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.
A number of technical issues, a surge in COVID-19 cases in our local area, and the mayhem of living in 2020 has meant we haven’t run a Weekly in a few weeks. We’ll be making it up to you with a couple of extra themed round-ups over the coming weeks. With that said, let’s dive into the games writing we want you to read this week!
Over the past few weeks we’ve read plenty of reviews on recent releases and will curate on some of those more deeply when indie sites have had an opportunity to catch up with major publications. Chief among those reviews are those tackling the new consoles: Can I Play That has accessibility reviews on both of them. The PS5 gets high marks for having a breadth of options though its controller isn’t optimal. Meanwhile, the Xbox Series X holds its own, and its companion controller is seen as a marked improvement over an already successful option.
Funké Joseph’s review of Going Under is a little light-hearted but adept at doing the things reviews need to do; it’s a fun approximation of what the game goes for, too! Humour in games always sticks us as a difficult thing to land and in many ways difficult to review, but this review gave us a clear sense of what the humour in the game is like, and why we’ll probably enjoy it.
When it comes to sports games, we often expect a rush of reviews praising each and every new feature, and little else. The enthusiast nature of that particular niche lends, well, to a limited view. Kat Bailey is the pre-eminent NHL reviewer in our opinion, a critic that can offer the enthusiasm of loving the sport while balancing it with thoughtful criticism aimed at those that have been playing these games for decades:
To put it mildly, NHL 21 feels like a sloppy, rushed product this year, particularly when it comes to Be a Pro, which should be its star feature. It sets out to mirror the triumph of NHL 14, but it feels more like a desultory bookend to NHL 15, the entry with cuts that would make even the Ottawa Senators blush.
Scathing criticism of Godfall has been somewhat expected of late, but merrit k’s review on Fanbyte manages to land the hits on the game without ever feeling mean. Deftly comparing it to Destiny, Borderlands, and Warframe, the review lambasts the game with precision. Do you like the feel of Destiny? The loot of Borderlands? The variety of suits in Warframe? Those comparisons are made for you.
Keeping with a recent theme of sound and music in games featured in the Weekly, former GoodGamesWriting team member Joseph Knoop has a wonderful, short interview with Treyarch‘s audio director. Hearing about the nuts and bolts of how bullets sound in Call of Duty, or how to detect drones flying overhead in game, is the type of inside baseball we geek out over.
At Vista Magazine, an interview with the developers of upcoming indie Genesis Noir caught our attention for the deep literary connection inspiring the game and its stark design aesthetic. From the devs:
Genesis Noir does not focus on a particular moment or setting. One level may be on the primordial Earth and end on a dead-end. Another between skyscrapers and making a new friend. Or another journeying through history to find a curious object. Because we jump around, our stories can be short and theatrical rather than a very focused character study.
CNN takes a look at the response to Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and how it featuring an authentic take on a character of colour impacts its audience. Authenticity is key, too, such that the dev team brought in dialect consultants to ensure accuracy and the team included nods to Puerto Rican culture. Representation still has a long way to go, the story notes, but it leaves room for hope that more is yet to come.
A pair of recent pieces on Mass Effect from the duo behind the best Mass Effect/Dragon Age podcast around (that’s Normandy FM) got us texting our team to argue all things Andromeda.
Eric Van Allen argues for the need to reconsider Mass Effect: Andromeda and, in particular, some of the underexplored character arcs a return to the galaxy could entail. Kenneth Shepard, meanwhile, argues against the idea of a canon take on Mass Effect being set, urging for individual player stories to be respected, given the personal nature of each story and trilogy playthrough.
We often pair reviews and criticism together but separated them given the sheer number and quality of pieces we found this week that fit in here.
There’s Emily Price’s reflection on the Maddening difficulty mode in Fire Emblem: Three Houses–a reflection that pulls in the COVID-19 pandemic and her own experience as an educator–and the calming nature of immersing oneself in strategy and challenge.
The slapstick nature and sense of self-irony featured in DOOM Eternal gets a wink and a nod over at WALL JUMP. Are those fireballs really Mario-ish? Hmm…
At his personal blog, Cole Henry ruminates on what it means to resist oppression, and when taking the non-violent method is no longer enough. Of course, he’s talking about Watch Dogs: Legion, and situating the use of violence in the series more broadly. The first game was rather blasé about violence, the second actively encourages non-violent options, while Legion peddles in nuance.
Sticking with Watch Dogs, Carolyn Petit comments on its everyman approach to resistance, presenting a force of procedurally generated characters of varying ethnicities, ages, sexes, and more. While this level of representation is arguably a step forward, the means it’s implemented in hems close to queer erasure, leaving aspects of these characters confined to little more than flavour text.
Odds ‘n Ends:
Our final section, as always, features a smattering of things that don’t neatly fit elsewhere.
The first piece is as much criticism as much as it is a deep dive and nearly an oral history. Lost Odyssey is at the heart of David Restrepo’s saga, and in it, retellings of major moments as told by and through the game’s characters, tied together by loss. It’s a vignette in how it approaches criticism and we enjoyed it despite never having played the game.
Reid Conley challenges chasing the “cult of the new” when it comes to tabletop gaming, instead encouraging us to revisit old favourites, should we choose. He leaves it in our hands–maybe replayability isn’t your thing, maybe the rewards offered on Kickstarter are your jam, whatever–but it’s an interesting enough premise to make us pause before buying the next expansion or gizmo or reprint we come across.
Finally, a decidedly not games writing post, but Richard Moss engages in a bit of futurism with respect to how AI will shape our lives in the future, how media and brands will interact with us, how sectors like education will be transformed, and the associated perils of all this. We can avoid a dystopia it seems!
We’re attempting to collate job opportunities in the field as we see them. These could be freelance submissions, staff writer/editor postings, relevant PR work, or similar.
The Washington Post – video game reporter
Edge – editor
Liftoff! – freelance submissions open
We are continuing to run Mondays with only one curator for the next several weeks. We welcome your submissions! Tweet us @GoodWritingVG.
We’re bringing back our annual awards – The Goodies! Have works you’d like to nominate for our consideration? Submit those here.
Bailey, Kat. “NHL 21 Review: This Year’s Entry Struggles To Light The Lamp” (USGamer: October 22, 2020) <https://www.usgamer.net/articles/nhl-21-review>.
Chavez, Nicole. “How Miles Morales in his own Spider-Man video game confronts racial disparity in gaming” (CNN: November 14, 2020) <https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/11/14/us/miles-morales-playstation-5-diversity/>.
Conley, Reid. “So many games, so little time: How FOMO and the cult of the new changed board games” (Dicebreaker: November 5, 2020) <https://www.dicebreaker.com/categories/board-game/opinion/replayability-fomo-changed-board-games>.
Craven, Courtney. “PS5 — Can I Play That Console Accessibility Review” (Can I Play That?: November 6, 2020) <https://caniplaythat.com/2020/11/06/ps5-accessibility-review-can-i-play-that/>.
Craven, Courtney. “Xbox Series X — Can I Play That Accessibility Review” (Can I Play That?: November 5, 2020) <https://caniplaythat.com/2020/11/05/xbox-series-x-accessibility-review-can-i-play-that/>.
Henry, Cole. “Killing.” (November 8, 2020) <https://colewriteswords.medium.com/killing-1b900e046494>.
Joseph, Funké. “Going Under Knows that Swords Are Cool, Toxic Startup Culture Isn’t” (Paste: November 12, 2020) <https://www.pastemagazine.com/games/going-under/going-under-review/>.
k, merrit. “Godfall Makes Me Question My Life Choices” (Fanbyte: November 11, 2020) <https://www.fanbyte.com/trending/godfall-makes-me-question-my-life-choices/>.
Khan, Jahanzeb. “A Videogame With Cosmic Ambitions” (Vista Magazine: November 9, 2020) <https://medium.com/vistas-mag/a-videogame-with-cosmic-ambitions-710b70d399c5>.
Knoop, Joseph. “Call of Duty Developers Share How Next-Gen Audio Tech Makes War Even More Personal” (IGN: November 6, 2020) <https://www.ign.com/articles/call-of-duty-developers-share-how-next-gen-audio-tech-makes-war-even-more-personal>.
Lemme, Mirko. “Of fireballs and flamethrowers” (WALL JUMP: November 4, 2020) <https://wall-jump.com/of-fireballs-and-flamethrowers/>.
Moss, Richard. “A day in the life of our synthetic future” (Samsung Next: November 7, 2020) <https://www.samsungnext.com/blog/day-in-the-life-of-synthetic-media>.
Petit, Carolyn. “In Watch Dogs: Legion, queer identity is still flavor text” (Polygon: November 9, 2020) <https://www.polygon.com/platform/amp/2020/11/9/21556708/watch-dogs-legion-queer-identity>.
Price, Emily. “Mad At School” (Into the Spine: November 16, 2020) <https://intothespine.com/2020/11/16/mad-at-school-fire-emblem/>.
Restrepo, David. “Love, Loss, and Lost Odyssey” (November 1, 2020) <https://passionforgamessite.com/2020/11/01/love-loss-and-lost-odyssey>.
Shepard, Kenneth. “Canon Choices Have No Place in Mass Effect” (Fanbyte: November 10, 2020) <https://www.fanbyte.com/trending/canon-choices-have-no-place-in-mass-effect/>.
Van Allen, Eric. “Starting Screen | Mass Effect Should Give Andromeda a Second Chance” (USGamer: November 9, 2020) <https://www.usgamer.net/articles/starting-screen-mass-effect-new-game-andromeda-nov-2020>.