Sundays are for buying things on the internet. Take out your wallet, please, and proceed to the links to the week’s best videogame writing below.
Everything you see and hear in the video is the product of the Star Wars roleplaying community coming together as a unit: we penned our own script and loaned our real life voices to our characters. The video may seem rough, but it represents the culmination of a year’s worth of collaboration. It was intended to be a preview of where the plot was heading. Many online roleplaying communities have documented their histories in one way or another, but I’d wager we’re one of few to have gone so far as to record it.
Being at the forefront of a fan-made story campaign like this was not without its pressures. Tasked with the direction of a plot that would end up involving hundreds of players and nearly a year of planning, I had to invest hours of my time on Second Life on a regular basis. At one point, I skipped out on social interactions with friends or missed meals completely, just so I could stay at my computer desk and spend more time pruning the plot. Like a trained actor, I had to be on at all times. Hyacinth rarely had a private moment to herself, which meant I rarely had a moment to myself.
What happens when this obsession with progress bleeds into reality? Consider Habitica, a time management app that turns your life into an RPG. Complete tasks and maintain good habits to earn XP and gold, which can be used to level up your avatar and buy rewards. Fail to meet your standards, and you lose health. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something depressing about an app that explicitly converts the grind of daily existence into the grind of an RPG, as if life were nothing more than a series of progress bars to fill.
I’m languishing right now in my Metal Gear Solid V game, because I too often use my limited play opportunities to go hunt down materials containers. I don’t need them, or vehicles, or anything else — I am in no danger of running out ever, I think, and could probably sail through to the end of the game on what I have, minus funds for some of the final development projects — but I get so much satisfaction of shipping stolen goods back home via base, and more from opening the menu and looking at the numbers. What do my biological materials actually look like? No idea, but I have tens of thousands. Building something? Oh no, have to go farm up 40,000 more, just so I feel okay about things.
In the beginning, Electron Dance was more of a fan site for Laura Michet and Kent Sutherland’s Second Person Shooter. 2PS was my role model, far more than Rock Paper Shotgun. Being a regular in the comments earned an invite to a 2PS private match of Neptune’s Pride in 2010, a multiplayer 4X game that runs in real-time. A year later, I wrote a much-praised series called The Aspiration about the craziness and crippling mental terror that played out over the four weeks of our match.
All of this may explain why, in recent years, Platinum Games has positioned itself as a standard-bearer for the Japanese industry, adopting the slogan: “Taking on the World as the Representative of Japan.” President and CEO Tatsuya Minami unpacked this, in a post to celebrate 10 years of Platinum Games. “Japan used to lead the worldwide video game industry, but we can’t help but feel that it has lost some of its vitality in recent years. Yet we are using this state of affairs to motivate and inspire ourselves […] We will keep up our fighting stance.”
Music this week is the scuzzy guitars and quicktalking lyrics of Courtney Barnett’s Pedestrian At Best. I hope that’s a deliberate Time Crisis reference in the second verse.