The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for celebrating birthdays, as a method for recovering from celebrating weddings. That leaves just enough time left for rounding up the week’s best writing about videogames.

  • Videogamer.com’s Dropsy review ends with what seems like a long digression, but the stories of circus life are so interesting that it forms the better half of the article.
  • Where do I begin? I was born in Australia, my mum and biological dad touring with Chipperfield’s Circus. He was a lion tamer – resulting in many instant wins when bragging about dads in the school playground. He also worked with tigers, snakes, crocodiles, camels, horses, elephants, zebras and more. It was, I’m told, a crazy life – one that, understandably resulted in many horrific injuries for people who got a little too confident around the animals. There’s no real point in adding that final detail, seeing as Dropsy is about kindness and not gruesome acts of violence, but I wouldn’t want to be caught out when someone discovers a secret quest or something.

  • Speaking of diversions, Paul Kilduff-Taylor, of Frozen Synapse developer Mode 7, writes a manifesto of sorts. The New Games Criticism manifesto. It’s generous and accepting of multiple approaches to writing, but I particularly liked the bit about scores. 10/10 for the bit about scores.
  • However, a New Games Critic acting in the capacity of a journalist understands the review score as an additional opportunity to provide inflection and texture. They see it as a convenient symbol which differentiates criticism and journalism; it is viewed as neat and pleasant punctuation to their considered opinion. They have fun with it.

  • Which led me to re-watch this. Still pretty much accurate.
  • While writing something else about The Gamechangers, the BBC’s documentary about Grand Theft Auto, I found this article on the making of Lemmings.
  • But it was never a game about killing lemmings. ‘You always had to save them,’ says Dailly, ‘And the nuke was always a way to abort the level. It’s one of the few original games I’ve worked on where the core idea never changed much.’ This hints at one of the quieter revolutions involved in the development of Lemmings. At the time, a developer would typically code their game, then export it to an editor to check it worked. But for Lemmings DMA created an integrated tool for designing the levels, based on the interface of the Amiga’s Deluxe Paint program, which allowed anything built or changed to be tested immediately. This made the construction of Lemmings’ levels a much faster, more iterative process.

  • This short post about how one of Capy’s artists makes pixel art animations is lovely and interesting. Like you.
  • What happens when game designers and poets collaborate? Great things, says Thomas McMullan in this article.
  • My Mother’s House is a poem. It’s also a Minecraft map. The piece is a collaboration between poet Victoria Bennett and her partner, digital artist Adam Clarke, funded by a bursary from The Writing Platform. Load it up and you’ll find a labyrinth built up of spaces separated by doors. As you move between areas, a disembodied voice reads a poem to you one stanza at a time. The original Italian meaning of stanza is “room”, or “stopping place”, and Bennett and Clarke told me they used this as a way to structure their poem/game.

  • Friendly friend and Gunpoint creator Tom Francis has been writing a series of posts about Metal Gear Solid V, talking about it’s strengths and surprises, including the way it offers you room for failure and let’s you play as someone else.
  • If you have keen eyesight, you might have noticed that the person in my screenshots is not straggly-bearded horned male Venom Boss Big Punished Ahab Snake. She’s Amber Fox, a low level support officer I think I extracted on an early mission [update: Andy tells me you get her by importing your Ground Zeroes save], along with another Fox with the same tattoo who might be her brother. She’s not a story character, just one of hundreds of recruits I have milling around my base.

  • Tim Wicksteed’s Big Pharma has been selling well, and over at Gamasutra he’s rounded up some of the sales data to analyse what can be learning from it.
  • I have full control of the schedule of the next game. Now I’m not saying for one second that having a publisher onboard for Big Pharma wasn’t incredibly useful and I learnt a lot from the process. However it did add some additional stress and complications. I’m looking forward to having the ability to say: “OK, we need to invest more time into this part of the game. Yes it will cost us another £7,000 of development time but I think it’s worth the investment” and know that it’s just my money I’m risking, not somebody else’s. In case it wasn’t clear from what I just said, I’m saying that I would much rather risk my own money than somebody else’s. Crazy? Perhaps…

  • At the Guardian, an anonymous developer writes about diversity in the games industry, not only in terms of race and gender, but in terms of the limited space for creativity and career progression.
  • The thing is, I don’t really care if you put a female avatar into Assassins Creed. You can put as many women as you like into Fifa, or make the entire cast of Gears of War tough action chicks – I still won’t play those games. I don’t care about climbing a tower to reveal more of the kill-map, I don’t care about shooting people, I don’t care about winning the World Cup. You can’t put a pink bow on a tank and assume different audiences are going flock to it because you gave them some token aesthetic validation. Adding representational diversity to those kinds of games is important, but how often do we consider diversity of genre; diversity of experience?

  • PC Gamer launched PC Gamer Pro, a subsite dedicated to esports. It’s being led by my fellow podcast proprietor and former PC Gamer deputy editor Chris Thursten. Here’s his introduction to it.
  • If you already follow competitive gaming, we’re here to offer you exciting, informative and funny articles about the games you care about. We don’t aspire to replace Reddit, LoL Esports, TeamLiquid or TempoStorm in your daily browsing habit: the esports community has always done an incredible job of providing itself with the material it needs. Instead, we see ourselves as a lighter alternative. We’re going to use our access, our experience in magazine journalism and our sense of humour to entertain you and make you excited to get home and play. We’re here to keep the combo going.

Music this week is this bouncy bit of synth-pop.

45 Comments

  1. Eight Rooks says:

    I get what Anonymous Developer is saying, I guess, it’s a perfectly valid point fairly well made, but… I’ll never play FIFA no matter what they do to it (short of some drastic overhaul that makes it not-FIFA, basically). I still care about female players/women’s leagues, competitions, etc. being added. Ditto all the rest of these examples that aren’t my thing. If you can truly, honestly say you “don’t really care”, I don’t think that speaks particularly well of you. At the very least it kind of rubs me the wrong way how some people still seem to think they have to present their argument as an either/or.

    • Frosty Grin says:

      No, you don’t get it. The developer clarified the “I don’t care” bit, right in the quoted text – it’s not just about personal preferences (‘I don’t care about the games that aren’t my thing’). The point is that it’s stupid to reduce this issue to representation. It’s stupid to take a shooter designed with primarily male audiences in mind, add a female protagonist and pretend that the result is somehow “equality”. Same with FIFA – female football isn’t on the same level as male football, so giving it the same treatment isn’t “equality”. Yes, it may be perceived well by a small minority of women, but only a diversity of experience can actually draw in large audiences.

      • gwathdring says:

        Whoops. Nija’d. Edit button, where are you when I need you …

      • Jac says:

        Haven’t played FIFA since they introduced the female leagues but I’m curious how they have handled this as surely the physical and technical stats of the women players must be appalling vs the male professionals otherwise it’s a bit of a ridiculous exercise in fantasy.

        • draglikepull says:

          I have to agree that it would be bad to inject some ridiculous fantasy into a game which otherwise sticks to the very serious and realistic portrayal of a random person in their living room running a sporting franchise worth millions of dollars, which is of course not a ridiculous fantasy.

          • pullthewires says:

            Do you think maybe you should find something you enjoy bit more than videogames to be into?

          • draglikepull says:

            What a bizarre response. The ridiculous fantasy of FIFA is precisely what I like about it.

      • Beefenstein says:

        Nice scare quotes on ‘equality’, which I uncharitably think might indicate something about how important you find the issue overall.

        This argument is certainly about representation. I wonder how you would feel if you were not allowed to represent yourself in some manner, for example if your comments on this website never posted. Is that an important issue? I suspect you’d want to talk to somebody about it if it happened.

        • Frosty Grin says:

          The quotes on ‘equality’ are meant to represent that people may have a different interpretation of the term. Is it a matter of ‘equality’ to demand equal representation of women in games if women aren’t equally interested in these games? I do care about genuine equality, thank you very much.

          As for the comments, you can read below that comments may get deleted if someone doesn’t like them – so I know I’m not entitled to representation.

    • gwathdring says:

      That’s not what the quote says, though.

      “I don’t care about climbing a tower to reveal more of the kill-map, I don’t care about shooting people, I don’t care about winning the World Cup.”

      “Adding representational diversity to those kinds of games is important, but how often do we consider diversity of genre; diversity of experience?”

      The quote says what you’re saying.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        At the very least it kind of rubs me the wrong way how some people still seem to think they have to present their argument as an either/or.

        You should not use the words “I don’t care” about an issue like this in order to drag the reader in. Period. If you do care, don’t say you don’t simply for effect. There are a thousand better ways to rephrase it that say “All of that stuff is awesome, and important, and we should totally keep doing it, but have you considered this other issue which may be just as significant?” without using words which, for some people, will immediately trigger a negative emotional response. It’s the science of shameless clickbait headlines as applied to opening paragraphs.

        • Baffle Mint says:

          I feel like it’s on the reader to at least try to use the tiniest smidge of sympathy and context when interpreting somebody else’s words.

          From the same article:

          Most of the time when we discuss why girls don’t play games it often boils down to representation: there still aren’t as many female characters to relate to. For the past few years, this situation has been improving: titles such as Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Dishonored 2 and ReCore all have women front and centre and are all either out now or on the way. Obviously, that’s great – having more female characters in games is a step forward.

          Narrative and character diversity are both important; representation is a fundamental way of saying “you are welcome, games are for you”.

          Don’t worry about it; there’s nothing in there that indicates a disdain for character diversity.

  2. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Man, now I miss Lemmings.

    The bit about the game being impossible to advertise is interesting. Had that been my job, I have no idea how I would have described it. Calling it a puzzle game seems reductive. You could describe the gameplay, given enough time, but advertising is all about being concise. Must have been a hell of a challenge, especially back before use of the internet became widespread.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m pretty sure I remember there being ads for it, but I honestly can’t remember what they were. The text MobyGames has (sadly no scans) doesn’t really ring any bells.

      (Obligatory footnote that Lemmings 3D is badly underrated.)

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        Yeah, I can vaguely recall a full-page advertisement in some PC gaming magazine I had as a kid, but I don’t have the faintest clue what it said. The Sunsoft text you linked actually does quite a good job, though. Maybe it was that.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        I remember those too. A few of my Crash magazines in the attic have them for sure. The game had been ported to the ZXSpectrum shortly after release as was customary at the time. And as was also customary at the time, the ads were composed from the official release ones with just the ported snapshots changed. Meanwhile Lemmings ads must also figure on some of the PC Plus magazines at the time.

        I don’t really understand the argument the game was difficult to market. The truth was that games weren’t marketed back then. Game genres in 1991 was something you wouldn’t just talk about much. The whole market was too young for established definitions. Games were essentially known to be of the Action, Adventure, and RPG types. And that was more or less it.

        Games were promoted through magazine full page ads and shops posters. No tubes then. Rarely would the artwork have any significance to the actual game, other than exposing vague concepts. The snapshots in the ad would be what actually would help identify a game. Lemmings couldn’t have had difficulty being marketed because marketing a computer game in 1991 was a matter of drawing a poster and let the magazine reviewer care about explaining it to the gamers.

  3. LionsPhil says:

    Sundays are for celebrating birthdays

    Aw, you remembered!

  4. Steven Hutton says:

    I feel like Anonymous Developer’s article is slightly odd. Gender essentialist. Is that the right term?

    Like, there seems to be an inherent assumption that games about shooting people fundamentally don’t appeal to women and girls. Is there something inherently masculine about violence?

    Is it the trappings of Ass Creed that don’t appeal to women. The article says no, it’s the very actions of the game. I find that difficult to swallow. Maybe people will come out of the woodwork now to correct me but I can’t image women have less inherent interesting in Par Kour, Exploration and cleaning up quest markers off of a huge map than men do.

    • Nasarius says:

      The point is not about gender in the slightest. It’s about how there’s extremely little variety present in AAA games. The same type of games are made over and over and over, with very small tweaks.

      There are a million other things that could be done, and modern indies are only covering a handful of them.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      It isn’t about that, but it’s arguably poorly written. The language it uses makes it sound as if it’s rubbishing one point in order to raise another.

    • MattM says:

      The developer is unhappy about the available jobs in the AAA (large budget) games industry. If a woman developer’s taste in games don’t match the currently popular game styles/genres then the developer won’t be able to find a job working on the types of AAA games that they are most interested in. Instead she will be forced to take jobs working on the kinds of AAA games that publishers are interested in funding. She wants publishers to fund (at the AAA level) development of a wider range of game styles so that a more taste-diverse groups of professional developers can survive in the AAA industry instead of being forced to go to AA or indie level companies to find a job working on their preferred types of games.
      I can sympathize a little with her dissatisfaction with her available jobs since “loving your job” is part of the traditional games industry pay package, but not a lot. Getting paid to do what others want you to do is a pretty normal and (to me) acceptable part of working.

      • MattM says:

        Rereading, I think I was a little harsh. I share the desire for diverse gameplay experiences and the AAA $100M games can be pretty conservative with trying new things. However it seems a little over-demanding to tell someone else how they should risk that much money.

        • Archonsod says:

          Not really, I think you were pretty much spot on. It’s not just the gaming industry – it’s pretty much every industry. Once you get to the big-business threshold, the vast majority of employees in a given company are dedicated to churning out whatever pays the bills, whether that’s games, movies or widgets. Most of the innovative/creative positions tend to be in companies below that threshold because that’s what the smaller guys rely on to compete in the market, but of course the smaller companies generally can’t offer the same stability or salary as the multinationals. It’s the same choice pretty much everyone makes at some stage in their career, whether that’s an actor choosing between theatre or TV/Movies or a manager picking between a start-up or large corporation (and usually with the exact same drawbacks – going one way will usually close the door on jumping across to the other).

    • Rindan says:

      I think you miss the point. The point wasn’t, “girls like different stuff”. The point was, “we need different stuff”. Making an Assassin Creed game with a female protagonist doesn’t suddenly make it so that 50% of the players playing it are now women. You are assuming that the only issue was some window dressing and once you fix the art assets you are good to go. The point was that the field, creatively (at least in AAA), isn’t diverse. Presumably, it is a bunch of white male dudes or people who think a lot like an archetypal young white male dude who is into video games. It doesn’t do you any good to yank one of the young white male dudes and replace him with a brown woman if she thinks exactly like everyone else and is culturally a young white male dude.

      I don’t really have an answer to the complaint. People hire people like them. People build games for people like them. I’m not even sure what alternative personality type you should even be looking for. As it is, AAA shops often run like sweat shops where only fanatics can survive. I am not sure you get diversity out of fanatics.

      The best response is to say is that the tools are new very cheap and very accessible. Sure, you can’t make an AAA game by yourself, but you can certainly kick out an indie game. If AAA games change, it will be by following the indie gaming pack as it tries new things.

    • ffordesoon says:

      I think the Guardian article is bang on the money. Recognizing that not everyone will respond to a given theme isn’t “gender essentialist,” it’s being realistic. I like Gears Of War’s gameplay a great deal, but I find the aesthetic repellent enough that I can’t play the games. On the other hand, I really like nonviolent solutions to problems in games, adore plenty of rigidly linear games with merely passable mechanics as long as they tell strong stories, would often rather play colorful games than monotonous killfests even if the colorful games are theoretically for kids, and dig a lot of mobile and handheld games for their simplicity and lack of pretense. I am a young heterosexual white man. And sure, I like plenty of “male” games too, just as there are women who like “male” games. But while diverse protagonists are laudable, you can’t slap a pair of tits Marcus Fenix and say “Job done.” Such a decision might attract more women, but those are still women who would be interested in Gears Of War were it not for the forbidding dudebro vibe that makes them feel like they’re unwelcome. It doesn’t do anything for the women (and men!) who have zero interest in Gears on any level. Homogeneity is bad for everyone in a creative industry.

      If almost all modern novels were about bicycle repairmen, and anything that went against the grain was met with an actively hostile reaction from consumers and retailers, you would probably not be interested in writing or reading them, you know?

  5. Inverselaw says:

    Sunday’s are for reading the Sunday paper on the train coming back from a friend’s place after a weekend of co-op imperial assault, pandemic and other board games.

    Also hurray for free train wifi and hearthstone.

    • frogulox says:

      Train wifi… wut?
      Thats awesome.

      Australia sometimes… quite often lacks things that are this type of awesome.

      • Maritz says:

        It sounds awesome until you try to use it. Since it relies on mobile data signal, on some lines it’s so poor that it’s not worth having.

        • frogulox says:

          Well.. we have no freely provided wifo, and terrible mobile signal that we have to pay for ourselves.

          Some places like macdonalds and big chain stores (target, david jones) do free wifi and it is s..l..o..w..

        • malkav11 says:

          In America, the only national train service doesn’t provide wifi at all except on a couple of commuter lines out on the east coast.

  6. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Concerning the so-called New Games Criticism Manifest, I remain forever baffled at the met-discussion on game reviewing and criticism that decides to grace us every once and a while. This one has the added profit of just putting game critic and game review in the same bag full of -isms throughout the whole article. I don’t think the author could have used any more social or psychological systems if he tried. I count at least 12.

    And yet, it should be so much easier. Game reviews are a necessary part of games journalism. But they shouldn’t necessary be a critic of the game. I always tend to be a critic of game reviews exactly because I always tend to expect game reviews to simply present me with analytical arguments. In that context, you can even put a score system. It’s fine. We’ve did it for 2 decades and no one cared. But I also like game critic. And these I expect to include a subjective analysis of the game, including the idea of games as an art form. It’s only when the two (critic and review) are mixed together that I tend to be mad.

    I don’t like when a games journalist reviews a game by presenting pseudo-intellectual nonsense about how he perceives the game on a higher level of abstraction. It’s when I consider the whole text crap. Instead I want to read in a review about the technical merits, how the bugs affect gameplay, the design choices and their impact on the game, yada yada.

    Then, separate from the interview, I’ll be eager to read critic articles. I will no longer look at that as crap. This time I’m reading a critic, making a critical analysis. It’s when I expect all the subjectivity and writing abilities of the critic to show. And I’ll gladly take it.

    If there is a Manifest, this should be the one.

    • ffordesoon says:

      I think that’s kind of the point he was making…?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      What is the distinction between review and criticism, in your opinion?

      • bill says:

        Well, imho which is probably wrong, generally a Review would be an evaluation of a product and would be more of a buyers guide. Criticism would be a discussion of the art/message/experience.

        I get confused because film critics write movie reviews….

        • Frank says:

          Yeah, I think the whole games writing industry is confused about how these words are supposed to work. They want to elevate buyer’s guides to “criticism” and riffs to “journalism”.

          • pepperfez says:

            I think you have that backwards. It seems to be (some vocal section of) the readership that wants reviews to be exclusively buyer’s guides, while the people actually writing them want the freedom of critics in every other medium to do criticism.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          My take is this: games journalism has matured. Games are no longer reviewed in the same way as dishwashers. They are treated much like other works of art. This is the best thing that has ever happened to the industry as a whole.

    • bill says:

      I don’t recommend reading RPS WiTs then… they don’t sound like your cup of tea at all.

    • Geebs says:

      I think the author very eloquently described a lot of what I think about New Games Journalism, although I think they could have tl:dr’d it as, “if all you can write about is yourself, why should I bother to read?”, or, even more concisely, “no wanking”.

    • GWOP says:

      Looking at a recent Wot I Think, do you think you would have been better informed as a consumer if Adam wrote nothing about SOMA’s thematic and narrative effectiveness?

      There can more to a game than how it looks and plays. No reason we can’t have both.

  7. GWOP says:

    Off-topic:Charlie Brooker is a clairvoyant wizard.

    It appears as though David Cameron coming to office was really a Bae of Pigs Invasion.

    • GernauMorat says:

      I never thout he was literally a pig******, only metaphorically.

      I was wrong.

  8. Wowbagger says:

    I’ve been really enjoying Tom Francis’ videos on MGSV, they are really mellow and low key. Hadn’t realised there were accompanying articles too, so thanks very much for pointing them out.

  9. Ashrand says:

    Graham as the Editor-in-chief of Kieron Gillens blog aren’t required to hate the Nu-Skool Journalist bit? ;)