The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for finally getting on top of your violin practice. Some would say taking up the violin during lockdown is inconsiderate, but I can't hear them over the sound of my god awful screeching. Here's the best recent writing about videogames. (It's a good crop this week!)
For Bullet Points Monthly, Jon Bailes used the Final Fantasy VII Remake to argue for the dismantling of capitalism. I'm being glib, but this is full of excellent points, excellently argued.
These days we’re at the edge of a precipice. '90s truisms about light-touch politics and sensible economic management ring hollow, conditions worsen, and the idea that there’s no alternative seems dangerously naïve. As the deterioration of the earth and nature come closer, the notion that things not only should but perhaps could be better has more weight in 2020 than it did in 1997, even if solutions remain hazy. Remake’s version of the final fantasy thus carries with it a sense of provocation. If the original game was a highly contemporary work with hints of nostalgia for a lost political past, Remake is an explicit nostalgia piece that nonetheless feels forward looking.
For The Verge, Lewis Gordon spoke to games industry figures about how companies can minimise their impact on climate change. This feels especially prescient, because thanks to Covid-19, we now know that even when everyone dramatically reduces all their flying and driving carbon emissions don't fall by enough. Industries need to change, for both social and ecological reasons.
Ultimately, nature doesn’t care whether we’re playing thoughtful ecological adventures or the next high-tech military shooter. There are more concrete areas game makers can focus their efforts, like switching to renewable energy and considering the performance intensity of their games. If studios want to put pressure on industries’ biggest companies, including the hardware manufacturers and major service providers, collective organization might offer not only the best shot at being heard but also of enacting substantive change. As for one potential area of focus, supply chains are still woefully invisible for the most part. Greater transparency might enable a better chance of not only lessening hardware’s environmental impact but also improving the allegedly backbreaking work conditions in developing nations that continue to prop up the industry.
For Eurogamer, Ewan Wilson looked at how videogames relate to apocalypses, and how much of the real world is in more ruin than you might think. (This is the last apocalypse-themed link, promise.)
We see urban destruction all around us in our daily lives. Another way of looking at all this ruination is as a continuation of Gothic aesthetics. Gothic art and literature was very much about how old, medieval forms were superseded by industrialisation, and how often these ancient things rise up and return to haunt us. Today, the process continues, except instead we are witnessing more industrial elements of capitalism being replaced by newer, more "advanced" post-industrial forms. Instead of ruined castles we get the shells of factories and derelict public housing. Instead of paintings of Tintern Abbey, we get haunting photographs of post-industrial Detroit.
Also for Eurogamer, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell delved into the intricacies of Absolver's combat, and spoke to players who are still creating their own fighting styles. Like much of the best stuff I link here, the piece is driven by idiosyncratic passion. It's a lovely window into a lovely world.
You've heard of the Way of the Dragon, but have you come across the Way of the Magic Right Arm? As you've probably guessed, it's a martial art where every move has to involve the right arm - effective at rattling jaws, less so at sweeping ankles. It's not, you've probably also guessed, an actual combat discipline but one of thousands dreamt up by players of Sloclap's Absolver, the unbearably stylish fighting game which lets you pick from over 120 beautifully animated kicks and punches to create a bespoke martial art, or "deck", of up to 16 moves.
For Vice, Rob Zacny dove into the fascinating world of virtual Formula 1 racing during the Covid-19 pandemic. Professional racers are turning to sims, and not all of them are playing nice.
Pagenaud’s deliberate wrecking is an annoying troll within the context of a video game, but it’s a betrayal of the highest order in the context of real-world, professional racing. An inherent tension in F1 and Indy racing is that drivers are in ruthless competition at the same time that they are all trying to prevent crashes that can easily turn deadly. Now that these same drivers are competing in a space where the deadly physical consequences are no longer an issue, the sport is changing fast, and in ways that can carry over to real-world tracks when drivers are able to race on them again.
For her blog, Holly Gramazio asked the internet what the floor was made of when they used to avoid it as children. Then she analysed the results, which are fascinating, and concluded with some *legitimately inspirational* words about the value of playing alone. The last line in the piece is my new motto.
I think we feel, culturally, like physical play is “meant” to be communal, and that childhood games are meant to be something you do with friends—so some of the people who played by themselves now feel, looking back, like they were doing it wrong, or might not be the sort of players I’m interested in. (The way I phrased my questions probably didn’t help.)
But playing this game on your own is actually really common! Why wouldn’t you play it on your own? It’s fun, it’s simple, it’s responsive to the environment, it’s physical, it’s a new way to understand your surroundings.
For The New York Times, Reggie Ugwu asked physicist Sean Carroll for his opinion on Westworld and Devs, two shows that explore free will and determinism. I haven't read much of it because I'm behind on Devs, but that's bound to be interesting, isn't it?
Won't somebody think of the eel children.
Please enjoy this poignant video of our time.
This is what every single day of 2020 has felt like. pic.twitter.com/Pz3x3CI2OA
— ✨Lys ✨ (@WhimsyDesigns) May 6, 2020
Music this week is River Song by The Farewell Drifters.