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The Christmas Papers

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Mondays are for scoffing mince pies and re-posting the Sunday papers because the robots we programmed to post this yesterday are unreliable drunks. Anyway, go on, treat yourself to some of the best writing about videogames from last week (and beyond).

As part of Waypoint's end of year celebrations, Cameron Kunzelman looked back at this year's crop of first person games - and liked what he saw. He argues that first person games have started exploring new territory, casting off AAA assumptions and building a new bedrock for the future. I haven't played enough of the games he cites to weigh in, but he's certainly made me regret that.

Paratopic is powerful to me because it takes the ketchup bottles and the absolute banality of driving at night and fills them with the dread of anticipation. That feeling in Paratopic doesn’t just come from its horror game lineage or its visuals. It is a game that produces a feeling of uneasiness because it’s unsettling the assumptions of the first-person game. A signal of a world to come.

Also on Waypoint, Dia Lacina explained her connection to videogame photography, and the value of eschewing "composed perfection" in photo modes in favour of real-time screen grabs. I take screenshots all the time for work, but tend to see them through a functional lens rather than an emotional one. There's value in both.

In the documentary Near Equal, Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama discusses his wish to move beyond the Single Lens Reflex camera. In one instance, he describes his feeling of how the nature of holding a large camera to one’s face, observing prescribed technique, and finally committing to the photograph interrupts the photographer’s emotions. The photograph taken captures something different than intended, because the gestures and thought create a gulf between the impulse to preserve the image and corresponding emotional landscape. It’s why he ultimately turned to compact cameras — giving up control for velocity.

Seva Kritskiy argued that if we play some AAA games despite their dodgy politics, we should play indie games that have something important to say despite their dodgy mechanics. I think there's something to that, though its logic I'd apply on a case by case basis. The Missing sounds great though.

It’s rare that a game elicits such a powerful response, even by the time you are fully invested into a character, but it did so instantly here by virtue of its mechanics. Rather than flipping a switch that widens a tight opening, I have to cut off J.J.’s legs to fit through it, as she screams, as her flesh and bone are torn apart, only to be renewed, and torn apart, again, and again, and again.

Miguel Penabella's analysis of Night In The Woods has got me considering a replay. I failed to pick up on so much of this.

Rather than reprimanding its characters individually, the game acknowledges through repeated conversations that a lack of proper mental health care, educational opportunities, and other support structures are the broader factors that have intensified frustrations and Mae’s devil-may-care attitude. As Dawn Saas eloquently examines, the “perceived failure” of characters is caused infrastructurally and institutionally. These institutional failures have left these characters with only each other to look out for, and Night in the Woods locates forgiveness and sensitivity as ways to transcend the petty, interpersonal antagonisms that would prevent any kind of community solidarity.

Over at GamesIndustry.biz, Rebekah Valentine's called for greater gender diversity in esports. It's an uphill battle, but one that's important we fight.

The lack of visible diversity at the year's biggest and most prominent esports events is a problem that continues to grow more urgent as the industry booms. Already, esports is landing squarely in the dangerous territory of an outward-facing "boys club" that has caused no end of headaches for those just trying to enjoy their hobby or career. In 10 years, do we see an even split of women and men on the stage of an Overwatch League match? Do we see more women than men on the stage of The International, without creating a separate league for them? Do we see non-binary individuals visible and successful? Or do we see exactly one woman who has struggled her way to the top, in spite of all odds, only to be flooded with harassment in Twitch chat the moment she makes a single mistake?

On Eurogamer, Jennifer Allen wrote an ode to her second, more comfortable Christmas home: World Of Warcraft.

My home is still my home, of course, but it's nice to have somewhere to escape to. Somewhere that feels like a home from home, where you're cocooned in nostalgia with not a bad memory in sight. Where everything is wonderfully familiar and comfortable. Perhaps weirdly, that's why I gravitate towards World of Warcraft each winter. It's an unusual home, isn't it? I never played it as an obsessive raider, keen to be the very best, so it was a fairly relaxed experience. I just liked wandering and levelling up at my own pace. In reality, I'm the world's most antisocial World of Warcraft player and have been for many years. It's bliss.

The third edition of Seeds is out, a magazine about making computers make things written by the Procjam community (Procjam is a game jam where people make computers make things). I haven't had a chance to look through this one yet, but there was some fascinating stuff jammed into the last two.

Kris Ruff tweeted some interesting thoughts about 'empathy degradation' in games.

Rami Ismail asked people in the games industry for stories about players that have warmed their hearts. He got some lovely responses.

Music this week is Stop The Cavalry, the best Christmas song that isn't actually a Christmas song. See you next year, folks! Have a goodun.

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Matt Cox


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