michael Higham gets personal in his take on FFXIV 5.3 (explicit spoilers), detailing being an icon for good (and the weight that bears), characters coming to the fore over institutions, getting into the weeds of musical leitmotifs, and exploring how games can become a source of comfort. This is our must read of the week.
On the Ghost of Tsushima front, Bullet Points continues its fantastic month of criticism, with Haru Nicol delving into the “cinematic” Kurosawa-inspired nature of the game, finding Sucker Punch has a “sheer misunderstanding of the meaning of cinematic methods” while raising the specter of Kurosawa’s own baggage…and takes on artistic forms.
Cian Maher delves into The Last of Us Part II‘s completely optional but “meticulously well-designed” hidden stories (obvious spoilers). Maher finds most harrowing with only the occasional glimmer of hope but the piece unequivocally asserts that the environmental storytelling on display here is top notch.
This is a new section we will trial on-and-off over the coming weeks. Threads aims to be a place where we recognize conversations that are emerging in gaming, be it on social media, normal stories we’re reading, developer blogs, on forums, wherever we see them. We don’t intend to offer much in the way of commentary on these pieces but hope to share what we’re witnessing. Hopefully you find an interesting conversation to take in.
Fall Guys has taken the Internet by storm and the team behind it have shared two interesting Twitter threads on the game and its approach. Creative Director Jeff Tanton runs through the history of the game–from concept through creation through execution–here. Meanwhile, a thread from the game’s community manager explains the plan behind the game’s explosive social media growth.
We’ve continued our Blaseball fascination by reading this expansive interview with the makers of the game on their thoughts on community, sustainability, creative limitations, and more. Sports games always spark conversations and Madden is no exception: Here, David Jagneaux finds the franchise mode ever lacking.
A rash of misinformation has surrounded all things Halo: Infinite and Alex Haruspis is having none of it, debunking a load of it, providing receipts along the way.
If you need a bunch of game recommendations where you don’t fight and just walk around, the gaming community helpfully points to oodles upon oodles of options–many we’re not familiar with–in this lovely Twitter thread.
CHECK THIS OUT
Ed Smith is releasing a chapter of a not-quite-finished book on Silent Hill 2 each week. The latest piece–and in many ways, the Intro–revolves around the game’s music, but there’s depth of criticism well beyond the music and free form expression in spades.
Richard Moss has compiled a list of games documentary / history podcasts that is frankly too large to consume in due course but should fuel our morning commutes for months…if they ever return.
ODDS AND ENDS
Fall Guys is the fad of the week/month/year and it is joyous and fun and pure. Jeremy Peel is too as he helpfully classifies every type of fall guy. We’re cuddlers, if you were wondering. Waverly’s poem/review on New Jersey Transit is less cuddly but equally awesome. There’s a certain hostility and/or apathy in Mini Metro, too, at least according to Martin Eiser.
Players are flocking to Jeffrey Epstein’s private island in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator but they may be disappointed to find the temple isn’t exactly an accurate depiction in game.
We thoroughly enjoyed this celebration of Chrono Cross‘ 20th anniversary and think you will too.
Finally, this essay on the original Donkey Kong crossed our desks, and while we don’t agree with significant chunks of it, we can’t get this piece of it out of our heads, as the author re-frames Mar–er, Jumpman while re-contextualizing the actual titular character with famous monster movies. Hmm:
So, to get in the spirit of things, I would like you to pretend to forget everything you know about Super Mario, the cartoon corporate mascot of 1985 on. For the time being, this is Jumpman. Jumpman lives in what is, by way of King Kong riff, implicitly but obviously New York City. He is a laborer, as signified by the caricature of his workingman’s overalls, his gruff masculine mustache, and his literal blue collar, an assemblage of broad traits straight out of a Leninist propaganda poster of the stereotypical ideal worker.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Our scheduled full return to goodgameswriting.com has been delayed to early 2021. You can read about that here.
Arcade Ideas. “Donkey Kong ” (arcadeideas: August 17, 2020) <arcadeidea.wordpress.com/2020/08/17/donkey-kong-1981/>.
Cassidy, Ruth. “The Horrifying Solace of Sunless Skies” (Into the Spine: August 19, 2020) <intothespine.com/2020/08/19/sunless-skies-solace/>.
Dowell, William. “A Short Hike captures the phsyicality and social interactions of hiking we’re missing” (Liftoff!: Aug 20, 2020) <liftoffmag.com/a-short-hike-captures-the-phsyicality-and-social-interactions-of-hiking-were-missing/>.
Eiser, Martin. “Orderly Harmony” (WALL JUMP: August 15, 2020) <wall-jump.com/orderly-harmony/>.
Flores, Natalie. “Spiritfarer Is a Heartbreaking and Heartwarming Meditation on Life” (Fanbyte: August 18, 2020) <www.fanbyte.com/reviews/spiritfarer-is-an-equally-heartbreaking-and-heartwarming-meditation-on-life/>.
Haruspis, Alex. “Debunking the false ‘leaks’ about Halo Infinite and 343 Industries” (August 20, 2020) <haruspis.blog/2020/08/20/debunking-the-false-leaks-about-halo-infinite-and-343-industries/>.
Higham, Michael. “FFXIV 5.3 Inspires Hope, Closing One Of Final Fantasy’s Greatest Stories” (GameSpot: August 20, 2020) <www.gamespot.com/articles/ffxiv-53-inspires-hope-closing-one-of-final-fantas/1100-6481156/>.
Jagneaux, David. “EA Keeps Fumbling Madden’s Franchise Mode” (IGN: August 20, 2020) <www.ign.com/articles/ea-keeps-fumbling-maddens-franchise-mode>.
Klepek, Patrick. “The Gaming Fan Who Accidentally Became a Historian” (Vice: August 18, 2020) <www.vice.com/en_us/article/pkyvjn/the-gaming-fan-who-accidentally-became-a-historian>.
Maher, Cian. “The Hidden Stories In The Last Of Us Part 2 Are Some Of Its Best” (GameSpot: August 22, 2020) <www.gamespot.com/articles/the-hidden-stories-in-the-last-of-us-part-2-are-so/1100-6481272/>.
Manjoo, Farhad. “I Tried Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. The Earth Never Seemed So Real.” (The New York Times: August 19, 2020) <www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/opinion/microsoft-flight-simulator.html>.
Nicol, Haru. “A Shallow Understanding” (Bullet Points: August 20, 2020) <bulletpointsmonthly.com/2020/08/20/shallow-understanding-ghost-of-tsushima>.
Peel, Jeremy. “Every type of Fall Guy, classified” (PC Gamer: August 18, 2020) <www.pcgamer.com/every-type-of-fall-guy-classified/>.
Rousseau, Jeffrey. “Chrono Cross: A Class 20 Years Running” (Medium: August 17, 2020) <medium.com/@jrous001/chrono-cross-a-classic-20-years-running-3e1b212eadff>.
Sitzes, Jenae. “Othercide Review – Mother, May I” (GameSpot: August 21, 2020) <www.gamespot.com/reviews/othercide-review-mother-may-i/1900-6417541/>.
Valentine, Rebekah. “Epic’s Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite video is an irresponsible piece of corporate propaganda” (GamesIndustry.biz: August 14, 2020) <www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-08-14-epics-nineteen-eighty-fortnite-video-is-an-irresponsible-piece-of-corporate-propaganda-opinion>.
Valentine, Rebekah. “Making Blaseball, at our mercy” (GamesIndustry.biz: August 20, 2020) <www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-08-20-making-blaseball-at-our-mercy>.
Van Allen, Eric. “Spiritfarer Review: Come Sail Away” (USGamer: August 18, 2020) <www.usgamer.net/articles/spiritfarer-review>.
Waverly. “New Jersey Transit” (100 Word Game Reviews: August 18, 2020) <100wordgaming.com/2020/08/18/new-jersey-transit/>.
Wen, Alan. “‘Raji: An Ancient Epic’ review: a brief but mesmerising action-adventure” (NME: August 20, 2020) <www.nme.com/en_asia/reviews/game-reviews/raji-an-ancient-epic-review-a-brief-but-mesmerising-action-adventure-2733271>.