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
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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?"
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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