The best writing from around the web.
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.
In the gaming world it was a fairly ordinary week that was, in the midst of a pandemic, chock full of releases. The Switch, of course, was the benefactor of ports from every direction, and it was a week with new Minecraft. Outside gaming, people began taking back their cities and uprising against oppression. They stood together reminding us all–and as a society, we needed the reminder–that #BlackLivesMatter. While that happened late in the week we’re sure we’ll begin to see those themes emerge in games writing soon enough.
For now, the usual suspects:
Aimee Pearcy writes about how Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become a political platform in its own right with high profile island visitors like AOC, PETA using it to further protest (and raise awareness around) animal conditions, and Hong Kongers using it to resist Chinese oppression while it’s unsafe to take to the streets. It’s an effective round-up on a game that can do so much more than we first thought.
A wave of new releases hit in the past couple of weeks and the discourse around those games ranges from “obligatory reviews” to “interesting things to say”.
We enjoyed Victor Lucas’ review of Minecraft Dungeons as it was outright honest about the experience of the reviewer: He knows games like Diablo or Marvel Ultimate Alliance and he doesn’t know every detail ever about Minecraft. If that sounds like you then the review is immensely helpful. His daughter also jumps on to weigh in on things and, again, gives the perspective of someone who isn’t a Minecraft fanatic. We wish more reviews were forthright in what the critic knows…and what they don’t.
If Found continues to track for us with GameSpot‘s focus more on the overall story’s characters than other pieces we’ve seen on the game. It still dives into the aesthetic, certainly, but this review gave us the best sense yet about how the game handles young adulthood.
On his own blog, Jeremy Signor (who we featured last week for writing on If Found) created a photo essay on Umurangi Generation. The discussion blends anti-colonial criticism and ways in which people resist oppression (which aren’t mutually exclusive topics) but, here, the images captured are essential to getting the point across. It’s a wonderful reflection on the game’s themes.
Here on Liftoff!, Adel MacDowell writes a comprehensive history of the development of the various Xeno games, a refreshing deep dive that accompanies the release of the “definitive edition” of Xenoblade Chronicles well.
Older games are also given their time to shine. On Start Menu, Santi Leguiza dives into his seven year history with Warframe. It’s a brief, albeit effective, history on staring into the void through the various means and modes the game provides, with a twang of re-invention both of game design and player expectation.
On Retronauts, Stuart Gipp defends the controversial recent Paper Mario installments. The argument? Yeah, the combat is awful, but these games aren’t about combat.
As Arkane Studios turns 20 there was plenty of reflections on the studio and their games. We most enjoyed Cian Maher’s pub-infused retrospective-cum-interview on Dishonored talks architecture and culture. The main attraction on the week, however, should be NoClip’s 80 minute history of the studio, a stunning, informative video that we’ve watched multiple times this week to peel back as many layers as possible. It’s must watch.
Keeping with the theme of interviews, two others caught our attention this week, for very different reasons. On GameDaily.biz, Daniel Engelhardt, the SVP of interactive ventures at LionsGate Games, talks about the challenges and opportunities associated with leveraging its various media brands to make games, with nods to everything from the Power Rangers to Blair Witch to John Wick.
Mike Ren Yi was the interview subject on First Person Scholar, and just the description of him should make you want to read the interview:
“As a diasporic Chinese American living in Shanghai, Mike creates personal games that explore the intersections of race, state control, and environmental degradation, all while working in an industry overseen by state censors. But while his games challenge the status quo, they also contain heartfelt expressions of daily life.”
His games touch on the mundane intersecting with the brutal. Interesting discussions about being Asian American and living under state censorship are also touched upon.
Finally, we go to the pre-eminent voice of all things Sims on the Internet, Gita Jackson. Here, longing for the past “normal” as the world shifts under the weight of the pandemic, exists a refuge from it all. Jackson’s career move just ahead of the pandemic is reflected, too, and the unique way The Sims exists in space and time is highlighted as only Gita Jackson can do.
Desatoff, Sam. “Daniel Engelhardt on the collaborative business of Lionsgate Games” (GameDaily.biz: May 27, 2020) <gamedaily.biz/article/1756/daniel-engelhardt-on-the-collaborative-business-of-lionsgate-games>.
Gipp, Stuart. “In defence of modern Paper Mario” (Retronauts: May 28, 2020) <retronauts.com/article/1531/in-defence-of-modern-paper-mario>.
Higham, Michael. “If Found Review – Call Me By My Name” (GameSpot: May 26, 2020) <www.gamespot.com/reviews/if-found-review-call-me-by-my-name/1900-6417471/>.
Jackson, Gita. “The Sims Is ‘My Last Normal Photo’ (Vice: May 26, 2020) <www.vice.com/en_us/article/935y5a/the-sims-is-my-last-normal-photo>.
Leguiza, Santi. “”Warframe: Flying Through An Endless Space” (Start Menu: May 26, 2020) <www.startmenu.co.uk/home/warframe-flying-through-an-endless-space>.
MacDowell, Adel. “Takahashi’s triumph: The long road to Xenoblade Chronicles” (Liftoff!: May 26, 2020) <liftoffmag.com/takahashis-triumph-the-long-road-to-xenoblade-chronicles/>.
Maher, Cian. “Arkane’s Harvey Smith on why the pub in Dishonored is a perfect rebel base” (Rock, Paper, Shotgun: May 28, 2020) <www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/05/28/arkanes-harvey-smith-on-why-the-pub-in-dishonored-is-a-perfect-rebel-base/>.
Patterson, Christopher B. “Interview: Mike Ren Yi” (First Person Scholar: May 27, 2020) <www.firstpersonscholar.com/interview-mike-ren-yi/>.
Pearcy, Aimee. “‘Animal Crossing’ Isn’t Just a Game — It’s a Political Platform” (OneZero: May 27, 2020) <onezero.medium.com/animal-crossing-isn-t-just-a-game-it-s-a-political-platform-c12a29e7cde>.
Signor, Jeremy. “Umurangi Generation and Bearing Witness” (The Life of Game: May 25, 2020) <thelifeofgame.wordpress.com/2020/05/25/umurangi-generation-and-bearing-witness/>.