Sundays are for exploring your new home. I'm off to peer at a pier, you're here to read the best writing about video games from the past week (and beyond).
Danny Chau's dive into the history of Dance Dance Revolution is a splendid story. The fact that humans are well up for pratting about on gaudy disco machines might well be the most important discovery of the 90s.
The Germans have a word, fremdschämen, that translates to feeling embarrassed on someone’s behalf — literally “strange shame.” But is there a word that properly conveys the scene of an inebriated soul crouched on a table in a Koreatown karaoke booth with friends, belting out Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song” in a deep, impressionistic growl, and the elation in the room that follows? What’s the word for when a communal sense of embarrassment sublimates into joy?
Cameron Kunzelman finds Artifact's lack of accessibility disagreeable. I'm very much one of the Dota nerds he talks about, so disagree with that disagreement.
The design team behind this game has reckoned with the fact that a digital card game has a much higher ceiling for complexity than a physical card game, and instead of emulating the design parameters of a physical game (like Elder Scrolls Legends or Magic Arena or even Hearthstone to a degree), Artifact is simply concerned with seeing where the hell this design space can take us. I am sure that it is terribly exciting for the people who designed it, but playing this game feels like smashing your own kneecaps with a hammer.
Nathalie Lawhead collected and wrote about a treasure trove of personal games that don't explain themselves. I stopped reading after a few entries, because - as Lawhead points out - they're all best entered into with as few expectations as possible.
Abstraction, and that sense of being in a machine that you have to figure out (a flavor that a lot of altgame walking sims offer) is something very special.
I love the feeling of being dropped dead in the middle of something, and I have to get to know it now… like interacting with, or inside, of a strange alien device.
I mentioned in the workshop that it’s a lot like getting to know a person. As you figure out how to function in this otherworldly environment, or interface, it grows on you. It’s a wonderful concept to apply to personal games because you form kind of a connection to the game’s message through that effort.
"Skeleton"'s reaction to Polygon's Fallout 76 impressions raises some good points. I'm familiar with the desire to like something more than you actually do, but that's something to be checked rather than embraced.
Look: we shouldn’t be in love with brands. Brands are built and maintained by inspiring us to associate them with part of ourselves. Videogames are art, but the videogame market is one where products are created to live and die based on how they resonate with us. Fallout is no exception and in the sense of the more modern games, it’s arguably driven everything about the original titles that was compelling out in the hunt to make the whole concept of a Fallout game the most marketable thing it can be.
On Kotaku, Maddie Myers explained the inexplicable sexiness of Ivy Valentine. Myers weaves a path through celebrating her evolving relationship with Valentine, while calling out what she was designed to be. I still see most uses of aggressively scanty female character design as tiresome and objectionable, but Myers' perspective speaks to nuances I hadn't considered.
I like seeing my female peers reclaim Soulcalibur’s characters without shame - characters who weren’t created “for” them but who became weapons in their hands. The most recent time I played Soulcalibur VI at a party, the room was full of my queer friends, all of us hooting and hollering at Ivy’s slow-motion breast jiggling. “My girlfriend! My queen!” we screamed in delight every time she stomped. She was part of us, one of us.
Also at Kotaku, Jason Schreier quizzed eleven past and present Blizzard devs about what's what with Diablo. The cliffnotes: Diablo Immortal is being worked on by a different division to Diablo 4, Blizzard might not have announced Diablo 4 yet because they're still spooked from when they announced and cancelled Titan, and there's a growing fear that the finance department is getting too big for its boots.
Cultural shifts aren’t always blatant. Anyone who’s worked for a major corporation can attest to the invisible pressures that can emerge over time. “There’s a temptation to cast Activision as the villain,” said one current developer. “I think the influences are far more subtle than that.” Someone at Blizzard might make a decision with the best of intentions in mind, but if they subconsciously know that their corporate bosses at Activision want to cut costs and please investors, who knows how that might affect their judgement? With Activision and Blizzard growing less and less separate, what kind of overlaps will we see across their various divisions?
Kotaku did some fun Pokemon haikus, too.
Holly Gramazio wants to know what you thought the floor was made of back when you played 'that game' as a kid. I don't think I every actually imagined it being anything? Man, childhood me was bland.
Chris Bratt's latest People Make Games is about the Scientologists that owned Neopets.
​Ronnie Shalvis ran around recreating Spider-Man stunts, which is the best possible use of both acrobatic skills and novelty costumes.
These are very good.
Music this week is Fuck I Hate The Cold by Cowboy Junkies.