The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for house hunting. Never. Ending. House hunting. And for reading the best recent writing about video games, if you've got time.
It looks like app companies have been illegally tracking information about your children, as multiple authors report in the New York Times. So that's fun.
These findings are consistent with those published this spring by academic researchers who analyzed nearly 6,000 free children’s Android apps. They reported that more than half of the apps, including those by Tiny Lab, shared details with outside companies in ways that may have violated the law.
YouTubers face a grim reality that's often hidden behind their perky personas, so Simon Parkin's article for the Guardian is an important one. I wonder how different the internet would look if YouTube's algorithm didn't incentivise daily output.
Matt Lees is furious at what he sees as YouTube’s lacklustre approach to support and advice. “Encouraging creators to ‘take a break’ is pretty laughable from a system that actively promotes quantity over quality,” he says. “There’s no sense of responsibility for the culture that YouTube has created.” For Katherine Lo, the capacity to maintain a healthy work/life balance while being successful on YouTube and Twitch is a “barely possible” dream. “ They offer highly precarious work, where the promise of robust success – where one has a reliable, sustainable income – is only enjoyed by a small percentage of creators. Trying to reduce frequency of content and establish work/life balance merely adds even more risk.”
Gila Lyons wrote an ode to Two Dots, a mobile game that's proven to be more effective at quelling her anxiety than medication or therapy.
The game is a harbinger of normalcy; a reminder that the world I know in my non-anxious moments still exists. I can access it through my phone, which, though stress chemicals are making me feel as if I’m losing my mind, I still know how to operate. One of the most terrifying aspects of anxiety is a feeling of derealization or depersonalization, which is a disorientation in one’s own body and surroundings. The world goes wonky—internal processes like thoughts and feelings take on an out-of-body, exaggerated magnitude that feels at once foreign and claustrophobic. But if I lose myself in Two Dots, I enter a familiar world where I know the rules, connect pink dots with pink, brown with brown, watch them explode.
Spider-Man is a great game, tragically imprisoned on the PS4. I've been having too much fun swinging about to use the fast travel, so I'm glad Christian Donlan has highlighted its charm - and taught me something about a 19th century art critic while he was at it.
It's partly a comment on player desire, I guess. You wanted fast travel in a game in which non-fast travel is the defining joy? Well here you go, then. Partly, though, it's something that I think more games should try and have a go at. There is a special kind of richness to what Insomniac's doing here, which is essentially squeezing a joke - and a little bit of character and world-building - into a place where most games play it straight. It speaks of luxury, of a game design team who are alert to the possibilities in every moment.
It sucks that you're forced to become a spider-cop though. Part of the game involves running around setting up a surveilance system for the NYPD, which Tom Ley also objects to.
Spider-Man deserves better than to be allied with such forces. A big part of the character’s appeal is that he is just as much under the thumb of the city as the people he tries to help. He’s from a shattered family, he works multiple jobs, he can’t pay his bills, he’s stressed out all the time. He’s not a hero who swoops down from on high in order to save the commoners from themselves, he is a commoner. Therein rests everything that is inspiring about the character; he’s just a guy who wants to make life better for the people who are dealing with the same struggles he is.
I don't know if you saw the mess around the hidden proposal Insomniac stuck inside Spider-Man, but if you did then you probably only saw half of it. A man was planning to propose to his girlfriend via the game, but she broke up with him before it came out. He then falsely claimed she'd left him for his brother, but Jef Rouner asked her for her side of the story.
It was incredibly kind-hearted of Insomniac to offer to be a part of a fairy-tale, but it’s worth remembering that in a proposal there are two people involved. According to Gamble, Schultz’s stunt was a desperate ploy to save a disintegrating relationship in a way he felt was appropriate rather than actually listening to his girlfriend and trying to repair the damage. Worse, video game journalism has unethically reprinted his accusation that Gamble left him for his brother without seeking comment from the other party.
Dia Lacina reviewed the new Tomb Raider for Waypoint, with much of her criticism directed at how the game fails to tackle the colonialist fantasy underpinning it. I'd love to see an NPC convince Lara that she's in the wrong.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider doesn’t want Lara to fail, it’s her fantasy, and because of that it doesn’t allow players the freedom to be expressive. The game’s narrative gestures at wanting players to learn a lesson about colonialism, but even when it manages to make some small point, it's undercut by the very mechanics that make up 90% of the game. Even in Paititi, Lara can't keep her hands to herself. And when she takes, she does so with an almost malicious abandon.
On the brighter side, PC Gamer's Andy Kelly noticed that you can use Shadow Of The Tomb Raider's photo mode to make it look like like Lara Croft is on a really intense gap year.
Lindsay Ellis made a YouTube video where she dissects the manufacture of authenticity on YouTube. The edited stuff is interspersed with sections from a 'genuine' chat between her and another YouTuber, which is dead clever.
This is what 123 gifs of different video game sports looks like.
Thems the Papers, but if you want enough reading material to last you for the next 678 years then DED LED has you covered.
Music this week is Blackleg Miner by Offa Rex.