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The Sunday Papers

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Sundays are for going for a swim with the family and then hoping to check out a Christmas market. But we can squeeze in some reading of the week’s best games writing in between.

Natalie Lawhead wrote about Day of the Devs, and why exhibition spaces need to do more to create a context for unusual games to be played and understood rather than just ridiculed and branded weird.

My point is that wow Streamers and Youtubers have created a steadily growing culture where it’s kosher and a fun pastime to laugh at these types of games. We should be aware that this is a problem (more than maybe we thought). I don’t know what to do about that. I really would like to encourage some constructive criticism toward Streamers and how they talk about these games. Just because some famous guy with whatever million followers plays it, this isn’t an “honor” or necessarily a good thing. It doesn’t really help sales, or exposure. The last time one did that I got a SLEW of hateful comments and email. It kind of hit me hard because this is also a personal game, and people will cater their attacks based on what they know I’ve been through.

In response, Matheson Marcault wrote a post covering things they learned about exhibiting difficult games from co-running events such as Now Play This at Somerset House. There’s lots of useful tips in there about what works and what doesn’t.

Of course it’s not possible to try out all these different techniques at once, and in fact some of them are mutually exclusive. But they all boil down to: providing the right context for a game. For us, at its simplest this might just be a placard explaining what’s exciting about a game and how it relates to other work around it – even if people don’t read the placard, the fact that it’s there helps to establish that the games have been selected for a purpose, that we believe they repay effort and attention. But beyond that, the more time and developmental focus we’ve been able to give to the physical setup of a game, the more it’s been possible to help players to approach it in a way where they will have a good experience of the game and we can communicate what we want to about it.

Second Life still has 600,000 regular users, which is a surprise. Leslie Jamison writes about the game as “the digital ruins of a forgotten future” for The Atlantic.

In truth, in the years since its peak in the mid‑2000s, Second Life has become something more like a magnet for mockery. When I told friends that I was working on a story about it, their faces almost always followed the same trajectory of reactions: a blank expression, a brief flash of recognition, and then a mildly bemused look. Is that still around? Second Life is no longer the thing you joke about; it’s the thing you haven’t bothered to joke about for years.

It’s been a while since I linked anything by Jeff Vogel, and now seems like a good time since last week he set out to settle all videogame arguments once and for all. First up: game reviews.

Why Are You Authorized to Settle This Argument Forever?

Because I am old, and that makes me wise. Also, once PC Gamer gave one of my most popular and enduring games a 17% review, literally said it was worse than choking to death on your own vomit, and provided a helpful sidebar with a list of rock stars who choked to death on their own vomit.

Related.

PC Gamer spoke to some developers about the case for and against loot boxes. There’s nothing staggering in there but it’s good to hear more perspectives.

“Halo 1 was developed I think by 35-50 people. That’s tiny. Paying those people, making sure development is paid, is a lot easier than paying 300 people. That’s eight, 10 times the cost. That’s a big deal, that’s a big change for a company. When you put something out and the world looks at it and the internet is filled with vitriol, if it’s not good, you just took an enormous bet, and you just failed. And people end up losing their jobs.”

I keep hearing about HQ, a trivia mobile app with a live game show host in which players can win real money for playing. It sounds fun, though the CEO of the company who makes the game sounds very unfun.

Yusupov’s objections began with the line, “Scott said that despite the attention, he’s still able to walk down the street and order his favorite salad from Sweetgreen without being accosted.”

“He cannot say that!” Yusupov shouted. “We do not have a brand deal with Sweetgreen! Under no circumstances can he say that.”

Which might make you despair for the tech industry and the future in general, so read this to perk yourself back up again. CoderDojo seems great.

Music this week is the track Soldiers from the Stranger Things 2 soundtrack. I liked the second series as much as I liked the first, which is to say that I liked it and that’s all.

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Graham Smith

Editor-in-chief

Graham is to blame for all this.

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