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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for encouraging your baby to crawl while with every extra inch shuffled across also thinking, “Oh god no he’s going to be crawling soon.” Sundays might be for removing everything below knee height and working out what to do with all the wires in the front of the TV cabinet.

Robert Yang wrote about how pylons are his penis, which is a great way to get people to read an article about the phenomenology of building Offworld Trading Company.

As in many games, your play style represents some aspect of you, an identity that you perform. Is your base timid or confident? Is your pylon placement funny or jealous or sexy? Your embodiment in a strategy game is not a single organic body, but an abstraction of outputs and inputs across space and time. Every resource factory you build is another step in a dance, and every additional pylon you build is yet another crystalline penis for your monstrous base-body.

And when someone sets up siege tanks and nukes your pylons, they have basically kicked you in your dicks, and your entire body reports searing pain.

At Eurogamer, Matt Sayer writes about the Sin City game that never was. And that’s probably for the best. I hope Flint Dille was approached for comment.

The absurdity didn’t stop there. How about a kick to the crotch that somehow sparks an entire plot thread about a cult of eunuchs? Or a church getting blown up right before it’s supposed to appear intact in the comics? Or a casino built on the site of a Sikh Muslim burial ground, because apparently ‘you know he’s a bad guy because he’s wearing a turban’. Dille and Red Mile were twisting Transmission’s vision into something else entirely, something the team could no longer call their own. Tensions were rising, and the studio’s modest foundations were starting to crack. Without someone to help shape all the conflicting ideas into a single, cohesive whole, the project was on the verge of buckling under its own weight.

At Waypoint, Jenn Wright writes about how character and personalities are seeping into every game, making it harder than ever to disengage, to take a break from emotion, or to avoid feeling empathy for the NPCs we meet.

No one, to my knowledge, bought Overwatch wanting to listen to the twang of their own heartstrings. But Ana’s spray depicting a hologram of her daughter? The halting entreaty of an out-of-work relic beseeching his one-time pals, in the intro, to work together again? Pharah explaining in response to a comment that no, she didn’t know her mother well growing up, since she wasn’t really around? And that now, amidst a hail of bullets, she is finally getting to know her?

I’ve been listening to a ton of games podcasts lately and on that front I recommend the US Waypoint Radio, which is entertaining and releases episodes frequently enough that by the time I finish one there’s another ready to go.

I’m no longer involved in a podcast of my own, which means I feel no conflict of interest in letting you know that my old haunt, the Crate & Crowbar, has re-opened its Patreon. The money raised will be used to cover costs and to expand the scope of the podcast, by for example paying travel costs for guests, and paying people for their time if they create videos and extra podcast episodes.

Back at Eurogamer, Christian “The” Donlan writes about when games get collectibles right. This game doesn’t get a mention in the piece, but using that beeping tracker to find the diamonds was the best bit of Far Cry 2, wasn’t it?

And it’s made me think. Collectibles and treasure hunts so often get a bad rap in games. They seem like such empty-headed padding. We talk about all the inane things you have to track down to reach 100 percent completion in an open-world game, we talk about all the ways that cheap imitators have curdled memories of the strange, unrepeatable brilliance of those Agility Orbs in Crackdown. But then, when you see it done well – like in Grow Up, which balances the increased size of its world with a nuanced way of guiding you through it, half-directed, half-undirected – you see what it can give to a game. You see what the treasure hunt can really provide to the player.

Cool Ghosts returned this week with a video explaining why Hitman is the best game ever.

Music this week is Barenaked Ladies’ album Stunt. One of those albums I listened to so much as a teenager that it feels awkward to return to it now, like thinking too hard about an older version of myself.

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Graham Smith

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