Sundays are for change. They're for taking a long, hard look at a popular column and ushering in a fresh, unique voice to pick out the best writing about games. They're for reinventing yourself and the world along with you, for tearing up the old guard's playbook and re-imagining what can be done with a weekly round-up of interesting articles.
Philippa "never heard of her" Warr tried to raise a child for PC Gamer in the Sims 4, and her documentation of that task is every bit as brilliant as you might expect. There's hardly a paragraph here that didn't make me laugh.
It’s a tale as old as time, really. Girl meets girl. Girl directs all the romance options in the dialogue tree at girl. Girl goes on date with girl to local bar and eats four bowls of chips and dip. Girl takes girl home. Girl makes out with girl on the sofa right in front of a single potato...?
Over at Eurogamer, Chris Bratt continues his excellent "Here's a thing" video series with an account of a Kinect assisted art heist. The planning and execution of the 'heist' itself is cool, though more interesting still is the mashup of politics and performance art behind the theft. Keep watching to the end for an interview with one of the heisters themselves.
The two artists knew that if the museum pursued legal action, it wouldn't just be a story about the artists having unlawfully scanned an object in a museum. No, it might start with that, but it would very quickly turn into a much, much larger conversation: who should own the bust of Nefertiti? Germany? Egypt? Both? Neither?
Also on Eurogamer, Chrstian Donlan riffs on the relationship between memory and games. I'm a serial wiki-looker-upperer, so I'm not completely sold on the charm of games that demand that you make mental maps of them to progress. I tend to turn to online help whenever I'm lost in a game, though maybe I'm missing out.
This is why so many of us remember Dark Souls, I guess - because to play it you must remember Dark Souls. It lingers in the memory because you are forced at all times to make it a memory. Ditto Crackdown - the first one, which didn't allow you to track where the Agility Orbs were hidden, so you had to make sure you kept track of the areas you'd already cleared out yourself. Trackdown, if you will. Man, Zelda, Crackdown and Dark Souls: there is truly a special place for a game that engages the memory as well as the imagination or the more traditional reflexes.
I liked Rob Zacny's short piece on Waypoint about how his girlfriend ended up painting a troubling self-portrait in Stardew Valley. While maybe not in an extreme a way as this, I think it's hard for every player not to express something about their personality when they boot up that game.
This weekend she announced, in a tone heavy with regret and shame, “I think I have brought industrial farming to Stardew Valley.” I glanced at her laptop to see what she was talking about and felt like Neo as Morpheus showed him the vast human battery-farms beneath the blotted-out sky. Within Stardew’s cute, 16-bit pixel art, she had created a terrifying machine in which her character was the pivotal cog. She had more money in her first year than I had ever seen in the game. Her character, she admitted, routinely passed out somewhere within Stardew Valley as she dropped from exhaustion. It was, she said, more cost effective to eat the medical costs in order to hit her daily production targets.
I also liked Rov Zacny's (longer) piece on Waypoint about Asassins Creed's Discovery Tour mode. He makes a neat argument about how the story mode from the main game does a better job of explaining both everyday life and the events of the period, though my favourite part is this anecdote about a childhood museum trip.
There was one room that essentially re-created a section of one of the Pompeii dig sites, a place where a large group of people had huddled together and eventually died, leaving behind casts of their remains. I remember standing there a long time, after the rest of my classmates had gone on, alone with a long row of reproduced plaster casts of the dead, rearranged in the places and positions they’d been when the end came for them. I’d read so much, translated so much, seen so many examples of art and architecture… and it wasn’t until that moment that the humanity of this long-gone ancient world became palpable to me, as well as the ephemerality of my own.
Into the Breach is a marvellous strategy game, and over at Gamasutra Alex Wiltshire digs into exactly why by talking to the devs about re-imagining failure. Basically: give the player something to protect.
“The most frustrating thing that can happen is to have situation where you have no options whatsoever to resolve,” says Ma. To an extent, objectives such as giving players special buildings to defend helps to widen the available priorities. “Having these tough decisions where what you feel is the highest priority in a given situation changes because of a mission is one of the ways to make the game feel dynamic and interesting.”
A group of Halo players has spent the past SEVEN YEARS trying to get into a room in Halo: Reach, and Patricia Hernandez tells the story of their eventual success on Kotaku.
The completed process, which was performed in January 2018, is mind boggling. For over ten minutes, Trickosity orchestrates an elaborate choreography consisting of dozens of steps which you can view above. In short: players stand in specific locations at specific times; they arrange vehicles just so; they push and place power-ups; they force their characters into strange places; they find and use special weapons; they kill enemies in specific ways—all to trick Reach’s programming into letting them phase into a part of the game they’re never supposed to see.
In what I've just realised is the third entry in this weeks papers concerning ancient history, Veronique Greenwood talks to historians about the history of dice games for the Atlantic. The idea that unevenly shaped dice weren't considered a problem because their outcome was divinely ordained is a fascinating one.
All these changes in dice come about, says Eerkens, “as different astronomers are coming up with new ideas about the world, and mathematicians are starting to understand numbers and probability.” Which came first: Did people begin to intuitively understand what true chance felt like, and adjusted dice accordingly, or did it trickle out from what would eventually become known as the scientific community?
If you only watch one 'peak internet' video this week (and that's probably quite enough), it should probably be this one.
Oh gosh, I'm in charge of the music. I'm never in charge of the music. Music this week is...Caro Emerald's best song..