Hey there, readers. We’ve had a whole month of 2020, and I am here to tell you that, indeed, people are still making interesting videos about videogames. In this aspect, at least, there is no cataclysm; this decade has begun much as we left the last one. Elsewhere… hmm.
In the meantime, special thanks to those who sent in recommendations. Continue to let us know about good and interesting videogame discourse in the video medium by @ing us and/or hashtagging TMIVGV, please and thankyou. Yes, you can even nominate your own video, I won’t mind.
A banner theme for January’s video-creators is the recurring nature of particular attributes in games and the impetus to break away.
Star Wars: The Franchise Strikes Back – Errant Signal (21:30)
Chris Franklin argues that the latest Star Wars game succeeds precisely because it breaks away from the series’ cycle of endlessly referencing the original trilogy. (Autocaptions)
Statistically Speaking: Metacritic’s “Best Games of All Time” – Super Bunnyhop (15:44)
George Weidman looks at the attributes of the videogames that make up Metacritic’s top 100 of all time as a prompt to discuss a number of observations, including the sort of traits that keep coming up in the list, the problem with these few labels within the breadth of possible gaming experiences, the changing role of written consumer reviews and numbered scores, and why new games are less likely to make the cut. (Autocaptions)[Note: contains embedded advertising]
Why Don’t Mystery Games Need Mechanics? – Adam Millard (19;36)
I feel like the title of this one obscures the decent point that Millard goes on to make, which is that newer mystery games are doing a better job at aligning player knowledge with how that knowledge can be used in game to solve a mystery, rather than requiring the player to grapple with a set of mechanical challenges that may be separate to whether or not the player actually “knows” the solution. (Manual captions)
Three videos mulled over the nature of recognising realities when it comes to the affective power of videogames.
An Uncanny Reality – Jacob Geller (22:47)
Jacob Geller explains his fascination with the alarming reality-bending effect of overlapping visual technologies in Silent Hill 2, before going on to look at a similar visual depiction of multiple perceived relaities in 2019’s quickly-pulled-for-political/censorship-reasons Taiwanese horror game, Devotion. (Manual captions) [Note: contains embedded advertising]
Video Game Immersion – Marshmallow Amy (9:28)
Citing various studies, Amy talks about the different kinds of immersion, or what it really means to be immersed in a game, and whether our sense of visual realism has any true bearing on how likely we are to find a game “immersive”. (Autocaptions)
STATIC – END | Tiny Terrors – Soft & Hollow (4:39)
Soft & Hollow discusses how horror game Static – End effectively captures the quiet horror of being trapped in one’s own place of living. (Autocaptions) [Content note: allusions to suicide]
On Striving for Change
The intersection of video games with individual actions to produce change (real or theoretical) is the subject of two contrasting videos this month.
Meeting Blitzchung, the Hearthstone pro banned for his politics – People Make Games (15:27)
People Make Games go to Hong Kong to interview Blitzchung, the Hearthstone player suspended by Blizzard in October 2019 for speaking in support of the Hong Kong protests during a post-tournament interview, and discuss the importance of doing the right thing even when it comes at a personal cost. (Manual captions)[Note: contains embedded advertising]
You Can’t Save The Galaxy In A Day – Razbuten (9:09)
Razbuten shares how he found Outer Wilds instructive for forcing the player to tackle an enormous problem one tiny step at a time, the takeaway lesson being that we shouldn’t expect more of ourselves when faced with the monumental social and political challenges of contemporary life. (Manual captions)[Note: contains embedded advertising]
The Author is Considered
Two videos highlight how design legacies can be informed by the personal circumstances of the games’ creators.
How Crushing Loneliness Inspired Animal Crossing – Video Game Story Time (5:51)
A short story about how different kinds of isolation influenced the creators of Animal Crossing – for Katsuya Eguchi, work-induced isolation inspired the mechanic of playing something together across time; for Aya Kyogoku, the isolation of working in an overly-male workplace lead to more inclusive hiring and design decisions. (Manual captions)
King’s QUESTROSPECTIVE – How Roberta Williams Designed A Game Changer – PushingUpRoses (16:36)
PushingUpRoses makes a spirited defence of the notorious difficulty of the first King’s Quest game, citing the context of the era it was created in along with the personal circumstances and intentions of designer Roberta Williams. (Manual captions)
Speaking of Difficulty (again)
To finish up, two videos considered games whose perceived difficulty came against expectations.
Ninpen Manmaru – Slow and Steady – Umbrella Terms (6:16)
Umbrella Terms discusses how, against the general derision it received, Ninpen Manmaru (1997) was designed to play differently than other 3D platformers of the day in order to reflect the game’s source manga, in which the main character falls over a lot. (Manual captions)
Let’s talk about Dark Souls one last time wait where are you going – Polygon (15:20)
Patrick Gill presents a fairly tongue-in-cheek discussion of Dark Souls as cultural phenomenon, the series’ turbulent relationship to gaming trends and discourses, and how it can be viewed within broader social-political contexts of the 2010s, “the Dark Souls of decades”. (Manual captions)
Before Twitch and YouTube, playing games, much like using the toilet or performing nostril hair maintenance, was something to be done in the privacy of your own metaphorical or literal bathroom. But, since it was the Dark Souls of decades, the once-hallowed bathroom of gaming was thrown open to the world, and web video platforms would become one of the chief places to show off, and scrutinize, or be scrutinized. While the game’s obtuse nature drew people together to map out its mechanics, secrets and strategies, it’s impossible to ignore the toxic elements of its community.
That seems like a good place to leave it. See you all next month!
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