[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry veteran Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend. This week's highlights include the magic of The Void, John Romero on the TEd tool, Hyper Light Drifter's charm, & much more.
We're here! GDC 2017 kicks off first thing on Monday here in San Francisco, and whoa, there's still lots to do, so I'll keep it brief. Oh, one useful thing - ex Game Developer magazine EIC (& excellent indie dev!) Brandon Sheffield made a super helpful post about all the cool stuff you can see with an Expo Pass at GDC this year - and if you have a bigger pass, you can see all the listed things too!
Whether at GDC or not, have fun this week, and I'll be back next weekend with an all-GDC Video Game Deep Cuts.
- Simon, curator.]
Why Ever Stop Playing Video Games? (Frank Guan / New York Magazine)
"Like so many others, I played video games, often to excess, and had done so eagerly since childhood, to the point where the games we played became, necessarily, reflections of our being. To the uninitiated, the figures are nothing if not staggering: 155 million Americans play video games, more than the number who voted in November’s presidential election."
All work and no play (Simon Parkin / Eurogamer)
"Few video game protagonists keep to strict working hours, and how could they? When there's a war to win, a world to save, a lover's heart to ensnare and all the other grand and arduous problems that a game designer asks us to solve, it would be practically irresponsible to clock off a five for a pint of lager, a packet of crisps and a prestige TV box set."
The Dark Souls of News Journalism (Mega64 / YouTube)
"If you don't understand this video, you really need to practice and get better at it. [SIMON'S NOTE: This is the Dark Souls of videos that mention Dark Souls.]"
The Video Game Industry Is Afraid of Unions (Emmanuel Maiberg / Motherboard / Vice)
"On November 17 of last year, 450 members of the SAG-AFTRA union picketed developer Insomniac Games in Burbank, California. Some of the faces marching up and down the street with signs in hand were familiar, like Clancy Brown, who played Sgt. Zim in the movie Starship Troopers, but who, on that day, stood up for his rights as a voice actor in popular video games like Call of Duty, God of War, and many others."
"Make it Biblical:" How Vagrant Story Changed Game Localization (John Learned / USGamer)
"Released that May in North America, Vagrant Story was a significant step forward for English localization... I recently had the opportunity to interview localization editor Richard Amtower and famous translator Alexander O. Smith over email on their breakthrough early work in the field and to reflect on the rise of localization as a craft that truly mattered."
It's time for cyberpunk games to remember how to be punk (Jody Macgregor / PC Gamer)
"While most of the games in the genre that followed [Neuromancer & Syndicate] explored spaces somewhere in between those two extremes, there's been a tendency for them to focus on the high-tech and not the low-life. They get the cyber, but not the punk."
The Magic of the First Legend of Zelda (Mark Brown / Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube)
"The next Zelda game, Breath of the Wild, is said to be inspired by the very first game in the series. Let's revisit that seminal game, to see how Nintendo made such an intoxicating adventure."
How fantastical Atari box art taught the world what makes video games special (Nick Wanserski / AV Club)
"Atari 2600 box art is well loved and rightly revered. Some of that can be chalked up to nostalgia for a system that was released in the first years of the Carter administration, but there’s no shortage of collectors who appreciate the amount of thought and technical accomplishment that went into crafting the identity of an emerging entertainment form."
What It Takes To Run A Fighting Game Tournament (Suriel Vazquez / Game Informer)
"Without people like Rick Thiher, eSports tournaments would be chaos. Major events require hundreds of man-hours, months of planning, and the ability to manage dozens of moving parts deftly. Thiher runs Combo Breaker, one of the largest tournaments for fighting games throughout the year, and as attendees and players tell it, it’s a well oiled machine."
Virtual Reality’s Potential for Magic Gets Real (Brooks Barnes / New York Times)
"In an ordinary office complex here, past stacked cartons of Mountain Dew and a throng of hoodie-wearing employees, sits a prototype for an attraction that Hollywood thinks will become the next entertainment craze — an offering that could mint money for its developers, throw a lifeline to struggling shopping malls and, at long last, jump-start sales of virtual reality gear."
World of Warcraft's gold rush has upended Blizzard’s economy (Daniel Friedman / Polygon)
"There has been an economic panic in World of Warcraft. On Feb. 6, Blizzard changed the rules, allowing players to exchange WoW Tokens for Battle.net balance. That means that gold you earn or buy in World of Warcraft can now be used in any Blizzard property."
We tried IMAX VR, and it left us excited as hell (and weak in the knees) (Ryan Waniata / Digital Trends)
"Suddenly, I’m propelled around a spiraling chute hundreds of feet above an arctic landscape before diving into a glittering river, through frosted ice caves... This isn’t Disney’s latest Star Tours ride, and it’s not exactly an arcade game, either. It’s part of an all-new take on VR from cinema magnate IMAX (that’s right, IMAX) called The IMAX VR Experience Centre."
Hyper Light Drifter: The Best Game Ever (Cool Ghosts / YouTube)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: Another wonderfully deep analysis - as a YouTube commenter notes: 'So we get a "spoilers" warning but not a "this next bit will make you reflect back on your past, wasted opportunities, reflect on your future, inevitable demise and then cry inside" warning? Yeah cheers, Matt ;)'.]
The three reasons YouTubers keep imploding, from a YouTuber (Michael Sawyer / Polygon)
"Allow me to extrapolate on a meme those kids today are using: “Dude, you had one job. And it looked like a really easy one.” Let’s Players, streamers or content creators, whatever you like, get to play video games and make jokes while doing so. It seems like a dream gig, so why even risk these sort of gaffes?"
Q&A With Eugene Jarvis: Cruis’n Blast And The Modern Arcade Industry (Arcade Heroes)
"The last time we talked with Eugene Jarvis, CEO of Raw Thrills, it was about Jurassic Park. Fast forward to today and his company is busier than ever, pumping out Space Invaders Frenzy, The Walking Dead, Cruis’n Blast along with some other titles in development."
Meet The Woman Raising Japan’s Next Generation Of Street Fighter Champions (Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku)
"When I called Street Fighter pro Yuko “Chocoblanka” Momochi at 11 a.m. Japan time, her husband, the legendary Street Fighter champion Yusuke Momochi, was asleep. The husband-wife team, both Street Fighter players, had recently launched a school to train promising Japanese competitors."
Classic Tools Retrospective: John Romero talks about creating TEd, the tile editor that shipped over 30 games (David Lightbown / Gamasutra)
"In recent years, retrospectives of classic games have been well received at GDC, but there have been very few stories about classic game tools... For the first article of this series, I have the great pleasure of speaking with John Romero about TEd, the tile editor that he created at id Software, which went on to ship 33 games."
VA-11 Hall-A is Not About Bartending, it's About Your Life (Jake Juliett / Field Notes For Play / YouTube)
"Thusly, I enjoy VA-11 Hall-A for the thing it is - a story about living well in modern society. I also mention the woeful lack of analysis about the story."
Playing With Toys While People are Dying (Paul Kilduff-Taylor / Medium)
"The work of video game developers distracts the world from problems which desperately need solutions. The culture this feeds is fundamentally depraved, the financial outcomes are random and, ultimately, nothing of worth is produced."
Rod Humble and Erica Gangsei in Conversation (Erica Gangsei / SFMOMA)
"In this interview, Erica Gangsei, SFMOMA’s head of interpretive media and creator of the PlaySFMOMA initiative, talks with Humble about his personal and professional projects, and his aspirations for games and gaming."
Todd Howard Discusses Open World Multiplayer, Juggling Seven Projects, And His Hall Of Fame Induction (Matt Bertz / Game Informer)
"On the eve of his induction into the AIAS Hall of Fame, we sat down with Howard to discuss his legacy, his plans for the future, and his noble crusade to get EA Sports to resurrect the NCAA Football franchise."
The future of Final Fantasy 15 (Jeremy Parish / Polygon)
"That forward-looking attitude continues to guide Tabata's vision for Final Fantasy 15, as the company considers a new model for the franchise: Life for a single-playing story-based game beyond its initial release."
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later on Sunday, but get it first via newsletter! Story tips and comments can be emailed to [email protected] MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]