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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for sitting in disbelief at how a pinched nerve can render your right arm near useless, and then suggesting other people read things you’ve read.

  • Jim and I have been running with the Chess 2 joke for well over a decade. In fact, if anyone were able to get their hands on a copy of the briefly existing but wonderful 101 PCgames magazine, they would find the theme well explored. Someone’s taken it a bit further. Christian Donlan reports for Eurogamer on how two men are trying to help chess out of its current top-end rut, and how that relates to Street Fighter. “If I were to make a completely new competitive game, then tell you that over 60 per cent of games played by experts ended in draws, and it takes like an hour to play, it would be rejected right away as a competitive game I think. At the very least, it would be a bad property that you’d want to fix.”
  • Dr Mark Griffiths is always a voice worth listening to when it comes to stories of “gaming addiction”. I find myself wishing I could agree with him more, but frustrated by his lack of acknowledging another recognisable zone between “not addiction actually” and “my criteria for addiction”. That which Project Massive so helpfully referred to as “problematic use”. Essentially, irresponsibility or a lack of learned ability to self-regulate. It’s inevitably this that more usefully describe the sorts of “I don’t get around to doing my ironing any more!” stories that appear in the tabloids. Instead Griffiths’ wont is to relate things to gambling, despite simultaneously recognising that the rather fundamental aspect of gambling – the possibility of increasing your initial amount of something – is never a factor. I’m just not convinced that leap is yet justified. Anyway, my rant aside, he writes another interesting piece on Candy Crush Saga, in what appears to be a very tactful response to a half-arsed Daily Mail piece for which he was interviewed.
  • I’m not sure Andrew Groen’s initial argument in his piece about religion in Crusader Kings 2 is right at all. He begins, “Not many games approach subjects as prickly as religion. One false step and you can end up alienating or offending a massive portion of your player base.” I’m quite certain that has nothing to do with why games don’t feature the topic – I think it’s because it would be a sophisticated and complicated thing to do well, and most big-budget games avoid sophisticated like it’s made of contagious cancer. Of course, what Groen’s piece reveals is that Crusader Kings 2 absolutely doesn’t avoid sophisticated, and embraces the enormously complex subject of religions’ roles in political history. And the game’s soon to add the Sons Of Abraham DLC, putting in Jewish and Christian faiths. “They manage to strike a neutral ground though by not taking a stance on any single religion or sect. Crusader Kings 2 is something of a sandbox game in which many, many different things can happen. If a religious ideology takes over in your game, it’s not because it’s better. It’s just because that’s how things played out in that version of history.”
  • “Players are overrated,” begins Mattie Brice’s piece, Death Of The Player. I’m already interested. And rightly so. It’s a superbly smart piece, poking at that place people generally prefer to leave alone: she asks, agency in games is an illusion, isn’t it? “There is no such thing as agency in games. Agency is a lotus and we’ve all been asleep. I think The Stanley Parable strives for us to look at this issue, asking why we continue down this narrative of player agency. Can’t we still be taken through experiences without our every whim thought of and satisfied?” And then it keeps getting more interesting.
  • It’s my job to care about videogames. And I do. But watching a video like this one makes me realise what a fair-weather-fly-by-night-flip-flopping-fanboy I am. It’s a forty-five minute dissection of a unit in Starcraft II. I am but fluff.

Music this week comes from a YouTube URL jotted down on a scrap of paper and tossed onto the pile of documents on the Sunday Papers desk in Castle Shotgun. No idea who put it there, but YES. Seven hours of Robert Rich’s ambient excellence.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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