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The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for letting someone who's never compiled it before compile RPS's much-loved recommended reading column. Jim is busy showing his game to intimidatingly large crowds at Rezzed, John is interviewing famous developers on stage at Rezzed, Adam is just nipping out for a cigarette at Rezzed and Nathan is impressing people with his enormous hair at Rezzed. Thus, it falls to me to briefly move a slumbering six-week-old baby off my lap in order to share some of the most notable games-related writing from the week just gone by with you.

  • While Penny Arcade artist and founder Mike 'Gabriel' Krahulik is no stranger to controversy, his latest stream of Twitter ignorance towards trans folk, apparently provoked by death threats but coming off the back of his refusing to condemn a (later revised) PAX panel which appeared to shrug off bigotry in games as just a bit of fun, caused a chain of events which finally made Goliath flinch. There was a lot of powerful writing on the subject of PA's long history of controversies and their responsibilities to their army of devotees, but most likely candidate for smoking pistol is The Fullbright Company's decision to pull Gone Home from PAX. The notoriously unrepentant Krahulik finally offered an apology, a pledge to stop declaring that gender is defined only by genitalia and, later, a $20,000 donation to The Trevor Project. After years of escalating rather than placating when challenged, it's a big step for Penny Arcade. They've done amazing things with PAX and especially Child's Play, but their name was beginning to take on less positive associations. Hopefully he's truly reassessing his attitudes rather than just detoxifying his brand, though given that he's neglected to explain why he was wrong, I do wonder whether Krahulik's amends will enlighten the fans who were convinced that his former aggression was fine, even heroic.
  • On Gamasutra, Valve designer Adam 'Minerva' Foster on the making of that wonderfully elaborate Portal 2 ARG. "Yes, the first the world ever saw of this eagerly anticipated game was filtered through a 2400bps US Robotics modem from 1987, connected to an old PC in my kitchen."
  • The dilemma of quitting your day job if you're an indie developer. "I could write another thousand words on why you should just jump already. That you won’t know yourself until you just do it. But that’s for those afraid of heights. You’re a jumper." One thing I noticed at Rezzed yesterday was just how many people I've known for some time are now making not just a living, but huge success, out of having really committed to making their own games at the expense of all other work. In so many cases, it was a risk well-worth taking. It's very much on my mind too, shall we say.
  • Kotaku's harrowing piece on the casual and sometimes aggressive sexism still rife at E3, including from members of big name studios, reveals that the scale of the rot goes far beyond the hate ghettos on Reddit and 4chan. Gamasutra offers more still.
  • Eurogamer ruminates on what's fast becoming the essential conflict at the heart of higher-budget games: systems versus stories. "The thing that games have above all other media is interaction, which is to say that games have systems. Systems that dictate the rules of a fictional world. Systems that allow the audience to prod the world and feel it push back. Systems are what make games into games, rather than movies with joypads. Yet many games, often those at the high-cost, high-risk end of the AAA scale, have become fixated on the idea that the future of games as a creative force lies in using various cinematic techniques to add narrative context on top of proven gameplay systems." While years ago I was embarrassingly on record as banging on about how story is everything, I long ago crossed the Rubicon: give me an FTL over a BioShock any day.
  • That Kieron guy sent us this link to a tour through early Psygnosis (RIP) box art. Wonderful, lurid, lavish, often completely irrelevant - so evocative of a certain time in gaming, back when it was a far more nerdly province than it is today. I miss that kind of game packaging so much. See also the original X-COM's entirely unrelated box art.
  • What if the creator of Vesper.5 went Full Molydeux?
  • Eurogamer again, as Tom 'Tom Bramwell' Bramwell attempts to play devil's advocate regarding Microsoft's flip-flopping DRM policy for its upcoming Xbone. "The thing that is genuinely sad about the rollback of Xbox One's policies is that it has drawn even more attention to the absence at E3 of any startling new creative thinking from the people using it to make games." Much as Microsoft's approach to it was characteristically consumer-unfriendly, I do entirely sympathise with the idea that their PS4-influenced change of heart does keep us stuck in the physical media dark ages for that much longer.
  • Can eSports make you cry? I must confess I've never gone anywhere near eSports, but enough people I know are highly caught up in the drama and the commentary to have put to bed any lingering suspicions I might have that it can never be the equal of 'real' sports as a spectator activity.
  • Polygon's just-begun, ongoing attempt to chronicle a full year in the making of Hidden Path's tower defence sequel Defense Grid 2 is an uncommonly ambitious endeavour, likely to offer some brilliant insights into game dev.

Soundtrack this week is Bowie & Moroder's Cat People:

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