[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 varied (and gigantic) set of articles counting down the best games of 2019, as well as pieces on Roblox culture, pop-up arcades, Pokemon NPC fashion, and a great deal more besides.
For my dayjob, we're continuing to work hard on putting together Game Developers Conference 2020 for next March! Latest neatness is our picks for the next alt.ctrl.GDC showcase, "inventive and innovative games using unique, one-of-a-kind controllers." Highlight include a tapestry-based game (!), a cow-milking sim with physical controls, & another game where you have to pull a (real-ish) sword from a (real-ish) stone - so fun.
Also wanted to give a shout-out to Kenny Liu's Kliuless? newsletter, which is another VERY HELPFUL regular newsletter that deals with news & trends in the game biz (a bit more businesslike & trend-based than mine!), and kindly shouted out Video Game Deep Cuts in its last issue.
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
The Best Video Games of 2019 (Editors / GQ - ARTICLE)
"2019 was one of the more diverse years in video games that I can remember. It felt like no matter what you were into—big-budget games, first-person shooters, focused and intimate indie experiences, hardcore systemic RPGs, you name it—there was probably a great game for you this year."
Video Games and Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ for Sexual Predators (Nellie Bowles & Michael H. Keller / New York Times - ARTICLE)
"Sexual predators and other bad actors have found an easy access point into the lives of young people: They are meeting them online through multiplayer video games and chat apps, making virtual connections right in their victims’ homes. [SIMON'S NOTE: well researched and disturbing piece, especially notable for the non-responses from some major players.]"
The Best Video Games of 2019 (Joshua Rivera / Vulture - ARTICLE)
"Historically, the year before a new console generation is a time for showing off, a last hurrah before developers start over with new technology. 2019, however, has been a more muted prelude than usual. The better games from this year are quiet and understated, refreshing diversions from juggernauts like Fortnite and its many imitators."
Feature: A Tribute To Jason Brookes (Damien McFerran / NintendoLife - ARTICLE)
"Earlier this week, the gaming world was hit by the tragic news that legendary British games journalist and graphic designer Jason Brookes had passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 52... We've pulled together some thoughts about the great man here, taken from the people who worked with him and knew him best over the past few decades. [SIMON'S NOTE: you rarely see tributes this touching - but maybe we should try to solicit them more often.]"
Best of 2019 video games: How diverse storylines and streaming platforms shaped culture (Todd Martens / Los Angeles Times - ARTICLE)
"If games were once confined to home consoles and PCs, increasingly the interactive medium is one that is shaping everything from our television shows to our theme parks. Here, we reflect on 10 ways games impacted entertainment in 2019, be it via the stories they told or where or how they told them."
T.L. Taylor: A Conversation on Game Studies, History, and Interventions (Henry Lowood / ROMchip Journal - ARTICLE)
"By chance I got to hear Sherry Turkle speak, and she talked about MUDs. I had been spending months kind of asking everybody I met if they knew about these things that I was experiencing, and nobody did. Hearing her present on them in an academic forum, then going up to her and basically saying “I’ve discovered these, too!” was a pretty important connection for me."
2010s: Favorite Video Game Music of the Decade (TMT Staff / TinyMixTapes - ARTICLE)
"From psychedelic vibes to understanding humanity’s role in the world, from climbing a mountain as an allegory on depression to climbing it as an expression of reimagining ambiance, from encapsulating the isolation of routine to the yearning of that which was never there and never will be, we cover the video game music we felt most effectively deepened the potential of the medium."
Heavily Pixelated: #17 Marianne (Scott Jones / ScottCJones.com - PODCAST)
"Marianne is a voice actor, producer, and writer based in Los Angeles, California. When Marianne was in her early 20’s, she and a friend traveled to Europe to see a bit of the world. But something awful happened on the trip—something that Marianne has been trying to find a way to live with ever since. Thankfully, games were there for her."
The 50 best games of 2019 (Polygon Staff / Polygon - ARTICLE)
"While next year will have new consoles and likely many new entries in huge, tentpole franchises, this was a year with many experiments and unexpected surprises. Outer Wilds mixes the expected influence of the past few years into something completely new, while The Outer Worlds brought familiar design into a brand-new galaxy that served as a pointed critique of capitalism."
Portraits of Roblox's leading makers: the roleplayers (Alex Wiltshire / Rockpapershotgun - ARTICLE)
"Roblox’s roleplay games are places for playing make-believe. They’re themed free-roam worlds filled with minigames and interactive bits and pieces, plus wardrobes of clothes and other cosmetics that let you look the way you want. [SIMON'S NOTE: Yes, more Roblox-related pieces please, this game/world is INSANELY big and popular among kids and tweens and doesn't get written about much at allll.]"
Can you be like LikeLike - Running a pop-up arcade in your spare time (Paolo Pedercini / MolleIndustria - ARTICLE/TALK TRANSCRIPT)
"This is a slightly edited transcript of a short talk I gave at the first Game Arts International Assembly, a gathering of game curators and event organizers. The event took place in Buenos Aires in November 2019. This is the first public talk I gave about LIKELIKE, the pop-up game gallery I've ran since February 2018."
Video Game Fashion: Pokemon Sword and Shield Gym Leaders and more! (Alexandra Orlando / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Mumbles and I discuss the fashion of Pokemon Sword and Shield, focusing on the gym leaders, your crew and some other people! [SIMON'S NOTE: I looove niche stuff like this, which is literally fashion critique of Pokemon NPCs from a couple of smart ladies.]"
This 12-year-old made a video game to cope with his father’s suicide. (Elise Favis / Washington Post - ARTICLE)
"Titled “Let’s Be Well,” Luke’s video game was created using the massively popular platform Roblox, an accessible system with over 100 million monthly users that lets you make your own interactive experiences."
The Most Underrated Games Of The Decade (Heather Alexandra / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"There were some cool video games along the way. Caught in that catalogue were countless games that were woefully misunderstood, never getting the limelight they deserved. This is an arbitrary list of the decade’s best but sadly unsung games."
Boneworks review: An absolute VR mess—yet somehow momentous (Sam Machkovech / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Now that Boneworks has launched for all PC-VR platforms, does the gaming world finally have an adventure game worthy of an "only in VR" designation? The answer to that question is a resounding "yes"—but that's not the same as saying it's a good video game."
The 25 Best Video Games of 2019 (Staff / Slant Magazine - ARTICLE)
"This was a year where the best Castlevania game in a decade didn’t have Konami’s name on it, where Bethesda had nothing to do with the best Fallout title to come out in twice as many years, and where the best Star Wars game does the exact opposite of everything its publisher had been doing with the license for five years."
Collector unearths playable file for original, cancelled D2 - the 3DO M2 game thought lost to history (Wesley Yin-Poole / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"I had a chat with Bacon about the 10 years he's spent amassing his 3DO M2 collection to get the inside story on this most obscure of video game discoveries. He hopes that if there is an alpha demo of D2 for the 3DO M2 somewhere out there, perhaps sitting idly on a dusty hard drive in someone's attic, his new video will shake it into life."
Why new consoles probably won’t be enough to save GameStop (Kyle Orland / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"For GameStop, the launch of new consoles will definitely provide a short-term boost. But any hopes the company has about new hardware reversing long-term downward trends in physical game sales might be a bit overblown."
Nothing else compares to the greatest video game of the decade (Calum Marsh / The National Post - ARTICLE)
"The hours I spent immersed in The Witness were some of the most taxing and arduous of my adult life. There are no hints or tips. There are no arrows to guide you, manuals to consult or winning strategies of which to be apprised. There isn’t the softest whisper of instruction or council."
How Baba Is You Works | GMTK Most Innovative 2019 (Game Maker's Toolkit / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Every year, I celebrate one game that went above and beyond in terms of innovation, invention, and imagination. From Her Story to Snake Pass to Return of the Obra Dinn, these games have stunned us with their unique ideas and excellent execution. This year, the award goes to..."
The Best Video Games Of 2019 (Editors / Complex - ARTICLE)
"With 2020 set to be an interesting year for the gaming, it's time we close out this calendar year with a look back at the best titles to hit consoles. From the long-awaited release of Kingdom Hearts III to the intoxicating world of the legendary Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding, here are the best video games of 2019."
How Fangamer Leveled Up Gaming Merch (Steven T. Wright / EGM Now - ARTICLE)
"Shortly after he landed, Young decided to check on the company chatroom, just to see how things were faring in his absence. Much to his surprise, he discovered that Fangamer was undergoing a crisis, and there was very little he could do to help."
[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!]