[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 look at new Zachtronics title Eliza, the moral panic about Fortnite and 'good play', and the incredible Wii Sports speedrunners, among a host of other interesting pieces.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The strange and surprisingly intense world of Wii Sports speedrunners (Cian Maher / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Wii Sports is generally remembered as a fun-oriented game, something light to play with friends and family. That’s why it’s strange to consider the bizarre speedrunning scene attached to Wii Sports Golf where players compete to finish a round as quickly as possible using a variety of different techniques."
Discoverability - A 'Hot or Not?' Genre Guide (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Weekly / Substack - ARTICLE)
"One thing I think about a lot when I check out today’s mammoth crop of video games is this. How did people decide the concept (& therefore broad genre) behind their game? The reason this is particularly relevant in 2019 is that we’re coming out of an era (‘Early Digital Discoverability’) where indie games were considered to be - just by existing - original and innovative."
Best of EVO 2019 (theScore eSports / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Another EVO has come and gone. The world’s most prestigious fighting game tournament gets bigger every year and in 2019 we of course had 9 games, 10 streams and more than 14 thousand (non unique) entries over three days. If you missed ANY of the action or you’re just in EVO withdrawal like we are, we got you."
The moral panic over Fortnite and the “purpose” of play (Holly Nielsen / New Stateman - ARTICLE)
"This tension between play as pure escapism and play as a purposeful endeavour has been argued for centuries and has contributed to boundaries between what we consider acceptable and unacceptable play. My research into historical play has uncovered many examples."
Thousands of people have come together for the most moving game of the year(Patricia Hernandez / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Kind Words is not like any game I’ve ever played. And while Kind Words relies heavily on the input from other players, it’s definitely not like any other multiplayer titles I’ve come across. The premise is simple. When you first load up the game, a deer that sounds like an Animal Crossing character asks you to write a short letter about something that’s worrying you."
Game DNA: growing order from chaos (Nate Crowley / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"The games I was playing at the time mirrored the sermons. Red Alert, where there was one resource to collect. Total Annihilation, Warcraft 2 and Starcraft, where there were two resources. And Age of Empires, where there were four. You mined the coins, spent them on war gits, and took more land to mine coins on."
Excerpt From 'Marx At The Arcade' (Jamie Woodcock / Notes From Below - ARTICLE)
"Before turning to discuss political videogames, it is first worth considering the long history of political games. Beginning in the early 1970s, Bertell Ollman, a Marxist professor from New York, set about thinking through what a left-wing political board game would involve. On playing Monopoly, he noticed that the game does something unusual."
Friday Night Consolevania - Horace (Consolevania / YouTube - VIDEO)
"This week it's back to the indies and Horace on PC. Yes, mate. [SIMON'S NOTE: Haven't talked about genius/seminal Scottish video game commentators Consolevania much recently - check out their YouTube channel for lots more. And Horace seems like an interesting/underdiscussed but ambitious titlefor a retro platformer.]"
Video Games Aren’t Why Shootings Happen. Politicians Still Blame Them. (Kevin Draper / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"Armed with little and often unconvincing evidence, politicians have blamed violence on video games for decades. Their rhetoric quickly ramped up in the 1990s, after games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom popularized the genre of violent first-person shooting games. [SIMON'S NOTE: also see this LA Times piece and this The Atlantic piece on games zooming back into the 'real-world violence' fray.]"
Shanghai Indie Game Publisher Coconut Island Brings Chinese Culture to Steam (Krish Raghav / Radii China - ARTICLE)
"When first released in late 2018, the videogame Chinese Parents was a sensation. It briefly topped the charts on Steam, the most popular PC gaming online store, and shifted over 500,000 copies in the first month. It was mentioned in China’s biggest newspaper, The People’s Daily, and dominated livestream feeds and Weibo conversations in the country."
How Activision Blizzard has moved billions of dollars of profit into tax havens (Tax Watch UK - ARTICLE)
"In this report we explore the different structures of Activision Blizzard and King group companies and demonstrate how Activision Blizzard moves billions of dollars from its non-US operations into tax havens."
Iga's Lair - an alternative path to game creation (Archipel / YouTube - VIDEO)
"We met with game industry veteran Koji 'IGA' Igarashi, who recently released "Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night", after a successful Kickstarter campaign held in 2015. As he reflects back on the story behind his title, he was joined later that night by Yohei Kataoka, the creator behind "Tokyo Jungle", another game resulting from alternative funding."
Sean Murray calls No Man’s Sky Beyond the game’s “2.0” version—we believe it (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
""None of us had super high hopes for [Next]," Murray said from Hello Games' headquarters in Guildford, England. He recalled the game's age at that point—two years since launch, and a year after its last significant update—and assumed Next would largely be received by "those already playing the game." Instead, Murray said the free patch drove "millions" in new sales across all platforms combined."
Zachtronics' New Visual Novel Eliza Reckons With an Industry and Generation in Burnout Crisis (Caty McCarthy / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"Reading and hearing about Eliza, it doesn't sound too far from reality. It's easy to see in the near future a mogul like Jeff Bezos capitalizing on the mental health crisis in the United States and beyond, because in their eyes, why not talk to your Alexa about not just turning on the lights or what the weather's like, but about the hard parts of your day too?"
The Dark Side of the Video Game Industry (Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj / Netflix / YouTube - VIDEO)
"On the latest episode of Patriot Act, Hasan takes a look at how the video game industry has grown into a $139 billion a year business and a cultural force. While gaming is more prominent than ever, some of the most popular video games are made under unfavorable working conditions."
The List of 2,000 Journalists the Video Game Lobby Doxed Is the Last Thing It Had to Offer (Rob Zacny / VICE - ARTICLE)
"The ESA is first and foremost a lobbying and advocacy organization. But crucially, its roots lie in the issues and controversies of the 1990s, when video games first emerged as a major economic and cultural force and was immediately greeted by hostile and frequently ignorant US politicians who were convinced they represented a new and novel threat to the morals of children."
The great escape (Rachel Sugar / Vox - ARTICLE)
"“What is there in culture,” wonders the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, “that is not a form of escape?” As evidence, he cites glass-tower cities, suburbs, good books, shopping malls, movies, communal feasts, gardens, vacations, and Disneyland. To that you could add music, theater, video games, podcasts, theme parks, haunted houses, extreme sports, Instagram, pornography, and improv comedy. Also, escape rooms."
Hot dogs and history at Cyan Worlds (Phil Salvador / The Obscuritory - ARTICLE)
"It was a reminder of how deeply human games are. Cyan is more than a building full of props. (And hundreds of unsold copies of The Manhole: CD-ROM Masterpiece Edition, which they significantly overproduced. Anyone got a copy who asked.) Their building is at the center of the long story of Cyan Worlds, but that story comes from the shared history of everyone in attendance."
09 to '19: A Decade of Approachability in Fighting Games (Noah Sasso / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC talk, Iron Galaxy Studios' Noah Sasso surveys the ways developers have attempted to broaden the audience for one of the oldest and most exciting genres in the industry: fighting games."
Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo team up to force loot box odds disclosures (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will start requiring new and updated games that sell randomized loot boxes on their consoles to reveal the relative odds of getting individual in-game items through those loot boxes. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a notable concession to those that say games are getting too gambling-y, although more of a disclosure-related one than an actual business model change.]"
Business Cosplay (The Catamites / HarmonyZone - ARTICLE)
"One of the recurring lines around the Epic store is that it's anti-consumer, in part because it effectively has bottomless cash reserves to throw around. Which itself demonstrates how "the market" (the brief scuffle for position in the Battle Royale format) leads to positions which are "anti-market", in the sense of having enough money to no longer have to play by those original imaginary rules."
Riot Employees Say Company Has Made Real Progress Fixing Its Sexism Issues(Cecilia D'Anastasio / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"Over the last week, 14 current or recent Riot employees spoke with Kotaku about the game company’s forward momentum toward equitable workplace conditions. Now that it’s all out in the open—the slanted hiring practices, the chauvinism, the ball-tapping frat antics—employees are witnessing the rollout of a belated justice. Everybody we spoke to was optimistic about the future of Riot Games, even as some at the company disagree on how best to implement cultural change."
[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!]