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.
Games writing and really every job finally seems to be out of the post-Christmas lull, at least if the number of emails we’re receiving is any indication, and with it comes a more regular rhythm to it. Here’s what we enjoyed this week.
Likely the most read story of the week has to be Jason Schreier’s bruising reporting on CD Projekt’s policies around crunch, reporting that he’s led the charge on for months, and the fallout of CEO Marcin Iwiński’s apology. Backed by accounts from more than 20 employees the reporting rests on a solid foundation – one that CD Projekt still attempted to defend albeit unsuccessfully.
Hades continues to crack the usual suspects list months after its formal release with a trio of pieces tackling different angles on it. For Polygon, Patricia Hernandez interviews Supergiant Games’ Greg Kasavin about Thanatos’ appeal, and there’s neat nuggets dropped on his Lord of the Rings-esque inspiration to how “unfinished business” is the name of the game for death incarnate. It’s a neat read.
Uppercut’s end-of-year letter series has intrigued us but this one on Hades’ approach to family trauma is personal and searing. It’s an angle that’s been broached a few times–one that we sense still lacks a definitive piece–but Jessica Howard advances the conversation once more.
Autumn Wright lands our read of the week with this contextualizing of Hades’ Greek myth and the approaches to inclusion (or lack thereof) as they existed in both the Greek context and in Hades proper.
The only fat characters are an enemy type, the Wretched Lout, who, as Achilles writes in his codex, have “been reduced to merely their most base of negative impulses, these damnable wretches do their part to help uphold the Underworld’s cruel reputation.” Though it doesn’t name those impulses, they’re depicted holding vessels filled to the brim with glowy, neon drink. The implication is clear: Fatness signifies bad judgment and a lack of control
There are, of course, detailed notes on a number of items, traditions, and customs within the piece, so if you want a primer on Greek masculinity and how it impacted other groups, this is it.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: THE GAME — COMPLETE EDITION is a mouthful. It also makes for an interesting case study in how a game gets reviewed and what the focus is of that review.
Venn‘s first ever review (congrats to them) examines the game for consumers that won’t be immediately familiar with it. The Verge‘s review adds in a dose of Canadiana to the mix while focusing more on those that know Scott Pilgrim or at least have passing familiarity. PC Gamer compares the experience to playing in a band -and the need to play it with a Player 2.
Game Informer goes a different route, opting only to give impressions, while throwing in some notes on Easter eggs and the game’s presentation, allowing their original review to stand.
A reviews round-up wouldn’t be of much worth if we didn’t include one you can read in just a few seconds. Behold!
The pieces here reminded us–in some cases tangentially–of the type of stuff we’d watch on the ID channel and on similar networks. There’s a cult and crime and spooky vibe to this collection.
Let’s start with this video analysis of Bugsnax that ties in film commentary, an interview with the developer, and themes of charismatic leaders, isolation, and change.
How did it get burned, anyways?
Keeping with the theme, Vikki Blake wonders if we could use gaming magic + VR to help solve cold cases, and while it’s in some ways more an analysis on games like L.A. Noire, it did leave us wondering.
You don’t see much in the way of assassination on the ID Channel but we wonder if that’s because assassin’s are professionals and the ID Channel is aimed at DIY types like HGTV. (We’re kidding.) Eric Van Allen pays tribute to Hitman‘s level design and the countless ways you can kill that defies convention.
It’s a testament to each level’s incredible malleability that even over repeat plays. I’ve rarely tried to go the route of firearms and fiber wire. I’d pick up a sniper rifle and get a vantage point, but then it felt too much like other games; it wasn’t Hitman if I was just sitting in a nest, waiting for the opportunity to take out my targets before walking away.
We haven’t seen ghost killer shows on ID Channel but we feel like that’s a market they’ve simply yet to tap. Elise Favis has tips on how to up the difficulty (and spookiness) in your next game of Phasmophobia.
ODDS & ENDS
Always our last section, Odds & Ends is an ode to the things we can’t quite place elsewhere, a delectable smorgasbord of games writing that is thrown together out of myriad interests, a delicate cuisine waiting to be consumed. Delicious in other words.
The type of writing that fits here might be an impossibly deep dive into a recent EVE Online battle that groaned under the weight of 35,000 concurrent players, with Charlie Hall being one of only two people we trust when it comes to coverage of this particular game.
Such a segment might careen wildly to include a piece on Picross as a series that gets one through the pandemic, a better mobile distraction that doomscrolling Twitter, at least pre-Trump ban.
The Space In Between seems exactly like the type of game we’d want to play right now (download it here for free) based on this interview:
The primary gameplay mechanic in The Space in Between involves looking at a cluster of stars and creating a constellation, literally connecting the stars in the sky. Creating certain shapes can become different constellations and lead to different responses.
We like a good visual novel and one that mixes up the genre is always a welcome addition.
Finally, we leave you with this mic drop from Luke Shaw on the price of Warhammer (and other figures based games), noting in the process that “[i]t can be a recreational painting hobby, a meta-chasing competitive grind and anything in-between” but its costs shouldn’t be compared to any average tabletop or video game.
Blake, Vikki. “Could we use VR and contemporary game design to solve cold cases?” (NME: January 15, 2021) <www.nme.com/gaming-features/vr-and-contemporary-game-design-to-solve-cold-cases-2857343>.
Favis, Elise. “Are you a ‘Phasmophobia’ pro? Here are some alternate rules to keep the scares fresh.”. (The Washington Post: January 11, 2021) <www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2021/01/11/phasomophobia-new-rules/>.
Hall, Charlie. “Eve Online is getting crushed by its own success” (Polygon: January 15, 2021) <www.polygon.com/features/2021/1/15/22228837/eve-online-m2-mittani-papi-server-failure-hellcamp>.
Henley, Stacey. “SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD: THE GAME REVIEW” (PC Gamer: January 14, 2021) <https://www.pcgamer.com/scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world-the-game-review/>.
Hernandez, Patricia. “Thanatos is the best encounter in all of Hades” (Polygon: January 15, 2021) <www.polygon.com/2021/1/15/22232920/hades-thanatos-supergiant-games-greg-kasavin-development>.
Howard, Jessica. “Hades: An Ode to Family Trauma” (Uppercut: January 13, 2021) <uppercutcrit.com/hades-an-ode-to-family-trauma/>.
Juba, Joe. “Why Scott Pilgrim Is Still One Of The Best 2D Brawlers” (Game Informer: January 13, 2021) <www.gameinformer.com/opinion/2021/01/13/why-scott-pilgrim-is-still-one-of-the-best-2d-brawlers>.
Martin, Garrett. “I Apologize to Anybody Who Expected Me to Do Anything This Year Other Than Play Picross” (Paste: January 15, 2021) <www.pastemagazine.com/games/picross/picross-obsession/>.
Raine, Natalie. “Scott Pilgrim Vs The World: The Game” (100 Word Gaming Reviews: January 16, 2021) <100wordgaming.com/2021/01/16/scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world-the-game/>.
Schreier, Jason. “Inside Cyberpunk 2077’s Disastrous Rollout” (Bloomberg: January 15, 2021) <www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-16/cyberpunk-2077-what-caused-the-video-game-s-disastrous-rollout>.
Shaw, Luke. “Warhammer looks expensive, but the truth is more complicated” (Dicebreaker: January 14, 2021) <www.dicebreaker.com/companies/games-workshop/opinion/warhammer-expensive-complicated-truth>.
Van Allen, Eric. “Every Hitman Level Is a Punchline and Agent 47 Is the Fist” (Fanbyte: January 15, 2021) <www.fanbyte.com/features/every-hitman-level-is-a-punchline-and-agent-47-is-the-fist/>.
Vincent, Brittany. “‘SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: THE GAME — COMPLETE EDITION’: GAME REVIEW” (Venn: January 14, 2021) <www.venn.tv/gaming/2021-01-14/scott-pilgrim-vs-world-game-complete-edition-game-review/>.
Webster, Andrew. “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is still one of the best licensed games around” (The Verge: January 13, 2021) <www.theverge.com/2021/1/13/22228652/scott-pilgrim-vs-the-world-the-game-review-switch-stadia-ps4-xbox>.
Wright, Autumn. “What Hades Can Teach Us About Ancient Greek Masculinity” (WIRED: January 16, 2021) <www.wired.com/story/hades-ancient-greek-masculinity-classics-representation/>.
Yang, George. “Discussing The Big Topics In The Space In Between” (The Indie Game Website: January 15, 2021) <https://www.indiegamewebsite.com/2021/01/15/discussing-the-big-topics-in-the-space-in-between/>.