The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for comforting your kid through yet another freaking illness. But you can also read about videogames during brief moments of respite.

At Waypoint, Rob Zacny writes about the fading memory of World War 2, and the ways in which Call of Duty: WW2 seems to accelerate the forgetting.

Men like Daniels didn’t generally get their own platoons, and didn’t generally want them. The dead airman for whom I am named didn’t write letters home dreaming of the day when he might be made flight leader or given command of his squadron of Liberators. He caught up on gossip from home, talked about movies he’d seen, and sometimes, just barely and mostly via vague allusion, the pressure and terror he was subjected to over there. My grandfather talked about being mightily bored and hot inside his tank during the Philippines campaign. The only things about his war that he claimed to enjoy were hours of meditative target practice with a carbine rifle, and a brief stint of occupation tourism in Japan before being sent home to resume the life he’d put on hold. How many of those citizen-soldiers really aspired to the kind of military achievements coveted by the soldiers that Call of Duty: World War 2 presents?

A couple of weeks ago I linked to Xalavier Nelson Jr’s Twitter thread re-appraising Hotline Miami 2. Now it’s an article.

Combat in Hotline Miami 2 is, if not entirely consistent, more tightly controlled. With proper preparation, I found myself dying from offscreen threats far less often despite the sequel’s larger levels, and diverse play styles outside of my comfort zone became mandatory as the game went on. The storytelling is boldly idiosyncratic, tying the lives of soldiers sent on suicidal missions in a deniable warzone to a group of fame-hungry serial killers with a mind-bending convolution and unexpected empathy only a series like Hotline Miami could achieve.

Vic Hood writes about her personal history with The Sims, and how it’s changed as she and the series have changed.

As a kid with parents going through divorce, the most important element of The Sims was that here was a world I had total control over. I could design my dream house, move in my ideal family and become a famous actress. It was like having an exquisite, endlessly detailed dollhouse, a home from broken-home.

Also for Eurogamer, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell writes about the rise of Indian game development. I’m always fascinated by stories like these.

Indian developers are hungry for more, however. The country’s games market has exploded in the past decade, with mobile games especially reaping the benefits of rising living standards while consoles struggle in the face of software piracy and a scarcity of specialist retail. Casual and gambling games account for a large proportion of revenue, but Indian gaming is increasingly diverse, with single player games and more obscure genres such as real-time strategy beginning to pick up pace. In the absence of local funding opportunities for more ambitious experiences, smaller teams are availing themselves of self-publishing programs online to pitch their games worldwide.

Kirk Hamilton at Kotaku argues that in-game purchases poison the well.

Video games will always manipulate us. Each challenge and scenario in a game has been carefully engineered to make us react a certain way. Most of the time, that’s what we sign up for. But the moment real money enters the equation, something changes.

At PC Gamer, Alex Wiltshire talks to publishers and indie devs about why the latter are signing with the former more often. I think about this a lot and it’s nice to hear details.

The first and most obvious appeal of a publisher is as a source of funding, whether that’s money that will pay a developer’s rent while they finish a game or pay their collaborators. But publishers do a lot more than that. So far in 2017 over 6,800 games have been released on Steam, compared to 5,028 in 2016 and 2,991 in 2015. A lot of games are being made at the moment, and the great majority of them would self-identify as ‘indie games.’ So how can a developer stand out in all that noise? How do you make a trailer that shows off your game in its best possible light? How do you make a trailer at all? How do you make a game that appeals widely? These are the kinds of questions that routinely keep developers awake at night.

Waypoint have started posting episodes of Waypoint Presents to their YouTube channel. I enjoyed this one focused on MMA fighter Angela Hill, who dresses in cosplay inspired by videogame characters.

That’ll do. It’s late and I’ve more Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to watch. Music this week is the What Remains of Edith Finch soundtrack, which you can probably find to stream somewhere, who knows. I like “Milton’s Tower” and the Marching Band and Crowning tracks.

34 Comments

  1. Daymare says:

    That Robert Zacny article is important. Not specifically for video games, its wider implications I think ring even truer.

    It echoes a few of my own thoughts during the last few years. Right now there’s still people who remember the Second World War. Conflicted, biased and fuzzy as their memories may be, they were there. They won’t be much longer.

    When they’re gone, the war won’t even be memory anymore, it will be history. And all that’s left is whatever historians and media make of the past.
    That and — this gives me hope — whatever else we have collected. Photos, interviews, accounts, even movies from that era.

    Yesterday, a friend argued that it should all be forgotten, it’s long past. And I said: No. No, never. Some things should never be forgotten. If we do, there’s nothing to warn us against history repeating itself.
    Stories like CoD: WW2’s fuel the fire that slowly consumes our culture’s memory.

    • Towerxvi says:

      It’s a pretty sentiment, but I don’t think it’s possible. Time obscures everything, an has for all of history- “Never Forget” is a refrain humans have been singing since our beginnings and it has never, ever happened. Not that it’s an excuse not to try to hold on to the truth of matters but we can barely figure out the truth of matters in present, much less the past- and there are always too many perspectives and twisted views demanding rememberance, like Rashomon on steroids. The fog of time always wins, and will always win.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        We’ve forgotten our history, yet you seem to remember the dawn of civilisation?

        • Towerxvi says:

          Your right! That was obviously a bit of poetic flourish. But it’s not hard to find places in history where that doomed sentiment is echoed. And before you retort that that statement is contradictory, I never said history was doomed to be forgotten completely, like some blank in memory. Just that time inevitably twists and distorts the absolute truth of events, so that all of history is pretty much a series of best guesses, of varying quality.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            True. Just as in our minds: the act of remembering marks the memory, like handling a clay model before it’s fired. It’s not a shameful thing, but it must be done carefully, as you say.

      • Daymare says:

        So we shouldn’t even try?

        Perhaps we haven’t been singing it loud enough?

        Our methods of recording history haven’t become vastly more efficient?

        Anyway, as long as people share your sentiments what you write will indeed remain true.

        • Towerxvi says:

          I believe I said that that’s not an excuse to not try. But it’s like the idea of eradicating human evil. Fight as hard as you can- indeed, it is an ethical imperative to do so- but don’t deceive yourself that total victory is ever achievable, or even possible to approach. Just because the Aesir and company are destined to fall in the battles of Ragnarok, it doesn’t mean they should just step aside either.

          • Daymare says:

            You also said you think it’s impossible.

            So why write that if you think we should try nonetheless?

            You sounded as if you’d already given up. Let others do the remembering, like. That way, oblivion lies.

          • Daymare says:

            Let’s rephrase that ancient saying, then, shall we?

            “Let’s remember as long as we can.”
            Sound better?

      • uriel222 says:

        This.

        “Never forget” is a fine aspiration, but eventually everything will pass out of the zeitgeist into scholarship, and then into obscurity. The righteous fury of the Second World War taught us that evil must be confronted, yes, but caused us to forget the pointlessness of the First World War and the pacifism it engendered. WW1, as well, caused us to forget that the idea of a network of alliances was the response to the endless colonial wars of the century before, and so on back to lessons learned since before Greece fought Troy.

        The world changes, and people with it. We [i]will[/i] forget the “meaning” of WW2, either due to the fading of memory to death or because its lessons are no longer relevant. Such is life.

        • Daymare says:

          You’re right. Why even try, right? Everything’s forgotten eventually.

          … that line of reasoning can be applied to absolutely everything, and has never helped anyone.

          • GeoX says:

            What exactly are the parameters here? What, specifically, are we meant to remember? Is it just wars? Is it EVERY war? And in how much detail? You’re being so vague here that I don’t know exactly what you want.

          • Daymare says:

            Are you serious or are you intentionally playing dense to try grinding my gears? I was responding to a whole lengthy article on the memory of the Second World War and you don’t know what’s being talked about here?

            Read that article, I’m not your personal reading assistant/cliffnotes supplier.

          • GeoX says:

            So here’s what you wrote:

            Some things should never be forgotten. If we do, there’s nothing to warn us against history repeating itself.

            I wanted to know exactly “never forgetting” means to you in this context and how you would generalize this principle but you refuse to provide further detail and also for some reason decide to be a dick about it when asked. Awesome. Cool discussion, A+++, would have again.

          • Daymare says:

            Further detail was not refused, but provided in the form of the aforementioned article.

            Bye!

          • GeoX says:

            Mmm. If I were you, I wouldn’t have edited my comment like that. Being unspecifically dismissive isn’t exactly a cogent reply, but at least there’s a certain purity to it, and there’s not really anything to be said in response. Whereas vaguely pointing at the article–which doesn’t remotely address my questions–just makes you seem like YOU haven’t done the reading. It’s not an improvement.

          • Daymare says:

            Okay then, bye again!

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        The Monthly had a truly excellent essay about conservative interpretations of the past. Its starts about Australia politics but broadens pretty quickly. link to themonthly.com.au

    • MrUnimport says:

      Reminded me of this other really good article about the mythologization of WW2.

      link to thebaffler.com

    • Michael Fogg says:

      I wish the devs took inspiration from different cultural representations of WWII then the cliched Ambrosiana. There is Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, A Midnight Clear…

      • Daymare says:

        I read Slaughterhouse-5 as part of a lecture I can’t recall the contents of.

        It was such a darn enjoyable book. Literature’s clown funeral is how I’d describe it. So it goes.

  2. Laurentius says:

    I’m on the level that Hotline Miami 2 is better game and I enjoyed it more. Actually after finishing HM2 I finally beat HM. It’s like a puzzle game, so I knew that I can beat the level when I figure out what to do and how to do it.

  3. aircool says:

    When I was young, I once asked my grandfather who served in the RAF in Burma during WWII if he’d seen any Japanese soldiers.

    He replied ‘only dead ones’. It took me many years to realise what he actually meant.

    Once I’d joined the RAF myself, both my grandfather and my own father (Royal Signals) opened up about their experiences. I guess the only people who truly understand are those who have had a taste themselves.

  4. RaunakS says:

    Alright Raji (link to kickstarter.com) looks like a fantastically beautiful platformer game. I’m not certain why there hasn’t been much (or any really) promotion about it!

    I’m backing the game for sure but looks like there’s no way its going to achieve its goals. Maybe they should try Fig.

    • draglikepull says:

      Raji looks good and I backed it, but I think their funding goal was probably far too ambitious for a team that doesn’t really have a pedigree to fall back on. They’re asking for almost as much money as the FTL Kickstarter raised, and far more than the initial funding goal for Darkest Dungeon (which started with a more modest $75,000 goal).

  5. aircool says:

    Also, there’s nothing micro about microtransactions anymore. £3.99 will get you 10 awesome 80’s drum machine VST’s for Cubasis for example. What can you get for the same price in Battlefront 2?

    £3.99 is also about the price of a character bag slot in GW2 and 500 FIFA Points which will buy you 5 Gold Packs. You’ll be lucky to get one decent player from 5 packs and you’ll cash in most of the rest of them at a truly dreadful exchange rate.

    • po says:

      It can also get you an entire game, sometimes even two, in a Steam sale. Checking through my purchases, there are a lot for that value or less, that are much better games than Battlefront 2, even considering how long ago some of them were released, and how they’ve aged. I got the whole Jedi Knight bundle for less than a BFII lootbox.

  6. fuggles says:

    My nipper is sick too. We should start an RPS parents forum/club!

  7. Stargazer86 says:

    My grandfather was in the air force during the 2nd World War. He didn’t fly. He was a cargo controller in charge of loading and unloading planes. The ‘stories’ my grandparents had of the war mostly involved their own personal troubles, moving from place to place, living in Guam, Hawaii, how little money they had, and very occasionally my grandfather would talk about a few encounters with fellow military personnel. There are no big glorious battles or harrowing accounts of survival. He just did his job and did it well. I think that goes for a whole lot of military people.

  8. Ibed says:

    On the subjects of microtransactions: Jon Blow made a similar comment from a game-design perspective, here:

  9. Blackcompany says:

    I firmly believe that any game that lives by Micro transactions, will die by them.

    Developers of games that live off of such transactions, generally make games about obtaining rewards. But these devs have a literally vested interest in making the obtaining of rewards by playing the game as inconvenient and unenjoyable as they can get away with, in order to push their business model. Given enough time, they’ll eventually cross a line, at which point, playing their game becomes at best a tolerated and at worst a futile exercise in misery and suffering. This will eventually erode player interest, Killing the game.

    You can see this in Warframe now. Slowly, by bits, it’s crossing the line. Pretty soon now – by mid 2018, I suspect – obtaining anything by actually PLAYING the game will literally become a miserable, unfun Experience if fighting 0.18% drop rates in lists full of garbage and players will cease to have any reason to do so. Their game having completed it’s arguably inevitable transition to an online store for digital cosmetics with a barely relevant interactive mode in which those cosmetics may be viewed in motion, they will fade away, until servers go dark.

    Free to play can’t die soon enough. And it can take loot boxes and in game stores ashore on the opposite side of the Styx when the tillerman comes, for all of me. We are better off without it.

  10. Spacewalk says:

    I feel sorry for the black soldiers of COD: WW2 who exist solely so that white people can pat themselves on the back for conquering racism by acknowledging their contribution.

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