Sundays are for prepping for a Christmas break, by scheduling and editing, writing and shopping, fretting and food ordering. Best keep ourselves off the naughty list by first reading a round up of the week's best (mostly) games writing.
- After receiving a stay of execution earlier this year, Computer & Video Games is now coming to an end. Its editors past and present gathered to share their memories of working for the magazine and site these past 33 years.
- This is the season of the list. Try this one, where the Guardian pick their 25 best games of 2014.
- The New York Review of Video Games is a title that tells you everything you need to know about the approach of Chris Suellentrop's new project. It may be for one week only, but there's some good stuff up there. I like this piece on EA Sports UFC.
- An attempt to write a history of the computer glitch, which extends beyond "lol bugs".
- Most homes in videogames are shit.
- Goblin Punch is a blog that pours out materials for use in tabletop RPG campaigns. Interesting ideas and odd place descriptions and enemy stats and just lots of fresh, inventive things.
- Electron Dance turns attention to The Feng Shui of Minecraft. Buries the lede, but I like the point.
- The 25 Best Podcast Episodes Ever is more than you'll have time to listen to.
- I liked this write-up of a cereal café in London.
We got the story - any story - regardless of cost. Gus quit soon after I joined, and Paul Davies left his job on CVG magazine to take over the site. I remember him repeatedly calling every Sony PR and leaving grunting noises on their answerphones because they wouldn't pick up.
I had a leaker inside Sega - these were the Dreamcast days - and once their PR called me on the verge of tears, his voice jelly, demanding I reveal my source.
“This genuinely feels like an adventure into the unknown, which is an achievement nowadays, although the non-linearity of Hohokum, while its biggest strength, can make the latter part of the game frustrating. It will doubtless perplex many players, but anyone open-minded and looking for something different will have a ball.
Before becoming familiar with mixed martial arts, I had never watched a televised sporting event among strangers, never understood the particular pleasure of holding my breath alongside 50 fellow spectators. My first experience of this was at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Iowa City during a pay-per-view fight. While I enjoyed fight night at Buffalo Wild Wings, it was extremely disturbing to me that people were shouting advice at the screen. “Elbows!” some guy in an Affliction T-shirt would shout. “Knees!” It was extremely disturbing to me because… who the fuck are you? By what right did portly Iowans with wing grease on their faces shout direction to professional fighters? Was it their contention that, say, wrestling champion and Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt Demian Maia was drawing a blank, just waiting for someone to come up with “elbows”? It was explained to me that this was just what fans did, part of the ritual, the ignorant shouting advice to the proficient. I am still struggling to accept this.
What I am suggesting is that the pleasure of EA Sports UFC is the pleasure of this fantasy: You can tell Ronda Rousey to throw an elbow, and, through the television screen, she will listen to you. Then, you will lose, because you are not, in fact, proficient in MMA, and you don’t know what you’re doing. Perhaps you will proceed to write a review about how EA Sports UFC is a bad game.
I agree with the claim that they are horrifying and hilarious, and also that they invented videogames. Glitches both predate and predict videogames, and in many ways they have allowed digital games to become something other than their analogue counterparts superimposed onto a computer. But there are also many cultural movements that shaped a glitch aesthetic before digital games were invented. “Glitch” refers both to unintended consequences and also to effects deliberately designed to make an audience question whether or not the software is working as intended. I think it will also be helpful to consider the glitch in terms of three separate but related forms: 1) glitch as discovery, 2) glitch as aesthetic, and 3) glitch as performance.
Then there’s Skyrim. Fuck me, have I spent a lot of time faffing about with homes in Skyrim. For both of my playthroughs I made home in Whiterun, since it’s the first house you can typically buy and also the cheapest. My first playthrough’s mage was not the richest adventurer in Skyrim, and it took bloody hours of dragging Dwemer scrap from dungeon to market for me to save up for the house and all the upgrades. I was clearly feeling a powerful impetus to buy and own this space in Skyrim’s world. In my second playthrough, my thiefly she-cat was able to buy this home with a fraction of the colossal sum of gold amassed via the Thieves Guild quests. I genuinely did a lol from my face when I went to buy it and saw the price that, previously, had represented hours and hours of single-minded investment to me.
Although they look like crudely symmetrical boulders growing out of the cavern wall, they are actually arthropods. If you bashed through their nine inches of organic cement and cut off the beak, you'll find something inside that looks a bit like like a spider or a crab, all bundled up for packing. They have incredibly low metabolisms, and can survive on vanishingly little food. They can also hibernate for up to decade. Adult barnacles are sometimes surrounded by juveniles, which can sometimes be sold for cash.
AC 14 when open, impenetrable when closed
Atk +5 beak for 1d8, 5' reach.
--50% of barnacles are males, and have a second attack: hooked penis, 20' reach, 1d6 + hook
Sav 11+, or 6+ vs poison
Most people regard “Feng Shui” as a practice that re-arranges your home so it “feels better” but Feng Shui is about the connections between things and the belief that objects have memory. Survival mode ensures every structure feels just a little more personal because it's not just pure architecture – these buildings have memory. Every block came from somewhere, liberated from rock deep underground or perhaps snatched from a sandy beach. Each one holds a story.
His laugh rises from a constricted phlegmy giggle to the full manic convulsions of someone who sees the death of all reason perfectly reflected in the scrying-stone that is his morning bowl of Frosties. They had to kill him, of course, the twins, and they buried his heavy bones – glossy as enamel from all the fortifying calcium in his diet – below the foundations of what would become the UK’s first speciality breakfast cereal café. To seal the pact, they vowed to take on the same form, to be more than brothers, to be the same person, knowing what happened to the third twin, knowing that they might not be strong enough to face the darkness alone, that cruel gibbering malignancy always lurking beneath their quirky love for breakfast cereal. And so the madness of the murdered brother leeched into every brick of the place, until it became his empire.
And that's Sunday Papers done for 2014. It'll return in January with vim and pep and wider waistbands. What were your favourite pieces of games writing this year? Do tell.