The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for finding new people to play board games with, because your new housemates insist that anything beyond Anomia is "too much". You can read the best writing about videogames from the past week too, if you insist.
On Eurogamer, Wesley Yin-Poole spoke to the Fallout 76 roleplayers who are determined to wring fun out of a game that's been almost universally panned. They might actually be succeeding. Sort of.
Discord user Indie's Fallout 76 name is Smittzeh, but the character they play is called Deathclaw Dundee, a leather armour-wearing, cowboy hat-donning, muttonstacheioed tour guide. Indie sets up "expeditions" around the wasteland, taking other players on tours of the various hunting grounds of West Virginia in exchange for caps. These expeditions are first booked on the Fallout 76 Trading Hub Discord. The customer decides which location they want a tour of, and Deathclaw Dundee steps in.
Also on Eurogamer, James Holland told a life-affirming story about introducing Fifa to a mental health unit. I'll never go 'pfff' at Fifa again. (I'm linking to Eurogamer articles this week because the articles were great, not because they're all staring at me. Promise.)
We had a PlayStation on the ward. Some patients used it to while away the long night hours, others felt it was a small but meaningful connection to their lives outside of hospital. Lots used it to watch movies in between more structured activities and therapy sessions. All this stuff was great, but we, the staff, were not thinking about how to harness this incredible machine. Which was silly, really, considering we used practically everything else as an opportunity for care.
Cameron Kunzelman did his Waypoint column on Battlefield V's dying animations, looking at the disconnect between the sobriety of war films and the throwaway nature of death in videogames. I wouldn't say those animations stick out to me, but they're definitely hollow.
Video games have this odd effect on video game fans. The mechanical transformation of something truly horrible in the real world (the headshot, the ten car pileup, the razing of a city) into a gameplay mechanic renders it inert. When something is transformed into a game, the entirety of gameplay culture is quick to assert that it means nothing. It’s just a game. They’re right, of course, or at least they’re right up to the point that representations of reality through different media do different things.
For Paste, Dia Lacina highlighted the problems with a Native American character in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Charles Smith has a Black father and a Native mother. He doesn’t know the name of his tribe, his father was an alcoholic, and his mother was taken by soldiers. Charles is grateful to find a group of white outlaws to accept him. He uses every part of the buffalo. Charles sucks. He’s another racist Rockstar caricature, and honestly that should be enough. But there’s another issue with Charles.
The actor who portrays him is neither Black nor Indigenous.
On Kotaku, Cecilia D'Anastasio explained her problems with in-game group-finders. The internet's in desperate need of solutions to online toxicity, and it saddens me that Overwatch's group-finder hasn't turned out to be as effective as I thought it might. Is the idea fundamentally vulnerable to the drift D'Anastasio talks about, or are there ways to make it more personable? I find myself going in the opposite direction, and wonder if a sophisticated algorithm might help people make more meaningful connections.
Sure, I’ve added some players I met through Overwatch’s group-finder. Yet we didn’t play together all that much, or really get to know each other. Meeting them wasn’t a happy chance occurrence; it was the result of some duplicatable calculation. The group-finder had become a place for matching numbers with numbers, not people with people.
I'm very jealous of Joan E. Solsman at CNET. She got to run around Chained, "an immersive reimagining of Dickens' A Christmas Carol" that combines VR with real life actors. If this ever makes it to the UK, I'll buy a ticket in a heartbeat.
When I met Bates to demo Chained's motion-capture tech, I'd already spent 20 minutes talking and walking with him without any clue what he actually looks like. In virtual reality, Bates embodies four different ghastly spirits, so he'd already gripped my shoulder and asked me questions as Marley's ghost. He'd led me by the hand while breathing a hissing death rattle in my ear as the unnerving Ghost of Christmas Future.
So I laughed when I reached out to shake the hand of this tall, freckled redhead like we'd never met before.
Sorry, no Twitter tit-bits for you this week. Only this must-watch ContraPoints video.
Music this week is Rotterdam (Or Anywhere) by The Beautiful South.