Sundays are for introspective journeys into the soul. And reading the best writing about video games from the past week.
There's a new Capsule Crit! Every issue contains Dia Lacina's curation of short pieces about games - often strange, often personal. To wit: Nick Bush wrote a war letter from the trenches of the Risk GO beta in 2081.
In the last few years, however, I have been fighting two wars: one against the opposing forces of Perseverance and Vigor, and one against my very self. It's times like these, tapping on my phone and trying to ignore incessant heavy artillery notifications, when I wonder if either war can be won. Times I question the foundational tenets of Fortitude: that there is strength in stability, that strategy is not cowardice, and that defending troops receive a significant bonus in battle.
Luke Kemp spoke to the VR devs who are making games designed to simulate dementia and MS. VR could be a powerful tool to help communicate the needs of people suffering from a neurological illness.
Narrative designer Chella Ramanan explains the basic concept. "It's a narrative exploration game, focused on a woman with dementia. You guide her around a house, and you interact with objects. When she picks up an object, it triggers a memory." Working with medical professionals Dr David Codling and Dr Donald Servant, the small team at 3-Fold are striving to make the experience as authentic and respectful as possible.
Patricia Hernandez dug into the backlash around a streamer who, on a live panel, claimed he didn't want a relationship with his viewers because he sees himself as better than them. He now says he misspoke, as you would do. It's interesting, in that my reaction started with 'what a wally', transitioned into 'actually he's got a good point about the pitfalls of being friends with your audience' to 'he still sounds like a wally though'.
“Dust runs his stream differently,” dmbrandon, the moderator for the panel, said while introducing the session. dmbrandon, who streams the video game Smite, explained that mmDust’s perspective was simply that he didn’t set out to be friends with his viewers, wanted to be upfront about it, and nonetheless managed to maintain a modestly successful feed. While this isn’t the typical attitude for Twitch streamers, the idea was that there was something valid or potentially valuable about this less ingratiating approach.
Phil Savage's review of Hitman 2 for PC Gamer made me chuckle. I bounced off the first (well, ninth) one, so this is still 'mebbe I'll pick it up in a sale' territory for me.
Your job as master assassin Agent 47 is to ensure a hit list of rich jerks meet a macabre end, preferably silently, with no witnesses or alarms. But - again, like its predecessor —Hitman 2 doesn't revel in its violence. It's not gruesome or gory. Your missions are more cerebral; a puzzle box where the win state is an arsehole being dead.
Also on PC Gamer, Lewis Packwood spoke to the Genesis LPMud players who brought their beloved freeform MMO back from the brink of extinction. The game started off in a Swedish uni computer lab back in the 80s. It sounds amazing.
Peter Spellman, aka Celephias of the Morgul Mages, has been playing since 1992—and he was the one doing the tying up. “Kiara was being a proper pain in the behind,” he remembers. “She’s a clever thief type and was stealing anything that wasn’t nailed down. There was a price on her head and rather than simply try and find her and kill her, I entreated her to come to the tower to resolve the issue.” Unbeknown to Kiara, the room Celephias brought her to contained a special ‘shackle’ command that straps the player to a chair—once he typed the command, it completely disabled almost all of Kiara’s inputs. “I couldn’t move,” Magnus remembers, “I couldn’t even quit from the game—I couldn’t use any commands except talking. I didn’t know then it even had that feature!”
I can't remember who described Cultist Simulator as "a games journalist's game", but given the number of pieces I've seen about it they were definitely right. Here's "unhaunting" arguing that we can learn from its unsolvable mystery.
I think it’s desperately important, in order to become a sensitive and critical reader of culture, to learn to suspend the detective’s impulse to find the true culprit, the correct interpretation, in cases where it’s simply not productive to do so. It’s hard to blame anyone for thinking along those lines, since that’s what most of us get out of our education: there’s an answer that’s expected, and if you memorize it, you win. But this approach leaves us terribly unprepared to deal with conflicting accounts, suppressed or underrepresented voices, and answers that are neither expected nor convenient.
Over at Waypoint, Austin Walker wrote my favourite take on Red Dead Redemption 2 so far. His point about how friction roots you in the world is a good one, although I do find that friction excessive in parts. It's his rebuke to the idea of necessary sacrifice that really lands.
All of which is to say that when we ignore the ways in which RDR2 stumbles as a work, it gives ammunition to those who want to argue that “perfection takes sacrifice,” or some other bromide that fails to understand that “sacrifices” in the labor market aren’t evaporated into the air, but deposited into someone else’s bank account.
I haven't finished watching this video about Japan’s virtual YouTuber phenomenon, but so far it's been fascinating.
Music this week is Bloodlines by Merry Hell.