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[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's roundup includes some amazing highlights from the Summer Games Done Quick speedrun series, a look at intriguing new title Sea Of Solitude, and lots more still, including Penn & Teller VR, Mordhau's toxicity, video game cartography, and many more.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Editor Roundtable: What's up with game subscription services? (Staff / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"While PlayStation Now has hovered in the background for a few years, 2019 marks the first year that multiple companies will attempt to offer players a full library of games all at the low low price of $15/month (ish)... After dropping onto an island with 95 other games journalists, the editorial team at Gamasutra has survived to suss out their opinions of about the coming subscription storm."
“I Incite This Meeting to Rebellion”: Radical Feminism and Police Violence in the Early 1900s Board Game Suffragetto (Renee Shelby / ROMchip Journal - ARTICLE)
"For all of the archival accounts and contemporary representations of the movement, histories on the WSPU tend to overlook a remarkable yet wholly ordinary object they created—a board game. Suffragetto (ca. 1907–8) is a contest of strategy, invasion, and violence between suffragettes and police... [SIMON'S NOTE: part of the first issue of ROMchip Journal, an excellent start at a free, culturally-led historical video game academic-ish journal!]"
Return of the Obra Dinn - Hopefully a Classic (Joseph Andersen / YouTube - VIDEO)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: Yep, I know an Obra Dinn critique is a little LTTP, but Andersen has one of the best - if spoiler-heavy - explanations of why this game has won so many awards and plaudits, despite its deliberately minimalist stylings.]"
Review: Penn & Teller’s VR experience is hilarious, magical, and decidedly cruel(Tristan Greene / TheNextWeb - ARTICLE)
"Gearbox today launched Penn & Teller VR: Frankly Unfair, Unkind, Unnecessary, & Underhanded. Anyone who remembers the old boxed magician‘s tool-kits from yesteryear (amaze and astound your friends!) will feel right at home with this hilariously cruel VR experience. P&T: VR isn’t a game so much as it’s a performance aid, tool for pranksters, or gateway drug for budding magicians."
‘Kids are not born toxic’ - How Roblox tries to keep 90 million children safe(Brendan Caldwell / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"“It is about giving kids those skills that they would’ve probably learned in the playground before,” says Higgins when I ask about her job at Gamelab Barcelona. “So problem solving, empathy, working together to achieve a goal, supporting your peers.” She is the head of “digital civility” at Roblox. That means she is basically the “safety and kindness” officer, except she doesn’t wear a hardhat."
'Wizards Unite' Turns the World into a Branded 'Harry Potter' Hellscape (Lewis Gordon / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Ironically, given the technologies involved, Niantic’s latest offering feels a damn sight cruder as a piece of brand marketing than the seemingly old fashioned billboards and uniforms. Where those are folded into the physical world—indeed, inseparable from it— Harry Potter: Wizards Unite feels strangely detached from the world we’re already experienced."
The female game designers fighting back on abortion rights (Laura Hudson / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"For many people making games that address reproductive rights, the goal is not to force players to accept a single perspective or conclusion, but to contend with the numerous tangible, personal experiences of people dealing with unintended pregnancies. Most of all, they ask players to consider the very real human beings trying to make difficult decisions about abortion."
The Best Speedruns From SGDQ 2019 (Jason Schreier / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"You have not truly lived until you’ve watched speedrunner MitchFlowerPower play through Grand Poo World 2, one of the most brilliant and devious takes on Super Mario World I’ve ever seen. Mitch’s genius platforming was just one highlight of this year’s excellent Summer Games Done Quick marathon. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see 'GDQ proves that glitches can be a great part of games' from RockPaperShotgun.]"
"Accurate" E3 Demos (Raycevick / YouTube - VIDEO)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: A very entertaining look at the real-time demos shown at E3 vs. the final games that shipped in their place - some very close to the demo, some not that close at all.]"
Rampant racism and toxicity are driving players away from Mordhau (Samuel Horti / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"What started as a janky fan project made for the competitive Chivalry: Medieval Warfare community has become one of the best multiplayer hack-and-slashers on PC, and it's sold more than a million copies. But for some players, Mordhau's fun combat has been tainted by a growing toxicity problem that sees racist, sexist and homophobic slurs thrown around in both the in-game chat and the official forums, seemingly without repercussions."
The Video Games That Made People Question Their Beliefs (Gita Jackson / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"By 2007, the Iraq War was in full swing. Udall told Kotaku over the phone that as a kid, he hadn’t really considered the humanity of the Iraqi people. He was just barely out of childhood when the war started, and his entire family and community supported it. But Radiant Dawn forced him to think about what it would be like to live in an occupied country. It changed something for him."
Designer Notes 46: Brendon Chung – Part 1 (Soren Johnson / Idle Thumbs - PODCAST)
"In this episode, Soren interviews independent game developer Brendon Chung, best known for his work on Atom Zombie Smasher, Thirty Flights of Loving, and Quadrilateral Cowboy. They discuss how to make an adventure game inside of Doom, why he won’t read text popups but will read the back of cereal boxes, and what does the ending of Gravity Bone mean."
The time I tried to ruin Halo 2 (John Hopson / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Usually, public discussions about games user research focus on the times we were right, the times when data fixed game design. This story is one of the other times, when two otherwise competent researchers drew the wrong conclusions about an innovative piece of game design and made bad recommendations, and how the game succeeded in spite of that."
How Did War Become a Game? (Invicta / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this video we continue to take a look at the history of Kriegsspiel and explore the early days of wargaming that eventually gave rise to modern table top games such as Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons."
Inside the intricate world of video game cartography (Aaron Kylie / Canadian Geographic - ARTICLE)
"“Thank you, Kassandra,” quips Benjamin Hall, as a crowd watching Kassandra’s tour on a big screen behind him in a meeting room at the Wyndham Grand Athens hotel breaks into laughter. Like Jim Carrey’s Truman Burbank in the 1998 film The Truman Show, Kassandra has no clue she’s the main character in a simulated reality. Today Hall, the Canadian-based world director of the video game Kassandra stars in, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, is playing puppeteer with an Xbox One controller."
Tencent Global Esports Summit Highlights: $66M in Media Rights, $64M in Sponsorship Revenue for H1 2019 (Hongyu Chen / eSports Observer - ARTICLE)
"On June 20, Tencent Holdings and the Hainan government held the Tencent Global Esports Annual Summit in the Hainan Boao Asia International Conference Center. Multiple Chinese and Western leaders from esports-relevant companies were in attendance, and the world first witnessed a number of notable new partnerships and the announcement of a $145M governmental esports fund. [SIMON'S NOTE: just think it's interesting to see this eSports temperature check from China - my view? The people who make/own the games are making the money.]"
How Artifact became Valve's biggest failure (Mike Stubbs / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
""Valve like their players to drive their marketing," continues Garfield. "I think that at some point, you have to take control of that yourself. They have some very positive messages there and very positive things in their game design and they're being sort of misrepresented by a lot of the player community.""
Clark Tank: Post E3 News, Demos, and playing My Friend Pedro! (Ryan Clark / Brace Yourself Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Every third Friday at 1pm Pacific time we stay on top of the latest game industry trends by examining the Steam top 50, scrutinizing the latest Kickstarted games, and by playing the most prominent recent releases... This week... we take a look at post E3 news, discuss if demos are viable, the Steam Top 50, and we play and analyze My Friend Pedro!"
Meet the geographer who tells studios when they’re ignorant and offensive(Brendan Caldwell / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"We hear a lot about level designers in games... Kate Edwards is none of those things. She is a geographer. It seems like an odd job for the games industry, but the more you learn about her work, the more it feels essential. Edwards is hired by studios to cast her geo-eye over the shuffling NPCs of sci-fi space stations, to examine tiny markings in the giant buildings of first-person shooters, and inspect the maps of sprawling fantasy realms. She’s there to ask one thing: is this game being ignorant?"
The tangled web of video game addiction (Kimberley Wallace / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"Truth be told, researchers and psychological professionals still don’t have great data to say for certain what we’re dealing with when people can’t power down. And yet, it’s impossible to ignore the news stories or personal accounts of those who have had games negatively impact their lives, from Fortnite being cited in divorce filings to professional sports teams like the Vancouver Canucks banning it and other games during the season."
A Dream Cast - Part 1 (Archipel / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This year, for the 20th anniversary of the Dreamcast, we decided to engage in another set of conversations; this time with the game creators behind some of the console's most iconic titles... Full Cast: Hiroshi Iuchi (Ikaruga), Kenji Kanno (Crazy Taxi), Masayoshi Kikuchi (Jet Set Radio), Rieko Kodama (Eternal Arcadia), Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Space Channel 5 / Rez), Tetsu Okano (Segagaga), Yoot Saito (Seaman) & Hiroaki Yotoriyama (SoulCalibur)."
The 20 Best Videogames of 2019 So Far (Garrett Martin & Paste Writers / Paste - ARTICLE)
"2019 is only half over but it’s already been full of games that meet both criteria, the tactile physical thrills we hope to encounter with a controller in our hand, and the intellectual and emotional resonance that makes a game stick with us long after we put that controller down. It’s been a good year for games so far, and here are the 20 works most responsible for that."
‘Sea of Solitude’ is a game that wants us to play with what it means to be human (Todd Martens / LA Times - ARTICLE)
"We’re accustomed to games, even the most nuanced, beginning with a clear problem: an outlaw on the run, a world in peril, a loved one kidnapped and held hostage by a gorilla. “Sea of Solitude,” however, starts with an overwhelmed plea, a phrase spoken with equal amounts of desperation and hopelessness: “Change me.”"
The Mortgaging of Sierra Online (Jimmy Maher / Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"Another even-numbered year, another King’s Quest game. Such had been the guiding rhythm of life at Sierra Online since 1986, and 1992 was to be no exception. Why should it be? Each of the last several King’s Quest installments had sold better than the one before, as the series had cultivated a reputation as the premier showcase of bleeding-edge computer entertainment."
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later, 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 & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]