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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for stuffing your face with roast potatoes and other related foods. Before we’re bloated to the point of being unable to move, here’s a roundup of the week best writing about games.

Game developer Katharine Neil writes about how we design games now and why. This is about the concepts of self-conscious vs. unself-conscious design, or design via theory vs. design via making, and about why the industry should do more to establish tools and language to support theory. I do not agree with everything within, and I feel like it does not make its case strongly enough in some places, but it is interesting and about humans and you should read it.

We no longer have wheelwrights and we are no longer making wheels in shapes we don’t understand. This is because design practice (the way designers design) in any discipline — from the creation of wheels, buildings and furniture through to film, music and literature — develops over time. It reaches milestones; it passes through phases. Until around a decade ago videogame design looked as if it was about to begin the evolutionary shift that other design disciplines had made before it. But this did not happen.

At Reddit, Garry Newman posted a diagram showing the lifecycle of a Rust patch and the communities response to it. It is funny, and then there’s a more detailed explanation in the top comment underneath from Garry. Then the rest of the thread is an airing of grievances from community members.

PC Gamer published umpteen articles about Blizzard this past week, including this look at the early days of the company’s culture, in the words of the developers themselves.

We used to go to lunch together, the entire company. All 11 of us would go to lunch together to the same place. We’d pick out where we were going to go, we’d all show up and take 2 or 3 tables. We’d go to Del Taco or Carl’s Jr. or whatever. And then over time we had to start splitting up into two groups because it was just getting to be a little too much. And over time—it’s kind of funny, but I think of it in terms of those lunches. When the lunch crew had to start breaking down into smaller and smaller bits, that’s how I was realizing we were getting bigger.

The second part of Kate Gray journey into game making appeared on Waypoint, in which she releases her first game and feels amazing about it.

It’s a two-player game, played almost entirely without interacting with the game at all. It goes through a set of questions—based somewhat loosely on this idea of there being 36 Questions That Will Make You Fall In Love—and gives you randomly generated tasks to do while answering them, like holding hands or looking into each other’s eyes. Hence the “Awkward” part of the title.

Kate also appeared in The Guardian to write about indie games events and what she learned by attending them in 2016.

The Stugan attendees were from all over the world, but we’d ended up in this tiny corner of Scandinavia, brought together by the one thing we shared: the desire to create and play video games. I turned up three weeks late, and already an outsider as the only journalist, but within a few days I felt like I’d been welcomed as one of the team. There with me were people like Ivan Notaros, an incredibly talented Serbian developer who was ostensibly making a game called House of Flowers based on his experience and knowledge of the war in Yugoslavia in the 90s, but spent much of his time making tiny games, procedurally generated art, and incredible low-res photogrammetry of us as a group.

I loved this article about Victorian groups whose aim was to spread exotic animals all over the world. Great anecdotes within.

Many of these efforts were, predictably, spectacular failures. An early shipment of camels to Australia, to help travelers cross the arid interior, was met with tragedy when bad weather killed all but one (that camel, named Harry, lived a life of celebrity until he accidentally killed his owner, John Horrocks, by headbutting a gun while Horrocks was cleaning it). Ostriches similarly failed to thrive there. The founders of the British Acclimatization Society, who believed that the country’s growing food crisis could be solved by the introduction of exotic fish and big game, threw an enormous banquet every year from 1860 to 1865, featuring tables piled high with German boar, Syrian pig, East African eland, and Australian kangaroo. But they never successfully imported anything more impressive than the North American gray squirrel, which haunts them to this day.

Music this week is some lo-fi hiphop on YouTube. Have I linked nujabes before? I think so, but I don’t care.

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Graham Smith

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