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22

The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for waiting eagerly for the Tesco man to come because your cupboards are empty and your appetite is growing. Can we satiate ourselves with nourishing words, images and sounds about videogames? Let’s try.

  • Developer Maxime Beaudoin wrote a post explaining why he quit his dream job at Ubisoft, which has been doing the rounds this past week for obvious reasons.
  • On large scale projects, good communication is – simply put – just impossible. How do you get the right message to the right people? You can’t communicate everything to everyone, there’s just too much information. There are hundreds of decisions being taken every week. Inevitably, at some point, someone who should have been consulted before making a decision will be forgotten. This creates frustration over time.

  • Sticking with developers for now, Zach Gage wrote a post explaining how he’d ‘evolve’ the IGF by changing the way its awards are structured. It strikes me that one of the purposes of awards is to reward people for working in an industry that’s often unkind, and while Gage’s suggestions might be better for games and even people who follow the awards, it’d be less rewarding to artists and audio engineers and all the people who make games possible who aren’t designers.
  • The IGF is about showcasing the best of the best, how are jurors to square that with the component-style structure of IGF categories? This is not just an issue for jurors, but also a problem for developers submitting games. It muddies up the waters on exactly what criteria their games will be judged upon, and I can imagine, has contributed to some confusing feedback recieved by devs, and some heartbreak (although to be honest contests will always include heartbreak).

  • I have started listening to podcasts again, after some years away. I highly recommend this episode of Designer Notes, in which host (and Civ IV designer) Soren Johnson interviews Jamie Cheng, co-founder of Klei and designer on Invisible, Inc. and their other games. There’s interesting insight into how Klei make their games, but I enjoyed it most for the discussion of AI, as Cheng started out making computer opponents for Dawn of War at Relic.
  • I’ve also been enjoying the 8-4 podcast, in which English translators for Japanese games discuss the news, what they’re playing, and sometimes their work. It’s unstructured and raucous, but I’m realising that I find podcasts most interesting when they’re talking about games I know nothing about – and I know nothing about JRPGs.
  • On her Tumblr, Carolyn Petit writes about how Awesome Games Done Quick – and speedrunning in general – bring back some of the magic of games she felt as a kid.
  • When I was very young, games were magic. Plugging the brains of a Missile Command cartridge into the body of an Atari 2600 and turning it on seemed to create a soul that I could see onscreen and touch through the controller. In some sense the game seemed alive and not fully knowable to me. There were secrets hidden within. I remember my father excitedly showing me how if you did just the right thing, a thing that defied the logic of the game itself (not scoring points, wasting missiles), initials would appear, the mark of the game’s creator.

  • At The Guardian, Holly Nielsen wrote earlier this month about why “sentimental pastoral themes make perfect fodder for video games”. I’ve yet to play a game that’s as fulfilling as looking at a tree, however.
  • But there is also something else going on, a sub-genre of games that invoke an almost twee sense of community and that glorify and sentimentalise rural life, very much in the pastoral style. Nintendo’s Animal Crossing titles put players into a village populated by anthropomorphic animals while Natsume’s Harvest Moon titles are all about bringing a decrepid farm back to life. Although the former doesn’t directly feature farming (apart from the viciously cut-throat world of turnip trading) they’re both about getting back to nature, about building a strong sense of community and about developing a close connection with the rhythms of the seasons and a slower pace of life. They are designed, just as the pastoral works of Theocritus, Marlowe, and Tennyson were, to explore the idea of the rural idyll; to take us beyond the artifice and alienation of the city.

  • I hadn’t noticed that Mark Brown had made a few new Game Maker’s Toolkit videos, because who knows what YouTube subscriptions actually do, but I enjoyed this video looking at some of the best game design in 2015.

And that’s it for this week, because most of what people linked me to was deliberate examples of terrible writing and not good writing. If you have an article you liked, whether you read it or wrote it, send it in to me at this address.

Grimes’ album came out a little while ago, but there was a new video this past week so let’s link to that.

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Graham Smith

Editor-in-chief

Graham is to blame for all this.

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