[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.
The latest highlights include a piece on knowing your game's 'anchor' (as opposed to hook), the best video game glitches of the year, and a piece on the man who made the original Wolfenstein, as well as plenty more year/decade round-ups, of course. Hope you're having a wonderful holiday so far!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The 15 Best Games You Probably Missed in 2019 (Caty McCarthy / USGamer - ARTICLE)
"For this list, I'd like to turn my focus not just to indie games of the year that were underrated, but other games that slipped through the cracks too. From the double-A studios to the lone developers, here are 15 games we loved from 2019 that you probably missed."
He’s Donated $250k to Streamers and Nobody Knows Who He is (theScore eSports / YouTube - VIDEO)
"He thought he’d eventually hit the goal, but that it could take some time. But this week, as he was literally saying goodbye to everyone on stream, someone by the name of Fatty Melon dropped a nearly five thousand dollar donation, essentially funding his entire trip."
Shopify: A StarCraft Inspired Business Strategy (Mike / NonGaaP Thoughts / Substack - ARTICLE)
"As a long-time observer of Shopify’s story, I’ve always felt a great way to understand Shopify’s strategy was through the lens of real-time strategy game StarCraft. This is a personal opinion, but I was reminded of “Shopify is running a StarCraft strategy” when CEO Tobi Lütke (who is a big StarCraft fan that has donated prize pool money to the StarCraft gaming scene) recently live streamed himself playing StarCraft and discussing business."
The Decade In 5 Games (Joshua Rivera / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"This isn’t a list of highlights. It’s not here to remind you of monumental shifts, or of astonishing lows, or wonderful surprises. Instead, its aim is to tell a story. One story, occurring alongside and intersecting with many. [SIMON'S NOTE: a clever alternative view on the decade, part of Kotaku's overall year/decade in review, which is worth checking out.]
Taking Virtual Reality For A Test Drive (Patricia Marx / The New Yorker - ARTICLE)
"Reality being what it is right now, doesn’t an alternative sound tempting? That’s what I was thinking the other day, in my apartment, when I adjusted the Velcro straps on my Oculus Quest, a chunky virtual-reality headset made of black plastic, rubber, and a few billion transistors. [SIMON'S NOTE: a very well-researched 10,000ft look at where VR is nowadays.]"
The best of Unknown Pleasures 2019 (Sin Vega / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"It’s quite strange suddenly being able to talk about games in real life without having to apologise, but other than that it’s nice. In that time I’ve played somewhere around 1,200 to 1,300 games (an exact count is impossible for boring reasons), almost all of them little known."
Know your game’s anchor (Chris Zukowski / How To Market Your Game - ARTICLE)
"I have been re-re-reviewing my Steam research notes on how people buy games and this time something struck me. People rarely site the hook as the reason why they bought the game or wishlisted it. They usually said “because I like the genre” or “my friend recommended it.” Again and again they almost always cited something about what makes the game familiar to them rather than unique."
Ethics in the Videogame Industry: A Mythbusting and Scientific Approach (Celia Hodent / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"It saddens me that videogames can have a negative impact on some people’s lives but I’m also frustrated by the fearmongering I’ve been witnessing, most of it with no solid scientific ground. This fearmongering — and sometimes even scapegoating — around videogames can distract the public and lawmakers from identifying and addressing the real potential of videogame play, and tech in general."
Game Informer's 10th Annual Glitchie Awards (Joe Juba / Game Informer - ARTICLE)
"Most of 2019’s best gaming moments were the result of careful craftsmanship, storytelling, and design. However, some of this year’s memorable experiences had nothing to do with what players were intended to see; they were the inexplicable events and goofy glitches that occur when things don’t go according to plan."
Radio Ga Ga: An Exploration of Video Game Radio Stations (Jack Yarwood / EGM Now - ARTICLE)
"Radio finds itself particularly well represented within gaming, a relationship that likely originated out of a narrative and mechanical convenience. After all, radio can be quite a useful tool for worldbuilding, a way of squeezing a tubthumping soundtrack into a long, laborious trek across a gigantic open-world, and a way of presenting a mystery to the player for them to solve."
The Video Game Industry Is Over 50: Who's Keeping Track of Its History? (Patrick Shanley / Hollywood Reporter - ARTICLE)
"Ask 10 people when the video game industry first began and you’re bound to get 10 different answers. Was it in 1947, with the invention of the cathode-ray tube amusement device by physicists Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann? Was it with 1950’s Bertie the Brain, often cited as the first “computer game,” a virtual version of Tic-tac-toe developed by Canadian engineer Josef Kates?"
Adam Conover's Top 10 Games of 2019 (Adam Conover / GiantBomb - ARTICLE)
"Sorry Bandersnatch; Sam Barlow's Telling Lies and Her Story are the only FMV experiences I've ever enjoyed, not because they allow you to "choose your own" narrative--a mechanic which hasn't been entertaining since I was eight--but because they gamify the experience of exploring an expertly-woven narrative. [SIMON'S NOTE: the personal GiantBomb charts - from so many interesting people - are my favorite 'top game' lists of the year. Here's a master list (scroll down to 'guest lists' - there are SO MANY - or poke around here to browse.]"
Game Hihyo / Game Criticism Magazines (Hubz / Gaming Alexandria - ARTICLE)
"This potential for conflict of interest eventually led to the staff of Game Criticism creating their own magazine, one that could be openly critical of video game companies, as they felt that being unable to criticize advertised games wasn’t a healthy publishing environment. Game Criticism’s mission statement — not publishing ads or taking money from game companies — was touted on both the front and the back of every issue. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is fascinating Japanese game media history that I had no idea about.]"
The 10 Best Buried Treasures Of 2019 (John Walker / Buried Treasure - ARTICLE)
"This is my personal favourite games you might have missed in 2019, based on what I was fortunate enough to stumble upon. I will absolutely have missed out wonderful games because I either never played them or just forgot. That’s OK. It’s OK. [SIMON'S NOTE: from John Walker's handy new site, which has a Patreon.]
Video games are dividing South Korea (Max S. Kim / Technology Review - ARTICLE)
"In 2002, another psychiatrist estimated that 20% to 40% of South Korean adolescents exhibited signs of addiction to gaming, such as aggression toward their parents or an inability to manage time; he started hospitalizing his patients. In 2005, the government in Seoul began opening internet and gaming addiction detox camps where children and teenagers were given counseling in peaceful wilderness retreats."
Ars Technica’s best games of 2019 (Ars Staff / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"We can't say we've played through all the thousands of titles big and small that have come out this year. Of the ones we have played, though, these are the ones that we'd feel comfortable recommending to anyone."
The man who made Wolfenstein (Colin Campbell / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"Until recently, Kari Ann Owen ran a therapeutic horse ranch in Montana. Now focused on writing and political activism, she isn’t much interested in video games. But she takes her late husband’s legacy very seriously. “He was a genius,” she says of Silas Warner. “And he’s never received the credit or the rewards he was due.”"
State of the Stream 2019: Platform Wars, the New King of Streaming, Most Watched Game and More! (Adam Yosilewitz / StreamElements - ARTICLE)
"Mixer and Facebook Gaming both gradually increased their market share by investing in growth all year long prior to their headline-making talent grabs from Twitch, such as Mixer nabbing Ninja, shroud, Ewok, and Gothalion, while Facebook Gaming picked up DisguisedToast, ZeRo, NexxuzHD, and Lolito FDEZ. These moves might not have moved the needle in the short term, but are expected to have a bigger impact in the years to come."
Why Do People Collect Virtual Items? (Jamie Madigan / The Psychology Of Games - ARTICLE)
"And yet people collect things in video games all the time. Some of it is horse poop. So what have game designers figured out about the psychology of collecting virtual goods that make amassing them desirable despite the deck of Pokemon cards stacked against them?"
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary has so much to teach modern games (John Walker / RockPaperShotgun - ARTICLE)
"This is, on some level, seven brand new episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. Seven individual stories, that barely overlap, which tell original yet incredibly TOS-like tales of bridge-based banter and landing party derring-do. But on another, it’s a really astonishingly versatile game that allows you to play it in very different ways, with very different outcomes."
The Defining Chinese Video Games of the 2010s (Krish Raghav / Radii China - ARTICLE)
"We’ve seen the lifting of a decades-long ban on console gaming, the subtle shift in Chinese game studios from pure “outsourcing” to a more engaged presence in game development, the dominance of China in esports, the import of the “culture wars” in gaming discourse online, censorship and moral panics, and between it all — some incredible games."
[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!]