Sundays are for watching Million Dollar Beach House, marvelling at the golden sands, then switching on my electric heater because it is quite chilly. Let's cosy up together around the 2000w hearth and read the week's best writing about videogames.
For Kotaku, Ian Walker wrote about how a more experienced player in Final Fantasy XIV gave them money for free, totally out of the blue. It's a lovely little piece about how an act of kindness can help break down the walls of social anxiety.
Final Fantasy XIV is neat, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve treated it as more than just a way to waste some time while my anxiety keeps me glued to social media. My friends and I all work vastly different hours, so I’ve spent the last week or so bumbling through the game’s early quests on my own. While the various cities are filled with other players, and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m matching up with other adventurers for dungeons, it still feels like a very personal, isolated experience.
I enjoyed Simone de Rochefort's article for Polygon about why bottles in Half Life: Alyx look so good. She talks to VFX developer Matthew Wilde about lots of technical stuff, but it's fascinating technical stuff which is explained so well even I can understand it.
Wilde would make observations of the real-life bottle — the foam that develops on beer, or the way liquid catches the light — and then tweak those inputs in the shader so that his creation reflected reality. It was like creating a pointillist painting, pixel by pixel.
For the Guardian, and on a related noted, Stacey Henley wrote about the role of food and drink in games. A reminder of just how much thought goes into these things.
According to Mallinson, understanding real-world food is key to creating the video-game version – not just how it looks and tastes, but the cultures that grow around it. “My research taught me about the fundamental role of food in society, both materially and symbolically,” she says. “Perhaps the most exciting discovery for me was how members of The Sims modding community have reproduced their favourite instant noodle brands, or street food like falafel and koshari, as a way of digitally perpetuating culture and traditions.”
For Paste, Waverly wrote a wonderful article on how her experience with Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 has been a reminder of how we hold relationships in real life. I think a lot of us can relate to this.
As the months went by we would find new puzzle fighters to play: Puyo Puyo Champions, Puzzle Bobble, Money Puzzle Exchanger, Panel De Pon, Columns, and Magical Drop. And at some point it didn’t really matter whether we were good at the games, maybe around the time we started playing Puzzle Bobble. The games stopped mattering for the games themselves, and more as venues for us to spend time with one another. The music, the visuals, the way our minds adapted alongside one another with the rules of the game: Grabbing a beer, making food together, and playing a puzzle fighter was a ritual that had become a mainstay.
In a piece for Vice Games, Patrick Klepek spoke to former employees at YouTube channel GameXplain, describing crunch conditions at work and an owner/manager who put "enormous mental and physical stress" on the staff.
Steve Bowling sat at his desk crying. Bowling had recently spent 48 hours without sleep or a shower. Every moment over that 48-hour period had been spent playing the highly anticipated Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Bowling at the time contributed to the popular news and analysis channel GameXplain, and they had two days to publish a video for the game's review embargo set by publisher Square Enix. While Bowling played, his wife brought him meals and took care of their four children. While his wife slept, Bowling continued to play.
I've been working my way through MF DOOM's body of work since news of his passing at the end of last year. With this in mind, music this week is All Caps, which showcases his impeccable rhyme schemes.
This New Yorker article by Hua Hsu is worth a read if you're interested in the man behind the mask, and the mask itself.
Also, Netflix released a trailer for an interactive show in which you can decide whether a snake throttles Bear Grylls to death or not. I can't stop watching it.