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 where Among Us captured our interest and we played far more than we should have; another social experience–a ‘watercooler moment’–perhaps enabled by a global pandemic. There was news, of course, with Bethesda being gobbled up by Microsoft. Nintendo stealthily released a Kirby game with little fanfare. BTS and Fortnite teamed up in perhaps the biggest collaboration ever. It was a week.
Of course all things Microsoft came to the fore with the news of it acquiring Zenimax/Bethesda: It was news that didn’t leak, a surprising way to start the week with eye popping billions on the line. Thankfully, the crew at PC Gamer keep it light with their suggestions of what is possible given this acquisition.
Keeping things light, Dan Ackerman takes the hollowed shells of the new Xboxes to IKEA to see how they fit in the ever popular furniture brand’s media centres. It’s a surprisingly useful visualization.
A pair of Xbox One retrospectives caught our fancy this week: IGN digs into the Xbox brand’s struggles in Japan (while exploring their positive outlook moving forward) and GameSpot reminds us of the highs and lows of the tech inside the box, though the latter piece is as much a commiseration of what wasn’t as anything else.
Our usual suspects this week include Marvel’s Avengers, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy.
On the Avengers front, we missed this piece on the creation of the musical themes for each Avenger, a delightful interview that involves visits to junkyards, a percussion system that adapts based on damage, stretching musical motifs based on stretching limbs, and more.
Accessibility was a big push for the Avengers: At Vice, Patrick Klepek examines the difference between subtitles and closed captioning, interviewing an accessibility-oriented designer, a critic, and a consultant to get the full picture. Those differences–and they’re deeper than we know–are important, but serve to highlight just how much further accessibility has to go in gaming, even in games that make the effort.
With a new Halloween inspired update on the, erm, horizon, some disenchanted crossing types might be eyeing a return to their island. A guilt trip awaits.
Over at Smupulations, a new translation of an old interview on Final Fantasy V reveals a great amount of silliness we never knew, including on the Blue Mage, developers stealing memory from one another, a total loss of the game’s data (!), and so much more.
Natalie Flores castigates recent Final Fantasy games for their writing of women, writing:
What was once a series filled with multi-faceted and thoughtfully-written women has severely stagnated in this department. Instead, it has had some recent female characters whose writing can be so archaic that they feel like they belong in the pre-Final Fantasy VI era.
Women have been swept aside in all but the FFVII Remake (though that’s to say nothing of the series’ treatment of POC) — it’s reasonable to assume that’ll be the case with the sixteenth instalment. It shouldn’t be.
REVIEWS & CRITICISM
A pair of pieces stood out to us this week and neither focused on so-called AAA releases.
Over at Bullet Points, the fragmented nature of Necrobarista creates a fragmented essay interweaving a personal story within the game’s leitmotif. The piece is equal parts haunting and uplifting.
Townscaper is put under the microscope at Into the Spine, where Abbi Ruggles explores the freedom to just create, reminding us that goals and fixed parameters are overrated.
It’s near impossible to go into Townscaper with a goal in mind and have that goal perfectly come to fruition. The grid you build on isn’t built from standard rows and columns of squares, rather it’s an assortment of odd shapes, meaning you have to accept unexpected occurrences – roofs facing a way you didn’t expect, buildings not being the shape you thought they’d be, or rows of houses never sitting in a straight line. But you’ll learn quickly that this is okay…
Subversion and resistance are central themes to this profile on Studio Oleomingus – an Indian studio creating works that challenge the past and present of India, wrapping it in magic realism, and skirting past the attention of the government because it’s “just” video games. It’s a stellar piece that will hopefully pair with recent works on Animal Crossing protests and other subversions to inform political scientists and other researchers.
Similarly, a new take on Animal Farm is drawing attention to the erosion of democratic norms in Western democracies:
“I would say that today, the language used is like Khrushchevian Russia, like the Soviet Union. It’s not quite Stalin yet, but very close. Five years ago, ten years ago, I said, Oh, you know, it’s almost Khrushchevian. Now, it’s way beyond that and getting into Stalinian language. The way things are set up and the way governments behave, even in Western democracies is quite creepy.Imre Jele, project founder on Animal Farm
Less politically motivated–though we’re going to be talking Civ, so…–is the tale of mods of mods of mods. Modmodmods? Yeah. The story of Fall From Heaven–a Civ mod with more juice than the Energizer Bunny–is perhaps as sprawling and contradictory as the mod itself and the beginning of that story is helpfully retold by PCGamesN.
ODDS & ENDS
A number of recent releases have flooded our timelines with screenshots: Think Animal Crossing, Ghost of Tsushima, Fall Guys…Renate Plehwe discusses other games that make us want to snap pics while opining about the tools broadly. It’s a nice palette cleanser for after you’ve seen your sixteen millionth fox scurrying about…
This account of not being able to play the Super Mario Bros 35th Anniversary collection again reminded us of the overall lack of effort Nintendo puts into accessibility. The author calls it shameful and we’re inclined to agree.
Finally, we encourage you to check out Wireframe’s latest issue, #42, as it is stellar and totally free as always. Robin Wilde’s report on the end of flash–and efforts to preserve flash games–is our favourite read in the bunch. You can enjoy it here.
Ackerman, Dan. “How the Xbox Series X and Series S fit into the most popular Ikea furniture” (cnet: September 26, 2020) <https://www.cnet.com/news/how-the-xbox-series-x-and-series-s-fits-into-the-most-popular-ikea-furniture/#ftag=COS-05-10aaa0j>.
Bloch, Violet Adele. “Undeath and Still Life” (Bullet Points: September 25, 2020) <https://bulletpointsmonthly.com/2020/09/25/undeath-still-life-necrobarista>.
Bobby. “Not So Super, Mario.” (Medium: September 18, 2020) <https://medium.com/@bobby19/not-so-super-mario-c6fcc495b4ab>.
Carpenter, Nicole. “We’ve reached Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ guilt trip phase” (Polygon: September 18, 2020) <https://www.polygon.com/2020/9/18/21445211/animal-crossing-new-horizons-guilt-trip-nintendo-email>.
Flores, Natalie. “The Writing For Last Decade’s Final Fantasy Women Has Me Cautious Of FFXVI” (Fanbyte: September 20, 2020) <https://www.fanbyte.com/trending/the-writing-for-last-decades-final-fantasy-women-has-me-cautious-of-ffxvi/>.
Hornshaw, Phil. “The Best And Worst Uses Of Xbox One Hardware” (GameSpot: September 26, 2020) <https://www.gamespot.com/articles/the-best-and-worst-uses-of-xbox-one-hardware/1100-6482634/>.
Klepek, Patrick. “‘Avengers’ Shows How Subtitles Are More Complicated Than Just Text ” (VICE: September 24, 2020) <https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/dyzbmw/avengers-shows-how-subtitles-are-more-complicated-than-just-text>.
Mielke, James. “Microsoft’s Complicated History With the Xbox In Japan (And its Plans for the Future)” (IGN: September 25, 2020) <https://www.ign.com/articles/microsofts-complicated-history-with-the-xbox-in-japan-and-its-plans-for-the-future>.
O’Loan, Fergus. “The story of Fall From Heaven, the greatest Civilization mod ever” (PCGamesN: September 26, 2020) <https://www.pcgamesn.com/civilization-4/mod-fall-from-heaven-rise-of-erebus>.
Ong, Alexis. “‘Video games are a great place for politics’: meet India’s modern magical realists” (The Guardian: September 22, 2020) <https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/sep/22/video-games-india-politics-dhruv-jani-sushant-chakraborty-studio-oleomingus>.
PC Gamer Staff. “19 things that are possible now that Microsoft owns Bethesda” (PC Gamer: September 23, 2020) <https://www.pcgamer.com/19-things-that-are-possible-now-that-microsoft-owns-bethesda/>.
Plehwe, Renate. “How In-Game Photography Revitalizes and Enhances Gameplay” (The Escapist: September 14, 2020) <https://www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/how-in-game-photography-revitalizes-and-enhances-gameplay-photo-mode/>.
Ruggles, Abbi. “Creativity and Relaxation in Townscaper” (Into the Spine: September 21, 2020) <https://intothespine.com/2020/09/21/creativity-and-relaxation-townscaper/>.
Shmupulations. “Final Fantasy V – 1992 Developer Interview” (Shmupulations: September 23, 2020) <http://shmuplations.com/ffv/>.
Wallace, Chris. ““The way governments behave, even in Western democracies is quite creepy” – Why the Animal Farm game is alarmingly relevant to our political climate” (MCV: September 23, 2020) <https://www.mcvuk.com/business-news/the-way-things-are-set-up-and-the-way-governments-behave-even-in-western-democracies-is-quite-creepy-why-the-animal-farm-game-is-alarmingly-relevant-to-our-political-climate/>.
Wilde, Robin. “Flash Back: preserving a gaming legacy” (Wireframe: September 23, 2020) <https://wireframe.raspberrypi.org/articles/flash-back-preserving-a-gaming-legacy>.
Yang, George. “‘Marvel’s Avengers’: the sounds and music magic behind the latest superhero game” (NME: September 8, 2020) <https://www.nme.com/en_asia/gaming-features/marvels-avengers-the-sounds-and-music-magic-behind-the-latest-superhero-game-2747726>.