The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for rolling around on the floors of your new home in search of a stronger mobile data connection, while waiting for Monday to bring a BT engineer and a proper internet connection. Good thing Friday's are for trips to coffee shops and advanced assemblages of fine internet writings about videogames.
- I'm aware I link the Guardian here a lot, but they've been doing good stuff of late. This week's piece on the current state of industry crunch - examining whether anything has really changed since 2004's EA Spouse - is essential reading. So read it.
- Do you want to find a way to get your non-game playing friends to get in on the gaming fun? Then hey, leave them alone; they don't force their interests or hobbies on you. But if you'd like to get involved in playing games yourself and you've stumbled across this website by accident, then this list of ten games for people who don't play games is worthwhile.
- If you're friends are all asking to get into videogames, then perhaps you should pair the above list of what to play with this Guardian article more concerned with how to play. It's good on the basics of what newcomers will need to buy and play their first videogames.
- I haven't listened to this yet, but the recommendation comes from Adam and who wouldn't trust him. Short design podcast 99 Percent Invisible - originally about architecture, now with a more expansive remit - turned its attention to games and the close of The Sims Online in its most recent episode. The end of fictional universes and the scattering of all that they contain is an always fascinating subject, and there's streams and downloads here.
- Nathan Ditum is a funny man, and never more so when he's being mean (and right) about films and the Oscars. Let him amuse you.
- Rab has started a new project and/or one-off article: Reviews Of Games I Haven't Played. I hope it runs and runs.
- I hope Adam Saltsman's Overland is good, because I need more turn-based tactics games, and more games that sit somewhere on the spectrum between Hoplite and XCOM. If you feel similarly, the details in this Pocket Tactics article are worth hoovering up.
- I sometimes, when visiting other countries, walk into bookshops and browse shelves of work I cannot read. It makes the world feel large and unknowable and I find that exciting. Meanwhile, the vast quantities of English-language culture I will never experience in my lifetime make me feel nothing at all. Consumption is not a competition and I feel no guilt or obligation to backlogs or canons, even as I build a life for myself dependent upon steady cultural consumption. Maybe you feel similarly to me. Maybe, like this article at Polygon, you see advantages to surrounding yourself with unplayed or not-yet played games.
- New York Times media reporter David Carr has died. He was a complicated character, a great writer, and he alone made the NYT documentary Page One worth watching. I have conflicted feelings after reading his autobiography The Night of the Gun - you couldn't not - in which he attempted report on his own indiscretions as a drug addict as he might have done with any other story, but I've enjoyed reading the outpouring of stories like this one over the past week.
“This year is my first experience with long stretches of crunch, and my girlfriend, who I live with, feels like she hardly sees me,” relates one programmer at a leading games studio who, like almost everyone else we spoke to, asks to remain anonymous. “It’s a common source of tension. My generally much higher level of stress takes its toll on my mood outside work so it bleeds into everything. Work late, come home for a few hours of food and exhausted conversation, go to bed, sleep in between stressing about bugs and end up dreaming about code, get up feeling half dead then go back into work and repeat.”
This is a beautiful example of how games play with storytelling traditions. In this browser-based game you are redrafting letters to send to your high-ranking husband, who has cast you aside for a misdemeanor you don’t immediately understand. Meanwhile, through the choices you’re given in the letters, you discover that you’re in contact with seditious characters. A game of trying to work out – in several ways – whose side you’re on.
However, you don’t have to spend big on a top-of-the-range mega beast: if you’re happy to turn some of the graphics settings down, £500-600 will get you a decent machine with an Intel i5 processor, AMD R9 280 graphics card and 8GB of memory. Even an old laptop with Windows XP and 512MB of ram will let you play a variety of smaller indie games and older titles. Classic point-and-click adventures, strategy titles and vintage shooters are cheap and easily available online (Good Old Games has hundreds of them), and don’t require state-of-the-art hardware.
The Theory Of Everything
In which we learn: That eight best film nominees is probably too many.
Why? Because this is the same fucking film as The Imitation Game, about a great academic and the delivery of his gift to the universe despite the obstacles the universe places in his way (a fact underlined by the fact Cumberbatch already played Stephen Hawking back in 2004).
Yeah, that’s the next thing. The guns in the game have no sense of “weight”. When I wasn’t playing the game, I just had no sense of the guns having any “weight”. I think it’s very important that guns in games have “weight”. It just seems ridiculous that anyone would release a game in 2015 that lacks “weight” in the area of guns. I have no interest in playing a game with guns that lack “weight”, so I haven’t. I was shocked by the lack of “weight” in this game.
Saltsman’s core idea for Overland is that “cozy tactics game” concept. It’s not about stripping out complexity, says the noted Ascension fan, but it’s about making choices and outcomes crystal clear — a tactical game that anybody could look at and instantly grok, not just the die-hard grognard with the Vigilo Confido tattoo. “The cause and effect of everything is really clear because the interface is as simple as possible. It’s like when you miss a point-blank shot against a pinned down alien in XCOM — why does that happen? I think for a lot of other people it’s super confusing, so I want to make something that preserves the planning and strategy but strips out confusing things like that.
There's an old saying that goes something like this: When the pupil is ready, the master will appear. I've found that holds true for games and books as well. When I buy something that I know I won't read or play in the next few days, if not the next year, it feels like I'm lighting a lantern and gently pushing it into my own future. It's easy to imagine an evening, and perhaps it will take years, when I rediscover that I bought a book, or in this case a game, and will spend hours lost inside it.
Music this week is the endless loop of Stevie Wonder albums and recent pop hits played in the coffee shop I'm working inside. Could be worse, but back to more interesting selections next week, I hope.