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Video Game Deep Cuts: We're Through The GDC Valley

This week's longform article & video highlights include plenty of GDC standouts, as well as a fascinating profile of Stardew Valley's creator. 

[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from curator/video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless, rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.

This week's highlights include plenty of GDC standouts, as well as a fascinating profile of Stardew Valley's creator. 

Phew, so that's a wrap on GDC 2018, which was an amazing* (record attended) show - thanks to everyone who came. As you can imagine, I'm short of time this week, so here's a mix of GDC write-ups (many from Gamasutra's dedicated page!) and other neat links I happened on during the week.

(*The one exception to amazing? AI Summit board member & longtime friend of the show Dave Mark was hit by a car just after GDC ended on Friday, and is hospitalized with serious injuries. If you want, please contribute to his GoFundme - for expense payments he & his family will definitely need to tap into.)

Until next time,
Simon, curator.]


Gorogoa: how the hit indie game derived from a failed comic book (Simon Parkin / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"The design of Gorogoa, the debut game by Jason Roberts, launched to widespread acclaim in December, blossomed from a failed comic book that Roberts attempted to write in 2012. In a talk titled, 'Gorogoa: The Design of a Cosmic Acrostic', delivered at the Game Developers Conference 2018 in San Francisco, Roberts told a packed room about his attempt to write and draw a comic book, which stalled ten pages in."

The Game of Everything, Part 1: Making Civilization (Jimmy Maher / The Digital Antiquarian - ARTICLE)
"During Sid Meier’s astonishingly productive first ten years as a designer and programmer, games poured out of him in such a jumble that even his colleagues at MicroProse Software could have trouble keeping straight what all he was working on at any given time. [SIMON'S NOTE: Part 2 - a gameplay explanation - is already up, too.]"

2018 Independent Games Festival & Game Developers Choice Awards (GDC / YouTube - ARTICLE)
"[SIMON'S NOTE: here's the full IGF and Choice Awards, as livestreamed during this week - go check out the amazing art (by Kert Gartner & friends) and the super-happy nominees and winners.]"

Writing comedic games the West of Loathing way (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Developer and Asymmetric chief Zach Johnson hopped onstage at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today to try and talk about how, exactly, you write and design a comedy game. He opened with an apology."

It's Time For Game Developers To Unionize (Jason Schreier / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"In a small room yesterday inside the massive Moscone Center meeting complex, roughly 200 people crowded around a large table to conduct a challenging conversation about working in the video game industry. There was a single microphone, chauffeured from person to person by a sprinting staffer working the Game Developers Conference, which is running in town all week."

The making of Dark Castle: An excerpt from The Secret History of Mac Gaming (Richard Moss / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"In a fit of sudden creative inspiration, Pierce drew out a storyboard of the whole game, which he called Dark Castle. It would be a quest against an evil Black Knight who can only be defeated by surviving a series of trials and obtaining a magic shield and the power to hurl fireballs. He told them, piece by piece, approximately how the game would work."

Valley Forged: How One Man Made the Indie Video Game Sensation Stardew Valley (Sam White / GQ - ARTICLE)
"We don’t think of popular video games—the kinds that sell millions of copies—as peaceful or intimate. But with the beloved Stardew Valley, Eric Barone discovered the alchemy of quiet gamemaking. All it took was nearly life-ruining levels of obsessiveness."

Military-themed video games can promote a damaging vision of real war (Simon Parkin / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Increasingly the entertainment industry, in particular video games, shape civilian understanding of the nature of war, and how we talk and think about combat. So much so that, according to Andrew Barron, a writer for military simulations who served a tour in Afghanistan, game makers have become "society’s teachers when it comes to war.”"

Gaming Has Many Visually Impaired Fans. Why Not Serve Them Better? (Rachael Myrow / KQED - ARTICLE / AUDIO)
"A few years ago, Madden NFL graphics developer Karen Stevens won a “game jam” — or hackathon — at the video game company Electronic Arts. Her pitch: tweak the code to make it possible to adjust, brightness and contrast controls, opt for bigger menu icons and change the colors -- you know, for people who are colorblind."

How Mario Kart influenced Nintendo's fighting game, ARMS (Simon Parkin / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"“Though they are different genres, Mario Kart and ARMS are like siblings,” said Kosuke Yabuki, Game Director of Mario Kart 7 and 8 and producer of ARMS at the Game Developers Conference this afternoon. While there may appear to be few surface-level similarities between the games, Yabuki argued that lessons learned on Nintendo’s long-running racing game series informed many aspects of Nintendo's new fighting game IP."

Documenting the 8-bit Generation & Beyond (Jennifer De La Cruz / Computer History Museum - ARTICLE)
"Founded by Tomaso Walliser and Bruno Grampa in 2008, Junk Food Films made its mark on the documentary film industry with its 2012 project the “8bit Generation,” which resulted in two documentaries Growing the 8-bit Generation: The Commodore Wars and Easy to Learn, Hard to Master: The Fate of Atari."

How Platinum designed and tuned Nier: Automata to 'feel' good (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Platinum Games made waves last year with Nier: Automata, an action-RPG about that androids that asks what it means to be human. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today, game director Yoko Taro and game designer Takahisa Taura took the stage (along with a translator) to chat about about the game came together -- and the challenges they faced along the way."

Toxic Management Cost An Award-Winning Game Studio Its Best Developers (Megan Farokmanesh / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"But the studio’s meteoric rise would not last. In November 2017, the company announced that it was laying off 90 developers, roughly a quarter of its staff. For some at Telltale, the news was a shock. For others, the inevitable outcome of what sources familiar with the company describe as years of a culture that promoted constant overwork, toxic management, and creative stagnation."

25 years on, devs reflect on the influence and impact of Star Fox (Rowan Kaiser / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Twenty-five years ago this month, Star Fox for SNES released in North America. It was Nintendo's first real foray into 3D gaming and the start of a years-long push of squeezing every ounce of power out of their aging 16-bit hardware."

Warframe Documentary (Part One) - The Story of Digital Extremes (Danny O'Dwyer / Noclip - VIDEO)
"In the first part of our series on the remarkable story of Warframe, we dive into the history of Digital Extremes and explain how the co-creators of Unreal transformed into a work-for-hire studio, and eventually found themselves having to make the leap to Free-to-Play. [SIMON'S NOTE: This is a wildly good doc - the other part, on the game itself, is also up.]

How (and why) you should better represent Muslims in your games (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"“I’ve worked on games that misrepresented Muslims, and I had no choice in the matter. I tried to make them better; sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I did not.” With those words, game designer Osama Dorias took the stage at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today to talk about why positive representation of Muslims in games is important, and share practical steps devs can take to improve the portrayal of Islam in their work."

IGDA Director Says Capital, Not Unions, Will Keep Game Development Jobs Secure (Matt Kim / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"We spoke with IGDA executive director Jen MacLean about the IGDA's new goals, and discuss the questions regarding gun violence and games, and the prospect of unionization within the industry. [SIMON'S NOTE: On the other hand, from later in the week - 'IGDA head pledges to support growing unionization movement' - not sure either headline is 100% accurate, but needless to say, this is a super complex hot button issue.]"

The Artists - Seeing Farther (Peter Mishara & Christina Piovesan / & CBC - VIDEO)
"[SIMON'S NOTE - this is a 5 part series of very high-production mini documentaries - all available, scroll down, described like this: 'Meet “The Artists,” the video-game designers, developers, and programmers who revolutionized the way we experience American entertainment and storytelling.' Interesting stuff - there's also a Chris Crawford mini-doc, for example..]

Sonic the Hedgehog's origin story, according to the devs who made him (Alex Wawro / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"Original game designer Hirokazu Yasuhara (who now works for Unity in Japan) joined original character designer Naoto Oshima (a VP and cofounder at Arzest) onstage to talk about what it was like to try and create a memorable character for Sega in the '90s."

The Long-Lost Game Company That Could’ve Defined Worldbuilding (Rowan Kaiser / Medium - ARTICLE)
"Such is the case for Mindcraft, a studio that was already rather niche in its time. But it’s a company whose legacy should be remembered, in large part for a commitment to worldbuilding, both creatively and in terms of intellectual property development."


[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at - 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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