Sundays are for spending time with family and lamenting that international football means there’s no real football on this weekend. Boo, hiss. Let’s round up the week’s best games writing/listening/videoing to cheer us up.
- Matt Lees and Quintin Smith have joined forces to create Cool Ghosts, a new site and YouTube channel through which they’ll both be creating videos about games. This includes the stuff Matt was already doing through Patreon and the already running Daft Souls podcast. The latest episode of the latter also includes our own Philippa Warr. What a group of nice people doing nice things.
- Rich Stanton rounded off his retrospectives of previous Metal Gear games with Metal Gear Solid 3.
- MGSV: The Phantom Pain has captured the hearts of all the RPS team that have played it, but I’ve been avoiding reviews in favour of discovering it for myself. Stanton has of course reviewed it as well, however, and it’s bound to be worth your time.
- And if that doesn’t fill your Kojima cup, here’s Simon “Parko” Parkin’s review for the Guardian.
- Over at Offworld, Laura Hudson uses the game Millennial Swipe Sim 2015 as a jumping off point to talk about millennials and much better and less contempt-filled games inspired by sex and online dating.
- Jon Blyth has been fixing the games industry every month at Eurogamer for a while now, but this week he’s actually angry at Microsoft Jackpot. Still funny though.
- Ed Smith writes about how Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture hit close to home, by being physically modelled in part on the town in which he grew up. Worth it for the photos and the words, which deal with the things that are commonly lost in translation between life and videogame screen.
- Paul Kilduff-Taylor of Frozen Synapse has been writing more and more of late, it seems. This week it’s on why music has the right to children. It feels unfair to summarise it, but I’m going to do it anyway: it’s a game about the structures of music and games, and what the latter can learn from the former.
- Over at Gamasutra, Warren Spector writes about the power of games to allow you to walk in other people’s shoes. There’s lots that isn’t discussed in the article, but it’s a starting point for a conversation.
- Over at Digitiser2000, the always entertaining Mr. Biffo wries about how he got it wrong when he initially lauded Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture. This is a good read, though his repeated claim that games journalists don’t want to admit mistakes just made think of Adam’s recent, excellent article about being wrong about The Witcher 3.
This is Cool Ghosts. Matt Lees, Quintin Smith, and more people popping over to do stuff with us in the future. Watch the video to find out what we’re all about, and then when you’ve done that pop back to the main page and you’ll find something better: Two videos to give you guys a taste of what’s to come.
This might sound like heavy going but, from the gloriously OTT Bond tribute of Harry Gregson-Williams’ opening theme, Snake Eater’s vibe is unmistakeably 60s spy thriller. The period setting permeates everything from the monochrome green menus to the cast – with a posh British commander, a fruity support agent or two, some evil Russians, and a heroic yank-next-door called John at the centre of it all. Naked Snake’s codec equivalent is a radio, and his gadgets are a step back too: the Soliton radar of its predecessors basically reveal everything, but Snake Eater’s circular radar has a line doing lazy 360 sweeps to show blinking dots. It’s a different era.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is a dream game. It’s the kind of game that, in 1987, the young designer of the 8-bit Metal Gear may have dreamed would one day be possible. It’s the kind of game that players like me dream of: an enormous and deep and seemingly endless experience that’s worth the investment and then some. It’s the kind of game where every hand-polished element slots together into a head-spinningly ambitious structure and they combine into something you can only call visionary.
When Hideo Kojima was a young boy, his parents introduced a daily ritual. Each evening, the family would sit down to watch a movie together. Kojima wasn’t allowed to go to bed till the film had finished, even if it contained sex scenes. His experience was, he has said, the “opposite” of how it is for most children. Those kids had to finish their cauliflower. Kojima had to finish his Coppola.
Similarly, the text game Click Click Click by Increpare subverts the neat dialogue trees that scaffold so many simulated romances. You’re presented with a series of statements, presumably made by a lover, and have to choose how to respond. This is harder than it sounds, since your dialogue options are nothing but complex, nonsensical equations. Choose one, and you’ll receive another response. Did you say the right thing? The wrong thing? Is this just not working out? It’s impossible to tell, perhaps because there’s no way to reduce the joys and frustrations of interacting with a real romantic partner to a simple equation.
There are two kinds of fruit machine, both ruining you in slightly different psychological ways. Genuinely random machines operate on a purely mathematical house edge. The only thing stopping you winning five consecutive jackpots is the fact that it’s unlikely on a cosmological scale. The only trick to playing these is to go in knowing how much you’re happy to lose, play for a short time, and hope that your time on the machine exists on one of the many short up-ticks on the zig-zag to zero.
Despite some convincing details, Yaughton is every bit the video-game-world. The English village is artificially enlarged to accommodate the player’s enthusiasm for traversal and exploration, and intriguing public places, like churches, bars, garages and holiday camps are given spatial precedent over private houses. English villages both look like and do not look like Yaughton. Just as the New York City of Grand Theft Auto IV (or the Los Angeles of Grand Theft Auto V, for that matter) are condensed, simplified and caricatured facsimiles, Yaughton and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture are more interested in the tone of rural England than geographical fidelity. And in an effort to capture that tone, the characters (or rather the ghosts of the characters) that you encounter in Rapture are standoffish and untrusting of each another—although, to be fair, that part is pretty much accurate.
Talking about creativity across mediums can be a bit vague and unhelpful; also game design has a logical, architectural quality which music lacks. Having said that, I definitely believe that the two can have a conversation: I’ve certainly found that my knowledge of music production helps when I’m working on more linear single player experiences.
Ultimately, art seeks to play with the brain and to make it work in interesting ways. Whether we’re triggering fight-or-flight with an abrasive high-frequency sound or giving the player a satisfying reward for creating order in a system, we need to be thinking about the impact and outcome of our processes.
As that quote implies, the column is about the unknowability of feelings related to consequential choices. Brooks has no answer for this, but he speaks in laudatory tones about a new book – Transformative Experience – that he claims gives us tools to make better choices and to anticipate our reaction to what he calls “big decisions.”
Now, I don’t know if Brooks plays games, though for some reason I assume he doesn’t. If he did play games, though, he’d know that they offer far more than speculation or advice for the choice-averse. Games offer the opportunity to make decisions and try out behaviors in a virtual world that we wouldn’t even want people trying in the real one.
The acting feels wooden, the story has its moments, but it’s a bit cliched, and the emptiness of the village – with its proliferation of locked doors – renders the game actually rather tedious. While playing it, I assured myself that it was something other than boring – serene, beautiful, peaceful. But no. Looking back… most of the time, I was pretty bored.
Music this week is some brain-silencing ambient drone.