By Graham Smith on January 5th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.
Sundays are for wiping the sleep from your eyes, clearing a holiday-worth of coffee cups from your writing bureau, and settling down in your favourite armchair for another round of the week’s best game writing.
- Simon “Nice Man” Parkin visits with Chris Crawford to find out how his quest to fix videogames is going. Crawford is the industry’s Don Quixote and exactly as inspirational, depressing and comic as that implies. “Chris Crawford owns two jars. One is filled with the beads that represent his past, and the other is filled with the beads that represent his potential future. Every morning, Crawford takes a bead from the jar that holds his future days and places it into the jar that holds the past. While he performs the ritual he tells himself not to waste the day. This routine reminds him that life is finite. Each jar represents how much life Crawford has already lived, and offers an approximation of how many days he might have left.” You’ll have heard parts of this story before, but Parkin tells it well.
- Parkin had a busy break, also finding the time to take a personal trip to Grand Theft Auto V’s Los Santos. I’ve been to Santa Monica numerous times also, but I’d feel more immersed in Los Santos if there was an “Apply Factor 50″ button and accurate sunburn modelling.
- Which also leads into Eurogamer’s Developers’ Games of 2013, in which GTAV was uniformly loved by developers of similarly big, expensive games. Here’s Peter Molyneux expressing a deep affinity for the most unlikeable character in the entire medium: “The fantastic Trevor character. I just feel I am Trevor. I want to be Trevor! I’ve never empathised with a character so much! It was perfection.”
- Finishing off the flurry of GTAV articles, Edge accomplished the impossible and got Rockstar to talk about their own game. Art director Aaron Garbut explains the process of building the city of Los Santos: “I love working with level design. As we’re laying out the world and blocking it in, we’re considering gameplay and coming up with mission ideas. I always do my best to push those ideas through, but I think the most enjoyable part of the project is when we start to place everything in the world. Once the locations are in place and level designers start to get everything to flow together and the cutscenes plugging in, it ticks over from being a series of disconnected elements into a game.”
- Critical Distance did the hard work I didn’t, because I’m lazy and was out of the country, by rounding up their favourite games writing from the past year. There’s some good stuff in the list, although increasingly I think we need more recognition – maybe a meaningless, backpatting, borderline corrupt award, as per tradition – of the unsung and brilliant preview and news writing that happens all the time but which is rarely rewarded because its explicitly useful to the reader. My heroes are the people writing succinct, funny 25-word descriptions of videogames that no one will read, every month, in the standing pages of magazines.
- Mattie Brice has been writing good games criticism for years, especially at the essential Border House blog. She writes on the value of anger as a tool to combat and stay vigilant against social injustice, and the difference between anger and insults. There’s a lot to like in the piece, although I think the waters are muddied by conflating broader industry diversity issues with a personal struggle to make a living as a games critic. “I witnessed personal attacks happen in the name of social justice yesterday, and no matter how complicated the issue, I didn’t say anything even though I felt uncomfortable. I was wrong not to say anything and I sincerely apologize for my hesistation. What we need is more nuanced discussion, and what happened was more of the same. This feels like a good example where valid anger is misused in the name of social justice.” Go read.
- PC Gamer continued what is hopefully now a yearly tradition with Chris Livingston’s Text Adventures That Never Were. At their best, they’re as much criticism as comedy, and BioShock Infinite was my favourite.
- The Washington Post interviewed Gabe Newell on what makes Valve tick. These stories about Valve’s internal structure should be boring by now, but there’s lots to take away from this one. Like: the Diretide fiasco was a trade-off of the way the company operates; Valve offer free internal training courses; and someone at Valve likes Ultimate Frisbee. “My wife, who worked here at the beginning when she was pregnant, is super annoyed about how most companies make it really difficult for their female employees to deal with raising kids so we’re sort of hyper vigilant about making that as easy as possible. She feels like a lot of women get forced out of the workforce because of the trade offs they have to make and it tends to be this fairly large gap. She now runs this organization dedicated to helping from birth to around three years, so she sees how hard it is for most families to keep the mother engaged with her career during that period. A lot of times, after three years they’ve just sort of fallen out. And that’s just another instance of a class of difficulties that we all have.”
- Objective Game Reviews is, I’m almost certain, clever satire of what internet commenters on lesser sites have been requesting for years. That or it’s about to become the most successful videogame site on the internet. Check it: “The graphics in Mass Effect 3 are in a realistic style. There are many aliens that look similar to each other except sometimes they are wearing different clothes. The humans display more variation. The music in the game is orchestral. The sound consist of many different gun fire noises, space noises, and conversations between the characters. Many of the conversations are about the Reapers.”
- Patrick Miller writes about videogames. In this instance, he writes about a panel from the No Show conference about the fighting game community. If you’re interested in communities or fighting games or the FGC or criticism and journalism or race and gender, read it immediately. “When Harper talks about King from Tekken as a ”Mexican wrestler with Jaguar’s head because why not?” King is used as kind of a throwaway joke about how weird and exotic and quaint fighting game characters are. King is a homage to legendary Japanese pro wrestler Tiger Mask, who was instrumental in the formation of Japan’s modern mixed martial arts culture (he was a founder of Shooto), and I’ve had the pleasure of training with Japanese pro fighters who told me about how watching Tiger Mask as a kid inspired them to continue training. King’s inclusion is part of what makes Tekken a decidedly Japanese fighting game in flavor, compared to Virtua Fighter or Street Fighter’s comparatively international casts.”
Music this week comes via Marc Laidlaw.