Good Games Writing Weekly: March 7, 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.

This is the Weekly for March 7th even though it’s being posted late on March 10th. Time is confusing sometimes. In all actuality, we held off on posting this in deference to The Goodies, as lots of BIG awards were being dropped, and we wanted those winners to get their moment. We also didn’t want these pieces to be overshadowed. We’ll revert back to a Sunday schedule for the foreseeable future!

REVIEWS & CRITICISM

This week we started reading reviews on Gnosia. We expect we’ll be discussing writing on this release for some time, but Eric Van Allen’s review is our favourite of the bunch so far:

That might be Gnosia’s best trick: how it gradually turns these avatars slinging accusations at one another into people you can understand. Loop over loop, you have to adjust to what you’re given and what you can learn over time, all the while relying on how well you know these characters to stay alive.

Zsolt David writes on the “erotic interplay between violence and death” in an interesting (and short) essay on Doom.

Queen: Rock Tour is not a game we thought we’d be writing about, but Zack Zwiezen notes that it’s a relatively cheap experience ($3) with no hidden microtransactions, gauges, or other nuisances. We’re willing to give it a look.

At TheGamer, Stacey Henley writes about the secret standout character of Spider-Man: Miles Morales:

Hailey is never identified as “the deaf girl” or anything like that, she’s often called “the artist” when she’s not simply called Hailey. She’s in the game for this artistry, and for her efforts in community organisation, not to hit a diversity quota. It’s very rare for deaf characters to be in a game at all, much less for them to be allowed to stand for more than their deafness and to actively communicate with the hero.

Over at Vice, Nico Deyo examines Blizzard’s cast of female villains and the “meat grinder” they are put through, along with the unique nature of Blizzard’s never-ending narratives. It’s an analysis made for fans of StarCraft or Overwatch or just good characters in general.

The idea that someone who was made into a shade of her former self suddenly has no living left to do after being robbed of her emotional catharsis is horrifying. The desire to kill everyone else and sow discord feels like an punishment on her character and furthers the idea that these women are not allowed to reach an emotional conclusion, but rather spread that anger and pain out to everyone else, whether they deserve it or not.

REPORTING

This week the reporting category is super-sized.

We’ll start with a pair of development-oriented interviews that caught our eyes. There’s this interview with Disco Elysium: The Final Cut’s lead writer Helen Hindpere that we missed last month that delves into the writing process (and more) of the game’s script and how it was designed with voiceover in mind.

Finding the ideal actors for the likes of The Deserter and Paledriver has been one thing, but the biggest challenge ZA/UM faced was finding a voice to bring the whole experience together. “The narrator is the voice of Disco Elysium,” Hindpere emphasises. “He reads all non-direct speech. This means every object, every parenthesis, and so on. Only when we miraculously stumbled upon Lenval Brown did we know: ok, we have the voice of Disco Elysium now. We can really attempt to do this.”

Patrick Klepek, meanwhile, reports on a developer that uses a DMCA to pull its own game from Steam, as part of an ongoing legal conflict with the publisher. The dev claims the publisher hacked the code and uploaded an improper and/or illegal version of the game. This story is still developing but we trust Klepek to stay on it.

At Dicebreaker, Chase Carter reports on the cancellation of a Kickstarter campaign, a rather ordinary event. The extraordinary part? It’s a Kickstarter executive that launched the campaign and the collection included a contribution by a streamer who previously roleplayed “a non-consensual sexual assault scene” on an actual play stream. Fallout was immediate.

A pair of interesting pieces captured our imagination at Eurogamer. First, there is Wesley Yin-Poole’s description of when “players came together en masse to “reboot” the vanilla experience on one of the least populated servers” in World of Warcraft Classic. An extensive collection of screenshots is included for your viewing pleasure.

Then there’s the fascinating tale of Valheim‘s Body Recovery Squad, an elite group of players that freely help others recover their lost loot. Emma Kent’s reporting showcases this as a community initiative that is born from the grassroots and is set to keep growing rapidly.

Although he doesn’t know exactly how many bodies have been recovered so far, Lucas believes he can confidently say over 100 players have been assisted by the BRS – and that number could potentially be higher. It seems the BRS is also sticking pretty firmly to its policy of doing all this for free: Lucas said the group doesn’t accept payment, donations or gifts of any type.

Diego Arguello dives into the community of people just trying to get a PS5. Their efforts include social media accounts, bots, and fighting scalpers at every turn.

Crunch has been at the centre of several reports over the past year. People Make Games’ latest video examines what happens when that crunch is outsourced. We also read the comments (gasp!) and found several leads we hope enterprising journalists take up and chase.

Finally, our Read of the Week is Liana Ruppert’s “An Epileptic’s Guide To Gaming“. It’s exactly what it claims to be: a guide to gaming for those living with epilepsy. The piece isn’t strictly reporting–it blends in Ruppert’s experiences with seizures–but it’s an important topic. Both the explanation of the shades of epilepsy and the tips for managing it while gaming are instructive.

TECH

The overlap between tech and gaming remains high. Here’s a few posts we read that got us thinking this week:

  • Shoshana Wodinsky challenges us not to give Google a free pass on the privacy front just because they’re ushering in the death of the cookie
  • NFTs seemed to be the acronym of the week. This is the piece that made it sort-of make sense to us.
  • A new YouTube audio feature is being used by Ubisoft to improve their trailer’s accessibility.

USUAL SUSPECTS

This section is for the games and series that always seem to inspire good games writing.

Resident Evil creeps on to this week’s instalment with a pair of posts. First, there’s Kyle Campbell’s question of “What is Resident Evil?” The answer focuses on Resi 4, naturally, but it’s a neat ponderance that drifts through the series’ later entries.

Then there’s Kieran Harris’ look at how VR elevates the horror experience of Resi 7 and while we’re glad Harris found enjoyment we think we’ll pass.

We were interested by this analysis of Zelda’s role in Breath of the Wild. While we disagreed with some of the takeaways–particularly the relatability of the princess-we think it should spark some lively debates. It pairs well with this Twitter thread by Tristan Cooper as he drops incredible observational nuggets on the design decisions in BotW.

Genshin Impact has earned its place as one of our usual suspects. While it’s easy to discount it as a BotW (or Skyrim?) clone, such a reduction misses the point, while revealing a great degree of ignorance. Khee Hoon Chan reflects on the many mobile games making waves in a year where players were anything but mobile. It’s not just Genshin, of course, but we can feel its impact everywhere we look.

While we’re at Polygon, it’s worth noting that the next installment of Matt Leone’s oral history of Street Fighter series has dropped, and this one’s a doozy. Street Fighter: The Movie: The Game gets the longread treatment and more colons than we can shake a stick at.

Mass Effect, Vampyr, The Outer Wilds and more get the nod in Andrew King’s analysis of how games make it fun to be villains. There’s an extra dose of psychology in this read along with interesting stats and quality interviews. Whether you think it’s good to be bad or always attempt a pacifist run you’ll get something out of this one.

But… why? Video games have famously invited us to rampage. There’s even a famous video game called Rampage. So why the unease about making bad choices? Do certain kinds of games evoke guilt? And what kind doesn’t? How does the Jaws-simulator Maneater, for example, make it feel effortlessly fun to massacre innocent human beings? How does Carrion’s limb-ripping carnage sidestep guilt in favor of glee? By contrast, why do choice-based RPGs–which often ask us to do small unkind acts in the name of roleplaying a villainous character–often leave us with pangs of regret? And how do skilled developers coax players over the moral threshold?

That’s this week’s entry! You can always submit links for our consideration by tweeting us @GoodWritingVG or using the SUBMIT form to your right on the goodgameswriting.com website. Thanks for reading.

Quick Hits:

Arguello, Diego. “Hunting for a PS5 has become an entire subculture” (Polygon: March 1, 2021) <https://www.polygon.com/2021/3/1/22298268/the-hunt-playstation-5-how-to-buy-ps5-scalpers>.

Bayliss, Ben. “How YouTube’s new audio feature is helping Ubisoft make its trailers more accessible” (TechRadar: March 6, 2021) <https://www.techradar.com/uk/news/how-youtubes-new-audio-feature-is-helping-ubisoft-make-its-trailers-more-accessible>.

Campbell, Kyle. “What is Resident Evil?” (March 7, 2021) <https://thekaycee.ca/2021/03/07/what-is-resident-evil/>.

Carter, Chase. “Kickstarter executive cancels The Perfect RPG campaign amid backlash to Dungeon World co-creator’s involvement” (Dicebreaker: March 1, 2021) <https://www.dicebreaker.com/topics/kickstarter/news/the-perfect-rpg-canceled-kickstarter>.

Chan, Khee Hoon. “Mobile games have quietly exploded” (Polygon: March 3, 2021) <https://www.polygon.com/2021/3/3/22311787/core-mobile-games-among-us-genshin-impact-trends>.

David, Zsolt. “Sexual Glee and Doom” (Medium: March 4, 2021) <https://zoltdav.medium.com/sexual-glee-and-doom-f74bf64fd262>.

Deyo, Nico. “Blizzard’s Long History of Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls and Fear of Women” (Vice: February 14, 2021) <https://www.vice.com/en/article/wxeze5/blizzards-long-history-of-manic-pixie-nightmare-girls-and-fear-of-women>.

Eardley, Siobhan. “Dealing With Calamity: Princess Zelda’s Relatable Struggles in Breath of the Wild” (JumpCut Online: February 25, 2021) <https://play.jumpcutonline.co.uk/2021/02/25/dealing-with-calamity-princess-zeldas-relatable-struggles-in-breath-of-the-wild/>.

Harris, Kieran. “Resident Evil 7: How VR Elevates An Already Great Horror Game” (UploadVR: March 6, 2021) <https://uploadvr.com/resident-evil-7-vr-elevates-great-horror-game>.

Henley, Stacey. “We Should Be Making A Bigger Deal About Hailey In Spider-Man: Miles Morales” (TheGamer: February 24, 2021) <https://www.thegamer.com/hailey-spider-man-miles-morales/>.

Howcroft, Elizabeth and Ritvik Carvalho. “How a 10-second video clip sold for $6.6 million” (Reuters: March 1, 2021) <https://www.reuters.com/article/retail-trading-nfts/insight-how-a-10-second-video-clip-sold-for-6-6-million-idUKL8N2KV6X9>.

King, Andrew. “How Games Make It Fun To Be The Villain” (GameSpot: March 6, 2021) <https://www.gamespot.com/articles/how-games-make-it-fun-to-be-the-villain/1100-6488487/>.

Kent, Emma. “Valheim’s Body Recovery Squad will help get your items back” (Eurogamer: March 5, 2021) <https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2021-03-04-valheims-body-recovery-squad-will-help-you-get-your-items-back-and-all-for-free>.

Klepek, Patrick. “‘The Sinking City’ Developer Uses DMCA to Remove Its Own Game From Steam” (Vice: March 2, 2021) <https://www.vice.com/en/article/epdw7p/the-sinking-city-developer-uses-dmca-to-remove-its-own-game-from-steam>.

Leone, Matt. “Street Fighter: The Movie: The game: An oral history” (Polygon: March 1, 2021) <https://www.polygon.com/2021/3/1/22296705/street-fighter-the-movie-the-game-an-oral-history>.

Purslow, Matt. “Disco Elysium: Bringing a Million Words to Life for The Final Cut” (IGN: February 9, 2021) <https://www.ign.com/articles/disco-elysium-the-final-cut-voice-acting-console-release>.

Ruppert, Liana. “An Epileptic’s Guide To Gaming” (Game Informer: March 3, 2021) <https://www.gameinformer.com/2021/03/03/an-epileptics-guide-to-gaming>.

Van Allen, Eric. “Gnosia review: A single-player impostor game that still brings the drama” (Polygon: March 5, 2021) <https://www.polygon.com/nintendo-switch/22315451/gnosia-review-nintendo-switch>.

Wodinsky, Shoshana. “Stop Letting Google Get Away With It” (Gizmodo: March 5, 2021) <https://gizmodo.com/stop-letting-google-get-away-with-it-1846414787>.

Yin-Poole, Wesley. “Thousands of World of Warcraft Classic players descended upon a single server to get a fresh levelling experience – and it was absolute chaos” (Eurogamer: March 7, 2021) <https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2021-03-06-thousands-of-world-of-warcraft-classic-players-descended-upon-a-single-server-to-get-a-fresh-levelling-experience-and-it-was-absolute-chaos>.

Zwiezen, Zack. “Queen: Rock Tour Is Packed With Great Music, Not Ads And Microtransactions” (Kotaku: March 5, 2021) <https://kotaku.com/queen-rock-tour-is-packed-with-great-music-not-ads-an-1846416911>.

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