Good Games Writing Weekly: March 21, 2021

by Team GGW

The best games writing from around the web.

The Weekly is your round-up of all the best in games writing and related spaces. Reviews, news, features, and more await you each week as the curators of Good Games Writing scour the Internet for the best of the best. Some themes are for older audiences.

There was no shortage of good games writing this week. In fact, there was actively too much worth reading, such that we may have to revisit pieces we left off the list this week. We read well over 100 pieces this week: Among the things we didn’t manage to include in the round-up are Xbox Wireless Headset reviews, Marvel’s Avengers content around Hawkeye and dogs, the impending death of Mario, or even any of the Genshin Impact guides that dropped.

There was a lot.

If you think we missed something awesome hit the big ol’ SUBMIT button to your right or throw us a tweet @GoodWritingVG.

REPORTING

Rebekah Valentine kicks off the Weekly with two pieces: In the first, she explains what Roblox‘s high valuation–it eclipses Take Two and Ubisoft combined–means for gaming. In the second, Valentine delves into the history of Six Days in Fallujah while interviewing Arab and Iraqi game devs as well as a US military veteran:

At best, those we spoke to worry that a group of people with sympathy and vested interest in the US military will inherently be biased toward it, and may consciously or otherwise tell an inaccurate story that portrays the military in a more favorable light while casting those who lived in the country it invaded as villains. That worry has already born out somewhat, given that Victura has done little in the way of actively disclosing its previous military connections as a potential conflict of interest, and has in fact actively tried to separate itself from them despite clear evidence the game was, at least at one point, clearly wrapped up in them.

Both pieces offer additional context and insights worth considering.

At Vice, Khee Hoon Chan documents efforts to preserve Flash games, chronicling the rise of HTML 5 and the demise of Flash, proper. It’s a piece that’s about the people behind the games as much as it is about the games themselves.

A different kind of preservation is at the heart of Wesley Yin-Poole’s latest report: a “never-before-seen” game found under a tree on a pallet. The simple Q&A format works wonders for the piece. Also, the strapline is sublime.

Hitting the one year mark of dealing with COVID-19 directly has us daydreaming of travel. Super Nintendo World is on the list of destinations we’d love to take in…eventually. For now, Robert Sephazon’s comprehensive review of the attraction will have to do. And we mean comprehensive.

REVIEWS & CRITICISM

Our largest section tonight so let’s go rapid fire.

We start with more Loop Hero. We really liked Steve Hogarty’s review because it has potentially the best description of the game yet:

Round and round they go, trapped but resolute, like a greyhound on a malfunctioning racetrack, where someone forgot to turn off the hare and the crowds have long since gone home. Your hero will do this for as long as you let them, or until they die, because with each completed loop the monsters become incrementally tougher.

Then there’s Stella Chung’s review of Apex Legends which now feels like the definitive take on the game in all its forms.

The Outer Worlds has new DLC out and we continue to adore Elise Favis’ review/interview hybrids. We dig how nuggets such as how the game’s influenced by works like Murder on the Orient Express weaves naturally into the criticism of the actual product.

On the criticism-at-large front, the variety of games covered is staggering.

Let’s start by shouting out what is potentially the series we’re most looking forward to following through the year. Kate Willaert is launching a series on playable female protagonists in games. The first episode is a bit of a taster on what’s to come. We think you’ll like it.

The removal of agency from boss fights is at the heart of Jeremy Signor’s take on a Mario kaizo hack, Invictus, asserting that the hack loses both aspects of Mario and the spirit of kaizo in the process:

It’s important to make the player feel like they’re actively participating in ending the fight through their own power, which is why having moments where you can hit him would have helped the fight feel less out of your control. Even if those moments would be relatively easy, they would make a world of difference for making the player feel like they’re actually doing something.

At Wireframe, Ian Dransfield interviews Arsi “Hakita” Patala, creator of ULTRAKILL, and finds an Early Access release that just feels right.

Edwin Evans-Thirlwell tackles The Medium, the technical limitations of hardware, and some degree of neuroscience at Bullet Points.

The Medium‘s dimension shifts aren’t really a celebration of the technology it runs on; rather, they expose that technology for a kind of horror story itself.

Evans-Thirwell manages to tie in cyberpunk game Observer into the criticism as well. At Gayming Mag, a cyberpunk bartending game called The Red Strings Club is the focus of Ty Galiz-Rowe’s latest, and the implications of our cozy relationship with Big Tech is neatly laid out, revealing a cause-and-effect that’s, well, uncomfortable to think about.

Stacey Henley revisits Celeste and finds herself reflecting both on Badeline and herself. The article involves something of a recap of “controversies” before going into the toxic nature of Madeline/Badeline and the author’s own attempts to exorcise those elements from herself.

At In The Lobby, a discussion on Far Cry 5, and the implications of “forests filled with profit”: hunting is expressly put in the crosshairs. That hunting exists only for profit in the game is itself a problem, but that it resembles a culture that has moved increasingly away from subsistence, to one of trophy hunting, makes it all the more alarming.

Finally, former Team GGW member Joseph Knoop, finds that four years and a story-oriented season later, Fortnite doesn’t land a compelling narrative, instead opting to keep pushing “the next big thing”. Knoop, by the way, covers Fortnite ad nauseum with every update and we consider him to be one of the most trusted authorities on the game.

USUAL SUSPECTS

Our Usual Suspects list this week is made up of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and only ACNH. As the game crosses the one year marker we expect to see another flood of great #content about the game. For now, two pieces by sister sites, touching on different feelings about the game a year on.

First, Alexis Ong returns to her island after a four month hiatus to a tale as old as time: Villagers guilt-tripping the absent player. Giving a fresh coat of paint to the topic, Ong integrates discussions on ‘ghosting’ into the piece, and how that’s gotten a lot easier in the midst of a pandemic.

At Polygon, Nicole Carpenter released a “year in review” of sorts of the game, creating a compelling timeline of the game’s biggest events. It’s a compelling list…especially for those of us who’ve dipped in and out of the game.

TECH

NFTs continue to amaze and mystify us. The speculation based phenomenon is detailed in practical effect at cnet — it’s perhaps the best explanation we’ve gotten yet. Naturally, any market that’s exploding has those trying to cheat or rob the system, and we haven’t been disappointed in hearing about NFT art heists.

The rest of this section is really about communities on social media platforms.

Cariad Keigher addresses the “audience harassment problem” on Twitch. Some of the factors leading to this longstanding problem include the ease in creating an account on the service, a legal team that challenges any user-made solutions, and a general unwillingness by the company to do anything on the issue.

Our team of curators works entirely in the education sector. When our students started talking about a “new sexuality” called “super straight” we immediately sought out information. If you missed the concerning and frankly transphobic campaign you can read Mashable’s comprehensive reporting.

We appreciated this list of 15 video game streamers to recommend to your kids…it’s free of “energy drink-sponsored dudebros”. We’ll be adding these streamers to our weekly watchlist.

ODDS & ENDS

Our final section is always something of a grab bag. We throw in the reads we loved but couldn’t easily integrate elsewhere. You never know what you’ll get in this section…

Gavin Lane’s love letter to 2D Zelda games–particularly the Oracle releases–is a treat:

They built upon the foundation of Link’s Awakening not only graphically, but spiritually, with a bizarre cast of characters to rival the series’ most loveable and oddball NPCs. Old favourites turn up, such as Malon and Ingo from Ocarina, Guru-Guru the phonograph player (phonographer? phonographist?), and — a personal favourite — the creepy toilet hand from Majora’s Mask. Returning favourites rub shoulders with a host of enchanting newbies, most of whom we haven’t seen since: Skeleton pirate Cap’n, Bipin and Blossom (and their son, who you have the honour of naming), the subterranean Subrosians, Allan the Poe, and many more. And who can forget Link’s trio of ridable animal companions, Ricky the kangaroo, Dimitri the dodongo, and Moosh the blue bear (who can fly, natch).

At Input, Rowen Cameron delves into the point-and-click genre, revealing the current generation of releases we’ve all been sleeping on, including Primordia and The Blackwell Epiphany. A similar piece focusing on indie horror releases also caught our attention. Between the two you should find *something* you haven’t played before.

On the topic of horror, Olly Smith argues that Call of Duty: Warzone is the best horror game of the last year and we find the argument strangely compelling.

Finally, Ben Bayliss challenges publishers to embrace accessibility as part of their marketing campaigns, both in what they promote and how they promote it. From using alt text to readable open captions, being up front about what accessibility options will need to be employed by some gamers to working with the community, Bayliss hits it all. This is our read of the week!

Quick Hits:

Bayliss, Ben. “Accessibility in games is advancing — now marketing needs to catch up | Opinion” (GamesIndustry.biz: March 17, 2021) <www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2021-03-16-accessibility-in-games-is-advancing-now-marketing-needs-to-catch-up-opinion>.

Cameron, Rowen. “It’s time to give point-and-click games the respect they deserve” (Input: March 17, 2021) <www.inputmag.com/gaming/its-time-to-give-point-and-click-games-the-respect-they-deserve>.

Carpenter, Nicole. “The year we spent in Animal Crossing: New Horizons” (Polygon: March 19, 2021) <www.polygon.com/22339720/animal-crossing-new-horizons-one-year-timeline>.

Chan, Khee Hoon. “Tracing the Sprawling Roots of Flash Preservation” (Vice: March 18, 2021) <www.vice.com/en/article/wx8y5y/tracing-the-sprawling-roots-of-flash-preservation>.

Chung, Stella. “Apex Legends Review – 2021” (IGN: March 15, 2021) <www.ign.com/articles/apex-legends-review-2>.

Dransfield, Ian. “Ultrakill – improvisational and impulsive” (Wireframe: March 16, 2021) <wireframe.raspberrypi.org/articles/ultrakill-improvisational-and-impulsive>.

Evans-Thirlwell, Edwin. “Cutting Edge” (Bullet Points: March 12, 2021) <bulletpointsmonthly.com/2021/03/12/cutting-edge-the-medium>.

Favis, Elise. “‘Murder on Eridanos’ DLC is ‘Outer Worlds’ at its comedic best” (The Washington Post: March 17, 2021) <www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/reviews/murder-eridanos-review/>.

Galiz-Rowe, Ty. “The Red Strings Club understands the dystopian nightmare of Cyberpunk is already here” (Gayming Mag: March 15, 2021) <gaymingmag.com/2021/03/red-strings-club-cyberpunk/>.

Henley, Stacey. “Celeste Reminds Me Of How Mean I Was Before I Transitioned” (TheGamer: March 16, 2021) <www.thegamer.com/celeste-transgender-madeline-badeline/>.

Hogarty, Steve. “Loop Hero review” (RPS: March 19, 2021) <www.rockpapershotgun.com/loop-hero-review>.

In The Lobby. “The land means nothing. Burn it, kill everything, and make money.” (Medium: March 15, 2021) <inthelobby.medium.com/the-land-means-nothing-burn-it-kill-everything-and-make-money-ca15c2446cdd>.

James, Allisa. “The independent scene keeping horror games alive” (Overlode: March 10, 2021) <overlode.co.uk/the-independent-scene-keeping-horror-games-alive/>.

Keigher, Carriad. “Twitch chat harassment remains unaddressed despite complaints and evidence of potential fraud” (Medium: March 15, 2021) <katelibc.medium.com/twitch-chat-harassment-remains-unaddressed-despite-complaints-and-evidence-of-potential-fraud-d7fc66f95d88>.

Knoop, Joseph. “Nearly four years in and Fortnite’s story is still going nowhere” (PC Gamer: March 17, 2021) <www.pcgamer.com/the-foundation-fortnite/>.

Lane, Gavin. “Feature: The Brilliance Of Zelda: Oracle Of Ages & Seasons Forced Nintendo To Up Its Game” (Nintendo Life: March 15, 2021 <www.nintendolife.com/news/2021/03/feature_the_brilliance_of_zelda_oracle_of_ages_and_seasons_forced_nintendo_to_up_its_game>.

Ong, Alexis. “FEAR AND SELF-LOATHING IN ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS” (The Verge: March 18, 2021) <www.theverge.com/22337736/animal-crossing-new-horizons-nintendo-switch-anxiety-fear>.

Sephazon, Robert. “SUPER NINTENDO WORLD REVIEW: A GUIDE TO UNIVERSAL’S MARIO MECCA” (Video Games Chronicle: March 15, 2021) <www.videogameschronicle.com/reviews/super-nintendo-world/>.

Signor, Jeremy. “Agency and Progression: A Critique of the Invictus Kamek Fight” (March 17, 2021) <thelifeofgame.wordpress.com/2021/03/17/agency-and-progression-a-critique-of-the-invictus-kamek-fight/>.

Smith, Olly. “CALL OF DUTY: WARZONE IS MY FAVOURITE HORROR GAME OF THE LAST YEAR” (New Game+: March 10, 2021) <newgameplus.co.uk/2021/03/10/call-of-duty-warzone/>.

Stuart, Keith. “15 video game streamers your teens should be watching” (The Guardian: March 15, 2021) <www.theguardian.com/games/2021/mar/15/15-video-game-streamers-your-teens-should-be-watching>.

Sung, Morgan. “The ‘super straight’ campaign taking over TikTok is actually just ugly transphobic trolling” (Mashable: March 14, 2021) <mashable.com/article/super-straight-tiktok-transphobia/>.

Valentine, Rebekah. “Roblox Is Now Worth More Than Ubisoft and Take-Two Combined: What Does This Mean for Gaming?” (IGN: March 15, 2021) <www.ign.com/articles/roblox-is-now-worth-more-than-ubisoft-and-take-two-combined-what-does-this-mean-for-gaming>.

Valentine, Rebekah. “Six Days in Fallujah Is Complicated and Painful For Those Connected to the Real Events” (IGN: March 19, 2021) <www.ign.com/articles/six-days-in-fallujah-is-complicated-and-painful-for-those-connected-to-the-real-events>.

Van Boom, Daniel. “NFTs don’t make sense but that won’t stop them” (cnet: March 17, 2021) <www.cnet.com/news/nfts-dont-make-sense-but-that-wont-stop-them/>.

Wodinsky, Shoshana. “The NFT Art Heists May Have Begun” (Gizmodo: March 15, 2021) <gizmodo.com/the-nft-art-heists-may-have-begun-1846476077>.

Yin-Poole, Wesley. “24-year-old, never-before-seen Hyper Neo Geo 64 game prototype found under a collapsed tree in a California field”. (Eurogamer: March 17, 2021) <www.eurogamer.net/articles/2021-03-16-never-before-seen-hyper-neo-geo-64-samurai-shodown-64-prototype-found-sitting-under-a-tree-in-a-californian-field>.

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