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The Sunday Papers

LOSING. MY. EDGE.

Sundays are for losing my edge. I’m losing my edge to the internet seekers who can tell me every member of every Amiga developer from 1987 to 1991. I hear that you and your blog have sold your PCs and bought Ouyas. But have you seen my collection of the week’s best (mostly) game’s related scribbling?

  • Over at Eurogamer, Donlan says thank you to the sadly departed Harold Ramis, and muses on how to say thank you to the anonymous people who make the things we love in videogames. “In truth, if you’re like me, you’ll have little idea of who was responsible for many of your favourite moments in many of your favourite games – and that’s a crying shame, since a lot of games are their best moments, living on in your memory, playing over and over and getting sharper and more distinct each time. To me, Arkham City is the grapnel boost. Batman has the best ropes! Look at it go, unspooling from the end of the gun with a puff of smoke, first a coiled Slinky of wire, then a taut black line connecting you to your destination.”
  • Alex Hern explains Twitch Plays Pokémon, the collaborative game-playing stream where tens of thousands try to control the same Pokémon game at once. When the internet can seem like such a vile, anonymous mass, it’s lovely to see that mass come together to play games. Since this article was written, the game has been completed. “As I was writing this, the players had reached the most risky section yet, an area called the Safari Zone. It’s one of the few places it’s possible to render the game unfinishable, by running out of money entirely, and it relies on near-perfect commands to be entered 270 times in a row. But then they did it anyway, coming together and producing detailed maps to help with co-ordination.”
  • There’s no need to defend Defender, but I do like Colin Campbell singing its praises and interviewing its creator over at Polygon. “Jarvis refused to attend the first test in a real arcade. ‘I was afraid that it would bomb,’ he said. ‘It’s like being a comic and dying on stage. You watch people look at the game and then walk on and it’s devastating and so depressing. You have spent all this time on the game and killing yourself to create this thing and then nobody gives a shit. That was my fear.’”
  • Campo Santo are an indie game-making supergroup comprised of The Walking Dead designers Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin, Mark of the Ninja’s Nels Anderson, former Double Finers Chris Remo and Jane Ng, graphic designer Olly Moss, and, well, lots of other rad people. They haven’t announced their first game yet, but they have put out volume one of a Quarterly Review. In After Months of Development, a Veil is Lifted, there’s an interview with a tarot reader on what their game might be: “But the other side of it is – the Empress, the Six of Pentacles – there will be people who love it. The Empress is giving birth to something new. I feel like there will be people on forums who will actually become really into it. They will almost become infatuated with it: the Fool reversed in the heart position.”
  • From the blog of the developer, Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons takes a look at the challenges of lady character design. “Quite frankly, we wanted the women in DD’s universe to be adventurers first and runway models second. This adjustment turned out to be startlingly non-trivial – you’d think that a bunch of supposedly conscious, mindful individuals would instantly be able to nail a “good female look” (bonus points for having a woman on our crew, right?), but huge swathes of our artistic language tended to be informed by sexist and one-dimensional portrayals. We regularly surprised ourselves with how much we took for granted.” Top lady goblins inside.
  • I’m still making my way through the Indiecade East talks, but two of note. The text of TJ Thomas’s talk about race, identity and toxicity is interesting and informative. Bring your own capital letters. “born in 1940, Jerry Lawson is the designer of the very first cartridge-based video game console, and the founder of Videosoft, an independent development company that made games for the Atari 2600. he also produced Demolition Derby, which was one of the earliest coin-op arcade games, introduced in a pizzeria in California shortly after Pong was. when he was young, he got himself a ham radio license and built an amateur radio station in his room. he also put together, and sold, walkie-talkies himself. he was Black. where’s his book? where’s his documentaries? we don’t even bother to mention him and the things he accomplished for this industry. i mean, i didn’t even know about him until last December. that’s shameful.”
  • Tale of Tales’ Auriea Harvey gave a session called Let’s Make a Videogame!, which starts with an interesting history of how they started making games, their early web experiments, and builds momentum from there.
  • Mat Jones looks too long, too hard at the projected image of Pac-Man on the side of Sega’s London HQ. I partly disagree with his take on present-day Sega, but not the cultural relevance part. “What’s Namco’s message from this act of impermanent graffiti? Is it to kick Sega while they’re down? Alternatively, are they trying to suggest their brand is on-par with Sega’s? Neither seem to justify the effort, especially if they’re implying that they’re as good as a brand with dwindling cultural value, that no one is talking about, while absolutely fucking up their attempt to do it with terrible cropping and logo design?”
  • Chris Breault at Kill Screen talks to designers about how Dark Souls has influenced their coming games. Dark Souls, for those who don’t know, is like Angband but easier. “Above all, White was linked to the other designers I spoke to in his genuine enthusiasm for the Souls titles, his happiness at having sunk hundreds of hours into the games. When talking about their first time playing Demon’s or Dark Souls, everyone still sounded intoxicated by the rush of the new. The series has blown off the hinges of the RPG, leaving the door open for interpretations far afield of classical grinding and chatting. Aside from general advocacy of real-time combat and reduced exposition, no two designers have taken the same cues from it.”
  • Quinns and Leigh write about Netrunner, and offer answers to why we learn and play games when games are so often stupid, confusing, frustrating things. Here’s one: “This was never about winning games. The reward of taking any game seriously is to be connected, as if by underground wires, to humans all over the world. To have access to a private language, to enjoy another way of bonding with your friends and family. Play is just as important to adults as it is to children. Like everything else in life, it just becomes trickier as you get older.” Insight into Netrunner, into the awkwardness of teaching and the mad, silly frustration of learning. And it’s illustrated.
  • Want more on Harold Ramis? This New Yorker profile from 2004 has the goods.
  • Think videogames are obtuse? Try deciphering a 600-year-old manuscript written in no discernible language.
  • I might have to buy a record player.

Music this week is Glenn Miller’s Song of the Volga Boatmen. Once more, once again, still once more.

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Graham Smith

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