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  • By Legolas_Katarn, in Articles,


    Included in this article are some of the best and most interesting game related videos that I've seen throughout 2019. Put together with the goal of highlighting some of the best content creators and videos that can enhance your knowledge of or bring up interesting viewpoints on the industry, developers, events that happened this year, or on individual games. Many of these have been shared in my weekly This Week In Gaming articles.
    Each section might include a single video, a single video series, or videos that might be from different people but focus on a similar idea or subject. The ordering does not signify better or worse quality. All mentioned creators are worth following and all of them were likely to have produced other content worth viewing on their channel this year. Some videos are from older channels with a large number of followers and supporters, while some are new and could use more support. Many of them are able to work due to the donations of their Patreon supporters, if you enjoy the content and would like to donate this can usually be found in their Youtube video description or linked social media profile.
    The best writing of 2019 article can be found here.
     
     
    Previous Best Video and Video Series Articles
    2016
    2017
    2018
     
    Storytelling
    Videos focused on analyzing and discussing the stories of games be they guided or emergent, their themes, the way they are told, and how and if their mechanics and interaction with the player helps to tell those stories
     
    "Dutch has the charisma and competence to live life as a well-to-do banker but instead he targets his talents at the most prosperous in that profession. He drags mud through their institutions, he steals their currency, and he reminds them that their safety is contingent upon their cooperation. And their lowest class, their laborers, their indentured servants, their tribes that they'd like to wipe off the map, they're treated with the dignity and respect normally reserved for the man in the tallest tower. Their mouths fed, their voices heard, their persons armed. They fight back against the world that once took advantage of them. Dutch van der Linde disgraces civilization and he exposes the Pinkertons and Cornwalls as nothing more than rival gangs who sold the masses on its lies. Blessed be those who see through their seductions, for freedom is theirs to grasp by the reins and ride! And so these people that society turned its back to come together and hope that their lives as degenerates and thieves will be forgiven through the acts of goodness that they can muster between all the killing. The gang is born. And the gang, is doomed."
    What Made Red Dead 2's Story Worth Telling (By Orange Lightning)
    Orange Lightning breaks down why we follow people with vision, trying to understand our own motives, and what it means to finally see them clearly through the characters of Dutch and Arthur in Red Dead Redemption 2.
     
    "And this American apathy, this is where BJ Blazkowicz runs into a little cognitive dissonance. Because Blazko has, in many ways, defined himself against Nazi ideology. The Nazis are uncaring but he's empathetic. They are white supremacists and he's an egalitarian. They're German and so he leans hard into his American identity. But an American identity is complicated, really complicated, and ultimately this is where NJ's self-identifying falls short. Because what he doesn't fully understand is that the America of his youth isn't a refutation of Nazism. Not at all. If Blazkowicz was to return to that America, his Jewish heritage would make him lesser by definition. In fact, the Aryan supremacy that fuels the worldwide Reich is directly inspired by the country that BJ calls home."
    Judaism and Whiteness in Wolfenstein (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller discusses how Wolfenstein's focus on the depiction of the Jewish identity and empathy of its main character, as well as the history of the country he was raised in, helps to contextualizes Blazkowicz's fight against Nazis within America’s history of white supremacy.
     
    "Those are the experiences that the team at Red Candle crafted into a beautiful and nuanced piece of horror. The game itself was designed to look like an old faded photograph, capturing the feeling of that era perfectly, and drew on Taiwanese and Asian mythology in order to flush out the more supernatural portions of its story. Creating a distinctive cultural identity for Detention. All while showing the damage high-level government oppression can have on the most vulnerable members of society. But also a chilling tale about one person's inability to accept the atrocities they've committed. Detention to me is horror at its most powerful, filled with cathartic creative scares but using that fear to convey the very real terror the people of Taiwan would have felt. And, in doing so, turning the horror of Detention into a tool for empathy."
    DEVOTION: The Disturbing Horror of Red Candle Games (By Super Eyepatch Wolf)
    Super Eyepatch Wolf covers the themes and setting of Detention and Devotion as well as some of the history of Taiwan, the White Terror period, and the rise and prevalence of cults. Devotion was very well received but shortly after release was reviewed bombed on Steam from Chinese gamers due to insults towards China's leader being found withing the game (many of the low reviews being written due to the potential problems it could cause for the Chinese game industry rather than caring about the content), the developer has since removed the game from all storefronts, and their Chinese publisher has had their license revoked.
     
    "But I want to take a closer look at the sentiments that these types of moments create, the psychology behind the emotion that fills our hearts and our minds when we see our heroes battered and bruised. And we'll focus on Midna's desperate hour as the example here because there is something special that happens in our minds when when we drive the story. The sadness changes how we play the game."
    The Best Moment of Twilight Princess | Psych of Play (By Daryl Talks Games)
    Daryl Talks Games discusses his favorite moment in Twilight Princess and how sadness effects how we play games.
     
    "As I'm preparing for my spaceflight, I look into the distance at the sun. It's much farther than it is from my home planet, but through the atmosphere of the gas giant and miles of empty space, it's still beautiful. And then I look back and realize the space station has drifted away from me. And I laugh, this time. Death is inevitable, after all. And as I go into my own orbit around the planet, my zero-g version of a lazy river, I take the time, ironically, to breath. If you'd believe it, it's incredibly relaxing. I've died from blunt force trauma, I've been eaten, crushed, burned, punctured. To drift off in this gentle void, it's not too bad at all."
    Outer Wilds: Death, Inevitability, and Ray Bradbury (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller shares stories of discovery and inevitable death in Outer Wilds.
     
    "In its attempts to reground Modern Warfare, it ends up becoming exactly the kind of mindless action I was expecting out of a game like Breakpoint. Where that game managed to be broken and slapdash to the extent that it felt as genuinely hostile to me as a game about being a soldier probably should, Modern Warfare doesn't want you thinking about the contradictions inherent to its campaign, it barely even wants you stopping to look behind you half the time."
    Critiquing the Campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) (By Writing on Games)
    Writing on Games looks at the campaign of this years Call of Duty title to see if it handled its portrayal of war and conflict in the grounded way they promoted, and considers the little details that need to be focused on to make you question your role in war stories.
     
    "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare does not have a perspective on modern warfare. That is their official position. What...what do you even do with that? Is freedom good? Is war bad? This game has no idea! Come and play the game series named after the phrase we say when we're honoring soldiers, a series completely neutral on the ideas of war.Alright, alright. So what's interesting here, taking them at their word, is what the writers of Call of Duty think a perspective-less story looks like."
    Does Call of Duty Believe in Anything? (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller examines Modern Warfare to see if the writer's belief in having created an apolitical perspective-less story could possibly be true and if it really was a narrative or mechanical departure for the series as it was advertised.
     
    Interviews and Documentaries
     
    "And one low fidelity word that I hear often in reference to socially impactful media is representation. Irresponsibly, representation is used as a purely quantifiable golden ratio of the right kinds of characters in a story or creator on a project in order to make a movie or a game socially relevant. X number of people from this underrepresented background or worldview makes the whole work either noteworthy or more of the same. The problem is, if there's an elite group of people making the lives of everyday individual miserable, mixing up the optics and keeping the practice the same does no one any favors. Responsibly, I believe, that representation is less about a keen obsession with counting and more about asking what kind of permission is an empathetic piece of art giving to a subset of people who wouldn't typically see themselves reflected in other places."
    Spending A Night In The Woods (By Satchell Drakes)
    Satchell Drakes' short film has him talking with others about growing up in similar locations to the town portrayed in Night in the Woods and being able to spend time with characters from underrepresented groups that both feel like real people and allow you to spend time with them in ways not usually seen in games.
     
    "Most of the comments were nice, both those first few weeks, I got a lot of nasty comments. They would say things like, "You don't belong on here." And then they would say, "Why aren't you sitting in a rocking chair, knitting?" I said, "I don't like to knit." And then some of them were really downright vulgar. So I learned to answer them politely, like a Grandmother would say something to a child that didn't have any brains. And eventually they learned to treat a Grandmother with respect instead of the way they were acting."
    Shirley Curry: The Gaming Grandma Documentary | Gameumentary (By Gameumentary)
    Gameumentary interviews 83 year old gamer and Youtuber Shirley Curry. Covering how she got into playing games and creating her content, the stigma against older gamers and why others don't want to be as visible, the problems with how games are marketed, and how she interacts with her subscribers and what draws them to her.
     
    "I didn't have an Amiga actually, but I had heard about them. They drove me up there, they looked after it, had lunch, and they kept talking about, you know, when you can do your product when can you put your product on there. And it turned out they got the wrong Taurus company. There was another Taurus which was Torus, and so the end of it they said you know, are you gonna be, you know, putting your developers on this, and I said absolutely."
    We showed Peter Molyneux every game he's ever made (By People Make Games)
    People Make Games' started a series, The Games I Made, their first episode had Peter Molyneux walking them through his entire career one game at a time, starting with a story of how a case of mistaken identity got him into the industry.
     
    "You have to get 150 people, who are very stubborn and passionate and creative to all see a similar picture that doesn't exist. And doubt is the demon that lives in the ear of every person in this industry. That is, to me, the biggest obstacle, keeping everyone focused on the goal and not listening to that little demon in their ear that says, they're all gonna laugh at you, and it's not gonna work. I have the exact same thing in both ears constantly, but I'm still trying to steer people back. And, you have to be able to trust each other that you can fail and openly fail together and still recover, otherwise everybody just starts protecting what they're doing and nobody wants to share anything."
    God of War - Raising Kratos: Full Length Feature | PS4 (By Santa Monica Studio)
    A look into Santa Monica Studio's five year journey to create God of War. While a studio and publisher supported documentary likely falls to being PR friendly this does show some of the struggles involved in developing AAA titles and in multiple parts show how it can be damaging and unsustainable. 
     
    "I learned more about what it was like to work at the studio, the parts they'd like to remember, and the parts they'd rather forget. You see, for most Telltale alumni their feelings on the studio are complicated. Many made lifelong friends there, found the work rewarding, and the day to day exciting. But it was also a place which suffered terrible crunch for years, toxic management, difficult work conditions, and ultimately abandoned hundred of people into one of the most expensive places to live in America with no severance and only two weeks of health insurance. Understandably, many of the folks who worked there have found it difficult to summarize their own feelings on Telltale, so most of them turned us down thinking that they probably had a lot to lose and really nothing to gain. Hundreds of people worked at Telltale over the course of its 14 year life. Each of those people had a different experience and a valuable story to tell. So out story isn't a comprehensive history of the studio or its games, it's the story of four people who wanted to come forward and tell their version of the tale."
    Telltale: The Human Stories Behind The Games (By Noclip)
    Noclip interviews four former Telltale employees about what it was like to work at the company over the years, covering the camaraderie of the staff, problems with earlier executives, how and why ideas and game elements would be accepted or not, the changes being made in their final year, attempts to save the company, and the physical and psychological effects of the sudden closure.
     
    "As the years waned on, and the industry changed, many of the most influential Japanese game designers belonging to developers like Compile, Treasure, and SNK have found a new home at a company called M2. Their unique passion and understanding of classic video games have positioned M2 as one of the industry's top players when it comes to keeping gaming history alive and playable for gamers of today."
    M2: Complete Works / MY LIFE IN GAMING (By My Life in Gaming)
    My Life in Gaming's documentary looks into the history of Japanese game developer M2, from their early dedication to improving on ports to their involvement with some of the most iconic games of all time.
     
    "So we have a number of candidates for the 'first ever game', and we've painted a picture of our understanding over the last few decades. Paradoxically, the further you go back, the more recent the consensus of the 'first ever video game' and everything seems to converge on Pong. As video gaming developed, so too did the appreciation if its history, and as more scrutiny was given to the limits of popular memory, the origin was pushed farther back, first Spacewar!, then Tennis for Two. The principal catalyst for this interest, at least at first, were the Magnavox lawsuits. With a very strong financial incentive for someone to overturn these key patents. But as we shed more light on the past, another paradox emerges. The more we uncover, the less certain we become."
    The First Video Game (Ahoy)
    Ahoy looks into the history of the games that were at different times or by different people considered to be the first of their kind, who created them, and what tech was used to do so.
     
    "SonicFox's professional career is only about five years long but it's easy to forget that given how much they've achieved in that time. They've become an example of everything great about the FGC. They've become an ambassador for esports. In just five years they've assembled a trophy cabinet that rivals some of fighting game's greatest talents. They've won over 60 first place trophies, including five EVO World Titles. They're one of the greatest fighting game players of all time but, perhaps more importantly, they're an inspiration, and that will be their legacy."
    The Furry Who Beat Everyone: The Story of SonicFox (theScore esports)
    theScore esports tells the story of the rise of SonicFox.
     
    "And despite drastically changing the character's design, it pulled off the impressive feat of being welcomes with open arms by video game fans across the globe and its soundtrack being cited as one of the best to this very day. The animal buddies, the level design, the cast of characters, and the enemies themselves it was all able to knock it out of the park right off the bat. That's still critically examined by video game enthusiasts, as well as game journalists, for how to do a 2D action game right. The game went on to sell nine million copies, making it the third best selling Super Nintendo game. It also held the record for the fastest selling video game of all time during its launch. But every great legacy to every great game has a team of people behind it that made that possible."
    The Donkey Kong Country 25th Anniversary Interview Documentary (By Shesez)
    For the game's 25th anniversary, Shesez interviewed five of the original creators of Donkey Kong Country Gregg Mayles (lead design), Steve Mayles (character design), Kevin Bayliss (design), Chris Sutherland (lead programmer), and David Wise (composer).
     
    "In many ways, Sweden, through Bergsala, became a western testing ground for Nintendo. A huge early success that proved their was a desire for the work of Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi outside of their homeland and it was build, in the nicest possible way, on a lie."
    The Lie That Helped Build Nintendo (By Joe Skrebels and Dale Driver)
    Joe Skrebels and Dale Driver tell the story of the lie that that changed a business empire and the game industry.
     
    Systems, Level, and World Design
    Videos focused on the mechanics and worlds of games and how they get the player to interact with them
     
    "But what I find striking is how nearly unavoidable combat mechanics are in any type of game with an open world component whatsoever. That the general idea seems to be that, "If we remove the combat element from the game there will be less in it and therefore it will, logically be a worse game." But that's a flawed truism, isn't it? It's like saying more ingredients on a pizza will always make the pizza better. I'm convinced that if the emotional experience you want your game to get across would benefit from the absence of violence altogether then designing your core gameplay around it could potentially add a lot to it. Even though that might feel counter-intuitive at first glance. And then, all of a sudden, there came this game along that proved my hypothesis firmly."
    Eastshade: The Value of Rejecting Conventions (By RagnarRox)
    RagnarRox on the value of rejecting conventional, and often contradictory, design ideas of always needing to add combat to open world games and the benefit of focusing on designing around a game's intended emotional message.
     
    "To most gamers, this experience of feeling emotionally invested in the virtual world of video games is probably obvious and self-evident but when it comes to our actual understanding of it, the exact nature of virtual empathy and the real-world implications of in-game morality are still hotly debated. And understandably so, because moral responses carry an important function, as another study explains. 'Like any effective state, a moral response hold informative value for the person experiencing it. For example guilt can be understood as a spontaneous feeling that "informs" a person that he or she did something wrong.' Effective moral responses put us in the state of reflection, and when necessary, can subsequently guide us in altering our behavior and our worldview in general. It makes me wonder what potential video games have by evoking such real-world responses in their virtual worlds."
    Virtual Empathy – How The Witcher 3 Encourages Moral Reflection (By Like Stories of Old)
    Like Stories of Old, usually a channel focused on well made and thought out film essays, discusses empathy in video games like The Witcher 3, how player agency can be too limited or results too cynical to allow for reflection, what developers can do to draw players into their worlds, and if the empathy you feel towards those worlds and characters can help make you a better person.
     
    "And all of this, all of this, comes from a game that is blatantly unfinished. But maybe that's a bigger part of it than we like to think. There seems to be a certain kind of magic that can only really come from a game being incomplete. This doesn't mean that every incomplete game will be good, very far from it, but when you rush something out the door there is a non zero chance that that thing will still be good but it will force you to overlook quirks and rough edges of the engine that you would otherwise 'fix' or 'polish'. No one in their right mind would, or I think really even could, design inertia as an intentional game mechanic as it appears in DMC4. It's too convoluted, too niche, too complex, too generally useless at low level, and DMC5 seems to be proving that to be the case. There have been a handful of these lightning in a bottle moments like this throughout gaming's history, melee probably being the most famous of them, I compared them earlier for a reason. These are games that are all time classics not in spite of their flaws but quite literally because of them."
    Devil May Cry 4: A Flawed Masterpiece // Codex Entry (By Codex Entry)
    Codex Entry looks at the mechanics, bugs, and half finished elements that come together to make Devil May Cry 4 one of the deepest and most unique action games ever made and why he doesn't know if games of this scale can lead to something like this anymore.
     
    "Game design is typically utilitarian, by necessity. Making a game is hard and expensive. You don't build a giant stone door for no reason, right? But just as soon as Ascadia posted his theory, the thread was inundated by other questions and theories, many of which seemed equally valid! What were those rings in the desert, and why were they positioned in such a specific way? That beach, the one that looks like it's from ICO, that has to be related somehow. As a matter of fact, is that the castle from ICO far in the distance, as seen from the top of the bridge? And the hole that Dormin speaks through, why can't that be seen from the secret garden? These unanswered questions form one of the pillars of Shadow of the Colossus’ design."
    The Decade-Long Quest For Shadow of the Colossus’ Last Secret (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller tells the story behind the decade long quest to find the final secret of Shadow of the Colossus, how and why it started, where it lead those that worked together to uncover it, and how the game was designed in a way that provides mystery.
     
    "It's called The Oldest House. And once you start thinking about Control as taking place in a haunted house, things start to click into place. The Oldest House is a bizarrely elusive building, despite being in the middle of New York, it can only be found by someone specifically looking for it. The Bureau of Control didn't build it, nor do they have the knowledge to recreate it. The Bureau calls the oldest house "a place of power," a location "acted on by paranatural forces." And in a way, I find this terminology almost cute. They're assigning words to things they truly can't understand, trying to tie a logic to a place this is, by every definition, illogical. They found a haunted house and set up a government agency in it, but at every turn, they're just reminded how little they know about where they've placed themselves."
    Control, Anatomy, and the Legacy of the Haunted House (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller discusses the games Control and Anatomy by talking about the legacy of the haunted house and why we are drawn to buildings that reject habitation.
     
    "And it got me thinking about what exactly it is that the creators of Minecraft expect me to do, what do they think this game is about? Every video game is created based on certain assumptions, assumptions about the world and its people that are reflected in the game's mechanics which enable ad constrain virtual behavior. Examining these assumptions is a great way to understand why a game is designed the way it is, but it could also reveal what would be different if the creators were to change them."
    The Unfulfilled Potential of Minecraft – Assuming a Different Perspective (By Like Stories of Old)
    Like Stories of Old considers what assumptions were at the heart of Minecraft's virtual world as it was developed, how those assumptions frame the worlds of Minecraft and your actions in it, and what could happen if those were changed so that the world was no longer indifferent towards you.
     
    "It felt like a cruel cosmic joke, one of many, that would only grow in intensity as the game went on. To the point that Death Standing, to me, is as much a comedy game as it is an absurdist exploration of isolation and loneliness. It's Untitled Goose Game, except the players are the villagers and the world is the goose."
    Keep Running Up That Hill: An Analysis of DEATH STRANDING (Spoilers) (By Writing on Games)
    Writing on Games analysis of Death Stranding. Kojima's use of his actors, Sisyphean tasks and confrontational design, what drives you to keep going, and a surprising lack of enthusiasm for continuing discussion of this game.
     
    "Now, have I deceived you, clickbaited you with the bold claim on the thumbnail of this video that Disco Elysium is the literally best cRPG? No. I haven't, I stand by this, I stan, how the youths say these days. Admittedly I've been wrestling with myself for quite a while when I was playing the game because I kept having this desire to say, "This is seriously the best RPG I've ever played!" But I didn't quite dare to speak it out because it's such a bold claim, you know, but the more I thought about it the more I felt that, yes, in a literal sense, in the original semantic meaning of the term RPG, role playing game, that harks back to the tabletop, there is not a single game that made me feel more like I'm feeling during a tabletop campaign."
    Disco Elysium is a Role-Playing Dream Come True (By RagnarRox)
    RagnarRox describes the systems, writing, world design, character building, recognition of small details, branching options, and rejection of genre conventions that make Disco Elysium the best cRPG. 
     
    "That's why these experiences stand out so much to me. What they've given me is space without objectives, time without a timer. It's startling to not be told what to do in a medium that we've basically created to give us things to do. What's left is me, and how I relate to the world, not as a tool to accomplish missions but just as a thing living on this planet."
    Artificial Loneliness (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller describes what he means when he says a world is alive, the "aliveness" in areas that have little gameplay utility, and what happens when you travel from one of the most "alive" areas in a game to a quieter place that allows you time to reflect.
     
    Music and Sound Design
     
    "APE OUT is an explosion of color and sound. APE OUT is an album cover come to live. APE OUT is synesthesia for music's most violent genre, not in terms of themes or lyrics, but in terms of the literal interaction of person on instrument. APE OUT is smashing a man against the wall, smashing a drumstick against cymbal. APE OUT is smashing restart over and over and over again until you've managed to just survive the anthropocene most hostile ecosystems. APE OUT is fucking great."
    APE OUT and FREEDOM (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller on the art and sound design of APE OUT and how it lead to one of his favorite gaming moments.
     
    "Health's unique sound was chosen as the perfect fit for representing Max's journey, and they never missed a beat. Every track in the game has an underlying purpose in its instrumentation. It perfectly represents every moment and aims to be more than just a mood enhancement. It's a character study through music, and in this video we'll be analyzing Health's award-winning soundtrack to understand the music of Max Payne 3."
    Understanding the Music of Max Payne 3 (By Liam Triforce)
    Liam Triforce's Understanding the Music series examines the soundtrack composed for Max Payne 3.
     
    "I've always kind of written off this idea as rose-tinted nostalgia, things always mean more to us when they were a formative part of our growing up, and we have a tendency to compare the best of the best from yesteryear with the average flock of today. And after all, there are still plenty of wonderful game soundtracks being released every year, whether AAA or indie, western or Japanese, orchestral or chiptune, melodic or ambient. There's something out there for everyone, if you think video game music has gotten worse, well you just have to look harder. However, I've realized that's not really an answer, it's a dismissal, and the question continues to be asked in spite of it."
    What Happened to Memorable Game Music? | Game Score Fanfare (By Game Score Fanfare)
    Game Score Fanfare discusses why old game music is often said to be more memorable than modern soundtracks by looking at the history and evolution of hardware and design focus.
     
    "It really did change me as a human being, and it made me, I think, a better person, and it definitely made me a better composer because I never thought that deeply about music and about the interaction between music and gameplay as just three years of trying to make it all it could be."
    Why Journey's last song was the hardest to compose (By Clayton Ashley)
    Clayton Ashley speaks with composer Austin Wintory about the difficulty of creating and inspiration for Journey's final song, and how a concert pushed the game's ending in a new direction.
     
    Designing Games
    Videos discussing process and theories behind game design
     
    "Welcome to Who Shot Guybrush Threepwood, a philosophical interrogation into the meaning of genre in and beyond the gaming idiom with the adventure game as our guide."
    Who Shot Guybrush Threepwood? | Genre and the Adventure Game (By Innuendo Studios)
    Innuendo Studios explores the meaning of genre and what it is for while using adventure games as a guiding point.
     
    "The impulse to rationalize ourselves and to jump to the indictment of others is a potent trap that many might fall into. Given the uneasy ambiguity of morality, conceptually and prescriptively and psychologically, perhaps any earnest attempt to address the question needs to come from that explicit perspective. In other words, forcing ourselves to bear witness to the fact that there is no easy answer to moral questions and how easily manipulated we are by our own instincts can get us to understand the paralyzing ambiguity of morality. Video games as an interactive medium are uniquely situated to do this."
    Morality and Guilt in Video Games | How Game Designers Reveal our Heart of Darkness using Mechanics (By The Game Overanalyser)
    The Game Overanalyser examines how games can explore morality and guilt through their mechanics, systems, and narratives and pulls from studies, psychology, and philosophy to examine their potential as moral education.
     
    "This little test has me questioning how I became interested in video games in the first place. I don't remember how they became such a big part of my life. I don't know how I got to the point where I could look at a compass at the top of a screen and know what to expect from every marker without looking them up; I don't know how I first learned about stamina bars and various ways to make sure I don't run out of energy, I don't know how I became, I guess, fluent in the language of video games. I'm just glad that I learned the basics when I was young enough not to care about spending hours on one level."
    What Games Are Like For Someone Who Doesn't Play Games (By Razbuten)
    Razbuten runs an informal experiment to see how inexperienced players might engage with games and how they start to come to learn how they function. Covering the expectation newcomers have of games versus the reality of their limitations, how even seemingly detailed tutorials might end up teaching the wrong lessons, and how learning the language of games, like any other language, is much easier when you start early in life. The series was continued in a later video covering how Breath of the Wild allowed for varied solutions that helped a new player build confidence by allowing things that would probably be ignored by experienced players. A third episode was produced within the last few days.
     
    Long Form Analysis
    Videos covering multiple facets of a game from its design, ideas behind and history of their creation, legacy, themes, narrative, and mechanics
     
    "And this is what Alpha Centauri does, it reveals that the status quo of its time wasn't permanent, wasn't stable. The then post Cold War, liberal-capitalist order was fraught and frail and could not survive the world that this order itself had brought into being. It's in the Peacekeepers that we see Alpha Centauri's biggest idea, the scariest way that it plays with its parent franchise. Sid Meier's Civilization is, in its own words, about building an empire that will stand the test of time. Alpha Centauri looks at the empires of its own day and says, what if they don't."
    Sid Meier at the End of History: the Philosophy and Politics of Alpha Centauri (By Yaz Minsky)
    Yaz Minsky discusses the history of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, how it won its designers independence, its use of hard science and tech research as well as character and faction ideologies to tell its story, what those factions says about the politics and philosophy during the time of its creation, and how it questions the focus of it's parent franchise Civilization, as well as the wider 4X genre, by looking at what humanity can do better rather than marveling at what we've done.
     
    "On the surface some of the symbolism is so on the nose and simple and some of the images so self-indulgently gross and excessive that you might think the game is being edgy for the sake of being, but I don't feel like that's the case here. The way American McGee subverts the iconography of Alice in Wonderland also subverts the predatory aspect of the original work. This is not a story being told by a grown man to a child, it's a story about a wounded woman whose narrative is in her own control. As active media Alice the protagonist is responsible for her own success or failure, adjudicated by your mechanical efforts as the player, but most of all what is subverted is this idealized image of femininity. Like all humans, she has regret and grief and rage and sometimes those emotions are overwhelmingly ugly. The Alice in the game embraces the disturbing and the weird. Approaching the grotesque with the same wit and charm that she approached the merely whimsical back in the original books. After all, there's nothing in this Wonderland that wasn't part of her to being with."
    Manic Pixie Dream Worlds: A Critique of American McGee's Alice Games (By Noah Caldwell-Gervais)
    Noah Caldwell-Gervais covers the works and author behind the character of Alice compared to the version American McGee presents in his games, the game's subversion of common ideas of femininity and early tropes of the designer's previous work through its focus and use of the Quake engine, and how the sequel compared to the original.
     
    "If you're a tabletop RPG player you probably know full well that when you have a good storytell or DOM rolling a critical failure often leads to the most interesting role-playing experiences. Sure frustration goes along with it, but it's also extraordinary. In Video games, death is very often treated as a state of, well, you failed so you better reload and try again because that is not how the story played out, lets do it right this time. But Pathologic is one of those games where you have an exceptional DM, death or precisely failure leads to the most interesting experience."
    Pathologic 2 is an Underrated Masterpiece (By RagnarRox)
    RagnarRox on what makes Pathologic 2 a unique and underrated masterpiece that makes struggle, choices, and even death meaningful.
     
    "Great, you're completely fucked, and you're on day three. Day two is excellent game design. It's deeply engaging watching your attempts to get anything at all done get frustrated, and it also sets a general tone for the game it does the special game design trick that I like to call re-contextualizing. Players come to games with their own expectations and understandings of how a game is supposed to work, and feel, and play, a certain general set of ideas about what all this is supposed to be like. If you're playing an open-world RPG you know what dialogue trees, shops, trading, and hunger, and time mechanics, and moral choices are and you think you know how they work. Day one partially plays into this, it takes pains to show how fragile you are and all the work you have to do to not die but it's doable, it makes sense, it doesn't feel that much different from a normal game. When the prices rise so massively that money is effectively worthless and you were given no warning this would happen, everything about how you relate to the game experience is thrown out the window, and you feel that happening in your brain as you play and realize what just happened. Walking around while slowly starving, getting rid of the rest of your own items to try to get the food for a doomed quest, carrying food you can't eat around and wondering when you will get to eat, and watching your meters inevitably rise as you race to help the town and only barely achieve anything. You start to make realizations about the scope of this experience. You weren't playing a game with the mechanic where you have the option of using money to buy things, you were playing a game about having no money. You weren't playing a game where you have to eat food to survive, you were playing a game about starving. You weren't playing a game where you can choose what sort of morals you have, you were playing a game about how betraying the people who trust you is better for you than trying to be a hero and doing the right thing is an exercise in getting your time and energy and money wasted."
    Pathologic is Genius, And Here's Why (By hbomberguy)
    hbomberguy discusses the amazing bad game and nightmare that is the original Pathologic and the value of negative experiences. What makes it unique, how it often goes against conventional video game logic, how it makes you engage with it, all of the bad, why some of those bad things are good, how it acts as the antidote to modern game design ethos, and why you should buy the second one.
     
    "A big part of the appeal of video games is that, while in all other mediums we observe protagonists, in video games we embody them. Making for what I think is the rawest form of escapism, letting us take up the roles of heroes of time, warriors of light, or any other number of characters that just feel bigger than we are. And initially, this is the appeal of Cloud. As a first-class member of Soldier, Cloud is this elite military bad-ass. He has the highest attack in your entire party and the most devastating Limit Breaks. And its this bad-ass we embody, but something is not quite right."
    The Impact of Final Fantasy 7: The Game that Changed Everything (By Super Eyepatch Wolf)
    Super Eyepatch Wolf on the impact of FFVII and why it is their favorite game. Covering the history of its creation, how it appealed to the west through its advertisement and mechanics, finding the character and world details that were made possible with human character moments and a shift to 3D, how character arcs and relationships are conveyed through gameplay, the early simplicity and growth of a new battle system that allowed for more player expression, enemy design, Hironobu Sakaguchi's need to portray death in a game about life, and embodying a character that used to be a nobody but becomes enough.
     
    The Game Industry, Connected Industries, and Culture
    Videos looking into different aspects of the game industry, companies associated with it, discourse, platforms, how games intersect with the wider world, funding, hiring practices, etc
     
    "So remember to follow me on Twitch TV slash I kill weed names because you can enjoy what the Earth-Mother gave us but that isn't the same as having a personality."
    Manufactured Discontent and Fortnite (By Folding Ideas)
    Dan Olsen's essay looks at the exploitative design of Fortnight. Discussing how the psychology and social pressure behind the game is designed to hook players, while seeing it as a glimpse of a perpetually monetized and hostile future.
     
    "I've seen a lot of things change over the years. And one of those that has definitely changed is, like, a lot of benefits are just kind of going by the wayside little by little. You know, we don't even talk about earning royalties anymore, that's not even in discussion."
    "Did that used to be a thing?"
    "Oh yeah. I have a house, by and large, because *** managed to sell pretty darn great. Royalties have gone by the wayside, paid internships by and large have gone by the wayside, extensive benefits have gone by the wayside a little bit. I mean, you're still seeing a lot of shops offering, you know, full health, dental, vision, etc but even then you're starting to see that kind of get clamped a little bit."
    "What about crunch time, have you seen a lot of that in your career?"
    "...Oh God, yes. I've seen crunch destroy marriages, I've seen it turn people into alcoholics, I've seen it give them health problems, you name it."
    Unionization, Steady Careers, and Generations of Games Culture (By Super Bunnyhop)
    Super Bunnyhop looks at GDC and into the efforts towards unionization in the games industry and how the way the industry is run effects future generations of designers through discussions with developers and advocates.
     
    "Problems of skipping bylines and misinterpreting the methodology and intent behind media messages, there's something I've noticed a lot more of in recent years. Especially now that people who are teenagers a few years ago during, lets say, oh I don't know, August 2014, are now growing up to become adults. But media literacy also requires an understanding of, not just the standards and ethics that serious journalist should hold themselves accountable to, but also the sinister effects that money and cognitive bias have on it. And that goes both ways, both for writers and for readers. All of that idealism, all of the standards and ethics and professional codes clashes with the reality that media is just another product in a highly competitive market supported by other people's disposable income. The race to sell newspapers was a race to the bottom, and in many ways that really hasn't changed. If anything it's been made far worse in the age of social media where anyone with any kind of internet connection can make media no matter their motives, their funding, or their education."
    Media Literacy and Game News (By Super Bunnyhop)
    Super Bunnyhop discusses media literacy and becoming media literate, media history, what he was taught in journalism classes and learned working in print media, the evolution of game journalism, ethics codes, how advertising effect reporting and headlines, the lower standards and lack of accountability that comes with Youtube reporting, danger of isolation in online social environments, what to look for to see if you should trust reporting, and discusses some of these issues as well as deciding factors of what get published on websites with editors from EGM (Josh Harmon) and Kotaku (Jason Schreier).
     
    "2:22 AM made me uncomfortable. It made me think about all the other games I play. How predictable they are. How I understand the rules. It made me wonder what lies beyond the polished edges of AAA game development. 2:22 AM doesn't really fit within our existing games infrastructure. Itchio is kind of a haven for these experimental titles but, because of that, Itchio is also kind of a punchline for a lot of people dismissive of non-traditional gaming experiences. Newer platforms, like the Epic Store, have promised that the titles they sell will be more strictly moderated, they'll only sell high quality experiences. This might exclude the worst of the worst but who decides what lives inside or outside the realm of high quality experiences. Where do games like 2:22 AM fit in?"
    Who’s Afraid of Modern Art: Vandalism, Video Games, and Fascism (By Jacob Geller)
    Jacob Geller discusses the attacks faced by modern and experimental art, both in videos games and the wider art world. Where the anger typically originates from and why and the problems that come from a dominant culture attempting to create a hierarchy of value for the art world to follow.
     
    "The former employees I have spoken to share common threads, anger at the way they and their colleagues were treated, frustration with the company's infantile, volatile atmosphere, and a remarkable level of disgust reserved for one particular Rockstar executive, Jeronomo Barrera."
    Fear & Fury: How The Rockstar Sausage Is Made (The Jimquisition) (By Jim Sterling)
    Jim Sterling collects the horror stories of abuse and exploration from former Rockstar Games employees. Jason Schreier's article on sexual assault allegations towards the executive behind many of these stories can be found here.
     
    "These are the whales, so callously hunted by assholes with lanyards. It's very easy to suggest that these are people who should be smarter with the money, that only a fool lets it get this bad. I refuse to believe that anyone that churlish about the situation, has ever dealt with addictive behavior in their own lives. I simply refuse to believe it. Because addiction simply does not work that way, you can't just switch if off, it's not that easy to simply stop. You can even know, all day long, that what you're doing is wrong and you can consider yourself stupid, and you can know that it's harmful, but that won't stop you."
    The Addictive Cost Of Predatory Videogame Monetization (The Jimquisition) (By Jim Sterling)
    Jim Sterling examines how addiction is exploited by video games while covering company statement and personal testimonies.
     
    "Cyberpunk has no inherent agenda, at least no more than any other genre. It has hallmarks and anxieties, class disparity, the interface between technology and consciousness, the boundaries that define humanity, the replacement to the state of capital, and it's the view point and consciousness of its authors that shapes how these anxieties play out. In the world of 80s science fiction it was pretty hard to get your voice heard if you weren't someone with a lot of luck, resources, and privileged. The kinds of things that cyberpunk as a genre routinely strips away, but so much of the genres change has been the result of its ideas and themes propagating and being interpreted by people who never had those things."
    We Need To Talk About Cyberpunk (By Yaz Minsky)
    Yaz Minsky discusses the roots of and some of the more defining media of the cyberpunk genre, how and why art changes when it is no longer looked at through limited worldviews, and that the failings of Cyberpunk 2077's marketing, unfortunately, historically puts it closer rather than further from the staples of the genre.
     
    "What video game production alone is doing to our planet is a pretty scary thought. So yeah, welcome to the Ethics of Buying Games, my new show about the different ways of buying games and the impact that they have on many different aspects of life."
    The Environmental Impact of Physical Games - The Ethics of Buying Games (By HeavyEyed)
    HeavyEyed's series looks into the impacts that buying video games has on the world. The first episode covers the sustainability of physical game products, the disappearance of game manuals, and Atari's dumping of thousands of copies of ET into the New Mexico desert. Episode 2 covers how digital distribution can be worse for the environment than physical copies of games.
     
    "This isn't really that weird, people do tend to be pretty bad at figuring out why they like the things they like, so they just assume their stated values apply to the things they enjoy. And yes, to bring this back around, World of Warcraft has undeniably changed over the years and the changes have collectively been dramatic. Not just changes in terms of graphical updates, large swathes of new content, or the world overhaul of Cataclysm, but philosophically. The ideas answering questions like what makes good content have shifted and morphed over the years, often subtly, sometimes drastically. I want to remove the outrage merchants from the equation and contrast some of these changes honestly, because, while on a personal level, I think a lot of people have been hoodwinked by outrage merchants into parroting bad syllogistic arguments, I don't think people are being disingenuous when they say they enjoyed WoW more in the past than they do in the present and that it's not all nostalgia."
    World of Warcraft Classic And What We Left Behind (By Folding Ideas)
    A long time WoW player Folding Ideas examines World of Warcraft classic, how RPGs/MMOs have changed over the years, and why people might have the desire to go back to what was left behind.
     
    "I honestly think that this is a case of quick low effort decisions being made and it's in the situations where propaganda can be the most effective. Propaganda typically relies on quick and simple explanations of complex issues which makes it the perfect accomplice for those trying to move quickly through complex topics. Like a filled out answer sheet casually passed to you by someone who looks suspiciously like Mussolini. In this way, grand strategy game development and propaganda are sort of a match made in heaven. They have a symbiotic relationship, with propaganda facilitating easier production of the games which then spreads that very propaganda."
    Paradox Interactive is Not Immune to Propaganda: Leftist Politics in Grand Strategy (By Huntress X Thompson)
    Huntress X Thompson covers how the grand strategy games with a focus on history but created by armchair historians lack the research or mechanics to portray certain ideologies with any nuance and how they instead repeat modern or historically used propaganda to showcase those ideas to their player base.
     
    "Even if nuclear war happened tomorrow, it still wouldn't look like Fallout because the world's moved on since that era in Klamath Falls, and progress does a better job than apocalypse of burying the past."
    The Real Life Landscapes of Fallout 1, Fallout 2, and Fallout: New Vegas (By Noah Caldwell-Gervais)
    Noah Caldwell-Gervais follows real life maps and landscapes that he had explored digitally with Fallout 1, 2, and New Vegas as he attempts to find the intersection of fact and fiction in the series and explores how the locations change over time

    By Legolas_Katarn, in Articles,


    Jacob Geller on the uneasy feelings that FMV animations can cause through their uncanny inconsistent portrayal of humanity and the games that use this to good effect, CD Projekt admits they are back to crunch time during five month Cyberpunk delay and Doom Eternal developers have been crunching over the last year, Khee Hoon Chan details some of the history of gaming in China and the struggles that developers go through to keep their studios afloat, Andrew King speaks with the players that have stuck with live service games after the rest of the internet has written them off, Malindy Hetfeld on Fire Emblem Three Houses' subversion of absentee parent tropes, Dad builds custom controller so daughter can play Breath of the Wild, respectful Esports stare-down actually just a controller issue, Dying Light 2 delayed, and more.
     
     
    Gaming News (Announcements, previews, release dates, interviews and writing on upcoming games, DLC and game updates, company and developer news, country news, tech, mods)
     
    Cyberpunk 2077 Developers Will Be Crunching, CD Projekt RED Tells Investors

    Video Game Delays Cause More Crunch
     
    'World of Horror' brings MS Paint terror to Steam on February 20th
     
    Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions Brings Dramatic Anime Soccer To PC And Consoles
     
    Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS. Maxiboost ON Releasing for PS4 Worldwide in 2020
     
    Doom Eternal is like Evil Dead 2 made on an Avengers-sized budget
    “We were crunching pretty hard most of last year” – Marty Stratton unapologetic over Doom Eternal’s delay
    'Doom' Will Never Be Eternal Without Mods
     
    Techland announces Dying Light 2 launch will be delayed
     
    Player Killing created a "toxic environment" in Amazon MMO New World
     
    Trails of Cold Steel 3 Will Bring Rean and the Gang Back to the PC Soon
     
    Kingpin Reloaded features remastered graphics, same old F-bombs
     
    Iron Man VR will miss its February release, now set for May
     
    Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s next fighter is Fire Emblem’s Byleth
     
    Fire Emblem: Three Houses gets a secret fourth house in DLC
     
    BATTLE BROTHERS GETTING NEW MIDDLE EASTERN INSPIRED DLC

     
    Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana update includes major enhancements and 'experimental' co-op mode

     
    Here’s why there will only be six new ops in Rainbow Six Siege this year

    Ubisoft is suing Rainbow Six Siege DDoS organisers
     
    Shenmue 3 will let you play as two new characters in its first DLC next week
     
    Mobius Final Fantasy players devastated by server shutdown

     
    Exclusive: Ubisoft revamps editorial team to make its games more unique

     
    Fortnite Dances
      Joe Biden calls Silicon Valley game developers “little creeps” who make games that “teach you how to kill”

     
    Esports
     
    Respectful Fighting Game Staredown Was Actually Just A Controller Issue

     
    Crowdfunding News (not sharing everything I find, just ones that look interesting, have known talent behind them, and a chance to succeed)
     
    My Work Is Not Yet Done
     
    Content I found interesting this week (interviews, recommendations, think pieces, history, music, culture, design, art, documentaries, criticism, etc)
     
    The Closing Walls Around China’s Independent Game Developers

     
    The Stages Of A Live Game: How Communities Gravitate To Struggling Games And Find Fun

     
    We Keep Having The Same Video Game Arguments And It's Driving Me Bonkers

     
    The top 7 reasons women quit game development

     
    Storytelling Authority in Today's Political Climate: An Interview with Life Is Strange Series Co-Director Michel Koch

     
    What Does It Really Mean to Be an Indie Game?

     
    Dad Builds Custom Xbox Adaptive Controller So Daughter Can Play Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
     
    Yoko Taro on Final Fantasy XIV: ‘I may end up having to burn down the servers’

     
    Always There for You: How Fire Emblem: Three Houses Subverts Absentee Parent Tropes

     
    End of an Era: Why I’m Quitting Battlefield V

     
    The Radical Politics of 'Disco Elysium' Make For a Potentially Complicated Legacy

     
    An Uncanny Reality
     
    Statistically Speaking : Metacritic's "Best Games of All Time"
     
    Good Game Design - Outer Wilds: Self-Made Adventure
     
    You Can't Save The Galaxy In A Day
     
    Why Don't Mystery Games Need Mechanics?
     
    The Two Types of Random | Game Maker's Toolkit
     
    Concept Brief | So You Wanna Be A Game Designer? (#9)
     
    The Game Industry's Performative Concern For Children (The Jimquisition)
     
    How Gears 5 Turned A Helper Into A Hero | Audio Logs
     
    Designing DOOM Eternal with Hugo Martin - Noclip Podcast #22
     
    Things I missed from previous weeks
     
    DUE DILIGENCE: THAT TIME I WATCHED A NINE-YEAR-OLD PLAY FORTNITE FOR A WEEK

     

    By Legolas_Katarn, in Articles,


    Joshua Rivera's goodbye article to Kotaku touches on game journalism and the consequences of ignoring the culture and industry around video games, Blake Hester tells the story of why all the money in the world couldn’t make the Kinect happen, Forest Lassman reports on the way companies use credits to punish or reward developers, RagnarRox explains how folklore brings horror to life in Fatal Frame, Dan Root begins series on the five fundamentals of game animation, new Resdient Evil 3 and DOOM Eternal trailers, Disco Elysium's developer ZA/UM talks to Gamespot about how they made their mechanics work and what inspired them, Control's developers react to a 49 minute speedrun of their game, Nic Reuben on what makes The Witcher's Geralt the perfect hero for the gig economy, FFVII and Marvel's Avengers delayed, Sony skipping E3 again, and more.
     
     
    Gaming News (Announcements, previews, release dates, interviews and writing on upcoming games, DLC and game updates, company and developer news, country news, tech, mods)
     
    Magic: Legends reveals Diablo-like gameplay in first footage
     
    Trials of Mana ‘Charlotte and Kevin’ character spotlight trailer
     
    Warhammer Underworlds: Online is a faithful recreation of Games Workshop's best competitive tabletop game

     
    Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV opening movie
     
    Langrisser I & II ‘Langrisser II’ story trailer
     
    Serve Demons, Humans, and Elves Drinks in Coffee Talk on January 30, 2020
     
    Marvel’s Avengers delayed

     
    Final Fantasy VII Remake Delayed Until April 2020
     
    RESIDENT EVIL 3 REMAKE Nemesis Trailer (2020) HD
     
    Doom Eternal - Official Story Gameplay Trailer 2
     
    The Creators of Shantae Reveal Exclusive New Switch Game
     
    Pokemon Sword & Shield Getting More Old Pokemon, Free Updates On The Way
     
    Wargroove's free co-op DLC arrives in February
     
    Future of Three Kingdoms - Total War: THREE KINGDOMS: Mandate of Heaven
    Siege & Deployable Spotlight - Total War: THREE KINGDOMS: Mandate of Heaven
     
    You can no longer buy Grand Theft Auto IV on Steam

     
    All proceeds ever made from Modern Warfare’s Outback DLC now go to Australian wildfire relief
     
    Steam to start selling soundtracks independently of games

     
    Epic Store to give away another 50 free games

     
    Sony skipping E3 again as it gears up to launch the PlayStation 5

     
    How An Overwatch Skin Left Some Of D.Va's Biggest Fans Feeling Betrayed

     
    Sony's Jim Ryan: PlayStation 5's 'bigger differences' have yet to be announced

     
    AGDQ 2020 raises another record-breaking sum for cancer research

     
    Esports
     
    Nintendo's President Explains Its Reluctance To Fund Smash Bros. Tournament Prizes

     
    Crowdfunding News (not sharing everything I find, just ones that look interesting, have known talent behind them, and a chance to succeed)
     
    Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous “should feel like the tabletop”

     
    Rubi: The Wayward Mira
     
    Content I found interesting this week (interviews, recommendations, think pieces, history, music, culture, design, art, documentaries, criticism, etc)
     
    Pa'lante, Kotaku

    Goodbye From Josh and Gita
     
    A Big Union Wants to Make Videogame Workers' Lives More Sane

     
    Video games and disability: Looking back at a challenging decade

     
    All the money in the world couldn’t make Kinect happen

     
    Episodic Games Were the Future, and the Future Was Dead on Arrival

     
    How Game Companies Use Credits To Reward, Or Punish, Developers

     
    Apocalypse Now, And Again, And Again

     
    The making of Disco Elysium: How ZA/UM created one of the most original RPGs of the decade
     
    Shadows of Chernobyl: tracing the inspiration of Escape from Tarkov

     
    Digital Demonology: The Historical Origins of Gaming’s Infernal Obsession

     
    My Games, My Music, and My Internalized Racism

     
    Geralt is the perfect hero for the soul crushing instability of our hellworld’s gig economy

     
    playthis Death Stranding

     
    Fallen Men

     
    When in Hell, We Do Shots At the Bar

     
    Control Developers React to 49 Minute Speedrun
     
    My Favorite Game Animation of 2019
     
    The Five Fundamentals of Game Animation: An Introduction
     
    The Untold Story Behind the Design of Transistor - Documentary
     
    The Aesthetics of Play | Why We Play Games, and the Search for Truth and Beauty In Game Design
     
    Fatal Frame or (How Folklore Brings Horror to Life) | Monsters of the Week
    Bonus Video: Exorcising my Patrons in Himuro Mansion
     
    The Feature That Almost Sank Disco Elysium | Audio Logs
     
    The Secret of Success? | So You Wanna Be A Game Designer? (#8)

    By Legolas_Katarn, in Articles,


    2019 is now behind us and I've put together a list of some of the best writing I saw throughout the year. Created with the goal of highlighting the work of some of the best writers and journalists in the industry and to share topics that can enhance understanding of the game industry, events of the previous year, and of the games themselves. Many of these have been shared in my weekly This Week In Gaming articles.

    These articles might focus on developer and game history, what working in the industry is like, what games make us think and feel, things that have effected the industry this year, the effects of games on people and culture, entertaining stories, and the lessons learned and connections that can be established through games. Links are included to author's social media accounts and it is worth following them and their work if you are interested in games and the industry.
    The best video and video series of 2019 article can be found here.
     
    Previous Best Games Writing Articles
    2016
    2017
    2018
     
    History of the Industry, Developers, and Games
    Research and interviews examining the life and work of notable figures, developers, studios, and the games and franchises they created
     
    "The impressions of human desire are often left upon objects of their devotion or on the paths leading to where a sense of peace or pleasure can be found; i.e. the worn frets on a favorite guitar; the finger-smoothed ivory keys on an old piano; the “secret path” in the forest blazed by decades of children that’s been “a secret path” to other children for over 100 years. And, of course, the front left-hand sides of all unrestored and original Pac-Man arcade cabinets that no one –until now– has thought to explain."
    PAC-MAN: THE UNTOLD STORY OF HOW WE REALLY PLAYED THE GAME (By Catherine DeSpira)
    Catherine DeSpira looks into the history of Pac-Man, with a focus on the physical impressions left behind on the arcade cabinets and how that signature left by the first generation of gamers tell the story of how the game was really played.
    "How did things go so badly wrong in such a short space of time? According to over a dozen current and former Starbreeze staff members, who asked to remain anonymous in order to protect their careers, the writing had been on the wall for some time. But even as staff lost faith in the studio and its bosses, nobody, it seemed, thought Starbreeze's fall from grace would turn out to be quite so dramatic."
    The fall of Starbreeze (By Wesley Yin-Poole)
    Wesley Yin-Poole looks into how it all went wrong so quickly for Starbreeze by talking to the people that were there.
    "As for the men and women chosen to work on Silent Hill, the town asks much more than it’s willing to give. Long hours, false starts, corrupted data, an impossible legacy. It’s claimed marriages, careers, and livelihoods. More than one colleague’s told me they believe the series is cursed. Perhaps that’s true; those drawn to the town of Silent Hill are so rarely able to change their fates. I certainly knew, the first time I heard Akira Yamaoka’s iconic mandolin, that I’d be a resident until the town’s final tortured moments, whatever those might be."
    From Super Fan to Producer: An Insider's Perspective on Silent Hill (By Tomm Hulett)
    Tomm Hulett reflects on his past as a fan of Silent Hill, becoming a producer in the franchise, and what it was like to work on the series in troubled years.
    "Speaking to eight former Rockstar employees, we recently pieced together the story of Agent’s phase in San Diego. This is not the complete Agent story, and in many ways is the story of the early days of Rockstar San Diego as a studio. It’s a story that involves a workplace environment that some call toxic."
    The Agent before Agent, a lost Rockstar San Diego project (By Black Hester)
    Blake Hester talks to former Rockstar employees about the early days of Rockstar San Diego and the history of their missing game Agent.
    "During that seven-day nightmare, every corporation on that network had their online operations sabotaged by a bunch of nerds who'd somehow been given $4.5 million dollars and a mission to create something extraordinary. And for its time, half a decade before World of Warcraft, EverQuest was nothing if not extraordinary."
    Breaking the internet: The story of EverQuest, the MMO that changed everything (By Steven Messner)
    Steven Messner tells the story of the creation of EverQuest and how it came to define a genre.
    "I used to have this thing with Todd, because he was one of the ones that’s like, “Let’s not make it too weird.” So I’d bamboozle him. There was a period where I would actually draw two different versions of a monster — the one that was weird and that I wanted to be in the game, and then one that was fucking crazy. And so I’d go to Todd, and I’m like, “OK, I think I’ve got the mid-level creature set.” And I’d show him a picture. He’d be like, “Nah, dude, that’s crazy.” Then I’d go back to my office and I would act like I was drawing something new, and I’d just come back with the original drawing of what I really wanted to be in there. Like, “Hey, is this what you were thinking?” And he’d be all, “Oh, yeah, that’s much better. That’s great.”
    Morrowind: An oral history (By Alex Kane)
    Alex Kane and Morrowind's developers cover the history of the game's creation and the thought process behind creating a world that could withstand the test of time, one that players could explore and experience in radically different ways.
    "Perhaps most alarming, it’s a story about a studio in crisis. Dozens of developers, many of them decade-long veterans, have left BioWare over the past two years. Some who have worked at BioWare’s longest-running office in Edmonton talk about depression and anxiety. Many say they or their co-workers had to take “stress leave”—a doctor-mandated period of weeks or even months worth of vacation for their mental health. One former BioWare developer told me they would frequently find a private room in the office, shut the door, and just cry. “People were so angry and sad all the time,” they said. Said another: “Depression and anxiety are an epidemic within Bioware.”
    How BioWare's Anthem Went Wrong (By Jason Schreier)
    Jason Schreier interviews Bioware employees to report on the troubled development of Anthem and a studio facing an epidemic of burnout and depression.
    "Getting girls into games required more than simply making games that would appeal to them. Kelly recalls that girls at the time were actively discouraged from engaging with games and technology. Even if a girl did start to play, Kelly adds, citing ethnography research she did later at Mattel, “when a boy walked in the room she’d have to give it up to the boy.” Worse, she says, “it was a known fact [that] girls don’t play with computers and girls don’t play with video games. That’s what the retailers thought.” Kalinske adds that even when presented with actual concrete data, many people would scoff at the notion that girls might be interested in video games."
    What happened when Sega courted female players in the mid-’90s (By Richard Moss)
    Richard Moss speaks with the Sega executive, Michealene Risley, behind the efforts to bring in more female players in the mid 90s and the effects of those efforts.
    "Revising the history around the game crash matters because otherwise what remains is corporation-worship that puts a magnifying glass on profit margins while disguising human effort and lives."
    Pitfall II: Scene 1: The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 (By LeeRoy Lewin)
    LeeRoy Lewin on the reasons behind the 1983 game crash and how the people that want or think that one is coming revise the history around it.
    "Yeo’s character reveals itself in the very makeup of The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa, the entirety of his passion poured directly into its creation. His approach combines a depth of vision and philosophical perspectives with a love of the arts and an affinity with pop culture. Given his unwavering commitment to his craft, whatever challenges he chooses to take on next will undoubtedly be watched by audiences both East and West."
    The Incredible Real-Life Story Behind The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa (By Jeremy Hosking)
    Jeremy Hosking learns the story behind the creation of The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa by speaking to its creator, Yeo, about his life and inspirations. 
    "The game was built on indecipherable “spaghetti code” where moving one piece can result in the game imploding for no logical reason; there isn’t enough space to fit English translations without crashing the game, which means you’d have to hack it and force it to accept more; one chapter in particular—the dreaded chapter five—was coded in such a perplexing way it lead to the whole “translation patch killer” branding. It’s where translation attempts go to die."
    The Near Impossible 20-Year Journey to Translate 'Fire Emblem: Thracia 776' (By Patrick Klepek)
    Patrick Klepek covers the history of attempts to translate the fifth game in the Fire Emblem series as well as discussing localization, the work behind translation projects, and what drives people to attempt them.
     
    Writing On Games
    Articles on the games themselves, effects they had on the industry, the stories they tell, how gameplay is used, deeper meanings of titles, etc
     
    "Heaven Will Be Mine was the missing piece helped me make sense of the divides between three generations of queer activists. It helped dispel the myths around of the radicalism of youth, adults who knew about “the real world”, and the cynicism gained through growing up trying to do the impossible. Heaven Will Be Mine helped me internalize what CIG calls “fighting in our own times and geographies”, the way solidarity and diversity can help us bring the best of each other’s visions instead of imposing ours."
    Fighting with Perfect Greed: Heaven Will Be Mine and diversity of tactics in activism (By Eme Flores)
    Eme Flores examines the characters of Heaven WIll Be Mine as representations of different strands of queer activism.
    "The term “power fantasy” pops up a lot in video game criticism. Bastion, you see, is a game that made me feel powerful in a way I don’t get to in my real life. On the most basic level, that’s because I was one person against the world and, through skill and grit and an upgrade tree, I managed to beat the world back."
    One Minute Past Midnight: Bastion & Healing from Nuclear Devastation (By Ty Gale)
    Ty Gale explores the anger felt over their Grandmothers' erasure of their Japanese heritage through the apocalyptic lens of Bastion.
    "Rakuen is about accepting the things we cannot change, while asserting that our little actions make a difference. By this I mean we should take time to grieve when we fail, but also know that our actions aren’t futile in the face of a cruel, uncaring world. We can care, and we can act."
    The Serenity Prayer and Rakuen (By Priya Sridhar)
    Priya Sridhar covers how the character arcs in Rakuen hold a mirror to the real world by teaching that small actions matter and how to accept what you can't change.
    "While MGS4 was a far more sombre game, dealing with Snake at the end of his life fighting a war he had no choice but to fight, Revengeance is (as the incredible subtitle implies) near-infamously bombastic in the same way that many of PlatinumGames’ other developed titles are. This switch in tone works extremely well in its favor – while MGS4 used Snake to question the legitimacy of heroic war narratives, Revengeance is focused heavily on the question of violence itself in a video-game context."
    And Besides, This Isn’t My Sword (By Lilly)
    Lilly covers how Metal Gear Rising deals with the theme of justice and what is learned through Raiden's rivalry with Jetstream Sam.
    "There’s a street prophet who stands by the fountain in the center of town in Fort Tarsis. He has much to say about the game, if you’ll listen. Someone knew what they were making, and they slid it in sideways through his mouth. He often talks about the Anthem of Creation. He calls the player a scared puppet of meat, always fighting, always afraid, always grasping at a meaning she’ll never know because she’s just playing along with the systems that push and pull her by unreliable whims. “It never finishes,” he says. It can’t afford to."
    “Today, I Felt Nothing,” by Tara Hillegeist (By Tara Hillegeist)
    Tara Hillegeist considers how the frequent feelings of loneliness and isolation that the game invokes can tie into the troubled seven year development of Anthem and the thoughts employees must have had while working on it.
    "As players, we look to find ourselves in narrative and characters in these games. Searching for resonance, that someone or something understands psychic spaces we often have difficulty expressing without avatar, surrogate, metaphor. To assuage our anxieties over the complexity of a progressively accelerating and dividing modernity, we vainly attempt to problem solve the fractured, redacted From Software worlds. We make videos, discuss themes and share theories on forums, twitter, and even sometimes in person. We hunt for psycho-spiritual ligature in these hollowed out digital people. Pulling meat from our own bodies to fit into the gaps in their bones."
    Charting our Emotional Landscapes through Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’s Hanbei (By Dia Lacina)
    Dia Lacina shares her feelings on the character who meant the most to her in Sekiro and why players respond strongly to From Software's lonely and isolating worlds
    "Your journey becomes defined by how far you are from the next safe place, like stops on a pilgrimage or stations of the cross. Since you do not know how far away the next checkpoint is, going outside is an act of faith. Players must stumble in the dark, learning the area, until their faith is rewarded with safety, only for it to be tested yet again as they leave. There’s been plenty of discussion about whether Sekiro or Fallen Order “count” as souls-likes, but this misses the point. Their usage of Souls’ structure results in a meditative ritual of combat. Respawning becomes an act of redemption. The structure mimics the process of reincarnation, whereby over multiple lifetimes of experience, perfection can be reached."
    Jedi Fallen Order and Sekiro Shadows Die Twice: A Leap in the Dark and the Chaos of History (By Grace)
    Grace on religious cycles and the space between battles found in Jedi Fallen Order and Sekiro.
    "My father has run emergency rooms for years, but I didn't fully understand his job until we played a game together."
    ‘Project Hospital’ is A Great Way to Understand Our Broken Healthcare System (By Ian Boudreau)
    Ian Boudreau plays Project Hospital with his father, a hospital director, and finds that the game can be used as a way to understand the broken healthcare system of the United States.
    "That’s where the magic lies, in the a back-and-forth alchemy where player, character, and boss meet and their reactions to the actual battle as you choose to play it, not through cutscene chatter or flashy but ultimately hollow QTEs. You’re doing this. You’re doing all of this – and you can trust that the game will respond to every last drop of extra effort you put in and do its best to play along with you."
    Now I’m motivated! (By Kimimi)
    Kimimi's analysis of how Devil May Cry 5's final boss avoids typical AAA boss tropes and how it remains special by focusing on the personalities of the cast.
    "This isn’t just a fantasy game. It’s a game where every paranoid concern about your life, that it truly isn’t your own, comes true. And it’s about making decisions knowing that fact."
    Years Later, the Ending of 'Dragon's Dogma' Remains Wonderfully Weird and Subversive (By Cameron Kunzelman)
    Cameron Kunzelman describes how Dragon's Dogma does something different with the traditional fantasy narrative.
    "Rightfully or wrongfully, the Metal Gear saga is inextricably linked with its creator Hideo Kojima. Metal Gear marks the birth of the myth of Kojima as supreme auteur; even this analysis couldn’t help but see the creator in his creation. However, the tensions at the core of the franchise are larger than any single man. They are the inescapable tensions of a genre where players are always the intruder. The player is not welcome in Outer Heaven; they will not be welcome anywhere. And Metal Gear is the moment where that previously unspoken sentiment is finally voiced."
    Metal Gear Retrospective: Snake's Punishment Begins, 
    Metal Gear 2 Retrospective: The World Spins Without Snake,
    Metal Gear Solid Retrospective: 'You Enjoy All The Killing, That's Why' (By Heather Alexandra)
    Heather Alexandra retrospective on the Metal Gear and Metal Gear Solid series explores the characters, themes, creators, and series intersection with the real world and their fan reception. So far covering Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and Metal Gear Solid.
    "Hellblade stands in the shadows of capitalist institutions that encourage us to sell our trauma, to expose our wounds at the expense of our dignity. But we can look away. We can make and find art that does not speak but listens. Art that allows itself to cut, to move away, to imagine something else. Art that believes our hurt and that does not showcase or sell it, but lets it be, lets it heal. This is not enough. As long as art is being made under capitalism, this problem of commodifying trauma will remain. But it is a start."
    Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Trauma, and the Power of Editing (By Grace)
    Grace examines Hellblade's failure to depict mental illness.
    "Judgment wants us to consider what kind of sanctity the law deserves when those who bend its already unfair guidelines to serve their purposes are capable of harming others by doing much the same."
    “Real Justice,” by Reid McCarter (By Reid McCarter)
    Reid McCarter discusses Yakuza spin off Judgement and finding real justice outside of Japan's corrupt bureaucracy.
    "New Vegas interrogates the heroism of the post-apocalyptic power fantasy. Where the morality of the previous games is uncomplicated, New Vegas’s moral compass is deliberately troublesome. Its gameplay has no romanticism; there’s no melodrama directing the player’s violence. You’re not killing people to save the vault or to find your father, you’re killing people for your own ends. For the sheer enjoyment of the power fantasy. New Vegas subverts the FPS genre with the reasons it gives the player for justifying their violence. Taking revenge on the man who shot you isn’t even required, but it is pretty satisfying, and it’s appropriately done in Vegas. After all, why do people go to that city? For pleasure, or greed. It’s the only American power fantasy that the game delivers: that you can actually get what you want in Vegas."
    NOT A HERO, JUST A POSTMAN (By Euan Brook)
    Euan Brook on the moral grey of Fallout New Vegas, the game's attention to detail, and the world not existing solely for the player character's benefit.
    "The album’s title would later be absorbed into the universe’s canon as a stage play in Crisis Core, but its inclusion here remains opaque. Still, when Bilinda Butcher sings about holy places, lonely places, and “sunshine faces carrying their heads down”, it’s hard not to picture Midgar itself. A city of slums and superstructures, secret police and ID checks, social stratification, and the profound personal isolation that blossoms where technology grows faster than community."
    Why Final Fantasy 7’s Midgar is one of the most politically-charged video game locations ever (By Nic Reuben)
    Nic Reuben's analysis of Final Fantasy VII's Midgar.
    "I’m a killjoy, a cynic, a bummer. I’ve been here so many times before, that is aboard a zeppelin, or at least some kind of large, aviated zeppelin-esque vehicle, shredding videogame enemies one after another with moral impunity, that if Soph and the game-makers who write her dialogue want to ask me whether I can believe it, then my answer is likely to spoil their fun: yes, yes I can believe it; after experiencing the climactic zeppelin level of 2013’s BioShock Infinite, the shootout which takes place aboard a zeppelin in 2015’s The Order: 1886, and then the zeppelin-based opening to Wolfenstein: Youngblood’s 2017 predecessor, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, I can believe it and believe it easily."
    The Infinite Zeppelin (Ed Smith)
    While playing Wolfenstein Youngblood, Ed Smith comes to the realization that he's seen all this before.
    "But we can’t see the terrible strangeness of our empire in the same way we cannot see the air we breathe. It is so pervasive, winding its way into the stickers we put on our trucks and military recruitment specialists that come to every high school in fatigues. We don’t see empire, and as a result games about working as a paramilitary commando can claim to be apolitical. We don’t see it, we can’t see it, without stupid sexy Raiden’s full body prosthetic turning roided-out Dick Cheney into ground beef. Metal Gear makes the hideous silliness of our empire clear — these impossible things happening clearly under the midday sun."
    How Metal Gear Eschewed Realism to Convey the Horror of Imperial Violence (By Moira Hicks)
    Moira Hicks on magical realism and how Metal Gear uses fantastical elements to better communicate the horrors of war and American imperialism.
    "In this light, even A Plague Tale’s most outré moments—its seemingly infinite heaps of corpses, never-ending torrents of rats, and the presence of literally sorcerous characters—can be forgiven as expressionist exaggeration or a magical realist fantasy meant to render the most unbelievable horror of real history into something understandable. Its camp excess is meant to heighten the sense that everything happening to Amicia and Hugo, but also to the wide swaths of ordinary 14th century French who actually lived or died during the horrific medieval war, can only be communicated through the twisting logic of a nightmare."
    A Plague Tale: Innocence Is the Anti–Assassin’s Creed (Reid McCarter)
    Continuing with a focus on magical realism, Reid McCarter examines A Plague Tale’s depiction of the Hundred Years’ War and how it differs from game's like Assassins Creed which frequently follow in the style of Thomas Carlyle’s “great man” reading of history.
    "Bioshock could be powerful at times — who could forget that first interaction with the splicer, or the golf club moment? — but by going “hey, I’m About Something,” a lot of people who were desperate for games to be taken seriously made the mistake of assuming that being About Something made you inherently intellectual."
    i don’t think i like prestige games
    yeah, okay, so i don’t like prestige games, and i think i get why (By GB 'Doc' Burford)
    Doc Burford defines his idea of prestige games and covers the desire people have to feel that their hobby is validated by championing games that attempt to be intellectual regardless of how poorly they examine their messages or how much was lifted from better things. Doc briefly gives some of his thoughts about his article and wanting people to seek more for themselves rather than being complacent here and wrote a follow up piece going into more detail and discussing some of the responses to the first.
    "I’ll offer one architectural term, though: a “falsework,” which is a temporary frame that holds a structure up until it can support itself. A certain subset of falsework lends the texture to Brutalism’s concrete walls, in fact. Shooting is the falsework of Control: built first, defining its form, supporting its architecture. In the end, we’ll dismantle all that scaffolding so the beautiful pillars and the coffered ceilings can settle into their new positions on high."
    “Falsework,” by Nick Capozzoli (By Nick Capozzoli)
    Nick Capozzoli considers if the architecture of Control serves as anything more than the foundation of a shooting gallery.
    "She will enjoy it. She will feel at home. But she will also have to work that enjoyment within a corrupt system that works to control inexplicable things that resist control. Just because she hires “better people” doesn’t mean they won’t be prone to the same kinds of hysterics and egos that led to Darling and Trench’s respective downfalls. She will ultimately realize that without the Bureau, without The Oldest House, she may as well be dead. She must keep this position, or there will be nothing left worth living. She will fall under the same lust for control that plagued Director Trench. Like Trench, the job will be as much a prison as it is privilege. Things she once enjoyed will be corrupted by bureaucracy, just as the Altered Items are corrupted by the collective subconscious. A self-fulfilling prophecy. A cycle that repeats and renews ad infinitum. Capitalism, bureaucracy, politics, America."
    Everyone Wants The Big Chair, Meg (By Carol Grant)
    Carol Grant on the feelings of frustration and fascination felt by the implications of the ending of Control.
    "The game’s basic message—like the chilling effect of Wajda’s Kanał—is, in the end, universal, even as it focuses on the specifics of Warsaw, Poland, in the last months of 1944. It shows the Uprising not as a glorious, bloodless undertaking but as a horrifying event that the world should mark as one of the darkest chapters of our history. Warsaw is the latest contribution to a nation’s ongoing efforts to process its history, delayed for decades and erupting in recent years as an ongoing battle between competing visions for the country’s future. But it’s also a monument to the many struggles Poland has faced, in the 20th century and before, to continue existing at all."
    How Warsaw Captures the Brutality—and Complexity—of the Historical Uprising that Inspired It (By Reid McCarter)
    Reid McCarter researched the Warsaw Uprising to tell how the recently released game Warsaw captured the events brutality and complexity.
    "James’s descent through the strata of a psychic netherworld to, one way or another, atone for killing Mary is commonly read as a Freudian punishment dream. This is worked into the game’s foundations—as Gareth Damian Martin wrote, on both a micro and macro scale the architecture of Silent Hill 2 is an expressive Freudian topography built to ferry players into its ever-darker depths."
    “Nurse With Wound,” by Astrid Rose (By Astrid Rose)
    Astrid Rose on the use of violence and psychosexual meanings behind the design choices of Silent Hill 2.
    "During my time reviewing Death Stranding, I had a relationship fall into disrepair. That my most valued personal connection frayed while playing a game that is ultimately about the bonds we make was not lost to me. Time and time again in Death Stranding, I wandered through harsh red deserts and snow-capped peaks with the mission of bringing people together. I crossed bridges left by strangers, trusting that the paths they had laid would bring me where I needed to go. Outside of the game, I was lost. What does it mean for a connection to unravel, like an old rope bridge across a ravine? What does it take to rebuild one? I don’t have answers to this. Death Stranding didn’t provide them. Instead, it insisted on a simple idea: that we are made strong by the grace and, more beautifully, the chance of others."
    Death Stranding: The Kotaku Review (By Heather Alexandra)
    Heather Alexandra described what Death Stranding seems to draw its inspirations from, how it communicated its themes of togetherness and worker solidarity through its systems, gestures towards modern America, and how it creates a desire to build something.
    "In its use of 19th and 20th century imagery, Death Stranding consciously evokes the violence that hangs over both eras, be it America’s use of the nuclear bomb at the end of World War II or the systemic brutality that accompanied the country’s western expansion. Most strikingly, the game is filled with constant reminders that everything players see and do in its setting takes place in the shadow of a horrific tragedy—the “Death Stranding” that left regions of the country marked by enormous craters caused by bomb-like “voidouts” and the ordering influence of a recognized government in shambles. Its main characters are all touched by the instability of their country and this recent terror. All of them have been marked, physically and mentally, by the cataclysm that partially destroyed their country—and each of them has thoughts on how America can move on from the chaos."
    Death Stranding Finds Hope in Despair (By Reid McCarter)
    Reid McCarter shows how Death Stranding signals for hope and optimism in even hopeless situations.
    "Death Stranding’s (and Kojima’s) tendency to complicate for no reason other than complication’s sake ends up depoliticizing the game. The early game presents an America that’s mostly artifice—an oval office that’s depicted through a hologram projection over a gray hospital room; devices for “linking citizens” that look more like handcuffs; and a de facto leader, Die-Hardman, who literally wears a mask through 95 percent of the game—and the game honestly seemed to be presenting a narrative that would attack fantasies of “going back” to the old days, fantasies in no short supply in our own American moment. But as the game introduces more and more to the world and plot it presents, this simple critique becomes muddied in a way that doesn’t make it more complex but instead smooths out any contradiction or critique in favor of a happy ending in which the nation could be saved and humanity might survive another day. In other words, Death Stranding starts out with a pointed approach but settles on a description of America as a land of contrast, one that is not only depoliticized but politically frustrating on its own merits."
    The Muddled, Flavorless Politics of Death Stranding (By Trevor Strunk)
    Trevor Strunk attempts to find a coherent message in Death Stranding.
    "Gears is not capable of answering why we should choose or why we should live. It is, despite flickers of other ways of living, an anti-utopia. However, its characters do continue, fighting for a peace that might never exist, because they refuse to believe that this is the end. I admire them and weep for them, when the writing allows, because they strive. Gears of War is fundamentally tragic, but it is not nihilistic."
    What Have We Got Left? Gears of War and Cyclical History (By Grace and Cole Henry)
    Grace and Cole Henry discuss Gears of War's narrative struggle with the series own business model alongside the character's struggle for survival.
    "You can find beauty in this ugly, cynical world if you can look at where you’ve been, look at what you’re still holding onto, and saying “I can do better”. It’s not about making the past disappear. That’s impossible, and you’ll always have your past deeds weighing you down. But people are complex beings, good and bad. Disco Elysium neatly sums up what makes role playing so powerful. It’s not about unbound freedom. It’s about us shaping our own character arcs."
    Disco Elysium and Finding the Beauty in a Cynical World (By Jeremy Signor)
    Jeremy Signor covers how Disco Elysium handles finding beauty and redemption in a cynical world while showing what makes role playing powerful.
    "Communists and fascists do not do battle in Disco Elysium. Why would they? Power lies within the hands of the moralists and the ultraliberals. Neither the communists nor the fascists are relevant enough to upset this balance of power. The neoliberal grip on the world is too strong, and the historical moment that allowed for the revolution has passed."
    A Spectre is Haunting Martinaise — Detective Fiction and Disco Elysium’s Disappointing Ending (By PJ Judge)
    PJ Judge gives their thoughts on why some people are disappointed by Disco Elysium's ending, why they think it works, looks at the history of detective fiction and how it is portrayed in the game, and examines the power behind the ideologies in the city of Revachol.
    "Some of the game’s most staggering worldbuilding is staged in this little church; it is here we witness the synthesis of Elysium’s spiritual, scientific, artistic, and “para-natural” aspects. Note how Soona, the failed programmer, finally locates the 2mm hole: she surrounds it with its opposite, its antipode. She floods in loud, live, human music. And not just any music: noisy, urgent rave. Youth music. If the old world is leaking, Disco Elysium seems to say, plug it with the new. If there is too much past to bear, make yourself present. Outside, the world is 72% pale, and the ratio is worsening. There is more and more of the stuff each day, growing skyward. A rising tide of past, crashing ceaselessly into our present, threatening to wash us away. Yet a beach still describes the ocean, even as it is consumed by it. And Harry Du Bois provides a living analog of this—its human proof. He cannot run from his past, but he can dance with it."
    A Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Disco Elysium on the Past and Present (By Alastair Hadden)
    Alastair Hadden examines Disco Elysiums use of amnesia, the desire to become something new without being able to escape the past, opening cynicism as you piece your view of the world together, the role of its police, and sorting through the wreckage of the world of Elysium and how it reckons with its history.
    "A rattling skull. A trashed hostel room. A vacant memory. As Disco Elysium begins, protagonist Harry Du Bois has definitively lost his shit. We can never make him anything other than a man who’s lost his shit, but our choices can shape exactly what sort of shit he’s lost. Planescape Torment asked: What can change the nature of a man? Disco Elysium says, sure, you’ve lost your shit, but of that shit, how much is really worth trying to get back?"
    How Disco Elysium Mocks Fascists By Letting You Play As One (By Nic Reuben)
    Nic Reuben plays through Disco Elysium exploring where the fascist options take your version of the protagonist and where it took the like-minded characters you interact with.
    "How do you tell a story about the horrors of war to players who’ve been trained up in your own virtual proving grounds? Players who can kill eight men with a cinder block? And how do you do it without alienating potential markets (and the Department of Defense)?"
    How Modern Warfare smooths over the horrors of war (By Nick Capozzoli)
    Nick Capozzoli considers how the attempts at realism make this years Call of Duty feel more artificial, how it clearly borrows scenes from films and the importance of what it changes, and the way people view the campaign and multiplayer as separate games with only one deserving critique. Additional thoughts were posted here.
    "The Metro series is one inexplicably drawn to the idea of things. When the end of the world happens, do things serve us similarly?  Do they carry the same weight or are they changed? Do we have any more things or do we need to make new ones? The answers to these questions are difficult ones to come to but one thing’s for sure: everything is invariably changed. Things that were taken advantage of before find new, deeper meaning. The trains people traveled in and the tunnels they flew through became new homes. The bullets we used to wage war now act as both protection and currency. Guitars that were once just instruments bring communities together in song and dance, communities that had nothing before that."
    Metro: Exodus-Home is Where Your Stuff Is (By Moises Taveras)
    Moises Taveras covers how the Metro series uses the things we love to hold on to our humanity.
    "Start from square one and take a deep breath, no matter what – the apocalypse can only happen behind you."
    UNSTOPPING (By Skeleton)
    Skeleton considers the apocalyptic visions of the shoot em up genre and how ZeroRanger allows you to break free.
    "I don't remember the first photograph I took in this generation. But I know I took a lot. Somewhere north of 85 gigabytes (nearly half the space taken up by my conventional photographs) are sitting on an external hard drive, and those are the ones after the culling. If I didn't immediately love the games of this generation, God I sure did love the Share button. Even as I was bored, I couldn't help but shoot."
    How the Photo Mode Became a Homogenized Feature of Commodified Games (By Dia Lacina)
    Dia Lacina on the rise of photography modes in video games over the last few years and where they have ended up.
    "It’s about time we in Western circles more widely grappled with the place that historical dating sims inhabit within this canon. In the remaining days of this year, one already rife with significant anniversaries in video game history, there’s one paradigm-defining entry in the genre that turned 25 this past May, yet has lamentably gone ignored despite its sheer presence in its homeland and its immense legacy remaining in many of today’s chart-topping hits."
    25 Years With an Invisible Elephant in the Room (By Tom James)
    Game translator Tom James looks at a genre defying game for its 25th anniversary, Konami’s Tokimeki Memorial. Why it is seen as a titan in Japanese game history and how and why its influence is felt in some of the most popular games today.
     
    Game Design
    Articles that focus on game design and the ideas and processes behind it
     
    "Sure, there are some things I can’t do, and that’s okay; it’s life, for everyone. But for disabled people, we often can’t join in just because no one thought of us. It’s unbearably isolating and sad to be faced with other people’s palpable joy and camaraderie when you have to watch from the sidelines, again. It’s also not always an all-or-nothing situation of can or can’t. Sometimes, doing the thing is painful or extra exhausting (i.e. harder than it should be). So, yes, I completed Bloodborne, but in doing so I was left with hand injuries that took months to heal – and I’m not being hyperbolic. Playing exhausted me, both mentally and physically. It made me hyper-aware of my limitations as a disabled player."
    Sekiro: Accessibility In Games Is About Far More Than 'Difficulty' (By Cherry Thompson)
    Accessibility expert Cherry Thompson discuss the framing of conversations regarding difficulty in games and the variety of elements that go into making games more accessible.
    "Whether or not a player notices, appreciates, or is able to see these details, everything from a pen on a desk to a chair in a room has to be meticulously made, scrutinized, and tested. But at what cost? How does a developer decide how much time to allocate to set dressing a small room versus a game’s main character? How many polygons should an asset in the corner of a players eye get versus something directly in their face?"
    The 18-month fence hop, the six-day chair, and why video games are so hard to make (By Blake Hester)
    Blake Hester speaks with developers about the time and cost of trying to get the little details right in games.
    "When I first spoke to Spencer Yan, I wanted to tell the stories of modders who had poured themselves into passion projects that never saw the light of day. I'd been reading the recent RomChip, and several articles there had made the same, lucid argument: the history of games is also a history of the games that never made it. Not just the big studio failures where everyone, at the very least, ended up with a paycheck, but the hundreds of hours sacrificed by talented amateurs. I wanted to end this piece having told these stories, and maybe finish with some easy, conclusive quotables that might have helped anyone embarking on a creative work in the future. Spencer Yan's story doesn't have any of those, so if you're after a bow to wrap things up, maybe stop reading after this insight from Pi0h1."
    The messy story behind the Hotline Miami mod that never was (By Nic Reuben)
    Nic Reuben interviews the man behind a failed Hotline Miami mod. The life events that inspired and changed it, community reactions, and what can happen behind the projects that never made it.
    "Game designers don’t actually talk that much about difficulty; we talk about things like progression systems and mental load. None of these things are strictly questions of “difficult” versus “easy” — they’re more about how we guide players to greater competency, and what that journey should be like, ideally."
    Difficulty is about trust and communication, not ‘hard’ vs. ‘easy’ (By Jennifer Scheurle)
    Jennifer Scheurle looks at recent discussions around difficulty and Death Stranding to discuss how designers and players talk about the subject of difficulty in very different ways.
    "Before Twitter and its legions of armchair quarterbacks with the luxury of spending much more time reviewing translations than the original translators had in doing them, our main concern was an honest desire to make a fun and entertaining game for a local audience. To this day, I believe the best translators are writers, who take on what is an impossible task and do their best to satisfy several masters: the audience, the original author, and the marketplace."
    The bizarre, true story of Metal Gear Solid’s English translation (By Jeremy Blaustein)
    The man who translated Metal Gear Solid, Jeremy Blaustein, tells the story behind his work.
    "What people outside of the industry don't always appreciate is a game is constructed from so many pieces and you don't see the final product until the very end so it's hard to plan for unforeseen problems," says Szamalek. "When you're working on a play in the theatre, you might not have the costumes or the set, but you can see the actors interpreting the lines, you can imagine what it will look like - in games that's extremely hard. Even if you do have a clear goal and direction, you might end up in a different place because a certain part of the game gets cut or a new mechanic is introduced and this requires you to change the storyline, or it turns out that a tester says the game is lacking this or that."
    The writing of The Witcher 3 (By Keith Stuart)
    Keith Stuart speaks with CD Projekt designers about the challenges behind the writing and location designs of The Witcher 3.
    "Particularly when coupled with its dreamlike story and nightmarish imagery, the experience of playing Pathologic 2 can feel bizarre and obscure. You might stumble upon a solution by accident or receive advice in a dream while you sleep, and around town there are rituals of ambiguous purpose. Does it accomplish anything to bury a doll in the ground at the behest of some children, to buy a bull that allegedly speaks, or to follow the kids’ rules when exchanging items at their hidden stashes? And even if it all means nothing, do you dare not to do these things and risk finding out?"
    A Russian Crucible: Pathologic 2 and the Problem of Video Game Difficulty (By Steven Nguyen Scaife)
    Steven Nguyen Scaife interviews the developers of Pathologic 2 about storytelling, choices, and designing a difficulty when the point is to punish the player.
    "Gather around, curious collectors! Today, we thought it’d be fun to recount the all-encompassing journey of Shovel Knight's development. Let's explore how it all began, and how our original vision evolved into a 6 year development, producing five games in five years forming the multi-game collection known as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove."
    How Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove Went From Minor DLC to a Collection Built to Last,
    The Making of Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Part 1: The Plan, 
    The Making of Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Part 2: Froggy Foreshadowing, 
    The Making of Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Part 3: Our Favorite Secrets and More, 
    The Making of Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Part 4: The Subtle Art of Backgrounds, 
    The Making of Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Part 5: Fin (By Yacht Club Games)
    Yacht Club Games recounts how the development of Shovel Knight turned into making five games over the course of six additional years and how the work of creating them was done in this series of guest articles.
     
    Game Industry
    Articles focused on the industry itself, from what it is like to work in the game industry or in fields connected to the game industry, to the platforms and tech behind it
     
    “I thought that room would be packed with employers,” he says. “I walked in branded with my IATSE gear. I wanted it to be glaringly obvious that I was a union representative. I went into that room expecting to walk into a lion’s den and be torn apart ... but what I found was 200 games workers absolutely ready to attack the IGDA.”
    Game developers need to unionize (By Tim Colwill)
    Tim Colwill discusses the need for unions, why tech industry leaders have worked to create a culture of hostility towards them, and the work done by Game Workers Unite.
    "At the point when the layoff occurred, I (and many others) had been working overtime for months (10–12 hour days, 6 days a week). My personal life had taken a backseat to the grueling pre-launch schedule that got WoW out the door. This is what we were asked to do, and I did it willingly, without hesitation. A few months later, I found myself jobless. I was loyal to a company that in the end felt no loyalty to me in return."
    Finding a New Path: How I Survived a Game Industry Layoff (By Christine Brownell)
    Christine Brownell tells her story of going through a layoff at Blizzard 14 years ago, how it can effect you, and what she learned from it.
    "I knew that games are built from dreams and tricks, but seeing first-hand how much it hurts a team to not put in a last little detail that might add cohesion to a world because there’s a critical bug elsewhere made me reconsider how I see the rest of the games I play."
    How it feels to release an indie game in 2019 (By Xalavier Nelson Jr.)
    Xalavier Nelson Jr., the narrative designer of Hypnospace Outlaw, discusses the panic and uncertainty that comes with releasing a game and the factors that cause that.
    "The free market is rarely, if ever, actually free, and competition, especially inside a well-oiled money-making machine like Steam, isn’t fair. People game the system precisely because Steam is unfair. Success often comes down to who can ride luck, the wax and wane of genre preferences, timing, gimmicks, algorithmic shifts, and even underhanded tactics like lying about release dates to the top of a select handful of charts that go a disproportionately long way toward determining success or failure. This inherent unfairness is present, too, in the competition between Steam and Epic, and it creates a similar sort of tension that Steam users can only vent through rage. In theory, “fair” competition would involve another service coming along with a better feature set than Steam and winning the day on merit alone. Easy enough. But, nestled within that sleek shell of simplicity is a briar ball of thorny particularities."
    Why People Are So Mad About The Epic Games Store (By Nathan Grayson)
    Nathan Grayson covers how the perception of fairness has been defined by society and major companies and the inevitable unfairness that comes from the scale of competition between Valve and Epic.
    "The popularity of Fortnite has been transformative for Epic Games. But the game’s explosive growth led to months of intense crunch for Epic employees and contractors, some of whom say they felt extreme pressure to work grueling hours to maintain Fortnite’s success and profitability, resulting in a toxic, stressful environment at the company."
    How Fortnite’s success led to months of intense crunch at Epic Games (By Colin Campbell)
    After dozens of employee interviews over the course of months, Colin Cambell reports on the stressful and hostile work environment at Epic after Fortnite's sudden success.
    "I took one day off between Jan 1 [2011] and the day the day 1 patch was approved. It was my birthday, and it was on a Sunday, so it was ok if i was just on call. I was allowed to go to a friends' wedding (on call of course) on a Saturday night, after working an 8 hour shift first. Those were the only two days i didn't work from at least 10 am to at least midnight. We were all doing this. I mean, except the bosses, of course, who would leave after dinner."
    Former devs speak out about 'severe crunch' at Mortal Kombat studio (By Wes Fenlon and Andy Chalk), 
    "This Is How They Get Away With It:" Former NetherRealm Studios Contract Devs Reveal a Troubling Studio Culture (By Matt Kim), 
    NetherRealm's self-sustaining culture of crunch (By Brendan Sinclair)
    During the release of Mortal Kombat 11, multiple former employees of NetherRealm Studios began speaking up about the poor working conditions and culture of the studio, going back as far as MK vs. DC from over 10 years ago. Multiple websites have interviewed their current and former employees and contractors about the culture, involving forced crunch, low and unequal pay, issues with inclusivity, false promises of full time positions for fatality designers, and the mentality in the game industry that has allowed companies to get away with it.
    "The video game association that conceived the industry’s national ratings system, handles all lobbying efforts and runs the massive annual E3 showcase is in disarray. The Entertainment Software Association is still staggered by the departure of its president and what numerous current and past employees tell Variety was a toxic environment rife with internal politics, witch hunts and in-fighting."
    Inside the Disarray Facing the Video Game Organization Behind E3 (By Brian Crecente)
    Brian Crecente speaks with sources and researches leaked documents to uncover the current state of the Entertainment Software Association.
    "The Nintendo Switch is the first time that a mainline Pokemon title has been developed for a home console, and as a result that kind of workforce upscaling has likely occurred a second time. However, the general backlash to Pokemon scaling down its product in order to reach a reasonable development time reveals quite clearly that fans don’t seem to understand how much work goes into each game."
    Pokemon, and Why The Games Industry Needs To Be Less Secretive (By Lilly)
    Lilly uses the anger directed at Pokemon Sword and Shield to talk about how corporate messaging hurts gamers already poor perception of how games are made.
    "One Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, the developers at Treyarch held a happy hour event to welcome the summer interns. There was pizza, beer, and jubilation for everyone at the studio behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 4—except the quality assurance testers, who had to leave shortly after they got there."
    The Human Cost Of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (By Jason Schreier)
    Jason Schreier reports on the human cost of Black Ops 4 and the treatment of game contractors and QA.
    "We’ve moved beyond the time of the Atari 2600, when publishers simply saw their games as disposable, and bigger companies are getting somewhat better at archiving and maintaining their own histories, but with live service becoming the business model for the biggest publishers, games can change drastically over the course of their life spans. As Eric Kaltman wrote in his 2016 essay “Current Game Preservation is Not Enough” for Stanford’s How They Got Game program, “The incredible production rates of current games, and the inability to currently preserve them all will lead to a situation where predominantly single player, non-networked games are overrepresented (or in many cases the only representatives) in the playable record.”
    The Uncertain Future of Video Game History (By Michael Goroff)
    Michael Goroff interviews those looking to preserve game history, why it matters and how it effects the future.
    "I still feel it in my bones when I read that 99% of 1980s Japanese PC games are lost, there is no question about that. But at the same time, I feel like we should accept that it is OK. As players, we should reconcile with our nostalgia, cherish our memories but understand that trying to re-live them is futile. Preservation efforts, in my view, should be informed by this counter-intuitive philosophy, accepting that games, art, things, people – disappear, are forgotten, every day. This re-alignment does not mean that efforts to continue finding and preserving video games of the past should cease. Rather, the focus of these efforts should expand to include celebration, interpretation and political action, all driven by an anti-capitalist ethos, an ethos that rejects both profit and immortality as motivators."
    Game preservation and the quest for immortality (By Seva Kritskiy)
    Seva Kritskiy discusses why, despite preservation efforts, most games will continue to disappear, accepting that that is ok, their primary worth being personal and emotional, and rejecting profit and immortality as reasons and motivation for preservation.
    "A lead would walk around the office with a notepad asking how many overtime hours QAs were going to put in, she recalled. If they said none, the lead would ask the reason why. 'There was no extra money on top of your normal wage for overtime, but rather you would be allocated $5 worth of food from the store [across] the road which the leads would go and buy for you.' In her experience, working with smaller studios made for a better experience overall, and having testers embedded with developers really made a difference."
    What It’s Really Like to Be a QA Tester (By Diego Argüello)
    Diego Argüello spent months interviewing current and former QA testers to learn about the industry exploitative practices.
    "Ghosting stories like these are common when it comes to Nicalis, a game developer and publisher that has grown big in the independent scene thanks to smash hits like Cave Story and Binding of Isaac but also has cultivated a reputation for mistreating employees and outside developers. Nicalis, based in Orange County, California, employs a staff of around 20 and handles a number of ports, re-releases, and original games, usually developed with external partners. In recent years, fans have noticed some public scuffles between Nicalis and game developers, but the extent of Nicalis’s troubled history has not yet been revealed."
    Inside The Ghosting, Racism, And Exploitation At Game Publisher Nicalis (By Jason Schreier)
    Jason Schreier speaks with former employees and developers that have worked with publisher Nicalis about their experiences with the company and its founder Tyrone Rodriguez.
    "A frequent question that gets brought up is “why now”. I would like people to understand that I tried. I spent years trying. When I did try, closer to when it happened, I couldn’t even speak ill of him. I was completely shot down. Every E3 I would post a thread talking about how hard it is to see him in the open, to be confronted with his work, and nobody knowing what happened. I talked extensively how you can’t do anything about this unless you are famous too, and matter to people. I spent years building up a reputation, and standing in this community. I wanted to say something. I didn’t think I mattered enough to be believed."
    my follow up post (By Nathalie Lawhead)
    In the later part of the year multiple men in the game industry (Jeremy Soule, Alec Holowka, Ben Judd, Alexis Kennedy, etc) were called out for sexual assault, creating hostile working conditions, and/or for their abusive behavior by multiple former and current acquaintances, business partners, and co-workers. Nathalie Lawhead wrote the initial blog post, calling out my rapist, about her interactions with Jeremy Soule. A few days later, after many others had joined her in exposing the actions of other industry veterans and they all received the normal backlash, she wrote the above blog about coming forward, the toll of abuse, and the need for a cultural and community shift away from abusive behavior being tolerated and rewarded instead of corrected.
    "Still, I understand why many readers feel this way. I think that game review sites spent too many years treating game criticism as an exercise in raw consumer advocacy. I count myself among those responsible. Reviewing Diablo 3 for such a site, I gave it a positive review because it struck me as a game that “the audience” would like. In actuality, it’s a game I find gross and off-putting in its constant, blatant efforts to make you feel powerful and to stroke your ego. But I was inside that professional world, where the kind of approach I took to that review and many others was expected of me, was, in fact, the only acceptable approach, and at the time, I didn’t question this. I believed in it myself to some degree. Writing this now, I think of the Mandalorian, unquestioningly asserting “This is the way,” or perhaps Joe Pesci’s crime boss Russell Bufalino in The Irishman, saying with some measure of regret about an unchangeable truth, “It’s what it is.”
    Ruthless Individuality: Criticism’s Past, and Hopefully Its Future (By Carolyn Petit)
    Carolyn Petit shares her thoughts on the perception of critics, how that has shifted over time, working as a critic in a professional environment, and how reactions towards Death Stranding lead to thoughts of there being nothing more useful than ruthlessly individual perspectives outside the hive mind.
    "However, one of the lessons we learn growing up is that matter cannot be created or destroyed. Santa Clause had no part in the development, sale, and delivery of Spider-Man for the Nintendo 64; Mom and Dad had to work, get paid, budget, plan, travel, and purchase that cherry-red cartridge so that I could mash C buttons and web-up thugs into squirming cocoons. All things begin and end with labor, even magical video games."
    Games are Not Magic (By James Frierson)
    James Frierson on the work behind the magic and when your passion becomes a product.
     
    Life, Culture, and Games
    Articles on the meaning that games and the industry can have for people, connections they help create, how we look at them, how they influence people, how they have changed over time, and why they matter
     
    "Mats would not live what they considered a "normal life". He would die young and be taken away from them - without having set his mark on the world. They were so completely mistaken."
    My disabled son’s amazing gaming life in the World of Warcraft (By Vicky Schaubert)
    Vicky Schaubert interviews Robert Steen who learned about the life his disabled son lived through online gaming after his death.
    "Behind one of the most iconic computer games of all time is a theory of how cities die—one that has proven dangerously influential."
    Model Metropolis (By Kevin T. Baker)
    Kevin T. Baker looks at the book and theories that influenced Will Wright's ideas on city design and the implications of the politics of SimCity.
    "Though no creative feat is achieved without inspiration, the manner in which Fortnite has transplanted the creative output of these men into its brightly colored marionettes, without permission, credit, or compensation feels particularly egregious. After all, the direction that this creativity travels is from those with less, those who spark viral brilliance from nothing, to those with so much more, absorbing whatever they can, erasing the past in the process."
    Fortnite's Appropriation Issue Isn't About Copyright Law, It's About Ethics (By Yussef Cole)
    Yussef Cole ‏gives historical context to the moral issues surrounding Fortnite's dance appropriation.
    "Mae’s world treats her as she really is. There’s no saccharine lie about everything being ok now that she’s upended her life trajectory and put her family out. Coming home isn’t a symphony of sympathy and a line of open arms. She left as a ticking bomb and came home detonated and there’s a mess to clean up. The clean up crew love her and want to help, but there’s no simple fix and no absconding from her own role in things. That too, I recognize."
    Years In the Woods (By Ethel)
    Ethel works through their thoughts on identifying with the characters of Night in the Woods, seeing yourself in the media you consume compared to stories focused on escapism, and seeing others identifying with characters in the same way you are.
    “When games are discussed in purely mechanical terms, as these kinds of games inevitably are, any evaluation of what they actually achieve (or fail to achieve) on other fronts is always going to feel besides-the-point or navel-gazey. The accepted approach is to say that Anthem does not have “enough to do,” foregoing a look at whether what there is “to do” is worthwhile.”
    “Consuming the World,” by Reid McCarter (By Reid McCarter)
    Reid McCarter writes about consumption and the reductive discourse surrounding games like Anthem when the focus is almost solely on mechanics and the amount of content rather than if what there is to do is worthwhile in the first place.
    "Symbols aflame can feel more real than real. They put “fire in the minds of men“. And I could see it now: we are all on fire, all the time. Notre Dame’s billowing flames were my wake-up call."
    The Cathedral and the Simulacrum (By Gilles Roy)
    After the Notre-Dame fire, Gilles Roy explores in Assassins Creed Unity while considering how virtual spaces can carry the memory of real ones and wonders what will carry the memory of the digital.
    "This key feature of historical games, interactivity and, as a result, counterfactual outcomes, makes games potentially a very powerful medium for exploring the past. Historical games, in short, can do a very good job presenting the past in terms of systems and interactions, the causal connections that made past societies and people act the way they did. They can also represent the past, to a certain extent, as it seemed to agents at the time, as a contextualized world of possibilities where agents make choices in the hopes of achieving or avoiding certain outcomes, without any certainty how everything will come out in the end. Indeed, this is how life is experienced for most of us, past and present. Interestingly, however, as Copplestone (2017) noted, the standard form of representing the past, textual history, tends to present the past as anything but open-ended, as simply a linear set of events destined to turn out the way they did. Games offer a sense of exploration, of control, of possibility, possibly a sense of sober consideration, not just passive determinism. As such they can helpfully move history education beyond the archetypal monotony of “one damned thing after another.”"
    Playing with the past: history and video games (and why it might matter) (By Jeremiah McCall)
    Jeremiah McCall discusses how and why games are a powerful tool for teaching and learning history.
    "The Hero’s Journey is not a laudable goal to reach, nor a reference sheet for format, but a set of handcuffs we tighten around our wrists with every iteration. The Hero dies at 40, and I am glad he is dead, memento mori, for the heroics are not for me. They are for you, a salve to slap on the mind, to deaden the horror of life, to give meaning to a cycle of absurdity through projection, a cycle that one should frame so that it can be broken."
    Theater of Mechanics, and in Mechanics, a Movement (By Mx. Medea)
    Mx. Medea suggests that people discussing whether or not games are art don't have an understanding of what art is in the first place.
    "While the open worlds of Minecraft and Roblox are sometimes touted as an opportunity for children to learn programming skills and develop an aesthetic sensibility, they have also become indoctrination into entrepreneurship for children, shaping their creativity and passion before they have enough life experience to know the alternatives or the consequences of it. Almost every game on Roblox is free to play, but there are opportunities to spend Robux, the game’s universal currency, at every corner."
    Open Worlds How we became nostalgic for Minecraft (By Alexi Alario)
    Alexi Alario on how we became nostalgic for Minecraft and how players have been urged to monetize their creativity.
    "At this scale, games have become both tremendously risk-averse and brutally neoliberal. They require a vast, heterogeneous player base to pay off their massive investment but are more intent than ever on accommodating their zealous orthodox wing. They attempt to be everything to everyone, while still maintaining their necessarily conservative core. Designed as accessory slot machines, neverending serials, and forever games-as-a-service, they’re meant to generate revenue indefinitely. Some of them are meticulously crafted, incredible experiences — this is the industry that still made The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — but even so, their visions are filtered through scores of people, layers of market considerations, and always those persistent assumptions about what gamers are and what they want out of games."
    No shit, video games are political. They’re conservative (By Josh Tucker)
    Josh Tucker examines the lies that the game industry tells and how it got like this.
    "Like a drug store or a supermarket, GameStop has become more of a utility provider than something a teen might wrap their identity around. Games, too. Playing Fortnite doesn’t furnish a special identity so much as a communion with pop culture at large, eating a tasteless wafer with an image of Ninja pressed into it. The games industry generated $135 billion in 2019, and not purely off the backs of outcasts and idiosyncratics. In 2019, the fact that a person plays video games doesn’t say a lot about them. The escapist tendency is strong in most of us, no stronger in gamers than in those who compulsively use Instagram or comment on New York Times articles. We can’t pretend anymore that the places online we escape to are entirely separate from what we’re escaping from when escapism itself has become an industry optimized to distort these base desires."
    Confessions Of A Teenaged Strip-Mall GameStop Delinquent (By Cecilia D'Anastasio)
    Cecilia D'Anastasio looks at the rise of GameStop, strip mall culture, and former ideas of online and offline identities through the lens of adolescent escapism.
    "The rancorous consumer movement of the 2009-2014 period originally was built on a well-reasoned foundation of a demand for quality and fair practice. Rising launch prices, intensive pre-order campaigns with gated content for specific retailers, communal investment in decentralized spaces overrun with mandatory matchmaking, and exploitation of talent via burnout. There was no immediately obvious reason at the time why any of this grounded protest would prove toxic in the long run, but some PR firms and ‘guerilla marketing’ professionals increasingly grew seduced by the notion of taming the dark side energy emanating from this consumer fury and the numerous ways to harness it."
    The Art Of Letting Go – The End Of Nostalgia Bait (By Emily Rose)
    With the release of Rise of Skywalker Emily Rose considers the effects of mining nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, how modern film discourse relates to the current state of games, and how we got to games as a service business models.
     
    Game Industry Abroad
    Articles covering the game industry of different countries, mostly focused on the ones that we don't often associate with video games, or covering how the industry is growing and effecting people and places worldwide
     
    "It’s uncertain whether people would venture to a gaming museum in the heart of Marvila, halfway between social housing and hipster hotspots. No one knows if this will address the district’s greater needs or be a stepping stone on the path to gentrification. And if it does pan out, there’s still lots of red tape between Silva and success. To someone else it might be a moonshot, but the librarian’s boundless energy and unshakable faith are what brought them here."
    The Gaming Library That Helped a Neglected Neighborhood Find a New Identity (By Kimberly Koenig)
    Kimberly Koenig reports on a gaming library that helped a small neighborhood in Portugal find a new identity after its only outside reputation caused it to be known as one of the city’s most dangerous areas.
    "The five-story mega-arcade was the brainchild of Taishiro Hoshino, a set designer for kabuki theater, who opened it in 2009. Far from a simple collection of games, Anata no Warehouse (“Your Warehouse”) was a recreation of the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong’s New Territories, a gravity-defying mega-slum that had captured the world’s imagination until it was torn down in 1993."
    The Final Days Of Japan's Most Incredible Arcade (By Alexis Ong)
    Alexis Ong on the creation and final days of a Japanese arcade modeled after The Kowloon Walled City.
    "So players head to Steam, and the government, so far, just doesn't seem to care. The huge blind spot is surprising, to say the least - but more surprising still is that the government isn't just turning a blind eye to Steam; it's turning a blind eye to gaming in China as a whole. For all the talk of harsh censorship in games, and president Xi Jinping's desire to "care for the children's eyes" and protect their "bright future", the lack of meaningful enforcement of those rules is striking. Tell that to Monster Hunter: World, you might be thinking - but that's just one incident, on the surface. Dig just a little deeper and there's a world of gaming in China where it can feel like the regulators just don't exist."
    Video games in China: beyond the great firewall (By Chris Tapsell)
    Chris Tapsell travels to Shanghai to speak with developers, publishers, analysts, Valve, and local gamers to get an understanding of the gaming market of China and what it means for everyone else.
     
    Esports
    Articles focused on the world of competitive gaming and companies and players involved in it
     
    "The mainstream narrative of esports has been lovingly crafted by those who benefit from its success. There’s big money in esports, they say. You’ve heard the stories. Teenaged gamers flown overseas to sunny mansions with live-in chefs. The erection of $50 million arenas for Enders Game-esque sci-fi battles. League of Legends pros pulling down seven-figure salaries. Yet there’s a reason why these narratives are provocative enough to attract lip-licking headlines in business news and have accrued colossal amounts of venture capital. More and more, esports is looking like a bubble ready to pop."
    Shady Numbers And Bad Business: Inside The Esports Bubble (By Cecilia D'Anastasio)
    Cecilia D'Anastasio talks to esports experts about the shady numbers and business of the industry and if and when they think the bubble will burst.
    "If skill demands training, but training itself is not profitable, then who is obligated to support the labor of learning until accumulated skill can start to pay for itself? This is the heart of what’s often called a pipeline problem. Skill-building is time-consuming and expensive, and yet it must take place in order for skilled industries to survive."
    The esports pipeline problem (By Will Partin)
    Will Partin looks into the challenge of developing talent in the world of esports.
     

    By Legolas_Katarn, in Articles,


    James Frierson on the work behind the magic and when your passion becomes a product, Noclip releases their documentary on The Outer Wilds, Chariot Rider discusses using games for escapism and the studies researching the healthy and unhealthy effects escapism can have, Errant Signal on the recent Star Wars games and hoping that Star Wars starts to leave nostalgia and iconography behind in the future for more interesting works, Ian Hamilton looks at game accessibility quotes of 2019, Gamespot interviews Control's game director to learn how its most ambitious level was created, Phillip Moyer looks into how independent game stores survive, part two of Foxcade's Nier retrospective, Tom James looks at a genre defying game for its 25th anniversary Konami’s Tokimeki Memorial, part five of Codex Entry's Persona 5 analysis, and more.
     
     
    Gaming News (Announcements, previews, release dates, interviews and writing on upcoming games, DLC and game updates, company and developer news, country news, tech, mods)
     
    Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls To Explore the Depths on PC on January 15
     
    Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot video gives you an idea of what to expect
     
    Langrisser I & II Gets a Sneak Peek at Latest English Version Gameplay
     
    Manipulate the politics of a country in FMV game Not For Broadcast
     
    The Lord of the Rings: Gollum confirmed for Xbox Series X and PS5

     
    Tokyo Mirage Sessions Is Great On Switch

     
    Dreams goes gold
     
    Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories
     
    StarCrossed Trailer
     
    Oddity is an Earthbound spiritual successor that used to be a fan sequel
     
    Kentucky Route Zero Will Finally End (And Come To Switch) Later This Month
     
    Escape from Tarkov not getting playable female characters despite dev retracting initial statement

     
    Crytek seeks to dismiss its own Star Citizen lawsuit until Squadron 42 launches

     
    Platinum Games receives capital investment from Tencent Holdings to expand into self-publishing

     
    Riot feared angering gamers with mobile and card game announcements
     
    Fantasy Flight's Video Game Studio Is Closing

     
    One of America's Largest Unions Gets Serious About Organizing Game Developers

     
    Esports
     
    The competitive Pokemon scene can’t agree on Dynamaxing, but thinks the National Dex restriction is good

     
    The challenges and advantages of casual approachability in Brawl Stars esports

     
    Content I found interesting this week (interviews, recommendations, think pieces, history, music, culture, design, art, documentaries, criticism, etc)
     
    Games are Not Magic

     
    Pauline Jacquey’s World Tour: The Unlikely Journey of Ubisoft’s Punk Nomad Fixer

     
    Seven Games That Were Almost My Game Of The Decade

     
    Extra Ball: How Visual Pinball Wizards Bring Back the Classics

     
    The Cost Of Being A Woman Who Covers Video Games
     
    Surviving GameStop: How Passion, Community, and Novelty Keep Indie Game Stores Alive

     
    Game accessibility quotes of 2019

     
    How Unity Of Command 2 balances game design with military history

     
    25 Years With an Invisible Elephant in the Room

     
    How Age of Empires 2 got some Scottish kids into RTS

     
    'Sayonara Wild Hearts' and the Masks We Wear to Protect Ourselves

     
    Life is Strange 2: Validating the Pain of Being Human

     
    Persona 5 Analysis [Part 5]: This is Totally Fine. // Codex Entry
     
    Nier Retrospective | A Difference of Perspective (Part 2)
     
    The Magical Other World: Understanding the Nature of Escapist Play
     
    What Minecraft Is Like For Someone Who Doesn't Play Games
     
    Star Wars: The Franchise Strikes Back
     
    Indiewatch: Top 10 "Don't Miss" Indie Games of December 2019
     
    Videogames & IRL Politics: The Decade's 5 Most Important Developments
     
    How Death Stranding Became My Favourite Game
     
    How Control's Most Ambitious Level Was Created | Audio Logs
     
    History Respawned: Assassin's Creed II
     
    The Making of Outer Wilds - Documentary
     
    Things I missed from previous weeks
     
    Dear Player: I love you, let’s talk

     

    By Legolas_Katarn, in Articles,


    With the release of Rise of Skywalker Emily Rose considers the effects of mining nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, how modern film discourse relates to the current state of games, and how we got to games as a service business models. Chris Schilling covers the making of Fable 2, Nic Reuben plays through Disco Elysium exploring where the fascist options take your version of the protagonist and where it took the like-minded characters you interact with, Critical Distance shares their year in game blogging list, Skeleton considers the apocalyptic visions of the shoot em up genre and how ZeroRanger allows you to break free, DavidOZ examines the approaches games have taken to their presentation of sex, after the release of the show more people are playing The Witcher 3 on Steam than at its release, Dia Lacina on the rise of photography modes in video games and where they have ended up, Brian David Gilbert's idea for a Waluigi game, more.
     
     
    Gaming News (Announcements, previews, release dates, interviews and writing on upcoming games, DLC and game updates, company and developer news, country news, tech, mods)
     
    Dramatic visuals abound in new Star Citizen Squadron 42 teaser
     
    Yakuza: Like a Dragon latest gameplay trailer
     
    Iron Harvest – End of 2019 Gameplay
     
    Final Fantasy VII Remake demo introduction scene leaked
     
    More People Are Playing The Witcher 3 On Steam Today Than Ever Before
     
    Esports
     
    Remilia, The First Woman To Compete In The League Of Legends Championship Series, Dies At 24

     
    Content I found interesting this week (interviews, recommendations, think pieces, history, music, culture, design, art, documentaries, criticism, etc)
     
    THIS YEAR IN VIDEOGAME BLOGGING: 2019

     
    Game Hihyō (ゲーム批評) / Game Criticism Magazine
     
    A Programmer Lost A Game He Made As A Kid, Until Someone Streamed It On Twitc
     
    How the Photo Mode Became a Homogenized Feature of Commodified Games

     
    Best Games Architecture of 2019

    The Video Game Vending Machines That Defined a Decade
     
    Fable 2: how Xbox's most-ambitious exclusive game changed the rules for open-world interactivity

     
    The Defining Chinese Video Games of the 2010s

     
    How a Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy mod became a 16-year passion project

     
    The diary of an RNG Hitman, part 1

     
    How Disco Elysium Mocks Fascists By Letting You Play As One

    Disco Elysium Is a Kind of Self-Loathing I Can Understand
     
    Destiny 2 Shadowkeep: The Past Haunts Us

     
    UNSTOPPING

     
    The Art Of Letting Go – The End Of Nostalgia Bait

     
    Mutazione: You Are the Mirror In Front of Me

     
    Luigi’s Mansion 3 Isn’t Just A Haunted Mansion Ride, It’s the Whole Damn Park

     
    Channel Recommendations
     
    An Analysis of... Sex in Video Games?
     
    Nier Retrospective | A Difference of Perspective (Part 1)
     
    The History of Grand Theft Auto
     
    Portal Retrospective
     
    IndieWatch: Top 10 Indie Games of 2019
     
    The Writing on Games 'Top Five Games of 2019' List
     
    The Best Video Games of 2019 | Cannot be Tamed
     
    Fantasy & Themes | So You Wanna Be A Game Designer? (#7)
     
    Things I found entertaining throughout the week relating to the game industry
     
    Waluigi, Unraveled
     
    Things I missed from previous weeks
     
    I Played Disco Elysium as an Absolutely Gigantic Fascist