The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for finally sorting out the shelves you've been meaning to put up for the past two months. Or for bribing a housemate to do it for you. Or for reading the best writing about videogames from the past week.
On Eurogamer, Emily Gera asked the team behind BadCupid how they go about procedurally generating romance. BadCupid involves placing bets on procedurally generated dates, an idea that already sounds fantastic before you learn those dates can be between people like Jane Austen and the Necrodancer from Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Like a fighting game, every move is procedurally generated. Flirtatious social moves, like kicks and counter-punches between fighting AI, go back and forth over a series of turns. On the human side of things, players watch this algorithmically controlled date taking place between two random characters and bet on the outcome over Mixer. Betting takes place between the minutes-long rounds, with users putting down "Arrows," the in-game currency, to vote on whether they think the date will end in "Love" or "Rejection."
Kenneth Shepard reminded me of BioWare's failure to recognise a player's choice to be gay in the first two Mass Effect games. I found this quote particularly disheartening.
Bioware co-founder Ray Muzyka said in a 2010 interview with IGN that Mass Effect is a third-person narrative and certain things about Shepard were meant to be set in stone. This included… just his sexuality. Not his ideals, appearance, or any of the hundreds of decisions players made. This supposedly defining characteristic that Shepard is a heterosexual by choice only extends to male players, as female Shepards can pursue a lesbian relationship in the original game, and a fling with their secretary in the second.
I'm not quite on board with "Problem Machine"'s argument about the tedium of games that unquestionably thrust their players into the role of mass murderers. I do admire games that manage to break that pattern in an interesting way, but I also feel that a world where every game attempts to do the same would be dull - I enjoy characters that sound like they're having as much fun as me. This point about non-lethal takedowns is spot on, though.
Games that offer “non-lethal” solutions are often even worse, though. Playing through a game like Dishonored without killing means leaving behind a swathe of injured and very angry people who have already demonstrated themselves to be brutally violent when frustrated or bored, so not only are you still beating the shit out of them, you’re leaving them to continue whatever cruel and oppressive practices they were in the middle of when you non-lethally choked them, non-lethally threw them through a shop window, or non-lethally bashed their faces into the pavement.
In his spoiler-packed article, Chris Lawn interrogated one crucial line from Nier Automota. It's some smart analysis of a clever line, from a game that gets more interesting every time I read about it. Shame I've never managed to get past the first few hours.
The screen is filled with that distinct storm dust brown as Adam “speaks” to 9S through text, getting under his skin, poking and prodding, before dropping it. It’s the only line on the screen, the only break from that basic background colour.
“You’re thinking about how much you want to **** 2B, aren’t you?"
What comes to mind when you read this?
What do those 4 stars represent?
Ed Nightingale for The Guardian asked four drag queens to explain how they've been influenced by videogames. The result was good and wholesome.
There’s something about the confidence you have when you’re in drag that inspires other people and makes them feel safe. That’s really important when leading a design team. Video games have also helped Kitty Powers go beyond just being a drag queen. She’s all about love, positivity and inclusiveness, so the games have helped to spread that message. I do drag for other people as much as myself.
For the New York Times, John Herrman argued that the reach of online platforms might not be as grand as is often made out. The claim isn't that they're not having any influence - it's that we don't know how much. It's a good claim.
We can theorize, but won’t be told, why YouTube thinks we want to see a right-wing polemic about Islam in Europe after watching a video about travel destinations in France. Everything that takes place within the platform kingdoms is enabled by systems we’re told must be kept private in order to function. We’re living in worlds governed by trade secrets. No wonder they’re making us all paranoid.
On a similar note, this short thread from Alex Hern raised an alarming point about how people's response to illegal and immoral company behaviour is no longer to stop using their services. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.
In the latest People Make Games, Chris Bratt looked into what ever happened to the Queen's golden Wii.
Music this week is Tell God And The Devil by Solas. No, not that Solas.