[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 a look at indie standout Donut County, the potential dystopia behind HQ Trivia, and lots more besides.
Well, this is the penultimate round-up of the year, with a smattering of 'best games of the year' lists included (sorry I didn't get to all of them - there's so many!) As I just noted on Twitter, Super Mario Odyssey is my personal game of the year - being warm, welcoming, polished, and non-judgmental about length of play time.
But there were so many more games to love - many of which I didn't get to because I was busy compiling these lists, ironically. Still, I'd rather you all had information than I finished another game - which is how my brain works, luckily for your ability to read lots of cool stuff in one place. Happy holidays!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Best of 2017: Gamasutra's top games, devs, events and trends (Staff / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: lots of useful lists from the game development website I've written for since 1998 (!) - though I didn't have time to do a list this year - and still help to oversee. As article notes: Gamasutra contributors also each wrote up a personal list of their top games, and you can read them here: Kris Graft, Katherine Cross, Alex Wawro, Alissa McAloon, Chris Kerr, Phill Cameron, Bryant Francis, and Brandon Sheffield.]"
No Man’s Sky Players Had Their First War And It Killed An Entire Civilization (Gita Jackon / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"No Man’s Sky fans can’t exactly play with each other, but they still like to come together to celebrate their communities. Somehow, a new player-created holiday became a story about conflict, betrayal and the disappearance of an entire civilization."
The best video game levels of 2017 (Various / AV Club - ARTICLE)
"You’ve already heard from us about our favorite games, but we also wanted to dig deeper and applaud some of the most memorable sequences that helped make 2017 such a tremendous year. After all, every game contains multitudes of moments and decisions, and even a mediocre release can occasionally come together into something transcendent."
Magic Leap: Founder of Secretive Start-Up Unveils Mixed-Reality Goggles (Brian Crecente / Glixel - ARTICLE)
"The last time the company spoke publicly in any great detail was about a year ago, when it invited Wired magazine to its South Florida headquarters to see the tech in action, but not to write about what the hardware looked like. Earlier this month, Glixel received a similar invitation. [SIMON'S NOTE: An extremely in-depth look at the tech from Brian Crecente - basically, it's Hololens with somewhat bigger field of view. Which is... fine?]"
The AIAS Game Maker's Notebook - Neil Druckmann (Ted Price / AIAS / Libsyn - PODCAST)
"Neil Druckmann from Naughty Dog sits down with Insomniac Games' Ted Price to discuss trailer reactions, The Last of Us, narrative vs gameplay, and the drive to create something meaningful. Neil Druckmann is the creative director for The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, and the upcoming sequel, The Last of Us Part II."
'Donut County' is a love letter to LA (Jessica Conditt / Engadget - ARTICLE)
"From 2002 to 2014, Dunkin' Donuts didn't exist in Los Angeles. Hell, during that time there was just one Dunkin' store in all of California, at a military base on the state's southern tip... In fact, it was one of the first things independent game developer Ben Esposito noticed when he made the move from New York to LA."
Saving the History of Video Games (Waypoint / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Waypoint meets Frank Cifaldi, the founder of the Video Game History Foundation. The history of video games are in danger of disappearing. Not just the games itself, but the packaging, the culture, and the experience of the players. We join Frank on his quest to save these relics."
Women In Video Game Development in 2017: A Snapshot (Lucy O'Brien / IGN - ARTICLE)
"Several months ago, I asked 55 female and non-binary game development professionals from around the globe about the moment the light bulb switched on for them, the moment they thought video games are for me. Each answer was unique."
Indie Games You Missed in 2017 (HeavyEyed / YouTube - VIDEO)
"It's that time of year again! Let's go over some indie games you missed in 2017. Thank you all for this amazing year, I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store."
HQ Trivia Is a Harbinger of Dystopia (Ian Bogost / The Atlantic - ARTICLE)
"That all sounds great. So why do I feel such dread when I play? It’s not the terror of losing, or even that of being embarrassed for answering questions wrong in front of my family and friends. It’s the dread that the app represents some awful, plausible future not yet realized, but just over the horizon: one where expertise isn’t measured by knowledge, but by instinct tripped out on illusion."
Revisiting Anamanaguchi's 'Capsule Silence XXIV,' Music Gaming's Most Revolutionary Misadventure (Zane Warman / Billboard - ARTICLE)
"Taken at face value, Capsule Silence’s creation packs a story of shadowy, blue-chip gaming developers who exploited a growing band’s money, talents and identities, cheapening them by presenting the wider world with a bloated, corporate rendering of their art. [SIMON'S NOTE: this was one of the weirdest things in a long time - great to see a deconstruction of it.]"
Creating 'Burgle Bros': The Fantasy of the Heist (Tim Fowers / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2017 GDC talk from the Board Game Design Day, Fowers Games' Tim Fowers discusses how games are ultimately a test of character and how he used rogue-like mechanics to drive players to critical choices that create emotion and tell unique emergent stories in Burgle Bros."
Are lootboxes the slot machines of video gaming? (Adam Goodall / The Spinoff - ARTICLE)
"Lootboxes have embedded themselves in the gaming industry – and audiences are not happy about it. Adam Goodall talks to a free-to-play developer and a public health expert about why lootboxes were inevitable, and how we can change the direction they’re taking the industry."
Mom, 'Final Fantasy' and the Language of Gaming (Rami Ismail / Glixel - ARTICLE)
"I grinned, and halfway through my amusement I suddenly realised that while my mother could read up on the games news, there was another language that my mother did not speak: the language of games. For all her enthusiasm and knowledge of the medium, she had never once held a controller, or booted up a video game."
The best games you might have missed in 2017 (Clayton Purdom / AV Club - ARTICLE)
"In 2017, “indie games” (I’ll stop using the quotation marks) are a commodity, almost a genre unto themselves. All three major consoles have touted themselves as the true home for independent developers, sometimes creating massive marketing campaigns around games made by smaller, non-traditional teams."
Memory Matters: A special RAM edition of Dirty Coding Tricks (Brandon Sheffield / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Memory constraints are a thing of the past, right? Turns out they’re not. Not only do many off-the-shelf engines manage memory poorly, many platforms still have some rather aggressive memory requirements. Then there are disc and cartridge-based size limitations on top of that."
A month on the road: My indie developer road trip (Blake Hester / Polygon - ARTICLE)
""What the hell does this have to do with video games," I asked myself. I was staring up at Provo Canyon in the middle of Utah, jaw dropped at the scale of it all. There was no cellphone reception, no technology and certainly no video game in sight. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a CRAZILY big road trip article talking to indies, and is wonderfully humanizing about the people behind the games - take the time to read.]"
Horizon Zero Dawn Documentary (Noclip / YouTube - VIDEO)
"How does a studio known for linear first person shooters design one of the most well regarded open world games of the generation on their first attempt? Noclip travels to Amsterdam to talk to Guerrilla about their epic journey bringing Horizon Zero Dawn to PlayStation 4."
Is Secretive Virtual Reality Startup Magic Leap Dreaming Up the Future of Music?(Marc Hogan / Pitchfork - ARTICLE)
"Our tech overlords have come to a realization: The internet is as ambient as the air we breathe. Confined first to computer screens, then phones, tablets, and watches, online information may soon be seamlessly embedded into our lives like never before. [SIMON'S NOTE: The Sigur Ros project is strictly not a game, but lots of interactive elements, of course.]"
How a counterfeit NES console opened up the Russian games market (Alex Calvin / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Back in the 90s, if you had mentioned the names Nintendo and Sega to a kid in America, Japan or Europe, their face would have likely lit up... But if you said these words to a child in Russia, they'd have looked at you blankly. These companies were not present in the region at the time. Say 'Dendy', however, and you'd invoke that same kind of magic."
[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@example.com. 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!]