[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner, No More Robots advisor), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's roundup includes impressions and reviews of a whole bunch of big holiday titles, from Death Stranding through Luigi's Mansion 3 to Modern Warfare and beyond, as well as neat pieces on food in games, Junji Ito's influence on our medium, & lots and lots more.
Also this week, just wanted to shout out the Washington Post, which has added a dedicated video game section, Launcher - love it when those broadsheets take video games seriously & give over in-depth resources to it.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
'Death Stranding' Shines When You're Delivering Packages in a Haunted World (Rob Zacny / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Atop an interesting premise where the border between life and death has broken down and been transformed into a new frontier for exotic resources and technology, Death Stranding begins piling on more analogy, and turning decent subplots or bits of backstory into feature-length drama. [SIMON'S NOTE: Lots and lots more takes on this high-budget oddity - I enjoyed VG247's in particular, and Kotaku's is also excellent, as is Ars Technica's. Go wild!]
Steam game sales for 'the other 50%' (Simon Carless / Game Discoverability Now! - ARTICLE)
"In this case, the developer at Bad Logic Studios has been generous enough to share full Steam stats with us. I think it’s an interesting look at ‘the other side’ of Steam - well made hobbyist or semi-pro games that don’t break out, despite being functional and decent quality."
Ms. Pac-Man’s Revenge (Soleil Ho / Eater - ARTICLE)
"In this essay from Women on Food, Soleil Ho, now the restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, tracks the history of food in video games and wonders: Does the presence or lack of food in gaming have something to do with gender?"
Rekka Bellum and Devine Lu Linvega, Hundred Rabbits (XOXO Festival / YouTube - VIDEO)
"For the last three years, Rekka Bellum and Devine Lu Linvega have sailed the Pacific Ocean on Pino, a sailboat turned mobile studio, making videogames, art, and music with their own homegrown software. Off-grid for long stretches, Hundred Rabbits is supported by patrons who follow along through video updates to their Patreon project."
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is perfectly silly slapstick comedy (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Most video game protagonists walk with purpose. Nathan Drake has a particular swagger as he strolls through ancient tombs, while Leon Kennedy holds himself with the confidence of a trained professional amid the horrors of a zombie infestation. Luigi isn’t like that. Mario’s bumbling brother is always slightly on edge, and that has never been more apparent than in Luigi’s Mansion 3."
Horror Master Junji Ito Doesn’t Know Video Games—But Video Games Certainly Know Him (Zack Kotzer / EGM Now - ARTICLE)
"Even if the renowned manga artist isn’t keeping tabs himself, the body of work Ito has created in his native Japan over the past three decades has given him an outsized influence on the horror genre, an influence that extends into gaming. Beyond obvious homages like the upcoming one-bit RPG World of Horror—which gleefully cribs the tone and visual style from Ito’s manga—anyone familiar with his work has no doubt seen its shadow in a wide selection of horror games."
Deep Dive: Inside the narrative design and 'multiple middles' of Mutazione (Hannah Nicklin / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"When I came to Mutazione (pronounced as it is in Italian [muh-taht-zee-own-ay] /mutatËÊ¦joËne/) the game had been in development for around 6 years (though not all full time). As part of my brief I was presented with a fully formed story-world and set of characters, and a plot for the overall game."
An Introvert’s Guide to Networking (Victoria Tran / Medium - ARTICLE)
"We’ve all heard it. It’s important to make real connections! Make sure you have business cards! Chat! Have fun! Ask questions! Go to this event! Go to that! Did you introduce yourself to this person? Hey meet these 50 new people at this one overwhelming event!"
Chris Huelsbeck Interview - Star Wars, Factor 5, Turrican and more! (Digital Foundry Retro / YouTube - VIDEO)
"DF Retro takes over DF Direct this week with a deep dive into the music of the legendary Chris Huelsbeck... courtesy of a conversation with Chris himself! Learn all about his music for Rainbow Arts, Factor 5 and more on C64, Amiga, consoles and beyond."
Kine turns the drama of aspiring musicians into a puzzle game (Michael Moore / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"Despite the frustrating camera, these sequences feature the game’s best puzzles as they start to combine the different movements and mechanics of the trio into stages that are not only clever, but give you the feeling of cooperation between these three instruments as they play together."
Struggling at Fortnite or Apex Legends? Players and parents are turning to tutors. (Hawken Miller / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"The lesson was well-known to Ford, an avid Fortnite player, but it required a little drilling before Yeo could embrace it. It was a lesson taught to them by Cody Lefevre, a 26-year-old lacrosse coach and elementary school PE teacher in Colorado who, for $175 per 90 minutes, moonlights as a coach for aspiring Fortnite amateurs."
When a player gets the game (Robin Sloan / Electric Eel - ARTICLE)
"Recently, and for the first time, I contributed some writing to a video game. I’m a longtime player of video games, and I know how computers work, but even so, the experience surprised me. Turns out, making media always has a texture that’s different from consuming it, and you’ll never know what it is until you do the work! [SIMON'S NOTE: Robin is the author of the excellent & slightly surreal Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, which you should read if you haven't.]"
Wot I Think: Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare (Matt Cox / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"If you reckon a tense, varied, visually impressive and mechanically gripping campaign is enough to sweeten the sour taste of its politics, that’s fine. That’s about the page I’m on. If you’re ready for another dunk in COD’s multiplayer gunge, the tank’s right there. [SIMON'S NOTE: This latest iteration actually been pretty well reviewed overall, but is, yes, w*r p*rn.]"
The Slow Burn Arthouse Horror of The Space Between (Errant Signal / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Who's ready for a methodical, introspective drama that has horror elements!? WOOO!"
The Ambitious Future of 'Dead Cells' Is Ditching Co-Ops For Capitalism (Patrick Klepek / VICE - ARTICLE)
"Filby pointed towards the concept of “permanent battles,” where Motion Twin’s zero hierarchy model, in which bosses are made irrelevant and everyone has a voice in a creative decisions regardless of their expertise, as “a game of persuasion” and “really taxing.”"
Designing Grindstone's super satisfying board-clearing gameplay (Aron Garst / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
""We always sort of pictured it as a barbarian setting, a brutal setting with a sort of fun cartoonish take on that world," he added. "We prototyped it with just basic animations and static frames on a grid and it pretty much stayed the same throughout the history of its development.""
League of Legends is now 10 years old. This is the story of its birth. (Brian Crecente / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"Before the millions of players, before the billions in revenue, before the esports tournaments that topped 100 million spectators, League of Legends was more of an idea than a game. And the game that did exist in the year-long lead up to its release wasn’t very good."
Long-Distance Empathy: An Interview with Hideo Kojima About DEATH STRANDING (Famitsu - ARTICLE)
"I liken DEATH STRANDING to a new racing game. The actual act of driving the car functions like every other racing game you've ever played, so that will likely make sense immediately. As you get further into the game, though, you start to realize that the fun of this particular racing game doesn't come from attacking the corners and competing for the best time, and that realization can be quite liberating."
John Wick Hex and the Problems of Adaptation (Writing On Games / YouTube - VIDEO)
"John Wick Hex is a game that admirably captures the essence of one of my favourite franchises through incredibly unique, sometimes fascinating mechanics. It represents a huge risk taken by a small team that I respect immensely. I also have zero fun actually playing it—let's talk about why that is."
What the Golf? is going on in this Q&A (John Harris / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Golf is known all around the world and is mostly played by rich people, so it seemed like a safe target to ridicule. Terry Pratchett once said “Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it's not satire, it's bullying.” which is true and one of the reasons that we picked those blockbuster games we make fun of in What the Golf?"
[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!]