Sunday Gaming

[ingressi]Welcome to the issue #3 of Sunday Gaming. Let’s embark on a voyage to boldly screen the internet for best games writing this September.[/ingressi]

This issue comes a bit late thanks to an enormous load of work and studies. No reason to be depressed though as the links below are definitely able to spark thoughts on your little heads, if I’m not mistaken. Again, do come forward with your links, if you’d like to see them listed here.

Ready, set, sail!

Broken Sword is a mandatory experience for any an adventure game fan out there. Simon Parkin has written a good analysis on series 25 years lifespan. Quote below is a very good statement when considering why adventure games are so fascinating from social perspective.

For those who have travelled with George and Nico through the series across the years, Broken Sword holds many fond memories. These games are, for many players, uniquely collaborative; they can be played by a group of people in the same room without the need for multiple controllers. Everyone is able to offer their opinions and ideas on how to solve each arcane puzzle.

Gaming, despite of all its nauseous elements, can offer an important safe space for many a disabled person, especially when they are unable to get a job due to their illness. Parkin writes about disabled streamers finding community in Twitch via livestreaming.

Only a relative handful of disabled streamers earn their living from the service, but as well as providing a supplemental income, Twitch offers a support community. “Twitch gives me that feeling of being less isolated,” says Stacey Rebecca. “I have a lot of regulars, and it’s nice to have that kind of friendly group that I can essentially hang out with each day without having to leave the house. And because I’ve been open about my mental health problems, I attract a lot of viewers who are experiencing anxiety. It helps us both feel less isolated. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

Offworld feature articles are visually impressive and by default they contain very clever writings. Riley MacLeod has written an essay about how he as a trans man finds stealth game bodies and mechanics closer to the routines of daily life.

In many ways navigating space in a stealth game feels similar to my daily life as a trans man. As someone who spends a lot of time in cis gay male spaces, there’s a ritualized literacy I apply when doing something like entering a new bar for the first time. The biggest focus is usually the bathroom situation—is there a toilet in a stall? Does the stall have a door? Does the door close and/or lock?

Perhaps a little known fact is that you can play Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as a female ‘Snake’. Brianna Wu explains in her article why the FemSnake is actually a well-designed feature and not just a mere voiceover stunt.

And make no mistake, including her was a feature that took quite a bit of development resources from the Metal Gear team. They had to alter the game’s armor implementation to work with her different body proportions. They had to bring in a voice actress. They had to code scenes so Sutherland’s line reads would appear as captions and not voiceover in many scenes. What they did to make this happen across so much content was neither quick nor easy. Someone cared about this feature.

The Guardian put up an interesting article by an anonymous writer about the diversity problem in games. To create truly diverse games one should focus on the diversity of experience. Inserting a tough female cast in action game does not necessarily make the game diverse.

The thing is, I don’t really care if you put a female avatar into Assassins Creed. You can put as many women as you like into Fifa, or make the entire cast of Gears of War tough action chicks – I still won’t play those games. I don’t care about climbing a tower to reveal more of the kill-map, I don’t care about shooting people, I don’t care about winning the World Cup. You can’t put a pink bow on a tank and assume different audiences are going flock to it because you gave them some token aesthetic validation. Adding representational diversity to those kinds of games is important, but how often do we consider diversity of genre; diversity of _experience_?

Intermission

That’s a lot of heavy, critical reading to begin with. Please, take a break, get some coffee or tea and have a look at these 30 memorable facts about 30 years old Super Mario Bros.

Done? Let’s continue then.

However, let’s hang on to Mario for a while more. Laura Hudson writes how Super Mario Maker is above all an intuitive lesson on level design principles. A lot of levels take the wild route to stars by stacking enemies to a giant pyramid and other silliness. You should, however, create levels that offer an experience that is more meaningful and chiller.

But wish fulfillment alone does not make for a particularly good video game experience, and if you're actually trying to make an entertaining level as opposed to merely demonstrating your god-like power to make the goombas do your bidding, a better question is whether you should. The driving impulse behind many of the most popular fan levels is relentless overkill: packing every inch of the screen with bulletstorms of projectiles, onslaughts of enemies, and punishing gauntlets that offer almost no room to breathe.

Continuing with a series of Offworld features is Katherine Cross remembering a rare adventure game gem – Syberia. From a character perspective Syberia has some fine dialogue and script that is shown to player in both the phone call sequences and how Kate Walker’s character grows during the game.

There was a grace and maturity to it that struck me; in the hands of a lesser writer, this subplot would’ve rendered Kate Walker a jealous hysteric. Instead, when she discovers that her best friend Olivia (who also calls her, mostly, to defend Dan) had begun an affair with him in Kate’s absence, she is merely contemplative because she has come to know herself. She recognizes that her feelings have moved on.

Another worthwhile article from Cross explores the philosophies of game development in combination with art history. Tale of Tales’ Sunset is a good example on shifting the protagonist from a heroic figure to ordinary people, as stated in the quote below.

Put another way, other video games would make the protagonist someone standing far beyond the windows that define the borders of Burnes’ world, a young man in the street with a gun, firing at the military dictatorship’s arms convoys. _Sunset_'s perspective shift puts the focus elsewhere, telling a different story about life in wartime and how the small inputs of an otherwise disregarded person can make a difference all on their own.

If you have read my articles before you might know that I’m a big fan of GOG.com and their quest to restore an integral part of gaming history. If, for some reason, you don’t even know what GOG.com is you should first be ashamed and then continue to read this interview of Marcin Paczyński written by Tom Bennet.

Services like GOG play a vital role in challenging preconceptions about old games and by making classic games commercially-viable once more. There’s a long way still to go, but the more the industry is aware of the challenges faced in the fight to preserve gaming’s heritage, the better.

Dan Whitehead criticizes how The Gamechangers – a film about the making of Grand Theft Auto – has nothing meaningful to say. He adds how the notorious lawyer Jack Thompson is actually more interesting character and how the whole film should have been about Thompson. I could find that watchable.

The Gamechangers has nothing interesting to say about the making of Grand Theft Auto, offers no insight into the people who made it, and skims through the cultural conflicts it provoked with all the depth of a half-remembered Wikipedia summary. I suspect the reason Rockstar wanted nothing to do with it had less to do with any legal controversy, and more to do with how silly and lame the whole thing is.

When Tauriq Moosa isn’t tweeting funny pictures he writes these amazing opinion pieces to Polygon. The characters of Avalanche Studio’s Mad Max game are realistic in a sense that they, like Moosa himself, have chronic pains and disabilities that add an extra layer of depth.

Fiction is a space in which you can create whatever world you want. Avalanche deserves praise for creating a world where people with disabilities are not only treated like everyone else, but are leaders and heroes.

Christian Donlan writes how the birth of Nintendo Game Boy signalled a drastic evolution step in gaming. No more were games like TVs, fixed in one place, but more like books, you could take them to buses, parks and other places with you. Pocket and mobile gaming truly changed the way we and others see games today.

This is how I imagine the first Game Boy owner, except it's a city, at night, and he or she's on public transport. They're holding this strange grey box, and they're jabbing at the buttons. Except nobody sees that, because nobody really pays attention to what anyone else is doing in a public space. From the outside it looks like almost nothing is going on anyway, but to that special person, to the first Game Boy owner, games have suddenly evolved. They've broken free. They're available wherever you go now, and - crucially - they're also more private, more internalised at the same time. They have earned themselves a screen that is made for just one person. Games have become intimate.

Music of the Month

Progressive rock has a reputation of being one of the least accessible genres in music but Van Der Graaf Generator has managed to squeeze a load of 1970s charm in their 8-minute opus, Killer. See you in the next edition of Sunday Gaming!

https://open.spotify.com/track/0xTDAeVrX4Kmmucaeo3VH3