May 30th

This roundup comes a little bit late, as I was kept busy this week by a conference about care and technology. As it turns out, the topic of care is not a bad lens for looking at this week’s blogging!

Stardew Valley

People are starting to talk about how unsatisfying it is to care for characters who have nothing interesting to say and are seemingly only interested in receiving material gifts.

“The mechanics of Stardew Valley’s relationship simulator are not new, but the knowledge that they were inspired by similar games—most notably Harvest Moon—does not mean Stardew Valley’s approach cannot be questioned. The over-simplification of the relationship system makes dating and forming friendships feel like just another type of collection, like farming or fishing. By giving people two gifts a week—every week—eventually, anybody will learn to love you.”

Talk

Two pieces bring up, in very different ways, the relationship between being able speak and feeling like you belong somewhere.

“My head aches like I’m learning a language—because that’s exactly what Stephen’s Sausage Roll is doing: teaching me how to read its’ world. Duolingo helped me to understand why I could only make so much Sausage Roll progress before my brain shut down.”

Remember

I’m always excited to see pieces that examine not just the events of history, but the nature of how events come to pass, and how we relate to them differently as conditions change.

Doom was so scary in the 1990s because that was a time where occult imagery was uniquely frightening. Though laughable today, worries about demonic cults and the apocalypse were a major part of the popular consciousness in the grunge decade, and carried a sense of threat that isn’t part of today’s discourse.”

Homefront

A new release this week is bringing up uncomfortable reflections on America’s history.

“Mythologize their tenacity for long enough and it becomes natural for Americans, unsure of their ability to fight back the hazily defined enemies of the 21st century, to reassure themselves by reimagining the successes of the late 1700s.”

Run

Call it friction, frustration or flow gone awry, the pace and ease of progress in games is always an important topic of discussion. The first two pieces here focus on smooth, high-speed movement ever forwards, and the last two look at the things that trip us up on the way.

“[Git Gud is] an obnoxious silencing catch phrase that’s permeated the games community. I always found that odd because the rest of the game is so indifferent to whether you’re good or not: there is no scoring system, or built-in speedrun mechanics, or leaderboards, or combo system. There’s just the singular challenge of finishing the game, and the game’s world doesn’t seem overly concerned with whether you do it or not.”

Survive

From running to falling to crawling; these pieces examine stories about endurance and resilience.

“Given the environmental threats that become more real every year, it’s not surprising that we want to persuade ourselves we can live off the land and become self-reliant. Minecraft opened the door, but games like Ark: Survival Evolved and Rust developed the survival theme into a hugely popular genre.”

Know

This week’s round up sort of has an epistemology section! These two pieces both consider the role of knowledge in enjoyment.

“Given how compulsively the cultures of media consumption respects and enforces rules like spoiler warnings, it’s hard not to see the shadow of the destructive effects of knowledge. Perhaps part of the reason we’re afraid to know too much too soon is, not because we will enjoy the work less, but because we will be waylaid into enjoying it the way someone else has – that the work will become part of their story rather than part of ours, circumscribed forever by the bounds of their enjoyment, unable to be discovered for oneself.”


I had a few more submissions from readers than usual this week, which was truly excellent! Please keep them coming through the usual methods. Another way that our readers care for us is through our Patreon — many thanks to everybody who keeps us going!