Welcome back, readers.
It seemed at some point – I don’t know when, several decades ago, when last month was taking place – that February’s TMIVGV would be a brief one. But then in the last two or three days of February (including that extra day that only happens because 2020 is a multiple of four) all the discoursey video makers decided to hit upload. This is probably the sort of thing that interests only me, compiler of this column, and nobody else. But the upshot is this, a large(?) roundup of February videos… a large list of videos for these large times.
On the menu from February: a lot about How Things Work, some about How Outer Wilds Works, and a good few about How Feelings Work. If you are in the mood for learning about the workings of things, this month is for you. And why not.
Thank you to everyone who sent us recommendations. If there’s a video about video games you should think should go in next month’s roundup, let us know with the hashtag TMIVGV.
Also, Congratulations! to Vicky Osterweil, who was crowned Critical Distance’s 2019 Blogger of the Year. Yay!
This Month in Videogame Vlogging is a roundup highlighting all the most important critical things that people had to say about videogames using the video medium during the previous calendar month.
Admittedly, videos about the visual tricks of videogames are rarely in short supply on the tubeyou, but I thought these two essays highlighted things that don’t get covered much when we talk about how cool games look.
The Animation of Phoenix Wright – New Frame Plus (15:21)
NFP discusses the Phoenix Wright as an exemplary case of a game expressing a lot with a minimal set of animations, and how it uses these to aid in information feedback and story development. (Manual captions)
How Film Tricks Power Up Wolfenstein Youngblood’s Cutscenes | Mise En Cutscene – Rock Paper Shotgun (12:50)
Taking a different focus, Astrid Johnston demonstrates how camera angles add narrative dynamics in the cutscenes of Wolfenstein Youngblood. (Manual captions)
Levels Tell Stories
Three videos mulled over the nature of recognising realities when it comes to the affective power of videogames.
How Level Design Can Tell a Story – Game Maker’s Toolkit (18:58)
Mark Brown explains the pyramid of Environmental Storytelling, Level Design and World Building, and how these are used to assist narrative cues, using examples from games including Bioshock, God of War, Portal, Celeste and Journey. (Manual captions) [Content note: mentions of child abuse]
Analysing the OTHER Missions in Hitman 2 (The Bank and Haven Island) – Writing on Games (12:46)
Writing on Games analyses two of the missions in Hitman 2 for world building, level design and the use of environmental detail. (Manual captions) [Note: contains embedded advertising]
Wattam: Keita Takahashi and the Power of Play – Writing on Games (9:37)
Another Writing on Games piece, this one on reading Wattam as a utopian playground free of the consumerist constraints that acted as a literal obstacle and thematic concern of Keita Takahashi’s previous games and projects. (Manual captions)
The endless and justifiable fascination with How Outer Wilds, In Particular, Works continues this month with two more videos. But that’s okay, I love everything about this game and nearly every talking point that it inspires. Anyone who enjoys the following pair and has an extra hour on their hands could do worse than check out NoClip’s doco from January about Outer Wilds’ design and construction, too.
How Outer Wilds’ Impossible Planet Works | Crafting Materials – Rock Paper Shotgun (10:54)
Drawing on an earlier written feature by Alex Wiltshire on the RPS website, Matthew Castle explains the “polite chaos” of Outer Wilds’ crumbling planet, Brittle Hollow, and what makes it a unique and trickily designed thing. (Manual captions)
The Wild Astrophysics that Outer Wilds Simulates – Super Bunnyhop (19:21)
George Weidman uses the modelled physics of Outer Wilds’ toybox solar system as a jumping-off point to, uh, present a lesson in physics? (Autocaptions) [Note: contains embedded advertising]
In this section I’m haphazardly grouping together a few videos that focus on the relationship between game design and what we feel while playing.
The Most Beautiful Moment of the Generation – Jacob Geller (15:55)
Jacob Geller emotively discusses the games of Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian), representations of sentimentality, and the precarity and ephemerality of animal companionship. (Manual captions) (Content note: mentions of animal trauma)
The Beginner’s Guide’s Psychological Lessons – Screen Therapy (10:05)
Screen Therapy puts aside the abundant metanarrative themes of The Beginner’s Guide to look at its presentation of psychological tensions, and how a player might approach it as a form of, or tool for, therapy. (Autocaptions)
Why Does Celeste Make Us Feel Anxious – Adam Millard (17:15)
Adam Millard discusses games (particularly platformers) that use negative difficult-related experiences to design more fulfilling challenges. (Manual captions)
Romance In Video Games – Bobdunga (19:14)
For Valentine’s Day, Bobdunga discusses the truncated, ham-fisted and overly simplistic treatments of romance that have plagued videogames pretty much forever. (Autocaptions)
The Building Phase
Two interesting and different videos this month dwell on less-considered contingencies of game design.
The Future of Black Storytelling in VR Spaces – Spawn on Me (Part 1 (21:26)) & (Part 2 (28:38))
Kahlief Adams chats to CRUX co-founder Lauren Ruffin about building community, fighting cultural erasure, running a co-operative model company, and establishing and supporting black creators and voices in VR development. (Autocaptions)
The Game That Inspired Minecraft, But Never Made a Penny – People Make Games (13:00)
PMG tell the story of Infiniminer, the blocky first-person building game that inspired Minecraft, and ask creator Zach Barth what it’s like to make a game for free that becomes the main blueprint for the most commercially successful game ever. (Manual captions) [Note: contains embedded advertising]
It’s been a long roundup already, I know, but it would feel a little weird leaving these last few out, for some intangible reason.
Halo Reach: An Existential Dread – KingK (18:12)
KingK revisits the bathos of Halo: Reach’s ending, finding it a surprisingly affecting counterpoint to the series’ erstwhile focus on improbable heroism. (Autocaptions)
EcoGaming #3: Apocalypse Games, or, Worlds not for Us – Lord Faust (6:51)
Lord Faust argues that true “apocalypse games” should provide no resources for their players – rather, apocalypse games should require players to confront systems with skills alone. (Autocaptions)
How AlphaStar Became a StarCraft Grandmaster – AI and Games (19:25)
Dr Tommy Thompson explains the AlphaStar project and the processes that took to develop a Grandmaster-level bot for Starcraft 2. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find all this a little bit worrisome. But fortunately there’s a follow-up video, explaining the limitations of this method of creating AI, why it isn’t particularly useful for game designers yet, and why this shouldn’t, actually, be anxiety-inducing. (Manual captions)
Okay that’s all for February. See you next month, probably. Take care.
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