The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for being on aeroplanes. Possibly reading the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For Eurogamer, Cian Maher spoke to the Oblivion modders who collaborated with Terry Pratchett. It's a heartwarming piece, not least because it provides a new perspective on a great man whose signature used to sit on my mantelpiece.
Both Charles and Emma remember their experience with the world-renowned author fondly. "For me, the interesting part wasn't that we were working with a world-famous author," Charles said. "But that we were working with someone who truly appreciated the virtual person we were creating and that what we were doing was making his life a little better."
Also on Eurogamer, Wesley Yin-Poole took a deep dive into the fall of Starbreeze, parent company to the Payday devs. It's very thorough, and parts of it make me very angry. Their previous CEO, after being fired, sent round an email that accused the devs of "not being willing to put in the extra effort." He sounds like a moron.
One person told me they fainted after a three-day stretch in which they didn't have time to eat because of their workload. Others have told me they fell ill because of stress sparked by mismanagement. "The only thing they could suggest was, go to the psychiatrist," one person said. Starbreeze provided staff with private healthcare - one of the positive aspects of working there praised by those Eurogamer spoke with - and some were able to use it to obtain 10 free sessions with a psychiatrist. Based on my conversations with Starbreeze staff, this option proved popular.
As someone who still dips in and out of Overwatch, I found Cecilia D'Anastasio's attempts to pin down why she's moved on particularly interesting. She articulates much that I agree with - it looks a bit grim when you state it nakedly, but a large part of the attraction of multiplayer games does boil down to asserting control.
The ambiguousness of success and failure outside of games can feel messy, and in games, these things are refreshingly rigid. I used to go to Overwatch for that structure, just like one might go to the local pub after a frustrating day at the office and a couple hours at home managing bills. Even as the game changed and new heroes entered the fray, I enjoyed taming the new forms of chaos. Everything felt manageable so long as I applied myself. At some point, the balance shifted.
Have I linked to a story about Facebook knowingly duping children and their parents before? I feel like I have. Here's Nathan Halverson with a more up to date, thorough account of Facebook's antics. And by 'antics' I mean 'immoral abuses of power'.
Facebook made a decision. Company policy was to tell game developers to let children spend money without their parents’ permission, according to an internal memo circulated within the company.
The memo stated, “Friendly Fraud – what it is, why it’s challenging, and why you shouldn’t try to block it.” “Friendly fraud” is the term Facebook used when children spent money on games without their parents’ permission.
For Gamasutra, Lars Doucet took a long hard look at every new game store attempting to compete with Steam. I confess I have not read this in its entirety, but here's the (unsurprising) conclusion:
So far it's Epic's game to lose. They're doing most things right, and the bumps they're encountering along the road probably aren't going to be enough to slow them down unless they make serious mistakes. If you're one of the other competitors, (or if you're Valve), and you are comforting yourself with thoughts like, "Well Epic does/doesn't do X, and we..." then you need to wake up right now and start taking them seriously or they could soon be eating your lunch for breakfast.
On Io9, Julie Muncy wrote about the transgender subtext in Steven Universe. It's a fantastic show - as Muncy explains in ways that I cannot, it truly is a force for good. Don't click through if you haven't seen the season five finale yet!
In that one scene, Sugar and co. manage to illustrate the struggle of a trans person trying to demonstrate to their family that, yes, I am who I say I am. I really am a girl. Or a boy. Or non-binary. In reality, we can’t tear our insides out and present them to the people questioning us. But I know I’ve certainly wished I could, just to end the doubt. And there are some people who, like White Diamond, are unlikely to listen to anything less.
Shut Up and Sit Down played Champion Of The Wild on a PAX Unplugged stage, and it was fabulous. (It's a game about arguing for why your chosen animal would win in a series of ridiculous Olympic events, and is every bit as fun as that sounds.)
This IS simply glorious.
Music this week is Undone in Sorrow by Crooked Still.