Sundays are for celebrating your grandma’s birthday, and definitely not for sneaking off to shoot cowboys. Or reading the best writing about video games from the past week.
Jason Schreier’s piece for Kotaku is the most comprehensive report you’ll find on what it’s like to work for Rockstar. If you need catching up: two weeks ago Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser made thoughtless boasts about his team working 100 hour weeks, everyone called him out on it, then Rockstar gave their employees permission to openly share their experiences. It is telling that most people Schreier spoke to still requested anonymity.
This account, a peek inside one of the most secretive companies in gaming, is based on interviews with 34 current and 43 former employees, over phone calls and e-mails and texts. Last Wednesday, Rockstar told current employees that they were allowed to speak to journalists (so long as they gave HR a heads up), but almost all of the people who spoke to me for this story requested anonymity. Some said they feared retaliation for being candid about their negative experiences at Rockstar, and some said they were worried about coming across as dishonest for sharing positive stories.
Kirk Hamilton’s Red Dead Redemption 2 review for Kotaku is looooong, but I suppose that’s appropriate when you’re dealing with a game this vast and this dense. Importantly, he celebrates the achievement without ignoring the human cost it came at – though I agree with him that his answer to whether all this was worth it is ultimately unsatisfactory. I’m not sure it’s possible to reconcile disgust at how RDR2 was made with being glad that it exists.
It is defiantly slow-paced, exuberantly unfun, and wholly unconcerned with catering to the needs or wants of its players. It is also captivating, poignant, and at times shockingly entertaining. It moves with the clumsy heaviness of a 19th century locomotive, but like that locomotive becomes unstoppable once it builds up a head of steam. Whether intentionally or not, its tale of failure and doom reflects the tribulations of its own creation, as a charismatic and self-deluded leader tries ever more desperately to convince his underlings to follow him off a cliff.
Over at PC Gamer, Christopher Livingston went on a splendid quest to cure his rash in Green Hell. And by ‘splendid’ I mean ‘covered in worms’.
Finally, I make it. I build my shelter, save my game, and set out once more to get a rash. I don’t get a rash, and I don’t get killed by leopards, but I’m bitten by a snake. After trying to sleep off the fever, I’m parched, so foolishly I drink from the river, which gives me a worse fever. I’ve also got worms burrowing under my skin, which I removed with a needle I’ve crafted from the bones of a fish I killed with my spear (which was pretty cool, really), but I need a bandage for the sore, and while I’m out looking for the one damn kind of plant I can make a bandage from, I’m bitten by another snake. I’m so annoyed I kill it with my spear and devour it raw and get parasites. I’m a mess.
Ry Adams wrote about how speedrunning can teach us about scientific research. It’s about how poking into things can sometimes be worthwhile for its own sake, rather than practical applications. Or the speediest runs.
There is something quietly difficult about accepting the inherent value of basic research, about really believing that studying physical space or how we organize numbers is valuable even if we get nothing material directly from it. With the world as gone-to-heck as it is, the pull of doing research with a real impact is strong — I’m a grad student in mathematics who tends towards applied research for exactly that reason. But I’ve spent some time researching some pretty abstract pure mathematics, and the experience taught me a lot about the value of basic research. By and large, the basic researchers I’ve met do what they do because there is something interesting, enlightening, and fun about discovering something new, and that’s the same fun I’ve seen reflected in the work of glitch hunters.
This week on ‘Kate Gray makes me laugh out loud by writing about sex games’, here are her thoughts on Guenevere, a text-based choose-your-own-adventure. It’s interesting that you can eschew sex entirely, though Gray does not.
Eventually, I couldn’t help myself: The spark between myself and sexy Sir Lancelot had grown into a hot, burning fire, and we got down and dirty in the forest after my escape from being kidnapped. There’s a lot going on in the game, politically and militarily, which I attempted to navigate with grace and intelligence, but my reason was selfish: I just wanted to make sure that I made it back to Lancelot alive. Can’t bone down if you’re just bones.
On Eurogamer, Ewan Wilson explored the history of brutalist architecture and video games. It’s always fun to learn something that that makes you look at the world a little differently.
The term derives from a French invention: béton brut, meaning raw concrete. This is the structure’s most prominent feature – sheer concrete surface, often left rough, exposed or unfinished. Significant in the emergence of brutalism was the architect Le Corbusier and his Unité d’Habitation. Built from reinforced concrete, the housing unit was an attempt to create what Le Corbusier called “a machine for living” – a place that met our every need. It was a thoroughly modern, progressive and even utopian conception of architecture. Regardless of the visual force of brutalism, it’s impossible to divorce it from this socio-historical background.
I never waded as deeply into Android: Netrunner as I’d have liked, and now it’s officially dead. Alex Spencer spoke to the game’s most dedicated players about their feelings over Fantasy Flight’s decision to stop supporting it, and found that some welcomed the end. Better to go out blazing than wither in increasingly wonky card-pools, I suppose. Sniff.
Dyer, already on the back foot, finds his hand flooded with more Agendas. Rather than play them out on the table, where they might be vulnerable, he ditches them all—again, facedown—into Archives, his discard pile, hoping Schupp won’t go poking around in his trash.
Schupp’s gaze immediately darts over to Archives, and he asks Dyer to count out how many cards are in there. He’s almost inside Dyer’s head, almost figured out what Dyer has just tried to bury… and then Schupp moves on, gets on with his own plans. Even as a spectator, it’s hard not to exhale in relief. Look closely, and you can see the cards shaking slightly in Dyer’s hand—but he stays cool, maintains the bluff.
The latest People Make Games video from Chris Bratt and Anni Sayers is their best one yet.
I really should have been writing all the music down, so I don’t link to the same stuff twice. Have you heard Hurt So Good by Mipso?