Sundays are for realising that telling the internet what you’re up to every Sunday is boring, so making stuff up instead. I’m tobogganing down Mt. Everest with Jennifer Aniston, while reading the best writing about video games from the past week.
On Kotaku, Cameron Kunzelman spoke to a YouTuber who’s using Cities: Skylines to illustrate the politics that govern infrastructure. Some of the talk about water management is inevitably dry, but I like that Justin Roczniak’s original stab at presenting a historically accurate account of city building quickly turned into rampant leftist propaganda. Turns out they’re basically the same thing.
At every moment, Roczniak is stressing that the history that he is modeling in his Skylines builds, in this case water management, is directly attached to what is happening right now in American politics. He’s showing that the vast infrastructural moves that have been made to historically support our urbanization techniques over the past few centuries have come at extreme costs in human life and happiness. From that perspective, from ICE to water management, it doesn’t seem like anyone can have a neutral perspective when it comes to the policies and organizations that operate in and around America’s urban centers.
On Waypoint, Kunzelman also wrote about what the work of recently deceased cultural theorist Paul Virilio can tell us about video games. I get where they’re coming from, but does this underemphasise how different companies are at least competing to fill our heads with different experiences? You could argue triple AAA games don’t differ enough from each other, but I’d say that’s true in some ways but false in others. A need for speed might dominate industrial output, but there’s a sense in which speed inevitably results in variety.
When he writes that the engine is often obsolete before it appears, he’s saying that a technical object can be exhausted in its promise. If my military theorizes a new type of missile, then your military is incentivized to create a response, perhaps a missile defense system, or maybe an even faster, meaner missile. Our countries pour millions of dollars into the programs. When the missile and its response are delivered, we are back to parity, the same equivalence of where we were before. This, for Virilio, is how everything works, from cupcakes to nuclear weapons: It is all a process of hurrying to stay in the same place, and in that race, no one pulls ahead. This is the peace of exhaustion.
Also at Waypoint, Patrick Klepek wrote an editorial about the Telltale layoffs , to which I’ve got nothing to add but a ‘hear hear’.
Shit happens, but it didn’t have to happen this way, and it’s a failure of imagination to suggest there isn’t a world where companies can be run in a way that ensures their workers are given a chance to breathe before finding another opportunity. Telltale afforded none of this, and it’s important we recognize how irresponsible this is.
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell’s article about developers that strive to align their work with the true spirit of punk has given me a wealth of games to check out. First on the list: EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER.
“Punk is by and for people who find themselves outcasts of society, who are told they’re not good enough because of who they love, or the colour of their skin, or their gender identity, or any number of things,” Robertson tells me. “Punk is a celebration of survival under oppression: raw, white-knuckled, scarred, furious, and always ready for the next fight. Also, punk is about beating the hell out of neonazis.” The game is, amongst other things, an indelicate riposte to the idea of “debating” fascists and so, legitimising their views – “no-platforming” the far right here means literally booting them off a cliff.
My favourite thing about this dev retrospective of Lake Ridden is the photo of them meeting the Swedish King, with no explanation as to why. Their speculation about why the game didn’t sell fantastically is interesting too, though. I can definitely see how launching in the middle of a heatwave might affect sales.
To us, it’s baffling that a game with 90% Positive, that spent 5 days on Steam’s front page and managed to grab this much attention hasn’t (yet) moved more copies than this four months after release. It’s a game made by well-experienced developers and loved by those who played it.
Cian Maher argued that bad AI can make for good relationships. I agree that frustrating AI can make me engage with characters in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t, but I’d still prefer my NPCs to be functional rather than colourfully broken.
However, by shouting at your TV, telling Trico to stop acting like such a massive dick, you’re connecting to the characters in a weird way. Almost like the way in which you’d connect with people in real life. People always say you don’t really notice a person’s subtle flaws until you’ve built a solid relationship with them. That’s sort of what’s going on here. “Fuck you, Trico,” roughly translates to “I love you, Trico.”
I liked this little thread from Jan Willem Nijman. AAA skill trees ARE like pop music.
There are some treats tucked away in this thread from @moshboy. See: a skeletal hand chopping up a ghost next to some broccoli.
Chris Bratt’s latest People Make Games video digs into the history of Red Dead, or as Dan Houser called it: “this cowboy game that looked very good”.
Hamish Black from Writing on Games felt a connection with Spider-Man that I didn’t, quite. But it is super neat that you can high five people.
I haven’t linked anything from Holy Moly and the Crackers in a while, have I? Music this week is Mary.