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.
It was a week filled with Halloween updates, crossovers, and so much more. There’s a new Star Wars game. No Man’s Sky received an update that reminded us of Dune — not the first time we’ve referenced that lately, either. Movies were delayed–it turns out, James Bond really doesn’t have the time to die–but game releases and numerous updates, for Halloween or otherwise, continue to drop. It felt like a normal week in many ways until you consider the multitude of ways that October said “hold my root beer” to the rest of the months in 2020. October surprises aplenty.
A pair of videos criticizing consumerism and the capitalist culture writ large grabbed our attention this week. Transparency’s YouTube channel features a segment taking to task gamer identity and its ties to consumerism; why is being a gamer about how much you buy and how much time you spend on the hobby? It’s a race to the bottom if that’s all it means to be a gamer.
Then there’s Corrupted Save’s analysis of service jobs in games: Coffee Talk and VA-11 Hall-A are the obvious examples, but the video goes beyond just those games, and in fact beyond simply serving drinks. That visual novels, in particular, seem to reflect these environments isn’t lost, either, though service roles exist in other serious games, they just tend to be overshadowed by heroics.
REVIEWS & CRITICISM
Hades is the talk of the town. Everywhere we turn it is being hailed as the frontrunner for Game of the Year 2020 — a bold proclamation given the release schedule that lies ahead, and heavyweight contenders already in the running — but if one review convinced us that it might be as good as the hype it’s The Guardian‘s.
Every time you succumb to the legions of Hell, the disappointment is tempered by the prospect of returning to Hades’ chambers again for a chat with Achilles and to give Cerberus a snuggle. This game has found the secret to (almost) eternal storytelling: a play loop that repeats itself, but dialogue that doesn’t. Interesting things happen all the time, in conversations and chance encounters as well as in battles, and no matter how long I spend with Hades I feel like I am only just getting acquainted with it.
Jeremy Signor, meanwhile, reflects on what it means to have ready access to guides and other community resources when designing a game like Spelunky 2. Have we lost some of the magic of discovery? Is this a case of FOMO? And what ever happened to making games for the individual rather than communal discovery?
At RPS, John Walker’s massive review of No Man’s Sky and its latest update sums up the relationship many have had with the game: Promises were made but they took four years to (largely) materialize. If you’ve been holding out hope that it might be the game you saw advertised…there’s hope.
For a more general audience, Allegra Frank talks Super Mario and Moon, a pair of high profile Switch ports, while seeking “distractions from the failings of the modern world“. Fair enough.
Only one such suspect this week: The Elder Scrolls. Matt Gregoire opines that in Elder Scrolls V “you are so often reminded that this isn’t a world you’re inhabiting, but rather one that exists in service of your journey” playing an avatar who, by the end of the game, is a “multitalented godking”.
Gregoire argues that players should feel like another “cog in the machine” in Bethesda’s upcoming instalments while shifting “to fantasies of self-discovery, self-direction, and self-definition”.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 has newfound relevance with its recent Switch remaster and limited time giveaway on the Epic Games Store so Richard Moss features the story of its creator, Chris Sawyer, in his latest podcast. This is a well researched listen on a rather enigmatic game creator — tune in!
At GameSpot, Steven T. Wright looks into some of the weirder collector’s editions out there, including a pack-in riff on the NES game Golf and a strange, silicon figure that is every bit as haunting as a silicone game collectible should be. Interestingly, the risk in releasing these oddities is largely falling on independent companies, and not on major publishers…
CHECK THIS OUT
A few things to randomly check out for you this week.
First, legendary games media gentlemen Colin Campbell has announced his new project, a weekday newsletter highlighting how games are changing the world. He aims to ” highlight how individuals are using games to speak to the world, in ways that are inspiring, or troubling, or just plain curious” and the daily finds careen wildly in subject and length. This is our new favourite newsletter.
Our friends at 100 Word Gaming Reviews are theming around Final Fantasy right now. So far their takes are particularly uncharitable: Elizabeth Henges goes absolutely off on Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. They promise some of the reviews are going to be positive!
ODDS & ENDS
Our final section contains a smattering of things each and every week. Always the finest of things.
First up is this list on the best spaceships in PC games:
I concede the Tie Fighter is an attractive death machine. It has an idiosyncratic window. The noise it makes as it screeches across the galactic ink blot is appealing and sacrosanct to SFX artists everywhere. I admire its gall, its rancor, its giant ears. I too would probably fly this ship, were I an insufferable space fascist.
Brendan Caldwell’s wit is on full display for the rest of the list. Enjoy!
Then there’s this wonderful blend of exposition and poetry on A Short Hike by Rachel Tanner that you must rush out to read. It is, itself, short but it leaves an impact. Wonderful.
Finally, Eurogamer‘s ongoing series on the things people should make games of are always enjoyable: This week it’s the Isle of Rust and, really, island living in general that gets the nod. Swell.
Caldwell, Brendan. “The 9 best spaceships in PC games” (Rock, Paper, Shotgun: October 2, 2020) <www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/10/02/the-9-best-spaceships-in-pc-games/>.
Frank, Allegra. “One Good Thing: Vintage Nintendo games are good vibes made playable” (Vox: September 28, 2020) <www.vox.com/culture/21452434/super-mario-3d-all-stars-nintendo-switch-games-like-animal-crossing>.
Gregoire, Matt. “Bethesda Games Need to Move Past Power Fantasies” (Quest Log: September 28, 2020) <medium.com/quest-log/bethesda-games-need-to-move-past-power-fantasies-c8dff13ca234>.
Henges, Elizabeth. “Final Fantasy IV: The After Years” (100 Word Gaming Reviews: October 2, 2020) <100wordgaming.com/2020/10/02/final-fantasy-iv-the-after-years/>.
MacDonald, Keza. “Hades review: a sexy, scintillating sojourn in the Greek underworld” (The Guardian: October 1, 2020) <www.theguardian.com/games/2020/oct/01/hades-review-a-sexy-scintillating-sojourn-in-the-greek-underworld>.
Signor, Jeremy. “The Wiki Generation and The Fear of Missing Out” (October 2, 2020) <thelifeofgame.wordpress.com/2020/10/02/the-wiki-generation-and-the-fear-of-missing-out/>.
Tanner, Rachel. “A Short Piece” (Video Dame: October 1, 2020) <videoda.me/a-short-piece-7f485b64a8ce>.
Walker, John. “No Man’s Sky’s Origins update is almost very nearly the game I want it to be” (Rock, Paper, Shotgun: October 1, 2020) <www.rockpapershotgun.com/2020/10/01/no-mans-skys-origins-update-is-almost-very-nearly-the-game-i-want-it-to-be/>.
Wilson, Ewan. “Someone should make a game about: the Isle of Rust” (Eurogamer: September 30, 2020) <www.eurogamer.net/articles/2020-09-30-someone-should-make-a-game-about-the-isle-of-rust>.
Wright, Steven T. “How Nostalgia Fuels The Market For Unexpected Video Game Collectors Editions” (GameSpot: September 30, 2020) <www.gamespot.com/articles/how-nostalgia-fuels-the-market-for-unexpected-video-game-collectors-editions/1100-6482632/>.