Sundays are for SHOPPING OH GOD THERE’S STILL SO MUCH SHOPPING. You can also read the best writing about videogames from the past week.
“What the Popularity of ‘Fortnite’ Has in Common With the 20th Century Pinball Craze” is a Smithsonian headline that made me both curious and vaguely tired. I’m glad the former feeling won out, because Clive Thompson’s historiography of pinball is fascinating.
Pinball originally emerged from bagatelle, a 19th-century pastime that was like billiards, except players propelled the ball through a series of pegs toward a target. The boozy, decadent courtesans of the French king loved it. “They’d play these games, and they’d go off and have sex,” as Michael Schiess, founder and creative director of the Pacific Pinball Museum, describes the general air of courtly excess. “Then they’d drink more and they’d play this game.”
On Kotaku, Kate Gray recounted her childhood quest to recreate all the Greek gods in the Sims. She succeeded. Sort of.
But incest is far from the most complicated genealogical origin of the Greek gods, and I found myself searching for mods that would allow me to create Aphrodite, whose myth—as depicted in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus—states that she was born when Ouranos was castrated by his son-brother, Kronos, and sprouted fully-formed from the spermy sea-foam. Turns out there isn’t a mod for that. Nor is there a mod for Dionysos’ traumatic birth, in which his mortal mother basically exploded upon looking at Zeus’ true form, and he was forced to cut out the fetus Dionysos and sew him into his thigh.
Cameron Kunzelman’s Waypoint column was as grand as ever, this time looking at Hitman 2’s finale. I like the use of a Hitman level as an analogy for the resilience of the powerful, and the slim (but existent) hope of undermining it.
On the castle island, with its sales gala for apocalyptic technologies, there are two kinds of catastrophe. One is Agent 47 and the other is the oncoming climate disaster. Both erupt out of the placid conditions of things happening, unwelcome, uncalled for. When Agent 47 comes for these cartoon characters of real-world figures who might survive the real-world conditions that are going to put strains on global supply chains and the viability of our current system of human and resource organization, we can imagine a small moment of comeuppance.
At Unwinnable, Yussef Cole wrestled with whether and how to write about Red Dead Redemption 2. He doesn’t really come to a conclusion, which is reassuring because I haven’t either. Although I did do a supporter post about a cool pirate hat I found.
I’ve read Twitter accounts which point out that even as we writers spend time pointing to all the bloody guts and scrapings littering the floor of its production, we’ll still inevitably marvel at the beautiful sausage produced by Rockstar’s grisly machinery in the next breath. And some of us already have; which is why I’m so torn, why I’ve wound up asking myself what my own personal moral responsibility is when covering games like these.
Benjamin Burns ventured into betting shops for Eurogamer, with the goal of wagering on esports. I enjoyed picturing these interactions.
“Hi, I’m wondering if you do esports betting in here,” I earnestly chirp to the guy behind the till. “What’s esports?” he says back to me, with a look that suggests I’ve just requested a battered sausage and large chips. Alas, I get no joy from Ladbrokes. The staff do point out that I can probably place these bets online, but we already knew that.
An assortment of Eurogamer writers (quick, someone come up with a collective noun) also wrote about maps. Christian Donlan misses the days when games were places you literally got lost in, though personally that’s something I can’t stand. I’m glad I live in an age of golden arrows and snazzy maps.
This can’t be a situation that pleases anybody. Games have become much easier to complete, I guess, since we got mini-maps and waypoints. We all laughed when those glowing chevrons turned up in Perfect Dark Zero, but they were heralding an era of games where being lost was no longer allowed. BioShock! You’re under the sea in a fascinating failed experiment of a city where monsters roam and secrets lurk. Do be a dear and follow the golden arrow at the top of the screen? Nobody was laughing then, but that golden arrow ruins BioShock, and I don’t know whether they should be ashamed for sticking it in there or whether we should be ashamed for needing it.
Critical Distance (an invaluable site, whose roundups I continue to scour for potential Papers) re-printed Far Cry 2 dev Clint Hocking’s compilation of the ten best articles written about the game. If there are laws against linking to roundup articles in roundup articles, I’m going to break them because Hocking’s first pick is about the Paradox of Tragedy and I love that crap.
Paul Dean, who’s both a friend and a fantastic writer, recently stopped reviewing board games for Shut Up and Sit Down and started a Patreon. You’re reading this because you like good words, and Paul is one of the goodest worders there is. If you need proof, revisit some of his work for us, such as his piece on Stardew Valley, life, labour and love.
Some Marvel stuntmen recreated a Smash Bros fight, and it is exhausting.
Music this week is Wayfarin’ Stranger by Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson. Tell me the Johnny Cash version is better. I dare you.
(Damn, actually this time it might be.)