Sundays are for convincing your housemates to play The Quest For El Dorado with you again. Board games are way better than videogames, but here you are, reading the best writing about them from the past week. Sucker.
For Polygon, Simone de Rochefort struggled to fish while roleplaying as Ernest Hemingway in Stardew Valley. This is the best kind of videogame criticism: the kind that teaches you about Ernest Hemingway owning 40 cats.
When I began my Switch playthrough, I fished just once to see if it was as bad as I remembered.
It was!! Full of fury and frustration, I put my fishing rod in a box and said fie to Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hobby. He wrote beautifully about fishing in stories like “Big Two-Hearted River,” where the main character Nick Adams methodically cooks and fishes and camps, doing things just so. The undercurrent of the story, the iceberg, is how doing things properly is an antidote to shellshock.
In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway describes packing trout in ferns, putting “three trout on a layer of ferns, then another layer of ferns, then three more trout,” etc. “They looked nice in the ferns,” he adds.
For Uppercut, Ruth Cassidy explained why an attempt to address the ableism within a small scene in Stardew Valley hasn’t been entirely successful.
However, Penny pushing George’s wheelchair without his consent is a major violation of his boundaries, akin to bodily shoving or picking him up and carrying him. George’s role in the game as ‘the grumpy old man’ dismisses his entirely justified anger and frustration in this instance, and creates a very unsettling emotional dissonance as a disabled player. Despite his initial response being set up as prideful bluster, it is entirely accurate and not insignificant for him to say that he can certainly move himself around when he loses his temper at Penny.
For Eurogamer, Ewan Wilson took us on a tour through the work of Syd Mead. Turns out we’ve all been looking at his artistic legacy for years without realising it. This bit on Mass Effect is particularly neat.
Mead knew how to paint utopias too. His style – colourful, vivid, light, clean, precise – channelled the speed and positivity of the supersonic age. The game series that probably most explicitly draws from him is Mass Effect. BioWare’s art director Derek Watts has talked about how, in their search for a visual identity, the team looked at Mead’s early, utopian, work, with its distinct geometric curves and exciting optimism. Like the aircrafts that whoosh across Mead’s blue skies, jet-trails in their wake, Mass Effect is filled with gentle curves and projections that sell the speed, propulsion and positivity of its world.
For EGM, Khee Hoon Chan spoke to Chinese indie developers about the challenges of making games under a government that’s determined to get in their way. I learnt a lot from this, notably that the upcoming government-approved version of Steam is far from a rosy prospect.
The idea of Steam China has been enormously unpopular among developers — a sentiment shared by Chinese gamers, who are concerned about what will happen to their existing Steam libraries. “So the minute that Steam China comes into effect, worldwide Steam is going to either immediately stop or slowly be choked out of the ecosystem. It’s kind of a miracle that Steam has continued to operate as a loophole for as long as it has,” Garner said. “Still, the Chinese indies are working and focusing on Chinese audiences. But that’s going to change.”
For VG247, Jeremy Peel asked a doctor about how to incapacitate people without killing them.
The more contemporary approach, as seen in Dishonored and Splinter Cell, is for a protagonist to wrap their arm around an enemy’s neck and choke them out from behind. The move bears a resemblance to various chokeholds used by martial artists and real-world military personnel, so has some basis in reality.
“It definitely is possible that you can occlude somebody’s carotid pressure and they’ll pass out,” Dr Fraser says. The carotid arteries carry oxygenated blood to the head, and so the brain can’t keep you conscious without them. “I suppose in theory if you could do that with enough force… you would have to be there for a couple of minutes.”
Here’s Beth Elderkin’s glorious Gizmodo interview with Andrzej Sapkowski, author of the Witcher books.
io9: How involved were you in the production process?
Sapkowski: Not very much, on my own request. I do not like working too hard or too long. By the way, I do not like working at all. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at me.” John 8:7.
Music this week is Bobby Reid by Lucette.