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Video Game Deep Cuts: A is for Apple Arcade, B is for rolling bones?Â

This week's roundup includes a variety of looks at the Apple Arcade subscription announcement, an intriguing video on how the Mongolian steppes do gaming, plus pieces on Sekiro, clicker games, AR, video game folklorists, and lots more besides.

Simon Carless, Blogger

March 29, 2019

9 Min Read

[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 a variety of looks at the Apple Arcade subscription announcement, an intriguing video on how the Mongolian steppes do gaming, plus pieces on Sekiro, clicker games, AR, video game folklorists, and lots more besides.

This version of VGDC is being sent out a little early, since I'm flying off to London this weekend to visit with GDC & Gamasutra's parent company. And with Brexit shenanigans still in full 'swing', too, should be an entertaining trip, reading-the-Internet wise. Hope you dig the stories/videos here-in!

Until next time...
Simon, curator.]


Apple Arcade wants to slay the free-to-play monster iOS helped create (Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Apple has created a monster. Free-to-play games have taken over the iOS App Store almost entirely, creating a marketplace that is dominated by scammy timers and cheap monetization schemes, one that no amount of quality game design, curation, and promotion have been able to fix. But now (after years of profiting off this system), Apple is here with the alleged cure: Apple Arcade. [SIMON'S NOTE: Joost Van Dreunen's opinions on the announce are also well worth checking out.]"

In China, Paying Others to Play Games for You is Big Business (Tony Xu / Radii / Technode - ARTICLE)
"MMR [match making rating] boosting exists mainly in multiplayer games where high rankings serve as badges of honor and give players the opportunity to face more skilled opponents, with multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games being a prime example. As a problem that game developers around the world are still struggling to address, MMR boosting has left a deep mark in Tencent’s two most popular games: “League of Legends” and “Honour of Kings.”"

Can I stop Fortnite from stealing my dance move? (People Make Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Fortnite isn't breaking the law, but that's not the only debate worth having."

The secrets of 'review-bombing': why do people write zero-star reviews? (Rich Wordsworth / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"But on the right side of each product’s [Metacritic] page is a separate score, a bane of developers, directors and record companies everywhere: the user reviews section. It’s a public forum where anyone who registers an account can jump into the discussion, leave their own score and heap praise on a release – or, perhaps more often, pour scorn on one."

We Need More Videogame Folklorists (David Barr Kirtley / Wired - PODCAST & INTERVIEW)
"West Locher recently published the book Braving Britannia, about the seminal MMO Ultima Online, which he played obsessively for five years. Unlike most videogame books, which focus on game design or gameplay strategies, Braving Britannia is an oral history, collecting fond reminiscences from dozens of players."

Comcast to spend $50 million in South Philly to create the nation’s first video gaming arena (Bob Fernandez / Philly.com - ARTICLE)
"Comcast Spectacor, which owns the Flyers, is to announce Monday morning that it will construct the first arena for gaming fans in the U.S. for the Comcast-owned Fusion, company officials say... The 3,500-seat arena will rise on a parking lot, next to Xfinity Live! and within walking distance of the Linc, Citizens Bank Park, and the Wells Fargo Center. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is straight news, but I think it's interesting to see we're getting even further into the 'purpose-built arena' stage of eSports. Where next?]"

Nintendo Labo VR: the Willy Wonka of video games tries virtual reality (Keza MacDonald / The Guardian - ARTICLE)
"Labo is not the VR device that will finally break through and make the technology ubiquitous, but that’s not what it’s trying to do. Like the other Nintendo Labo kits, released last year for Nintendo Switch, it is an interesting and educational toy aimed at curious children and their families."

Hidengen - episode 2: board game makers (Archipel / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Our 2nd episode of Hidengen, led once again by graphic & game designer YACOYON, follows Tendays Games, Oink Games and Arclight, 3 key makers of Japan’s board game scene, where we will dive into their work, while also hearing their thoughts and perspectives towards the Game Market, Japan’s largest board game event."

The Unexpected Philosophical Depths of the Clicker Game Universal Paperclips (Neima Jahroni / The New Yorker - ARTICLE)
"In 2017, Lantz put Universal Paperclips into the world, and it went viral, drawing in hundreds of thousands of players a day and crashing the servers that it ran on. “The meme weather was good for me,” Lantz said, of the game’s rapid success. “There was just enough public discussion of A.I. safety in the air.”"

The 10 Best Games of GDC 2019 (Holly Green & Dante Douglas / Paste - ARTICLE)
"This year’s GDC was once again not only a place for the industry’s best and brightest to gather together and support its innovation and creativity, but also a spot to scout some of the upcoming games that will awe and inspire for the next few years to come. From Day of the Devs to the Indie Megabooth, Train Jam, Alt.Ctrl.GDC, Mild Rumpus, IGF and more, we visited every pocket of spare expo space, played everything we could get our hands on, and came away excited about what’s in store for the near future."

The Colonial, Non-colonial and Decolonial in Video Games (Nikhil Murthy / Why Not Games - ARTICLE)
"Search and gather for renewable resources seems like fair game though, both for survival games and for something like Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor. I really like that game as an example of the non-colonial. As you play the game, you learn more about the titular spaceport that you clean and you start learning the best places to sell the stuff that you pick up..."

Game Industry Layoffs Driven by Past Mistakes, Uncertain Future (Analysts) (Michael Futter / Variety - ARTICLE)
"These job losses are a direct result of business strategy decisions. Whether that’s investment in the wrong genre, overinvestment in the next “sure thing,” or simply gambling on a location with high property values and cost-of-living, executives are responsible for the livelihoods of those under them."

'Dwarf Fortress' Is Abandoning Its Text-Based Graphics, but Not Its Soul (Matthew Gault / Motherboard - ARTICLE)
"The Adams brothers teamed up with developer Kitfox Games (the studio behind Shrouded Isle) and its own modding community to update Dwarf Fortress’ art style without abandoning its soul. In fact, Adams thinks that the 2D change presents unique opportunities to make the game more accessible and fix legacy issues with Dwarf Fortress. “ASCII is not purely an aesthetic choice. It is restrictive,” Adams told me over the phone. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see this Waypoint take on some of the healthcare & work issues that led the devs to this juncture!]"

Diversifying Play with Greg Johnson (The Spelunky Showlike / Libsyn - PODCAST)
"ToeJam & Earl creator Greg Johnson gets funky with us, as we deconstruct his latest entry in the series - Back in the Groove - and discuss his approach to playfulness and accessibility in roguelikes, the lack of cultural diversity in games, and much more."

15 Hours In, 'Sekiro' Gave Me a Midterm Exam That Exposed My Whole Ass (Patrick Klepek / Waypoint - ARTICLE)
"The word “death” blares across the screen, and my fist slams against the desk for what feels like the hundredth time. Nearby, my dog growls at the sudden noise. The enemy who’s killed me for the last three hours, the source of my rage, quietly returns to their post; I am no longer a concern, the status quo maintained. [SIMON'S NOTE: Yes, a Souls/Bloodborne spiritual sequel is hella hard, haha!]"

The Animation of Samus (Dan Root / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Let's take a look at the history of Samus's animation, and what sort of things we can expect for Metroid Prime 4 and future Metroid titles. How has Nintendo maintained the freshness, uniqueness, interest and consistency in animating Samus in Metroid games? Let's find out!"

Depressed and Anxious? These Video Games Want to Help (Laura Parker / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"These games are a far cry from the industry’s better-known story lines of battlefield heroics or the zombie apocalypse. But as a cultural conversation around mental health grows louder, makers of content are responding. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five American adults lives with a mental illness."

Morrowind: An oral history (Alex Kane / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"For the people who made it, Morrowind was the product of tough crunch, a pressure-cooker basement environment, and constant uncertainty about the company they worked for — which many felt could have shut down any day. But the island of Vvardenfell, and its unique pantheon of gods and demons, seemed to exist independent of the concerns upstairs."

The Sound Of Nostalgia (Ernie Smith / Tedium - ARTICLE)
"Reliving [the Sega Genesis'] sounds in their best form hasn’t been easy in the modern day, however, due to challenges in emulating the console correctly. However, a challenger appears: The Analogue Mega Sg, a field programmable gate array (FPGA)-based console aims to recreate the experience. Today’s Tedium is a review of that console—and a little backstory on the biggest problem it tries to solve."

Rolling Bones: Games of the Mongolian Steppe (Drew Scanlon / Cloth Map / YouTube - VIDEO)
"We get outside the city for a taste (literally) of rural life, including perhaps the most versatile game implement in the country. [SIMON'S NOTE: the whole Cloth Map output - travelogues with hints of video game relevance - is actually quite interesting.]"

AR will spark the next big tech platform - call it Mirrorworld (Kevin Kelly / Wired - ARTICLE)
"The mirrorworld doesn’t yet fully exist, but it is coming. Someday soon, every place and thing in the real world—every street, lamppost, building, and room—will have its full-size digital twin in the mirrorworld. For now, only tiny patches of the mirrorworld are visible through AR headsets.  [SIMON'S NOTE: has a bit of the Wired 'future fanaticism' about it, but also makes a number of good points - and I really do think AR is going to be a big deal in X (10?) years time.]"


[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 & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]

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Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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