The best in games writing.
Good Games Writing Weekly is a round-up of the best writing on games and related fields from around the web. Some themes may be for older audiences.
We finally found out something about the next Xbox–but we don’t know how much it’ll cost or when, exactly, it’ll release. We have a better sense of the games on deck and we’re sure that’ll begin shaping the state of games writing over the coming weeks. Nintendo kicked off the week with a mini direct outlining a number of its partner games that are releasing though we still know little about what the rest of their year’s releases looks like. The wave of summer games continues to be strong: Temtem, Paper Mario upped the humour, while Carrion offers a new horror-inspired take on some beloved genres. Let’s get right into it.
Ooblets continues to be the game our team spends the most time on. A pair of reviews might help explain why: For The Washington Post, Elise Favis invokes comparisons to Pokemon, Slay the Spire, Stardew Valley, and Animal Crossing to explain the game and its (pre-release) deficiencies. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Henges uses the notion of farming simulators to describe the game, offering a longer view of the game than other reviews we’ve read.
Carrion has captured our attention in the We Can’t Look Away respect. The most in depth review has to be Polygon‘s, which dives into all the classic review components while rising above them, with lines like this:
I feel like an apex predator, even in this vast and “alien” environment, flying down hallways at the speed of a banshee with an insatiable drive to rip and tear apart anything that has the misfortune of being alive and moving.
If you’re on the fence about whether Carrion is for you or not then this is the one review you absolutely must read.
We loved this Necrobarista review, which largely focuses on the game’s narrative, for calling it “fleeting but memorable”. It’s a sincere endorsement, surely, but one that carries extra weight when you consider the visual novel format: We can’t think of higher praise. Still on Fanbyte, Kenneth Shepard explores the power dynamics of abusive relationships (and uncertain relationships) in We Should Talk, a piece that should cause readers to pause and reflect for a moment about their own actions and reactions.
A few pieces caught our attention though only one focuses on the biggest story in gaming right now: The rise of sexual assault allegations within the industry. Keza MacDonald speaks with industry leaders on the need for change, asking “Is this finally the point at which the industry reckons with its astonishingly widespread problems?” The answers are vital to understanding the pervasiveness of the toxic cultures and will surely inform discussions moving forward.
At GamesIndustry.biz, Matthew Handrahan interviews the director of business for a game you’ve never heard of, Adopt Me. The game, created in Roblox, represents the success of “user-generated content”, and comparisons to how Minecraft sparked a new wave of creativity are inevitable. Team Adopt Me is successful in ways that may have been unimaginable a decade ago, and their success is worth digging into.
Over on Uppercut, Anthony McGlynn digs into how fan communities keep dead multiplayer games on life support, looking at ToonTown, Fusionfall, and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. While the games may be central to our understanding of these peripheral parts of the industry, it’s the people McGlynn thrusts into the centre of it, as they attempt to avoid the ire of the companies who own the rights.
With her second nod of the week, Elise Favis writes on The Last of Us Part II and how it handles its coming out story. Spoilers, obvs.
Ellie writes that she’s envious of her girlfriend at the time, Cat, who is open about their relationship and sexuality in ways Ellie isn’t capable of, at least not yet. She wants to do the same, but doesn’t know how. I ruminated similar questions before coming out: What would my friends and family think? Would they understand? These questions aren’t easy to voice, and often they aren’t voiced at all. These vulnerable thoughts are appropriately left in the confines of Ellie’s private journal.
Final Fantasy VII Remake will undoubtedly continue to generate thoughtful criticism for months to come. Trevor Richardson’s critique of the game examines the notions of homophobia and transphobia–or, at least, queerphobic societies writ large–and how the Honeybee Inn scene creaks and groans under the consumerist system the game is released in.
What I do know is that as a queer player, I’m tired of feeling my face go as blank and numb as Cloud’s as I consume the safest possible excuses for queer representation and expression in video games.
Here on Liftoff!, Matthew Morey explores the usage of a cute, cartoon dog to indoctrinate the populace, and how Avalanche subvert the meaning of it. The analysis includes links to Japanese imperialist propaganda and anime to bring it full circle.
We also appreciated a break from criticism to read Emily Morrow’s pseudo-fictional take on the earliest days of creating her Animal Crossing: New Horizons island. It’s brief but we couldn’t help but reminisce about our own starting pairs of villagers.
Odds and Ends
Alas, we come to our final section, providing you the oddest of ends, and the end-iest of odds.
Funké Joseph writes about the end of a long reign for flash games, reminding us of the games we most love, while (briefly) detailing the methods in which they’ll be preserved. Elijah Beahm discusses how games and film can subvert our expectations, a blend that relies on recent releases in both realms, helping untangle the complicated web of marketing and hype that exists in fanbases. Kat Bailey wields Ghost of Tsushima to “sum up” this generation, exploring the best and worst parts of this console generation, while helping us understand the ubiquity of the medium.
At Into the Spine, Ari Hiraeth thoughtfully critiques the notion of public and private spheres–in many ways the essence of politics–and how they manifest within Forager and Civilization. The greater context of living under quarantine helps make this topic somewhat more accessible and our Evan McIntosh insists on saying it’s his favourite read of the week. Now you know.
Jane Friedhoff has published part of a course she’s previously delivered as a blog post. The promise for more to come is one we’re thrilled to hear about as the piece made us consider what it means to play, how we form attachments to certain games (be they analog or video), and breaking out of comfort zones both as players and as designers. It’s backed up by solid citations and frequent references to help you better consider the conceptual framework, ahem, at play.
Finally, a spoiler filled discussion on THAT Bob-omb moment in the latest Paper Mario, is decidedly fun, and just a little alarming. Get your non-brand name tissues ready…you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll probably laugh-cry your way through this one.
Bailey, Kat. “Ghost of Tsushima Pretty Much Sums Up This Generation” (USGamer: July 23, 2020) <https://www.usgamer.net/articles/ghost-of-tsushima-pretty-much-sums-up-this-generation?>.
Beahm, Elijah. “There Are Right and Wrong Ways to Subvert Expectations” (The Escapist: July 24, 2020) <https://www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/right-wrong-ways-to-subvert-expectations-false-marketing-deception-lies/>.
Egan, Touissant. “Carrion is a body horror masterpiece” (Polygon: July 23, 2020) <https://www.polygon.com/reviews/2020/7/23/21334292/carrion-review-nintendo-switch-xbox-one-windows-the-thing-horror-monster>.
Favis, Elise. “‘The Last of Us Part II’ handles Ellie’s coming out story with care. It reminded me of my own.” (The Washington Post: July 22, 2020) <https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/07/22/last-us-part-ii-handles-ellies-coming-out-story-with-care-it-reminded-me-my-own/>.
Favis, Elise. “‘Ooblets’ is an addictive combo of ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Stardew Valley,’ but it needs more work” (The Washington Post: July 20, 2020) <https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/reviews/ooblets-is-an-addictive-combo-pokmon-stardew-valley-needs-more-work/>.
Flores, Natalie. “Necrobarista Is a Memorable and Charming Marvel of a Visual Novel” (Fanbyte: July 21, 2020) <https://www.fanbyte.com/reviews/necrobarista-is-a-memorable-and-charming-marvel-of-a-visual-novel/>.
Friedhoff, Jane. “Games, Play, and Joy” (Medium: July 22, 2020) <https://medium.com/@jfriedhoff/games-play-and-joy-part-1-75991ff32e69>.
Handrahan, Matthew. “Adopt Me: The most popular game you’ve never played” (GamesIndustry.biz: July 21, 2020) <https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-07-21-adopt-me-interview>.
Henges, Elizabeth. “Ooblets Early Access Impressions” (RPGSite: July 16, 2020) <https://www.rpgsite.net/preview/9980-ooblets-early-access-impressions>.
Hiraeth, Ari. “Empire and Quarantine: The Public/Private in Games” (Into the Spine: July 22, 2020) <https://intothespine.com/2020/07/22/empire-and-quarantine-the-public-private-in-games/>.
Joseph, Funké. “Flash Games Are Leaving Soon, but Their Memory Will Never Fade” (Fanbyte: July 24, 2020) <https://www.fanbyte.com/features/flash-games-are-leaving-soon-but-their-memory-will-never-fade/>.
MacDonald, Keza. “Is the video games industry finally reckoning with sexism?” (The Guardian: July 22, 2020) <https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/jul/22/is-the-video-games-industry-finally-reckoning-with-sexism>.
McGlynn, Anthony. “How Fan Servers are Preserving Dead Multiplayer Games” (Uppercut: July 24, 2020) <https://uppercutcrit.com/how-fan-servers-are-preserving-dead-multiplayer-games/>.
Morey, Matthew. “Stamp the Dog is Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s weaponized mascot” (Liftoff!: July 22, 2020) <https://liftoffmag.com/stamp-the-dog-is-final-fantasy-7-remakes-weaponized-mascot/>.
Morrow, Emily. “Living Horizons” (Medium: July 22, 2020) <https://medium.com/@emilymorrow75/living-horizons-ed63b8a15372>.
Notis, Ari and Ash Parrish. “Let’s Talk About The Paper Mario: The Origami King Scene That Blew Us Away” (Kotaku: July 24, 2020) <https://kotaku.com/let-s-talk-about-the-paper-mario-origami-king-scene-th-1844499302>.
Richardson, Trevor. “Wall Market Isn’t Burning” (Unwinnable: July 22, 2020) <https://unwinnable.com/2020/07/22/wall-market-isnt-burning/>.
Shepard, Kenneth. “The Uncomfortable Honesty of We Should Talk’s Power Dynamics” (Fanbyte: July 22, 2020) <https://www.fanbyte.com/trending/the-uncomfortable-honesty-of-we-should-talks-power-dynamics/>.