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.
While we await an Internet install we’re a bit intermittent – apologies for no good games writing last week, though we assure you, there was plenty. This week is lots of Mario and lots of avenging and maybe even some other game type things.
A couple of pieces highlighting games made by people of colour this week: USGamer‘s list is extensive, featuring games that are available now and in the future while at PC Mag Jordan Minor has rounded up demos from the Game Devs of Color expo for your consideration.
It’s A Me
Mario‘s 35th anniversary has rightfully launched a thousand ships: In this case, ships are reviews and retrospectives and interviews, ahoy. There’s this BBC piece for general audiences meant to capture the spirit of these classic 3D Mario games. Over on The Washington Post, a sprawling interview with Mario’s, erm, makers captures the spirit of change in the 3D series:
“We started by thinking we should incorporate cool-looking parkour action to give players that feeling that comes with skilled control,” Tezuka said. “But then again, if we couldn’t get the kinds of experiences we wanted in an action game from our prototypes, we might have stopped developing ‘Super Mario Run.’ In other words, we do not run haphazardly toward an idea. We first find something that might work, and then we work hard on it. That is why we don’t mind when the work is hard.”
A pair of reviews stood out to us early on–though we’re still reading plenty–in their lukewarm assessment of the Mario compilation. At Mashable, Adam Rosenberg captures the exasperation of Nintendo’s limited release, noting that while it is three solid games, it’s not much more. Similarly, at ArsTechnica, Kyle Orland notes that “Nintendo has done just above the minimum amount of work necessary to get these games functional on new hardware”.
Marvel’s Avengers is an interesting game getting mixed reaction — it feels like the quintessential “7/10” game in many ways though it regularly punches above its weight class. The “simple and bubblegummy” story fills a summer blockbuster type niche in the midst of a pandemic, Cole Henry writes, calling it the right game at the right time.
“Environmental signifiers” and mobility design are at the crux of what the game does right according to Cian Maher, noting it echoes Mirror’s Edge before it.
Kamala Khan may be the breakout star of the summer: Elijah Beahm interrogates this by also looking at the Hulk’s role in the story, while helpfully situating Kamala; Dean Abdou, meanwhile, points to how this is one of the first–if not the first–times a Muslim is at the centre of a AAA release.
While Khan being Muslim isn’t a huge story focus for the wider campaign, it’s still a part of the representation of that character. Those small moments throughout the campaign were enough to make me well up, the moments when she would speak with her Abu and the moment where she puts together a makeshift superhero outfit using a burkini. […] When it comes to representation, people of colour and people from different faiths aren’t asking studios to develop something where the whole focus is the characters’ race or faith, we’re simply asking that you consider having more characters from these diverse backgrounds who are done accurately and faithfully.
The Usual Fall Guys
The only usual suspects we read this week was Fall Guys related. Natch.
We appreciated Michael Leopold Weber for digging into the music of Fall Guys: he rightfully points to its music matching the visual aesthetic, contrasting it with the broad variety found in Fortnite.
There’s also this wonderful interview chronicling 15 years of Mediatonic games — it seems Fall Guys was not just the culmination of all this work, but Thanos might even argue it was inevitable.
With Mediatonic’s experience creating Flash and social media games—specifically designed with mass appeal and replayability in mind—Fall Guys’ success perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise. Mediatonic’s secret sauce for creating a viral game has been well established years before.
The State of Things
A few pieces touching on broader cultural conversations. Marty Sliva considers what releasing a Harry Potter inspired game means in the wake of its author’s flagrant transphobia, wondering if “death of the author” can be invoked, or how folks will react to a seemingly magical world in less than magical times.
Cole Henry similarly challenges the need for new consoles to launch now, in the current pandemic hellscape we’re all living in, when folks are struggling to get by, to say nothing of the fact many of the tentpole releases are delayed because of the pandemic hellscape. It’s a compelling–if not emotional–argument that we wish the broader media would advance.
We also enjoyed this piece questioning Death Stranding and what it means to be an essential worker. They’re often far more invisible than we give them credit for.
Odds & Ends
Our final section, as always, contains an array of pieces that don’t otherwise fit neatly anywhere else.
Here on Liftoff! we ran an interview with the designer of Signs of the Sojourner on how the world creates space for conversation.
The resulting playstyle found in Signs of the Sojourner completely flips regular card game tropes on their head. Instead of trying to conquer the other player by countering their moves, you’re trying to work together to better understand each other, and in turn the location you’re in. It becomes a collaborative process, rather than an altercation.
We continued to be fascinated by the short works happening over at 100 Word Gaming Reviews but Waverly’s super experimental form is among the best of the best. Here’s Dragon’s Dogma in top form.
Joel Franey compares the endings of Disco Elysium and Outer Wilds (spoilers abound, obvs) to interesting effect. It’s worth a read if you’ve played one or the other (or both). (Editor: This piece was not originally included but given the piece didn’t publish correctly we added it in on revision.)
Khee Hoon Chan explores the loneliness that can exist in virtual tabletop nights: While they’re a solution to guarantee socializing, they’re far from a perfect one, with Chan masterfully weaving in the stories and struggles of players into the piece.
Finally, one of our fav podcasts digs into a golf game we didn’t even know existed, let alone know it rebranded itself so completely. Dig on in.
Abdou, Dean. “Avengers’ Kamala Khan is this year’s most important hero” (Eurogamer: September 7, 2020) <www.eurogamer.net/amp/2020-09-07-avengers-kamala-khan-is-this-years-most-important-hero>.
Beahm, Elijah. “Hulk’s Redemption in Marvel’s Avengers Is a Story We Need Right Now” (The Escapist: September 15, 2020) <www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/hulks-redemption-in-marvels-avengers-is-a-story-we-need-right-now/>.
Chan, Khee Hoon. “The fatigue and loneliness of playing tabletop RPGs online in a pandemic” (Dicebreaker: September 8, 2020) <www.dicebreaker.com/amp/categories/roleplaying-game/feature/playing-tabletop-rpgs-online-fatigue-loneliness>.
Cryer, Hirun and Mike Williams. “20 Current and Upcoming Games From People of Color That Should Be on Your Radar” (USGamer: September 18, 2020) <www.usgamer.net/articles/20-diverse-games-by-bipoc-list>.
Franey, Joel. “Face the Music: Confronting the End in Disco Elysium and Outer Wilds” (USGamer: September 20, 2020) <www.usgamer.net/articles/face-the-music-confronting-the-end-in-disco-elysium-and-outer-wilds>.
Henry, Cole. “The Current State of Things” (Medium: September 8, 2020) <medium.com/@colehenry21/the-current-state-of-things-878859f1fac6>.
Henry, Cole. “The Right Game at The Right Time” (Medium: September 7, 2020) <medium.com/@colehenry21/the-right-game-at-the-right-time-327c07dbf385>.
Hewgill, Christian. “Super Mario at 35: ‘The little plumber who defined a genre'” (BBC: September 19, 2020) <www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-54163659>.
Kendall, Sam. “What Signs of the Sojourner’s cards can teach us about conversation” (Liftoff!: September 17, 2020) <liftoffmag.com/what-signs-of-the-sojourners-cards-can-teach-us-about-conversation/>.
Maher, Cian. “My Favourite Thing About Marvel’s Avengers Is Straight Out Of Mirror’s Edge” (The Gamer: September 7, 2020) <www.thegamer.com/marvels-avengers-mirrors-edge/>.
Minor, Jordan. “14 Steam Demos From the Game Devs of Color Expo You Can Play This Weekend” (PC Mag: September 18, 2020) <www.pcmag.com/news/14-steam-demos-from-the-game-devs-of-color-expo-you-can-play-this-weekend?>.
Orland, Kyle. “Super Mario 3D All-Stars review: A bare-bones nostalgia warp zone” (ArsTechnica: September 16, 2020) <arstechnica.com/gaming/2020/09/super-mario-3d-all-stars-review-a-bare-bones-nostalgia-warp-zone/>.
Ostrander, Joe. “The Essential Workers of Death Stranding” (Into the Spine: September 14, 2020) <intothespine.com/2020/09/14/death-stranding-essential-workers/>.
Park, Gene. “Mario makers reflect on 35 years and the evolution of gaming’s most iconic jump” (The Washington Post: September 14, 2020) <www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/09/14/mario-nintendo-creators-miyamoto-koizumi-tezuka-motokura/>.
Rosenberg, Adam. “‘Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ for Switch: Barely enough but still a must” (Mashable: September 18, 2020) <mashable.com/article/super-mario-3d-all-stars-review-nintendo-switch/>.
Sliva, Marty. “Hogwarts Legacy’s Reveal Trailer Looked Great, but Its Timing Was Awful” (The Escapist: September 18, 2020) <www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/hogwarts-legacys-reveal-trailer-looked-great-but-its-timing-was-awful/>.
Watts, Rachel, “Mediatonic made around 130 games before it struck gold with Fall Guys” (PC Gamer: September 15, 2020) <www.pcgamer.com/amp/mediatonic-made-around-130-games-before-it-struck-gold-with-fall-guys/>.
Waverly. “Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen” (100 Word Gaming Reviews: September 17, 2020) <100wordgaming.com/2020/09/17/dragons-dogma-dark-arisen/>.
Weber, Michael Leopold. “Your Fall Guys Addiction Starts With Your Ears” (Game Grooves: September 3, 2020) <www.game-grooves.com/blog/fall-guys-addiction>.