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    Best Games Writing of 2019


    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





    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."


    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 SouleAlec HolowkaBen JuddAlexis 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.



    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.

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