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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for exploring – not to discover Pokémon, but for the pure pleasure of going for a walk and seeing new things. Let’s first catch the week’s best writing about videogames.

A lot, a lot, a lot has been written about Pokémon Go over the past week. I haven’t read most of it, but did enjoy Austin Walker’s simple take at his new home at Vice: Pokémon GO isn’t very good but will be huge anyway.

On my way home last night, after the heat had broken, I saw Pokémon fans crossing the streets, heads down, illuminated and consumed by the game’s glow. I saw one guy sitting on the subway launching the game over and over—I’d guess it was crashing on him, too. I saw a group of four kids gathered around the darkened entrance of an old karaoke place that had been designated as a gym. They were grinning and shouting and joking. One of them had been left behind as the others moved on—more connection trouble most likely but he was committed to standing in place and staring at his phone. It was when they finally all circled back around, phones in hand, that I knew they were all playing.

Of course, the best piece of writing about Pokémon GO is technically about Ingress, the (extremely similar) mobile game developers Niantic released previously. I’ve linked it before, too, but here again is Laura Michet on her obsession with that game. Michet is now editor of Zam, by the way.

I felt like I needed a wholesome explanation for what I was doing. I did not tell anyone in my office that I’d been out on the street meeting strangers and swapping tales of municipal corruption. “I really like this triangles game,” I told them. That’s how I thought of it: the game where you go for a stroll and make triangles. Nothing too weird. Nothing embarrassing. But I was embarrassed, a little. I was meeting people in public. That’s kind of weird, isn’t it? But exciting. And I’m an adult now. I can meet internet people in the street if I want.

Also at Vice, Kate Gray wrote about game translation, what makes it hard, and why people should hate them less.

I was studying Latin poetry, and I was frustrated with every translation that I came across. There were translations that “bowdlerised” the text, taking out all the rude words and completely refusing to translate entire poems about butt-fucking (AKA the best ones). There were others that translated beautiful wordplay and clever use of double meanings into boring, blank verse. The problem with translation is that the people who do it aren’t always as interesting as the person who wrote the original text.

Kate Compton makes procedural things. She wrote this giant post about how to approach doing the same, from defining the goal to implementing solutions.

List Oriented is a blog whose writer is playing each of the games in his Steam list – over 400 – in alphabetical order and writing about each of them in turn. Here are the rules:

1. I am playing through all the games in my steam library, in the alphabetical order (1-Z) that they come listed.
2. It is desirable to play every game through to some measurable state of completion, however-
3. If I decide I am not really having a good time with a particular game, I can choose to move on at any point so long as I have already given it at least an hour.
4. I will write something down about my experiences with each game and post it on this here blog before moving on to the next one on the list.
5. Any newly acquired games only need to be played for this project if they enter the Steam list at a later alphabetical point than the game I am already up to.

At PC Gamer, Tom Senior wrote about his love of adjacency bonuses, with Concrete Jungle as the prime example.

It’s a minor but deeply satisfying mechanic. It seems to tickle the part of my brain that enjoys seeing my flat in order after a tidying session, but my chairs don’t confer bonuses to my table, and my microwave does not improve the toast my toaster makes. Life would be better if it did, so I must go to videogames for my fix. I crave only the chance to put things next to other things in powerful synergistic ways.

Robert Yang’s Radiator 2 was banned from Twitch streaming this past week, despite the three games included in the collection having been released individually long ago and depsite Twitch allowing games with more nudity, more sex, and far more violence. He has some suggestions for how Twitch might reform their policies.

1. Notify game creators when banning their work, and cite specific game features or content for why they were banned. The reasoning should be listed in a notification e-mail as well as on the banned game list. A ban is punishment for something, and Twitch needs to tell creators how to avoid that punishment in the future — unless the real message is that the punishment is arbitrary, or that nothing we do will ever avoid punishment. This is the absolute bare minimum that Twitch should do. Even faceless regulatory boards like the ESRB and MPAA explain their ratings.

At Eurogamer, friend-o-comrade Tom Francis wrote about how VR is a revolution in control more than immersion. I haven’t played Holopoint, the game he’s praising, but I agree absolutely, and it’s why it seems such a shame that the Rift didn’t ship with its motion controllers.

It’s by far the best VR game I’ve played, and it’s the one that makes the medium feel like something truly new. More immersive versions of the games we already have are cool, but they don’t make VR feel like a new world. Games you control with your head, hands and body, though, are a revelation. It’s everything we imagined the Wii’s motion controls could be: instant, exact, and so natural it feels silly to even call them controls. You don’t control a bow in Holopoint, you just shoot it.

Michael Lutz is the writer of My Father’s Long, Long Legs, a wonderful interactive fiction horror game we’ve raved about before. He wrote something unrelated to games this past week, about how in 2000 a half-seen Ally McBeal episode may have affected his life.

Music this week is Birthday by The Sugarcubes.

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Graham Smith

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