[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 highlights include analysis of adventure title Unavowed, a cover story on Fortnite streamer Ninja, & detailed impressions of Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Living The Stream (Elaine Teng / ESPN Magazine - ARTICLE)
"In a sweltering afternoon in Chicago, with the bass from the closest stage at Lollapalooza booming in the background, a dozen kids cluster at a tent to watch a pale, gangly young man with neon pink hair play a video game. "It's Ninja! It's Ninja! He plays Fortnite!""
Seeing farther: the advert that changed the games industry (Keith Stuart / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"The photo is black and white, and slightly soft-focused. There are eight people dressed in black, lounging together in front of a paint-splattered roll of tarp. Their faces are young and rock star serious. They could be actors or musicians, but they're not."
Two Hours With The Amazingly Detailed Red Dead Redemption 2 (Stephen Totilo / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"I left impressed with the level of detail I’d just seen, each scene filled with the sorts of tiny touches that only seem to show up in these most expensive of Rockstar game worlds. The landscape of this version of 1899 America seems enormous and full of life. [SIMON'S NOTE: other impressions from Polygon & from The Verge, among others!]
Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube (Rebecca Lewis / Data & Society - ARTICLE/REPORT)
"[This report] presents data from approximately 65 political influencers across 81 channels to identify the “Alternative Influence Network (AIN)”; an alternative media system that adopts the techniques of brand influencers to build audiences and “sell” them political ideology. [SIMON'S NOTE: Yes, of course there's at least some video game overlap here...]"
The Tour - Episode #3 (AREA5 / Hearthstone eSports / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Living the esports life may look fun - and it is - but it’s also a full-time job, as this episode of The Tour proves. Focusing on Muzzy and Cora at HCT Sweden by DreamHack Summer, the two discuss Hearthstone as a career while competing and casting at the tournament."
The making of Total Annihilation (Erlingur Einarsson / Retro Gamer via PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"Total Annihilation came out when games, and RTS games in particular, were quickly evolving. By the mid-Nineties, PCs were capable of capturing the necessary scale of battles, and online gaming was about to become a phenomenon. And it was that world Total Annihilation creator Chris Taylor was waiting for. We caught up with Chris and asked him about the game's origins."
Seeking fun and glory, prospective pro gamers hone their skills in digital dojos (Jacob Bogage / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"Among the guest speakers who attended the first week of esports summer camp in Potomac, Md., were a personal trainer, a video-game-focused physical therapist and a broadcast news anchor. The next generation of professional video gamers needs good posture, limber thumbs and the confidence to handle a postgame interview."
Why Gaming Is An Art Form That Belongs In A Gallery (Zoheir Beig / The Quietus - ARTICLE)
"As the Victoria & Albert Museum host a major exhibition of gaming, Zoheir Beig celebrates the thwacking of the big final level baddy called snobbery and the increasingly widespread acceptance of it as an art form in its own right."
Head like a hole: The wisdom of Donut County dev Ben Esposito (Alex Wawro & Bryant Francis / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"In a crowded sea of games this year, developer Ben Esposito launched Donut County, a quirky, personal game filled with hand-crafted puzzles where players control a hole in the ground that sucks up a fictional Southern California county. Esposito spent six years of his life making this wonderful game, and he learned a lot along the way."
After an 18 month wait, Nintendo's Online service feels disappointingly flat (Martin Robinson / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"You don't really associate the day-glo world of Splatoon with a sense of melancholy, so it's been strange these past few days walking around Splatoon 2's lobby and seeing the cloud of gloom that's recently hung over Inkopolis. There, in little sketches that hang over players heads like thought bubbles, were scruffy laments for the imminent end of free online, and the launch of Nintendo's paid service."
Welcome to the world, Alphabear 2 (David Edery / Game Tycoon - ARTICLE)
"We applied for an SBIR grant to the US Department of Education. Our explicit goal was to create a sequel to Alphabear that would actually be educational, as opposed to merely seeming to be educational. But at the same time, it would be a game that could compete in today’s hyper-crowded and competitive mobile marketplace... [SIMON'S NOTE: Spry Fox are that rare indie F2P studio navigating ethics & education in a market sometimes lacking, uh, both - a super-neat read on their new title!]"
The Surprising Feminist Overtures of a Leisure Suit Larry Retrospective (Rachel Presser / ZEAL / Medium - ARTICLE)
"I’m not the only girl who played Leisure Suit Larry growing up. I’m not even the first to say that it got undeserved flack for its content. But I might be the first to say that there is an incredible amount of unintentional feminism within the series."
Hajime Tabata on Final Fantasy 15’s finale and what comes next (Jeremy Parish / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Final Fantasy 15 has been beset by delays, development challenges and drama both within the company and on fan forums alike, yet Tabata never gives the impression of someone who has been worn down by the stress of it all. Instead, he appears more philosophical — analytical, seeing no shortage of lessons in all those ups and downs to apply to future endeavors."
Designing Unforgettable Titanfall Single Player Levels with Action Blocks (Christopher Dionne / GDC / YouTube - ARTICLE)
"In this GDC 2018 session, Respawn Entertainment's Christopher Dionne explains a rapid-prototyping technique he calls "action blocks," and how that technique helped Respawn quickly build levels in Titanfall 2's single-player mode."
In the Eye of the Storm: The Weather Channel Forecasts Hurricane Florence With Stunning Visuals (Scott Martin / Nvidia - ARTICLE)
"The Atlanta-based television network has adopted graphics processing more common to video game makers in its productions. The result — see video below — is the stunning, immersive mixed reality visual to accompany meteorologists in live broadcasts."
Aibo the robot dog will melt your heart with mechanical precision (Geoffrey A. Fowler / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"I’ve been giving a robot belly rubs. I’ve scolded it for being a bad, bad boy. I’ve grinned when it greets me at the door. What’s this feeling? Oh, yes, puppy love. And I felt it for Aibo, a new “autonomous companion” dog made by Sony. [SIMON'S NOTE: virtual pets have a fine tradition in the video game world, of course - the rebooted Aibo is just a physical one.]"
The Gateway Games of Legend (Preceded by the Legend of Gateway) (Jimmy Maher / Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"On their first foray into a type of game that would come to fill much of their catalog in subsequent years: a literary license. For this first time out, they were fortunate enough to get the best kind of literary license, short of the vanishingly rare case of one where an active, passionate author is willing to serve as a true co-creator: the kind where the author doesn’t appear to be all that interested in or even aware of the project’s existence."
Witch-craft: How Dicey Dungeons balances chance and predictability (Alex Wiltshire / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"It’s a simple concept, and it amounts to playing the odds of getting certain values and using good strategy to manipulate them to your advantage. And while Dicey Dungeons is still a few months from final release, Cavanagh already thinks it’s one of the best games he’s yet made. “Sometimes it just clicks and you know you have something,” he says. Being as incredibly modest as he is, that’s a strong statement."
A How-To Guide for Muslim Representation in Video Games (Osama Dorias / WB Montreal - ARTICLE)
"In this 2018 GDC talk, Warner Brothers Montreal's Osama Dorias draws on his life experience, research, and over a decade of industry experience, to explain the importance of positive Muslim representation, to debunk common misconceptions about Islam and Muslims, and to empower attendees with a list of actionable items that they can apply to aid Muslims in their struggle for positive and fair representation in video games."
What Works And Why: Story structure in Unavowed (Tom Francis / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"Unavowed is a point-and-click adventure from Wadjet Eye, who made the Blackwell series and The Shivah. I haven’t played those games, and I don’t usually like point-and-clicks. But Unavowed gripped me from start to finish. It has a few mechanical modernisations over other adventure games, but most of what sucked me in was just the story, and the way it’s told."
[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!]