Sundays are for being ill or for looking after family who are ill. So it has been for weeks now, so I am told it will be for years to come, until my kid develops an immune system and ceases to be a malevalent petri dish. Quick, let's gather some links to the week's best games writing before the germs make it impossible.
Brie Code has written another thoughtful article about broadening the intent and audience of games. This time, she writes about why games should try designing for different stress responses in order to appeal to people who love or experience different things than adrenaline.
But not everyone likes these kinds of games. I don't. My friends don't. And I think my friends find games like this boring not only because they aren't interested in more stories about callous white men, and not only because they don't know how the controls work or don't get the references to geek culture, but also because they don't get an adrenaline high. They have a different response to stress.
The praise for Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been - wait for it - breathless, and where I was avoiding it last week, I've read a couple of pieces this time around. Here's Rich Stanton at Kotaku on why it's the best Nintendo game since Super Mario 64. Which is a bold statement about a new game - even a game in the always-gushed-over Zelda series.
Breath of the Wild is beautiful in a meaningful way. Not for Nintendo the vast waste of so many AAA games, where endless ingenuity and technology is thrown at bland aesthetic style and flat topography. This world is enormous but it is also hand-crafted in a way that almost no other open-world can compete with - the maniacs at Rockstar North notwithstanding. It is crammed with life and wildlife, fringed with verdant grass that sways in the breeze, constantly-changing under a dynamic weather system, and moves from day to night as Link undertakes one of the countless journeys you’ll make together.
At Paste, Jenn Frank similarly gushes with praise for Night in the Woods, though the familiar criticisms are there too.
Night in the Woods has a terribly slow start, unfortunately. Worse, its best horror moments arrive somewhat too late. These moments are almost always firmly established in the “uncanny,” or “freaky.” But to establish what is “uncanny,” the game must first demonstrate the “canny”: The game necessarily must spend a great deal of time showing why Mae’s world is ordinarily safe and comfortable, in order to convey what is eerily changing.
I haven't had a chance to read this entirely, but Vulture have a long-read on why videogames seem better than real life. It works through the obvious answers, highlights some interesting research, and is worthy of discussion.
In June, Erik Hurst, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, delivered a graduation address and later wrote an essay in which he publicized statistics showing that, compared with the beginning of the millennium, working-class men in their 20s were on average working four hours less per week and playing video games for three hours. As a demographic, they had replaced the lost work time with playtime spent gaming. How had this happened? Technology, through automation, had reduced the employment rate of these men by reducing demand for what Hurst referred to as “lower-skilled” labor. He proposed that by creating more vivid and engrossing gaming experiences, technology also increased the subjective value of leisure relative to labor. He was alarmed by what this meant for those who chose to play video games and were not working; he cited the dire long-term prospects of these less-employed men; pointed to relative levels of financial instability, drug use, and suicide among this cohort; and connected them, speculatively, to “voting patterns for certain candidates in recent periods,” by which one doubts he meant Hillary Clinton.
Can I justify a Switch purchase with the notion that it might facilitate, in due course, my son's first steps into videogames? This article by Joe Denton at Eurogamer about his son's love for the Wii U suggests yes, though I should probably wait a couple years to make sure he learns to stand first, lest he never feel the need.
What of Elliot's favourite levels, though? "Well, first one is the last one. The last one you have to beat Bowser and it is so easy... bit hard. First time, bit hard. There's much more baddies in that one. And Bowser gets a cat bell. And he turns into a fire cat. He's on a pow block and you have to headbutt it five or six times. And then, the pow block goes down and we get the fairies, and then there's a song, and there's a bit of clicking... and I can click now!"
I was not previously aware of the work of Cheese, but this enormous, interactive timeline of every Star Wars game ever put him on my radar. There are a lot of words worth reading here, but it's also fun just click around the timeline's different views in order to chart the lineage of Star Wars in different ways.
In this article, I will be reflecting on my impressions from the Star Wars games I've personally played, looking at correlations of "good" and "bad" traits across the entire catalogue of Star Wars games, considering interpretations suggested by the timeline, and speculating on what a hypothetical Ideal Star Wars Game might look like.
At Gamasutra, our own Alex Wiltshire wrote about how Respawn's designers got Titanfall's controls just right. To which there is more than just X-to-shoot and Y-to-jump.
But in sculpting the game’s actual feel, developer Respawn was also looking back to another classic, Halo: Combat Evolved. “It’s still the gold standard,” says senior software engineer Rayme Vinson. As he began to block out the controls for the game that would become Titanfall, he’d load up Halo, the second level, and play its first encounter over and over again, killing off all the AI apart from a single grunt. “Then I could dance around him and see what [Bungie] did,” he says, noting how it deals with aim-assist, and how its stable view as you walk gets across a sense of Master Chief’s indomitability.
Music this week is Maggie Rogers' Alaska, which I might have linked last year but which is now properly released and on Spotify alongside an EP. I wish everyone would stop writing about how the song sounds like nothing else and etc. etc. though because it does. It's just good.