The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for finally visiting old school friends who have the audacity to now live five hours away. I'll be having far too wholesome a time to fit in any reading the best writing about videogames from the past week.
For Vice, Dante Douglas dove into the Mordhau mess. Mordhau has a disproportionate number of white supremacist players (it sometimes seems as if every other player has a Pepe profile picture), and it does feel like racists are attracted to games that depict the medieval era. Douglas excellently explains the historical reasons behind why, as a culture, we've arrived at the erroneous idea that there were very few people of colour in medieval Europe.
His piece comes in the context of the Mordhau developers recently sending mixed messages about a planned inclusion of a toggle that would hide women or people of colour, which they now deny was ever discussed.
However, lacking a coherent narrative of European racial dominance of the Middle Ages, many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholars took it upon themselves to invent new hierarchies of race among Europe and the world, leading to the modern concept of European whiteness as a blanket racial term that synthesized the “grandeur” of the Greek and Roman states with the “barbarism” of medieval fiefdoms. By folding in the Greeks and Romans into histories of European whiteness, the military might of the Romans, as well as the intellectual milestones of the Greeks before them, could enter a narrative of a grand, white history.
For PC Gamer, Xalavier Nelson Jr (sometimes of this parish) spoke to developers about how they design their tutorials. An important, oft-overlooked part of game development. I often skip them too.
Lockhart identified a sequence necessary to bring players through a learning process successfully: teaching them why they're doing things, what they'll be doing, and how to do them. "It's very tempting to introduce these things in the opposite order, since players often seem to just want to dive it," Lockhart says. "Sometimes you can get away with that, especially if the game has been heavily marketed, is a sequel, or just exists within a well-worn genre, where the ‘why' and the ‘what' are known before the player sits down to play."
I'm going to go ahead and also include Nelson's recent Polygon piece. Not due to inevitable bias because we've met and I know he's a lovely guy, but because I've got a similar soft spot for Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
With this context in place, it’s no longer a surprise that Peter Jackson’s King Kong isn’t presented as the ancillary promotional product it could have been. It projects the confidence and self-determination of original IP, because, in some ways, it is. This is our introduction to the world of the movie, released before the movie itself. This is, definitively, King Kong.
Over on The Verge, I liked Adi Robertson's quick look at Steam’s new Interactive Recommender. Discovery algorithms are splendid when they work properly. Most of the music I chuck at you lot comes from Spotify's, though I guess I should be wary of using that as evidence.
Valve describes this section as “a very effective way to find hidden gems.” My niche results weren’t incredibly obscure; Steam recommended Void Bastards and Layers of Fear 2, for example, among many other titles that have gotten mainstream games press coverage. But at the very least, most of them were games I hadn’t paid much attention to and probably wouldn’t have thought to hunt down. And they were actually things that looked interesting to me — unlike most of the games in my normal Steam discovery queue.
That last article is an interesting read in the context of this next one, which I missed two weeks ago. Kotaku's Nathan Grayson (he used to be ours, you know) tried to get to the bottom of Valve's Steam Summer Sale debacle. Many Indie devs didn't make nearly as much money as usual, and wishlist wobbles look like a likely culprit.
Developers didn’t even fare that well. Wishlists are one of the biggest predictors of sales success on Steam, as they notify users any time a wanted game releases or goes on sale. This serves to resurface games on a platform where it can otherwise be complicated to cut through the clutter. Best case scenario, an interesting indie becomes an impulse purchase instead of a game you never see again. However, as a result of The Great Wishlist Deletion Spree Of 2019 and apparent changes to the Steam algorithm, some developers experienced sluggish sales and net negative wishlist numbers overall during the sale — which is the opposite of what’s supposed to happen during a big event like this.
Duncan Robson is trying to make a twenty four hour long videogame supercut "in which every piece of footage contains a clock, watch or has someone saying the the time. These are arranged so that if you play it in sync with the real time it also functions as a clock." This is stupid and I love it.
Emily Short has been writing insightful pieces about interactive fiction for well over a decade, so her top 20 IF list might be the best such list in existence.
Music this week is Psycho Star by King Tuft.