[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 installment includes the story behind Far Cry 5, a wizard-sniffing text adventure, the hillbillies of Grand Theft Auto Online, and lots more.
This week, I've been busy launching - well, mentioning the launch of, my work happened beforehand - the latest Game eBook Storybundle, that thing that I do two or three times a year with the folks at Storybundle that compiles some of the best game-related eBooks around. Also, both my curator cut & the charity cut for the bundle goes to the Prisoners Literature Project, the 'books to prisoners' charity that I help out with. If you want, support it - it'd mean a lot to the authors and me.
Til next time,
- Simon, curator.]
The Forgetting Game | Kentucky Route Zero (Sam Dibella / Heterotopias, ARTICLE)
"Drowning has always terrified me. The end, yes, but more specifically, the moment when your larynx catches, and your reflexes fail, and suddenly you’re using your lungs in a way you were never meant to. In Cardboard Computer’s Kentucky Route Zero, everyone is already beneath the surface."
The 25 Best Video Games of 2017 (Staff / Slant Magazine, ARTICLE)
"We live in a gaming landscape where a sincere debate now rages as to whether the best way to play an RPG is in 4K resolution, as a portable title, or in virtual reality. The face of gaming has never looked so much like the future as it did this year. The best games of 2017 aren't just exemplary at being what they are, but extraordinary in showing us what is now possible."
The Hillbillies of Grand Theft Auto Online (Noclip / YouTube, VIDEO)
"We travel to Knoxville, Tennessee to talk to a crew of die-hard Grand Theft Auto Online players about the friendships they forged on the mean streets of Los Santos."
Welcome to Interactive Fiction: You’re a Wizard-Sniffing Pig (Sarah Laskow / Atlas Obscura, ARTICLE)
"Buster Hudson discovered interactive fiction by chance. While exploring the vast world of online game sites, he happened upon a game called Counterfeit Monkey, in which you play a smuggler of language technology, pursued by the Bureau of Orthography and eager to escape an island named Atlantis."
Dreams Is Hard to Explain, But It Looks Brilliant (Keza MacDonald / Kotaku, ARTICLE)
"Dreams is one of the most exciting upcoming releases for the PlayStation 4 next year. It’s also very difficult to explain what it is. It builds on developer Media Molecule’s “play, create, share” ethos, but unlike the studio’s previous work in the LittleBigPlanet series, it is not a cute co-op platformer that lets you create your own levels."
The AIAS Game Maker's Notebook: Robin Hunicke (Ted Price / AIAS Game Maker's Notebook, PODCAST)
"Robin Hunicke sits down with Insomniac Games' Ted Price to talk about building Journey, representing yourself and your game on stage, staying genuine, and amplifying new voices in the industry."
The ten best video games of 2017 (Tim Martin / The Economist/1843 Magazine - ARTICLE)
"Despite a plethora of dull sequels, 2017 has been a strong year for video games. The best of them offered a reminder of the medium’s capacity to challenge and surprise. Hardware helped. In the last 12 months, we’ve had Nintendo’s portable console, Switch, which blurs the distinctions between couchbound and mobile play; and Microsoft’s Xbox One X, which gives us a super-powered vision of gaming’s hi-res future."
Katamari Damacy: The Man Who Rolled The World - Design Documentary(Soberdwarf / YouTube, VIDEO)
"Katamari is was a weird budget title released by Namco in 2005 that became a critical and commercial success despite its obscurity. However, it was that success that led the designer to eventually hate his own creation and leave game development. What happened? We discuss that and more in this video!"
90s CD-ROM games still have a lot to teach us (Emilie Reed / RockPaperShotgun, ARTICLE)
"Videogames were a presence throughout my childhood, thanks to my dad having a PC for work. When he didn’t need to use it, I was allowed to tinker and explore. The games built into the computer like Solitaire, SkiFree and Fuji Golf, as well as the CD-ROM games we got from stores like Office Max and Borders, quickly became second nature to me."
Dan Hay on how the Cold War and the fear of modern armageddon influenced Far Cry 5 (Hannah Dwan / The Telegraph, ARTICLE)
"For sure, I think that, and I've told this story a few times, but the real thing for me that informed Far Cry 5 was that when I was a kid, I was a child of the eighties, so the eighties was a high time, everybody was spending money like there was no tomorrow, and the reason was that a lot people believed there wouldn't be."
30 for 30 Podcasts: Madden's Game (ESPN, PODCAST)
"Throughout his hall of fame career, John Madden’s passion wasn’t just for playing and coaching football— he was driven to bring the nuances of the game to the masses. In the late 1980s, a golden opportunity fell into his lap via an upstart company called Electronic Arts. Wil Wheaton narrates the story of how Madden built a video game empire — and pushed the limits of gaming."
Rocket Jump: Quake and the Golden Age of First-Person Shooters (David L Craddock / ShackNews, ARTICLE)
"Developers and fans of first-person shooters look back on the 1990s as arguably the most fecund period in the genre's history. The genre did not originate during that era, but it propagated far and wide. Creators were inspired, and consumers reaped the benefits. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a spectacular longform piece.]"
Kato & Ken PC Engine / J J & Jeff TurboGrafx 16 Full History and Region Differences Explained (GTV / YouTube, VIDEO)
"Kato & Ken AKA JJ & Jeff is based off of a crazy TV Show in Japan! Have you ever actually seen it? Learn all about it!"
The 11 biggest announcements and trailers from the 2017 Game Awards (Andrew Webster / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Unlike most awards shows, the biggest appeal of The Game Awards isn’t the accolades themselves: it’s the multitude of new trailers and reveals that accompany them. (If you’re curious, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brought home the game of the year award this year.) [SIMON: don't normally link roundups, but boy, there were a lot of new game trailers here. So, in case you missed them...]"
Q&A: How Brawlhalla built a fighting game community from the ground up (Gamasutra Staff / Gamasutra, ARTICLE / VIDEO)
"As it turns out, Brawlhalla has proven to be a unique case study for games that have a free-to-play audience on PS4, and a chance to learn how developers manage their in-house competitive events. We were lucky enough to be joined by executive producer Zeke Sparkes, who shared a lot of insight on how Brawlhalla has built such a loyal following."
Halfcoordinated, the Max-Agility Speedrunner Gaming with One Hand (Waypoint / YouTube, VIDEO)
"Speedrunners take pride in blazing through games that normally take hours, even days to complete, all in record times. Today, we meet a speedrunner named Clinton “Halfcoordinated” Lexa. Clint blazes through his favorite games at record speeds – and he does it all without full use of one of his hands."
Desperate Venezuelans Turn to Video Games to Survive (Andrew Rosati / Bloomberg Businessweek, ARTICLE)
"They start arriving even before the security shutters at the west Caracas storefront roll up at about 8:30 a.m. For 11 hours a day, they’ll hunch over old-fashioned cathode-ray tube monitors and bang on greasy keyboards in a dim space with a boarded-up window and a blanket of dust. [SIMON'S NOTE: some kind of weird timed pay gate on this story, so... read it quickly?]"
5 Amazing Levels from 2017 (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube, VIDEO)
"2017 saw an abundance of great levels, chapters, maps, areas, and sequences. Let's recap the year, by looking at the best stages from the past 12 months."
Ars Technica’s ultimate board game buyer’s guide (Staff / Ars Technica, ARTICLE)
"For this year's board game buyer's guide, we went big—close to 10,000 words big. We split the guide into categories for easy reading, with around five solid choices for each type of gamer. We couldn't include all of our favorite recommendations, of course (we have a lot of opinions about board games), but we love all the games on this list."
Confessions of a Semi-Reformed Video Game Completionist (Matthew Gault / Motherboard, ARTICLE)
"There are healthy ways to deal with stress and unhealthy ways to deal with stress. When backed into a corner, I tend to go with the unhealthy options. Which is how video games helped destroy my first marriage. Back in 2009, the US had just elected Barack Obama, I worked 40 hours in a retail job that was killing me, and I had decided I wanted to 100 percent Fallout 3."
Art & Craft: Capturing A Feeling With Margaret Robertson (Snowman / Art & Craft, PODCAST)
"Perhaps the greatest compliment that a player can give about a game is that something about this digital experience made their real life better in some way. Imagine trying to achieve that with games almost entirely about colourful shapes. This is the daily mission for Margaret Robertson, Director of Game Design at "Dots." Join us as we talk about capturing a feeling through design, how to ethically ask your players for money, and - I can't believe I'm saying this - misbehaving geese. [SIMON'S NOTE: This podcast appears to be Apple Podcasts only, but also very interesting!]"
Designing a domestic hunter-killer thriller the Hello Neighbor way (Brock Wilbur / Gamasutra, ARTICLE)
"Dynamic Pixels’ Hello Neighbor is a bizarre breed of game. Having spent serious time with a few different builds, I feel confident in saying I don’t know what it is at all -- and that is probably what it intends to stir in me. The game is ostensibly about invading your neighbor’s home and trying to undo a series of Adventure Game Logic puzzles in an effort to discover a terrible secret. Along the way there is… well, just so many terrible secrets."
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org. MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]