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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for… baking donuts? Yeah, let’s go with that. I’d like to learn how to bake donuts. I will do a bad job of this but the great thing about baking is that even failures are normally delicious. Much like games writing? Does that segue work?

Let’s start with: Katherine Cross wrote a requiem for Mass Effect: Andromeda. It’s a sympathetic article, and a fair encapsulation of the game’s flaws and the shitshow that followed its release.

In the midst of all of this, what should’ve been a joyous launch day, the culmination of years of work, occurred under a cloud. The game was tarnished and tainted in a way it wouldn’t recover from. It didn’t help that, in addition to strangely inhuman animations, the game was frontloaded with poorly written, poorly delivered dialogue. The ten-hour preview given to the public was where the bulk of the game’s weakest material was and it hardly made for a good first impression.

John Adkins at Mic.com wrote about Old Man Murray this past week, assigning the website and its now-famed creators blame for “the modern culture of abuse” that infests videogames and the internet at large. There is a lot to pick at in this article, and I disagree with a lot of it. In short: internet culture has been gross for a long time and OMM, while influential, is a product of that culture and not some Typhoid Mary of being a dick. The article oversimplifies a lot to create a cleaner chain of cause-and-effect; it skips a bunch of historical context; it makes no mention of the most influential and beloved OMM articles, which were (mostly) harmless things like time-to-crate; and we are all complicit in the creation of the present culture. But, but: lots of what OMM did write was gross, culture and what is permissible does change, and there’s nothing wrong with criticising “sacred cows” or trying to draw a line in the sand between our past, present and desired future.

Through OMM and its notorious offshoot shock site Portal of Evil (which Faliszek managed until 2011, and which can be seen as the template for later ridicule boards like /r/fatpeoplehate), the pair pioneered internet shock-jockery, reveling in and spreading the most disgusting, heinous content possible. Under the guise of irony, they built an online culture that would later, without any involvement from them, produce the Raymond comic at SomethingAwful — an echo of OMM’s own “satirical” abuse of Stevie Case and others.

But you don’t want to talk about that, do you? No, you want to discuss this article by Lewis Gordon for Heterotopias about landscape, ghosts and the Signal from Tolva. Disclosure: Tolva is made by chum and former boss and RPS founder Jim Rossignol. I saw this article when Jim retweeted Robert Macfarlane tweeting about it, which made me impossibly jealous, because Macfarlane’s writing is superb and you should all read Landmarks.

The landscape of Britain is full of ghosts. They don’t take the form of spectral shimmers or occult presences. Rather, they’re manifested in the feel or mood of places, which emanate a particular sensation of eeriness, an ache of loss. These ghosts in their eerie form are everywhere, from the architecture of the distant past to ultra modern edifices, in places whose original function has since ceased but is still keenly felt. Think of the neolithic burial mound, Bryn Celli Ddu, on Anglesey in Wales. It’s a seemingly innocuous mound covered with mottled grass, its entrance leading to a hollow core. But catch it during the summer solstice and a beam of light will flood through its passageway, illuminating the back chamber. Suddenly, we are close to the lives of those who used it, if only for a moment.

Dunkey, who makes YouTube videos about games, this past week made a YouTube video about game critics. It has generated a lot of discussion, because there’s nothing game critics like talking about more than game critics and the work of game critics. I like a lot of Dunkey’s work but I disagree with most of this video, which criticises (among other things) big sites like IGN and Gamespot for expressing different opinions on games depending on which staff member at the site is talking at any given moment. Leading to situations where one IGN person says “Sonic sucks” and another person says “Sonic is great” and so on. Obviously I think writers expressing their individual opinions is a good thing (and there’s a reason why I always mention the author’s name alongside the links in Sunday Papers). There’s also a bunch of other stuff in there about game scores and whether you need to complete games before reviewing them and so on, all of which is the exact same argument people have been having for, oh, about 25 years now.

But you don’t want to talk about that. You want to talk about Joel Couture’s article at Gamasutra about how the developers of Dead Cells have designed its 50 weapons so that each feels distinctive. This one covers a lot of detail.

“The references for the feedback in Dead Cells are all fighting games, like Street Fighter 4, BlazBlue or Mark of the Wolves,” says Sebastien Bernard. “We use a lot of particles, stop frames, slow downs and other techniques taken from the genre. For example, the critical hits freeze the game for one frame, followed by a slow down of a few tenths of a second, a nice blood spray and a specific impact sound feedback. It’s the sum of all these things that create that feeling of weight when you introduce a big old sword to a zombie’s skull.”

Or maybe you want to talk about Joel Couture’s article at IndieGames.com about James Earl Cox’s 100 games in 5 Years project, which was recently completed.

The end of Cox’s journey was an emotional one, which became clear upon being asked how he felt now that he had completed it. “Relief! Dread. Satisfaction. Emptiness. Excitement. The challenge became a background element of my life as the years went on, a part of my identity. So finally making the 100th game brewed up a cocktail of emotions. I may have shed a few tears when I uploaded the final game!”

I do not know what to make of this Polygon article by Ben Kuchera, which tells an old personal story of how his girlfriend left him, his (huge) game collection was stolen, and how he eventually healed and learned to let go years later. If you read any of it, read the first two paragraphs and then read the final paragraph and tell me I’m not crazy.

I was never not collecting video games. When I was younger, it was just a matter of buying video games, and it never occurred to me to sell any or to trade them in. As I got a bit older, I liked the way they looked on my shelves. By the time I was in college, I was actively looking for the rare stuff, while using my discount and connections from my job as a video game store manager to get stuff for much cheaper than the going price online.

But you don’t really want to talk about that. You want to talk about the latest Cool Ghosts video, in which Matt Lees expounds on the beauty and focus in Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s design. I’ve played a lot of Zelda, read a lot about Zelda, and watched a lot about Zelda, but Matt is a cut above at this stuff now. Writing, editing, presenting, gags; this is shit hot.

Music this week is Bjork and the remix of I Miss You. The Dobie Rub Part One-Sunshine Mix, apparently.

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Graham Smith

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Graham is to blame for all this.

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