The best games writing from around the web.
Games writing has taken several twists and turns over the past few weeks. The critical cycle of The Last of Us Part II continues on. The fallout from Microsoft’s decision to effectively shutter Mixer has been realized. Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse hit not just Ubisoft but also the fighting game community at large. That’s to say nothing of the usual hype cycle around the upcoming console releases and the PR push of summer tentpoles like The Avengers.
Final Fantasy has been our top usual suspect for producing quality games writing of late. On Fanbyte, Steven Strom argues a perfect storm of factors and fixes led to his beating three FF games in two weeks. Jonathan Ore, meanwhile, examines how the FFVII Remake manages the average citizens of Midgard and finds new ways of creating drama.
Competitive gaming has also captured our imagination the past several weeks. Aron Garst is among the foremost voices on the scene and this week captures stories from the fringes of competitive games including a Smash Bros tournament that’s played entirely by Amiibo.
The Last of Us Part II is sure to become a usual suspect. Waverly writes on Paste about the cisgender voyeurism of trans people present in the game:
For Abby, and the player who experiences the world through her, Lev isn’t a character to be respected but investigated.
Carolyn Petit goes in depth with a post-game discussion, reflecting on the series-wide story, the trope of good-people-doing-bad-things, Lord of the Rings, and so much more. Grab a cuppa and a blanket and dig in.
In the news
Kyle Orland’s reporting on the bizarre saga of the Billy Mitchell’s high score records court case is must read. Orland successfully breaks down the complex court case and makes it accessible for the uninformed. This one is going to have fireworks going forward.
In lighter news, Steven Messner reports on a massive EVE war that is being waged to celebrate a terminally ill gamer’s birthday. We’re not sure we’d want war waged in our names but the event shows people coming together to do a bit of good. Happy birthday, Chappy78.
If you need a recap of recent abuse allegations in gaming, The Verge’s Megan Faokhmanesh does just that, while delivering an important message:
The game industry can no longer say it didn’t know, or its more tiresome counterpart, that it isn’t surprised…Abuse is everyone’s problem.
Nathan Grayson interviews those affected by Mixer’s shutdown and the surprise around it. The stories told make it all the more apparent this decision came out of the blue.
Odds and Ends
Elijah Beahm (disclosure: Mr Beahm has contributed to Liftoff!) goes cyberpunk by re-examining Syndicate, arguing that it’s criminally underrated, giving context for fans of Wolfenstein: The New Order, too.
You see, Syndicate has what may be my favorite difficulty setting modifier for any co-op game ever. Upping from Normal to Hard or Expert doesn’t make enemies deal more damage or take away your health. Rather, the enemy spawns change. Normal is generous, giving you room to breathe and only throwing maybe one or two heavy-weapon toting mini-bosses at you. Hard might add in some snipers, rearrange a few squads, and give the final boss of a stage more of a chance. And Expert? Expert throws a mini-boss at you for the second area in the easiest level of the game, along with a gauntlet of foes armed to the teeth.
At Bullet Points, Julie Muncy explores the setting of Pathologic 2, serving as tour guide for the town at the heart of the game’s “cruel layout”, highlighting the myriad landmarks that punctuate the environment and confound the player.
Of course, nothing fits the description of “odds and ends” better than people changing their names to be part of a game’s marketing campaign, but, hey, 2002 was a different time where you could be paid “£500 and a free Xbox” for changing your name to Turok. There’s a bit of a twist ending, here, so go in and have fun.
We want to quickly highlight two sites we’ve recently added to our reading lists. WALL JUMP has become a favourite as it interviews high profile developers and effectively digs into the music of games. 100 Word Gaming has recently moved to a new website and their reviews remind us of the magazine glory days where space was limited. Check out both sites and let us know what you think.
Beahm, Elijah. “Syndicate is Cyberpunk FPS Bliss and Frustratingly, Criminally Underrated” (The Escapist: June 25, 2020) <www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/syndicate-starbreeze-studios-underrated/>.
Farokhmanesh, Megan. “Gaming Can’t Fix Its Abuse Problem One Person At A Time” (The Verge: June 30, 2020) <www.theverge.com/21307560/gaming-abuse-harassment-systemic-ubisoft-chris-avellone>.
Garst, Aron. “These Players Compete On The Exotic Fringes Of Their Favorite Games” (GameSpot: June 30, 2020) <www.gamespot.com/articles/these-players-compete-on-the-exotic-fringes-of-the/1100-6479055/>.
Grayson, Nathan. “Mixer’s Sudden Shutdown Has Streamers Scrambling To Reboot Their Careers On Twitch” (Kotaku: June 27, 2020) <kotaku.com/mixer-s-sudden-shutdown-has-streamers-scrambling-to-reb-1844152491>.
Hudson, Laura. “The Tragedy and Mystery of the ‘Best Game of the Decade’” (WIRED: Jan 29, 2020) <www.wired.com/story/kentucky-route-zero-5/>.
Makar, Connor. “Hunting down the people who legally changed their names to Turok” (VG24/7: June 24, 2020) <www.vg247.com/2020/06/24/change-name-to-turok/>.
Messner, Steven. “Thousands of EVE Online players go to war in celebration of this terminally ill player’s birthday” (PC Gamer: June 26, 2020) <www.pcgamer.com/thousands-of-eve-online-players-go-to-war-in-celebration-of-this-terminally-ill-players-birthday/>.
Muncy, Julie. “A Travel Guide to the Town With No Name” (Bullet Points Monthly: June 10, 2020) <bulletpointsmonthly.com/2020/06/10/travel-guide-pathologic-2>.
Ore, Jonathan. “Final Fantasy VII Remake – The Midgar Minute: The Collapse” (That Shelf: June 28, 2020) <thatshelf.com/final-fantasy-vii-remake-the-midgar-minute-the-collapse/>.
Orland, Kyle. “Twin Galaxies says Billy Mitchell “flirts with perjury” in high-score case” (ArsTechnica: July 1, 2020) <arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/07/twin-galaxies-says-billy-mitchell-flirts-with-perjury-in-high-score-case/>.
Petit, Carolyn. “Broken People, Broken Worlds: Thoughts on The Last of Us Part II” (Medium: June 29, 2020) <medium.com/@carolynpetit/broken-people-broken-worlds-thoughts-on-the-last-of-us-part-ii-a012de5d2acf>.
Strom, Steven. “The Switch Got Me to Beat Three Old Final Fantasy Games in Two Weeks” (Fanbyte: June 19, 2020) <www.fanbyte.com/trending/the-switch-got-me-to-beat-three-old-final-fantasy-games-in-two-weeks/>.
Waverly. “The Cisgender Voyeurism of The Last of Us Part II” (Paste: June 29, 2020) <www.pastemagazine.com/games/the-last-of-us-part-ii/the-last-of-us-part-ii-cisgender-voyeurism/>.