Sundays are for resisting the urge to impulsively buy a Nintendo Switch and the new Zelda, or Horizon: Zero Dawn, both experiences that I would, no matter how enjoyable, likely only play for six hours before getting distracted or busy by other things. Let’s distract ourselves by rounding up some of the week’s best writing about videogames, in which I steadfastly share no Zelda reviews.
At Waypoint, Yussef Cole and Tanya DePass write that black skin is still a radical concept in videogames, drawing parallels to the representation of black people in other mediums throughout history.
Stretching back to the earliest instances of film photography, capturing darker skin tones has rarely been prioritized or even much considered. When, in the 1980s, Kodak film—which was originally balanced against lighter skin tones—finally modified its film stock to be more sensitive to the brown and red ranges of the spectrum, it was to satisfy furniture manufacturers who complained their wood grain wasn’t showing up.
Also at Waypoint, Patrick Klepek wrote a common feature with uncommon joy: there are too many games and so can 2017’s just slow the fuck down.
Here are the video games I’ve already played in 2017: Batman: A Telltale Series, The Walking Dead: A Telltale Series, Let It Die, Super Mario Run, Gravity Rush 2, Edge of Nowhere, Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero, Resident Evil 7, Yakuza 0, Horizon Zero Dawn, Nioh, We Are Chicago, Fire Emblem Heroes, Night in the Woods. There are already enough games to assemble a respectable top 10 list for the end of the year, but it’s still February! The actual game of the year, Super Mario Odyssey, isn’t even out yet!
At Gamasutra, Katherine Cross writes about Train Jam, a game jam which takes place on the California Zephyr as it makes its way from Chicago to San Francisco in the days ahead of GDC. I took this train once, for funsies, and it is clear to me that I would get no work done if I was a part of Train Jam, as I would spend my time gawping out the windows instead.
The California Zephyr beats a winding path across the continent, taking upwards of sixty hours to reach San Francisco from Chicago, and it’s hard not to appreciate why tickets sell out in seconds once you drink in the views of painted canyons and burbling icy rivers; deserts and snowcapped peaks embrace you on the long journey. There’s the undimmed romance of transcontinental train travel, of sleeper cars, panoramic windows, and white cloth dining service–the vicious bumps and lurches of freight rail tracks notwithstanding. The vistas and the wi-fi free isolation of the three-day journey do wonders for one’s inspiration, to say nothing of the incubation that occurs when so much brainpower and technical skill can hive together for that length of time.
I enjoyed Henrique Antero excoriating take on Peggle: Blast, the modern free-to-play incarnation of our once-beloved Peggle, which lays out its thesis clearly from the very opening paragraph.
Peggle is divine. Peggle: Blast is an aberration. This is a story on how a videogame first touched perfection and then became a vessel for evil. It could be compared to The Fall of the Abrahamic religions, when humankind was collectively expelled from Paradise— if the Demiurge was perverse enough to have invented microtransactions along the way. If Peggle was an almost mystical experience, Peggle: Blast urgently needs an exorcist.
At Kotaku, Robert Zak is visiting old MMOs with small and dwindling audiences. In his most recent article he visits Dark Age of Camelot, which I remember being cleverly designed but never as popular as many of its peers. It’s interesting to read about those still playing it.
To get a taste of the tough, feudal life of Camelot, I hooked up with one of the biggest guilds in the game, Dark Knights of Camelot, which has over 1,500 members and is part of an alliance with nearly 9,000 members. Its leader, Roxayn, describes the dynamic in the guild: “Most of us grew up together. Some of us were on different servers, but we all started the game around the same time and in that way have experienced it together. People have come and gone, but we always come back to it, or never really left in the first place”.
Noclip’s latest documentary is about rediscovering mystery, which talks to Jonathan Blow, Derek Yu and Jim Crawford (The Witness, Spelunky, Frog Fractions) about the games that felt mysterious to them when they were young.
I enjoyed this article about the absurd lengths Manchester United and Manchester City go to in order to secure young potential talent ahead of their football rivals. More of this in Football Manager, sez I.
St Bede’s College is a 140-year-old private school in leafy Whalley Range, mid-way between Fletcher Moss and the Etihad. It costs £3,595 per term to have a child educated there.
City will now fund those fees for any boy signed to their academy, all the way through to GCSE exams, even if they are released at a younger age.
Music this week is the Hyper Light Drifter soundtrack, because it is excellent and the YouTube algorithm recommended it to me.