Sundays are for– oh no. Sundays are for doing my taxes. Quick, let’s procrastinate with some of the week’s best games writing (and podcasts, and TikToks).
Brendan Caldwell, former features editor and current RPS list goblin, launched a podcast this past week. Hey Lesson! is a podcast about asking smart people stupid questions about videogames. For example, he asks neuroscientist Dr Ofir Turel about piss mushrooms in Death Stranding to figure out why our brains crave ‘likes’, and talks to caver Christine Grosart about animals getting lost in caves a la Spelunky. This is a great idea for a podcast, finely produced, and each episode also has a co-host, including familiar voices like Paul Dean and other former RPSman Matthew Castle. If you like the series, consider supporting Brendan’s work via Patreon.
Speaking of Paul Dean, he’s been recording his own podcast episodes for his own Patreon. In a recent episode, he spoke to videogame composer Ryan Ike about his work on games like Gunpoint and Where The Water Tastes Like Wine. Paul’s first question is “what’s your favourite noise?”.
And speaking of podcasts, if you enjoy the form and want more recommendations, it’s worth following Caroline Crampton’s work across Hot Pod and The Listener newsletter. This past week she wrote an interesting article about The Inconsequential Quest, a style of podcast episode that has become increasingly popular in the past five years.
I call this format “The Inconsequential Quest.” I’m sure readers will be very familiar with the form: a host chooses something that is of seemingly little importance and investigates it with a thoroughness and journalistic rigour that seems completely out of proportion to the original question. The resulting episode or series documents this journey in detail and ultimately reveals a conclusion that surprises and delights listeners.
Brendan Sinclair at GI.biz reported this week on allegations by Twitch employees of sexual assault, racism and more within the company. These allegations come after a number of similar accusations against streamers who use the service earlier this year. This is miserable stuff.
“Twitch repeatedly swept accounts of harassment and abuse under the rug: sexual, verbal, physical abuse, and racism. And not just my own. It took place in the office. At events. In meetings and behind closed doors. It was rampant and unavoidable. We heard about it in the halls. We saw it at our desks. It was overt and part of the job.”
At Fanbyte, Bonnie Qu wrote about Choices: Stories You Play, which is one those story games you see in trashy adverts on Instagram. I’m always curious about these games, because I do crave soap opera CYOA.
For someone who’s been playing Choices since launch, it’s always jarring to see a melodramatic ad for the game that’s clearly meant to generate interest via over-the-top scenarios. The game bears little resemblance to its ads, only occasionally injecting excess drama into its stories. Still, the ads appear to have worked, at least in part; half a million people have downloaded Choices across Android and iOS, and the game has a dedicated following online. Though the gaudy ads may draw people in, hidden beneath each one is the real reason for the game’s popularity: the promise of shameless, low-stakes wish fulfillment.
I’m still hooked on Genshin Impact, so I enjoyed this Polygon article from Ryan Gilliam, who didn’t love Breath Of The Wild but is as hooked as I am.
My time with Genshin Impact has actually changed how I feel about Breath of the Wild, and made me examine what does and doesn’t work for me. For years, I’ve believed that I didn’t like the open world, directionless nature of Breath of the Wild. But as I play Genshin, I’ve realized it has more to do with Zelda’s lack of RPG systems. In Genshin, I feel like I’m building toward something, whereas every time Zelda gave me a cool weapon that once belonged to a great Zora, it broke within an hour. That feels like negative progress.
This Twitter thread of TikTok’s showing “folk games” is very good.
Music this week is the latest Neil Cicierega mashup album, Mouth Dreams, which is as off-kilter and satisfying as all of Neil’s work.