June 2015

Abstract image evoking bird silhouette

Happy end of June, readers! Your regular correspondent, Lindsey Joyce, has handed me the reins this month while she takes her PhD qualifying exams. I have two Master’s degrees and no intention of getting more, which means I’m free to do my favorite thing: watch This Month in Let’s Plays!

E3

If you’re anything like me, you turned on the E3 stream, heard a man in a T-shirt and suit jacket say the phrase “play the way you want,” and turned the whole stream off as fast as possible. Luckily, Matt Lees has summed it all up for you in his E3 2015 Abridged series.

Speaking of things that happened at E3, Not Your Mama’s Gamer took a look at one of the show’s more controversial new announcements, Cuphead, in light of the potentially problematic legacy of the 1930s cartoons it draws on (Content Warning: racist imagery in archival footage). They also looked at a game with a similar art style and pointed out where it drew on its source material responsibly.

Back to the Future

In contrast to the flurry of future hype drummed up by E3, many Let’s Players considered facets of older games this month. Cameron Kunzelman revisited middling 2011 shooter Homefront, exploring where the game went right, most notably in its unexpectedly emotional core and its careful characterization. The only thing I remember about Homefront is playing it in front of my dad and saying, “Well, it’s a videogame,” so I really enjoyed Cameron’s thoughtful take.

Going back in time quite a bit further, Matt Leslie analyzed Crash Bandicoot 2 through the lens of its surprising innovations in the early days of 3D games. He shows how Naughty Dog worked around technical and camera constraints to create a memorable character and challenging play.

Tommy Thompson from AI & Games explored the legacy of Super Mario Brothers, drawing on the evolution of its formula and the patterns behind its level design. He extends these patterns outward to show how the series iterates on its earliest design with each new addition. (Content Warning: mild gendered insult.)

Taking a longer look, Liz Ryerson continued her exploration of early first person shooters with her Wolfenstein 3D stream, which is archived for your YouTube enjoyment. Liz combines personal reflection with fascinating design insights and information about the history of the game, breathing new life into this perennial classic.

In another blast from the past, Heather Alexandra lends similar broad knowledge to her playthrough of Suikoden III, a PS2 RPG from 2002. In the same vein as Liz, she blends personal reflection with astute design critique, making fascinating watching. (Additionally, though not from this month, her YouTube channel includes an archive of her P.T. Twitch stream, which I watched through my fingers while marveling at her steely nerves.)

Lastly, Soha Kareem and Scott Benson have been archiving their ongoing Streamfriends stream of Vampire: The Masquerade— Bloodlines, and they make hilarious guides through this 2004 digitization of White Wolf’s pen and paper roleplaying game.

Heart of Dark Souls

No one gets tired of the Souls games, it seems. I’ve never played them, but I never get tired of watching other people play them. The fast-talking fellas from Extra Credits have been doing an insightful series through the first game, so if you, like me, have never gotten up the fortitude to play it, now you can cozy up to your computer, grab your controller, and pretend you’re playing along.

Josh Trevett continued his critical playthrough of the first Souls game, this time highlighting the way the level design reflects Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. This series brings a lot of useful insights to the game, and I look forward to seeing more of it.

Marsh Davies of RPS took a look at where Dark Souls 2 less than shines in the latest installment in his “Fail Forward” series.

And though not specifically Souls-related, Stephen Beirne’s latest Two Minute Game Crit looked at weapon degradation, something that figures heavily into the Souls games.

Endings and Beginnings

You’ve probably heard the news of Tale of Tales closing its doors following the release of its final game, Sunset. In light of this, Chris Franklin of Errant Signal explored the game’s mechanics and what the story of its development says about the games marketplace.

Over at Gaming Looks Good, Shareef Jackson played through part of Sunset alongside the game’s voice over artist, Tina Marie Murray. Together they discuss how the game explores diversity and politics through its presentation and gameplay.

In new beginnings, Bob of History Respawned interviewed Ishmael Hope, the lead writer of Never Alone, a platformer by Upper One Games, the first game studio run by Native people. They talk about storytelling, game design, and the future of games highlighting often marginalized cultures and people. While Tale of Tales’ departure is a loss for gaming, studios like Upper One hopefully represent a bright future for diversifying games.

See You Next Time

And that will about do it for This Month in Let’s Plays! If you, like me, love to watch Let’s Plays and Twitch streams, I’d encourage you to check out Tanya Depass’ “10 PoC Streamers You Should Be Following” list over at Paste, which is full of awesome people to get to know and watch. Tanya also curates a list of PoC streamers and Let’s Players that you can add yourself to via the article.

If you make or see a great Let’s Play in July, please let us know via Twitter using #LetsPlayCD or by sending us an email. We’d love to know what you’re watching and making!

Thanks for having me on board for this month’s roundup. If you like us and want to support what we do, remember that we’re reader-supported and consider making a monthly contribution here.