[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 highlights include a couple of pieces on the hotly awaited The Outer Worlds, and a gratifyingly complex New York Times magazine piece on the nature of game addiction - or indeed, any addiction.
Also in here somewhere? A plethora of other wonderful pieces of writing and video on games as culture. Thank you, every single outlet and author who put these together.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The Outer Worlds review: Fall deeply into the best Fallout-like game in years (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"But what if someone went back to the Fallout 3 wheel, with a clear understanding of what made Fallout's questing, 3D exploration, and choice-filled quests so addictive, and doubled down on that formula, complaints of "too familiar" be damned? You'd get The Outer Worlds."
Can you really be addicted to video games? (Ferris Jabr / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"The W.H.O.’s decision has received substantial pushback, in part because the modern meaning of “addiction” is an uneasy amalgam of several contradictory legacies: a religious one, which has censured excessive drinking, gambling and drug use as moral transgressions; a scientific one, which has characterized alcoholism and drug addiction as biological diseases; and a colloquial one, which has casually applied the term to almost any fixation. [SIMON'S NOTE: please read this.]"
Video games in China: beyond the great firewall (Chris Tapsell / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"All in all, video games' story in China has been one of awkward, undeniably market-altering regulation, but also one of questionable actual effect. The stated intention behind it all is that, from damaged eyes to weakened morals, games may harm citizens of China in a variety of ways, and so they must be strictly regulated to bring that hazardous slide to a halt."
Size is ruled by perspective in the bizarre dreamworld of Superliminal (Lauren Morton / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Superliminal carries a classic Portal-like vibe of outsmarting a system designed to trap you with a similar dry humor, a comparison that could easily be either vindicating or damning seeing how many games have gone the weird facility and wry narration route."
The bestest games of EGX 2019 (RPS Hivemind / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Good afternoon, esteemed colleagues. We were all locked, at one time or another, in the RPS EGX dungeon this weekend. Given that it’s a veritable bonanza of video games, both large and small, we should discuss the bestest games we saw over the weekend. I’m sure it will be entertaining and useful for our readers!"
Paring down the elegant control scheme of Sayonara Wild Hearts (Diego Arguello / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"During development, Simogo mentioned on its blog how arcade games shaped the studio's initial ideas, recalling simpler times in which players didn’t need two analogue sticks, four bumpers, and several buttons to manage at the same time. They often felt easy to pick up and play, a premise that has always been on their mind, according to Flesser."
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear on how moderation creates communities (Bijan Stephen / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"There were streamers with teams that had everything working, but there were also streamers who felt overwhelmed and like they couldn’t figure out how to use all of Twitch’s moderation tools. “It popped as a problem,” Shear said. “We decided we had to do better. And I think it’s a big step in the right direction.” [SIMON'S NOTE: Twitch chat, at least large-scale Twitch chat, has historically been pretty trashy, but good to see they're thinking about more help/tools.]"
How Disco Elysium's opening sets the stage for existential revolt (Matt Cox / RockPaperShotgun / ARTICLE)
"Based on the opening minutes of detective RPG Disco Elysium, so does ZA/UM. It’s clear from the moment your ancient reptilian brain laments your return to consciousness. “The limbed and headed machine of pain and undignified suffering is firing up again”, and there’s nothing you can do about it."
The Man Who Used Fighting Games to Escape Homelessness (theScore eSports / YouTube - VIDEO)
"These days, Ryan Hart is known as one of the greatest fighting game players to ever come out of Europe. But his path to the top was not easy. It was paved with loneliness and adversity — as a teenager, Ryan Hart was homeless, hungry, and alone on the streets of London. "
Why do mobile gaming companies use fake ads? (Eric Seufert / Mobile Dev Memo - ARTICLE)
"To address the question asked in the title of the post: the assumption would be that companies run fake game ads because those ads work and deliver profit from ad spend. So two other questions surface: why do fake game ads work, and why do ad platforms allow them?"
'The Outer Worlds' Isn't Revolutionary, It's a Warm Blanket (Austin Walker / VICE - ARTICLE)
"My takeaway from my first 15 hours with it is simple: Even with its vaguely anti-capitalist sci-fi dressing, The Outer Worlds is more of a familiar comfort than a daring revelation. Maybe that’s okay."
Blast from the Past: Behind the Rise of the Throwback Shooter (Diego Arguello / EGMNOW - ARTICLE)
"But it’s a wave of independent developers that have become the biggest driving force behind the rise of the throwback [first-person] shooter. Some of these smaller studios are looking to build new games closely inspired by those they played when they were teenagers. Others are experimenting with classic engines and visual styles to create something original, like a new evolutionary line splintered off from a species long thought extinct."
State of Play: Six Trends Revolutionizing Games (Jonathan Lai and Andrew Chen / a16z - ARTICLE)
"Next-generation games will be bigger than anything we’ve seen yet. While current multiplayer successes like Roblox tout 100 million monthly active users, new MMOs will strive for Facebook’s scale—1 billion users. That’s because the way we develop, discover, and play games is rapidly evolving. The next generation of games will differ from their predecessors in six key ways."
How Pokémon Sword and Shield’s creators balance risk-taking with tradition (Nick Statt / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"According to Sword and Shield director Shigeru Ohmori and producer Junichi Masuda, whom I spoke with earlier this month through a translator at Nintendo’s Bay Area offices, it’s about properly balancing what makes Pokémon such a beloved series with what can make it fresh and accessible to new players. [SIMON'S NOTE: Related article: 'The story behind that weird camping minigame in Pokémon Sword and Shield' from Eurogamer.]"
Ridiculous & AMAZING Dreamcast Peripherals (Stop Skeletons From Fighting / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Soulcalibur with a Dreamcast fishing rod? Mr Driller with a microphone? Motion controlled tennis six years before Wii Tennis? Sega Dreamcast is a great system but thanks to its amazing accessories, it is your one-stop-shop for the dumbest ways to play video games! [SIMON'S NOTE: I don't tend to stray too far into the 'just goofy fun' category of YouTube game-related videos on VGDC, but this is a particularly fun one.]"
Five of the Best: Lighthouses (Christian Donlan / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"We love lighthouses, don't we? Oil paintings of 'em, rental cottages beneath 'em, Fraggle Rock - which I'm pretty sure you can stay in for a night or two if you have the cash - where a lighthouse was the portal to another world. And of course they're everywhere in games, giving a touch of focus and class to a video game landscape, but also suggesting something wistful and liminal, envoking life lived at the very edge of something!"
Don’t Play the Goose Game (Ian Bogost / The Atlantic - ARTICLE)
"The only problem is that you have to play the game to do so. And playing a game is a chore. That’s the big problem with video games: To enjoy them, you have to play them. And playing them requires exerting the effort to operate them. Games are machines, and broken ones at that. The player’s job is to make them work again."
What 9 Developers Are Excited About For Next Gen (Matt Kim / IGN - ARTICLE)
"But even though the public discourse has centered largely around graphical advancements like ray tracing (a rendering technique in which light effects are simulated with greater visual realism), other developers are looking forward to different kinds of technological advancements coming next gen."
Four Months Later, Auto Chess' Successors Are Rewriting the Genre (Eric Van Allen / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"The dust has settled in the rush for the autobattler genre, and it's not surprising who emerged as its strongest pillars. Riot Games' Teamfight Tactics put a playfully interactive spin on the formula with carousels and emotes, while Valve's Dota Underlords adhered more closely to the blueprint of the original Dota 2 mod. But months have passed, and the two titans of auto chess are rewriting the rules."
The Mainstream Media Is Not Playing Games (Ben Lindbergh / The Ringer - ARTICLE)
"On a Friday afternoon in 2017, Mike Hume, then The Washington Post’s assignment editor for national sports, notified the newsroom that there would be a meeting in an hour for anyone who was interested in covering video games. Despite the short notice, about 40 people showed up to hear his pitch."
Design, Play, Disrupt: Curating the V&A's Videogame Exhibition (Marie Foulston / GDC / YouTube - VIDEO)
"In this 2019 GDC talk, The Victoria and Albert Museum's Marie Foulston discuss the conception of Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, an exhibited aimed at defining a new curatorial language for the video game medium."
Epic Games Store: Nearly one year from launch, how is it to use? (Rick Lane / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"But putting aside whether the Epic Store is some bold trailblazer/harbinger of doom/probably somewhere in the middle, what is it like for people to actually use? As it approaches its first anniversary, how does buying and playing a game on the Epic Store compare to the same experience on Steam?"
[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!]