Sundays are for buying drywall filler, then hoping it will hide the holes you weren’t supposed to make before Monday’s inspectors can subtract an unreasonable amount from your deposit. Hurray for renting! Hurray for the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For The New Yorker, Jamil Jan Kochai wrote about playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. It’s a reality bleeding, perspective-broadening masterpiece. I’m not talking about the game.
Not that you’re a patriot or a nationalist or one of those Afghans who walk around in a pakol and kameez and play the tabla and claim that their favorite singer is Ahmad Zahir, but the fact that nineteen-eighties Afghanistan is the final setting of the most legendary and artistically significant gaming franchise in the history of time made you all the more excited to get your hands on it, especially since you’ve been shooting at Afghans in your games (Call of Duty and Battlefield and Splinter Cell) for so long that you’ve become oddly immune to the self-loathing you felt when you were first massacring wave after wave of militant fighters who looked just like your father.
For Polygon, game designer Jennifer Scheurle addressed a love letter to her players. Perhaps the magic of direct address will make you listen this time.
Sometimes I wonder if players are more kind when they don’t know they’re speaking to me directly. I’m not sure why that’s the case. I wonder if it’s because so much feedback is often sent to people who can do little to change the issue being discussed. That makes players feel like they’re not being listened to, and so they think they must ask with more force or less grace, or add a threat. I wish I had a better way to de-escalate these situations. I wish we had better ways to talk.
For The Face, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell spoke to activists organising protests within games. The most arresting parts come from Joseph DeLappe, and the way he set about disrupting the American military’s recruitment videogame.
Twenty-six years later, DeLappe loaded up the shooter game America’s Army and typed a name into the chatbox: José Antonio Gutiérrez. A Marine lance corporal, Gutiérrez was killed on 20th March 2003 in Umm Qasr, Basra, during the US invasion of Iraq. He was 22. Over the next eight years, DeLappe would enter the names, ages, ranks and death dates of thousands of US Iraq war casualties into America’s Army – a “killfeed” of a different sort – much to the bemusement and rancour of other players.
Called dead-in-iraq, the project was designed to “close the loop” between the game’s teen-rated portrayal of military service and the reality. DeLappe wanted to challenge the overwhelmingly young and male player base as he himself had been challenged, back in high school. He wanted to offer perspective within a work of propaganda by transforming it, match by match, into a memorial.
Eurogamer are onto a good thing with their “Someone should make a game about…” series. The latest, by Ed Thorn, explains the joyful mandanity of Japanese reality show Terrace House. I know a suspicious number of games journos who are into it. Graham set up a Terrace House chat channel in the RPS treehouse last year. Why people watch people rather than exciting scifi nonsense is still beyond me.
Even the drama can be hilariously ordinary. Without spoiling too much, Season one is home to the infamous ‘Meat Incident’ in which someone’s prize steak is eaten without his permission as all the other housemates wrongfully presume it’s going to be shared with them in the future anyway. What follows are a number of strongly worded conversations and quiet sulks in the bedroom. This is as explosive as it gets. Housemates navigate tension through seminar-like group chats, and calmly delivered one-on-one talks. Eventually the issue is untangled and resolved rather peacefully. It’s fascinating to see the cultural differences in how situations are handled.
For Hard Drive, John Dixon character assassinated Tom Nook, the raccoon from Animal Crossing.
That raccoon turncoat whose smile reeks of Orwellian glee as he profits off the blood and sweat of his fellow animals by serving in a profession even more evil than being a (metaphorical) pig: a landlord.
“Oh but he’s so nice!” You might say. “He gives houses to new residents!”
Washington Post reporter Britt Hayes interviewed “the guy who took mushrooms and saw Cats“. I enjoyed this unnecessary caveat about the circumstances under which Sonic the hedgehog seems absurd.
I should have tried to wait and go in after the trailers played, because they were already freaking me out. I was slinking down in my chair, my body melting, and suddenly they’re playing the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer and I was losing it. In that state of mind, Sonic seemed like the most absurd thing in the entire world, and also the most stressful. Everything was so dumb and moving so fast, and the CGI fur was freaking me out, and I was getting freaked out on top of that because I realized I was in for two hours of colorful CGI fur, and it was already really weirding me out. They really know their audience because they played every Goddamn CGI furry animal trailer they could find.
The Internet Historian retold the history of No Man’s Sky, nicely dissecting how the hype train went off the rails.
This shifting graph of videogame sales over the past 30 years is mesmerising.
As is this Twitter thread of anime floppy disks.
Music this week is Ha Fang Kheng Kan by Khruangbin.