Skip to main content

The Sunday Papers

Read More

A plain white mug of black tea or coffee, next to a broadsheet paper on a table, in black and white. It's the header for Sunday Papers!
Image credit: RPS

Sundays are for wheeling my old gamer chair to the curb, before flopping back in my new ergonomic office chair with the same awful posture and whining, "Why doesn't it work?! Who knew that furniture named things like Titan, Pro and Conquer aren't the most conducive to lumbar support?" Before I go, "Aaaaaaahhhhhhh" so loudly I give the local cats tiny heart attacks, let's read this week’s best writing about games (and game related things!)

For Polygon, Ana Diaz wrote about the reignition of one of gaming’s oldest shipping wars, and how Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth set the fandom back 20 years. That’s the subject, anyway, but I took it more as a piece about how strange both fandoms and social media can get. Stranger still for failing to recognise that Cloud’s actual destined life partner is Barret.

The difference now? In a world where these disparate fan communities have been smashed together on sites like Reddit, X, and TikTok, the locus of ire has shifted even more towards personal attacks on the posters themselves. If you’re a Tifa supporter, it’s not enough to hate Aerith anymore, you have to hate anyone who ships Aerith too. A Tifa supporter can easily search and find an Aerith fan profile and respond to their posts. Fan accounts can quote-tweet claims which in turn serve as place for piling on a particular claim or argument.

Here is a good Barret meme I like to share whenever possible.

For The Journal, Carl Kinsella had a good take on a the now-infamous Dublin/New York portal. You may remember there was also a game called Portal, so this belongs here. Shush.

“This is why we can’t have nice things” is the much-trotted out line at times like this. The phrase predates the internet but has adopted a memetic significance in recent years, often used whenever someone spoils something good. Taylor Swift even has a song named for the phrase. Surely, though, there is a less puritanical solution for our godless use of the Portal than to just shut it off. You can’t tell this already-rowdy public you never had a contingency plan to deal with mooning. You’re not in Vilnius anymore, pal. It’s not our fault that you didn’t do your market research.

RPS contributor Jeremy Peel wrote a self-described "somewhat emotionally-driven analysis" on the Microsoft/Arkane Austin situation. The only kind of analysis I'd want to read, honestly.

Between them, the two Arkanes - the one in Austin and the still-existent Lyon office - have invented four new game universes in little over a decade. Dishonored, Prey and Deathloop are renowned for their originality and depth. And while not all of these games have broken sales records, they have pointed towards a future where Xbox might one day get another Fallout - a weird alternate world that happens to resonate down the decades. This is how franchises are born: not in boardrooms, but between the folds of brilliant creative minds.

I’m falling into a trap, though: justifying Arkane Austin’s existence through financial strategy, when great art needs no justification. The studio understood, perhaps better than any other, that the point of games is interaction. That if you can’t waggle a finger in a virtual world and see the ripples caused by your presence, you may as well not be there at all. This philosophy coloured their games on every level: from the grand plots that could be steered by your actions, down to the NPCs who watched your every move, ready to engage you with blades or conversation depending on your conduct.

Good video essayist In Praise Of Shadows done a look at some films that flagrantly disregarded any and all safety precautions. Their video on Nic Cage is still one of my favourite essays in recent memory. Elsewhere, YouTuber Any Austin strolls down a river basin in Skyrim, following each branching stream to discover its source. The answer is usually "a hole in a mountain,” but he’s a very tranquil and funny tourist guide.

Post 45 recently put out a collection of detailed and thoughtful essays on Disco Elysium.

Music this week is Bending Corners by R.A.P. Ferreira & Fumitake Tamura, because sometimes I like some words with my usual diet of lo-fi beats. Thanks, beat and words makers, and thank you, readers! Double thank you because loads of you downloaded the TTRPG I mentioned I wrote last week. And now I will never bring it up again. Have a great weekend!

Read this next