The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for, yep, staying at home. It's OK, though, as there are videogames there. And the best writing about them from the past week, which you can find assembled below.
RE:BIND have published Skeleton's take on the Final Fantasy 7 remake. And there are few things I care less about than the Final Fantasy 7 remake, which is why you should listen to me when I say Skeleton's piece is worth reading anyway.
Nothing may be trashier than the way videogames handle romance, except for how they handle sexuality. Remake is a little refreshing because for fucks sake, I could’ve dealt with a protagonist who’s awkward with people because of inexperience and not because he’s too cool to fuck.
Here’s to measuring up to fake childhood heroes two decades later. Fiction makes it so easy for people with no experience to steal from places they think they can. I’m not the only one who’s guilty (thankfully long outgrown) of thinking that kind of stoic aloofness could stand in for either a personality or life experience.
PC Gamer have republished Luke Winkie's interview with the designers of Facade, a game about convincing two AIs not to break up. It's an intriguing and apparently surprisingly robust concept. Tommy Thompson made a neat video about it, too.
If you play Façade as it was intended — by role-playing the experience as a concerned friend — their AI system holds up remarkably well. Tripp and Grace stay in-tune with your inputs. They get enthralled, angry, amused, and offended in the way that humans do, and the facial animation, while primitive, is emotive enough to get the job done. If you navigate the ebbs and flows of the conversation correctly, you might temporarily mediate their issues and convince the couple to give things another chance. Or you might fuck up and say the wrong thing, and have Tripp angrily escort you out of the apartment.
For Eurogamer, Christian Donlan foiled my plans to stop linking so much to their "Someone Should Make A Game About" series by writing a lovely ode to marbled paper.
For those of you who aren't 41 and really starting to lose it these days, marbled paper is paper that has had those wonderfully swirls and blossoms and blooms of various colours of inks spread out across it. You come across them in the endpapers of books most often, but I gather the history of the process goes back hundreds of years and spans the world. Marbling refers, I think, to the wonderful veins and cracks of marble and other metamorphic rock - those bits of rock that seem to have entire worlds waiting in their depths, that go on unfolding themselves the further you peer into their surfaces. Marbled paper is definitely like that. I can stare at it for hours - I am boring, I should add - and it sort of mesmerises me.
For The Washington Post, Elise Favis spoke to teachers about shoving their students into educational videogames. Ubisoft are letting people into Assassin's Creed's Discovery mode for free, while educational Minecraft is also still very much a thing.
Leitner said teachers are using the game to model geometric concepts in math in elementary classrooms, while fifth-graders are creating museums of Florida wildlife with interactive exhibits. Some teachers have used it to explore the effects of climate change and rising sea levels by watching the impact on coastal communities in the game.
“I have also created a series of challenges around covid-19 where students are creating timelines of the pandemic or reimagining hospital design,” Leitner said. “The one thing I love about Minecraft is, when it comes to education, it’s a tool that has almost an endless learning curve from the very simple to the extraordinarily complex.”
For The Verge, Megan Farokhmanesh spoke to big-name developers about how they're coping with the pandemic. There's nothing revelatory here, but sometimes it's nice to read about people who have all the same problems you do.
Among nearly all of the developers The Verge spoke to, however, there is a common sentiment of uncertainty. “I have no idea what the future holds,” says one. “This could last for a month, or two years. And certainly things won’t be the same anymore, but I have no idea what they’ll look like.” Another comments on holes in the structures we’ve accepted as status quo: “The systems of capitalism we have today can’t support something like a pandemic — in many cases they are breaking right now, before our eyes.” Developers say they hold on to the idea that their jobs and projects they’re working on could still bring people joy. Many are looking forward to being able to see their colleagues and be together once more.
For Kotaku, Chingy Nea went on a quest to remove "Incel Hamtaro" from her Animal Crossing island.
I snapped. Much like in real life, the system (by which I mean Isabelle) had failed me when I asked for help. I started devoting much of my island time to tormenting Graham in increasingly outlandish ways. I cut down trees he sat under, but he paid no mind. When I terraformed the land around him to leave him stranded on a plateau in the middle of a waterfall, he opened a book and walked in circles. At one point, I even left a cage with a live hamster running around inside on his doorstep. He callously laughed it off.
Here's Noclip's documentary on the development of The Outer Worlds. There are some interesting thoughts towards the end about designing games with accessibility in mind, and just how different that approach is to how it was in the olden days.
Finally, this Twitter thread of museums competing to see who has the creepiest object is very good.
Music this week is Cerebrawl, a Plants Vs Zombies cover by DSC.