The Best of the Rest - What I Read This Week #3
What a wonderful week for games it has been. Wolfenstein 2 was an awesome rollercoaster ride of murder and emotions. The game that really surprised me, it must be said, has been Assassin’s Creed: Origins. It’s actually pretty good, and that’s coming from a guy who fell out of love with the iterative series quite early in its life. We also had some Destiny 2 DLC getting announced, so now all our hopes lie with Osiris.
But I wasn’t just playing games, I was also reading about them. Using my eyes to steal the words and thoughts of other writers, like some form of supervillain, and using them to inform my own. Is there no limit to my power?
Escapism And Games
Richard Scott-Jones had a very interesting article over on PCGamesN. He spoke to a player who has put an almost impossible amount of time into Ark: Survival Evolved about why the game was so important to him and why he had spent so much time with it. It hit home with me because games were an essential part of staying both sane and social when I too was seriously ill.
Vör could not work, and spent most of his days bedbound. Surgeons removed some of his colon and put him on a course of immunosuppressant drugs to control the inflammation in his gut – a necessary treatment, but one that made him more vulnerable to viruses and germs. This was the horrible context in which Ark arrived in Vör’s life. He took a chance on it the very first day it was released into Early Access. His first session was half a day in its PvP mode, which did not take – “there were trolls everywhere and so much aggression and competitiveness” – but in its PvE game, he found an important, even essential, coping mechanism.
I really enjoy Unwinnable and spend a lot of my time reading their articles. Levi Rubeck took a look at the new Last of Us 2 trailer and the general conversation surrounding it. I know some people get mad when you look at games as anything other than mindless entertainment, but I quite enjoy writing like this. Games are art, and art should be examined, explored and discussed…otherwise, what’s the point?
I love The Last of Us, riddled with its warts. It’s a cruel game about the brutality of post-apocalyptic societal collapse, the golden-paved road to hell that is patriarchal power. It is a game of extreme, repetitive violence, bogged down with such in the service of the “game.” By the end both Joel and Ellie are serial killers, mass murderers acting primarily in self-defense but with little to no repercussions for their actions. The game sentences them and you as the player as such, setting up many obvious thunderdomes of intense combat that you cannot stealthily pass through as you might in other areas of the game. This obvious attempt to require my complicity with the violence was very distressing, because though I understood that these humans would take no such sympathy on me, the game painted such visceral scenes of gore and fury that I wanted to avoid them at all costs.
At PCGamer, Cassandra Marshall writes about how European teams performed in the League of Legends World Championship. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time reading battle report articles about table top wargaming, and these articles remind me of those lovely days.
Not only did Misfits go toe to toe with SKT, they only lost due to a few moments of over-aggression. After countless series where opponents backed off and gave SKT too much respect, carefully trying not to throw a game only to get choked out, the Misfits instead went too HAM. They put up an absurdly good fight. The Misfits logo is a grinning, cocky rabbit. It seems absurd for a character who’d fit right in with Sam and Max to nearly dethrone SKT T1, but they almost managed it… in their first year as an organization.
At Waypoint, Bruno Dias talks about why he is apprehensive about how the upcoming David Cage game Detroit might stumble with how it handles some of its themes. As a guy who writes about games I found this one both interesting and impactful.
“What we, as game writers, have in common with the novelist and the screenwriter is the responsibility that goes with being the one behind creative choices in an artistic medium. Choosing what subjects I want to tackle, based on how that subject matter serves, or doesn’t serve, a project. Choosing what I think is necessary, what I think is ethical, when handling difficult subject matter. Choosing how to present issues that relate to the real suffering of millions of people.”
The Other Side
Finally, to bring some balance, I enjoyed this piece at AVClub by Clayton Purdom about the previously mentioned Last of Us 2 trailer. He talks about why he disagrees with much of the criticism around its brutal nature. I never bought into the argument that you cannot enjoy two well placed, but contradictory, arguments.
This criticism is wrong-footed for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it is a single scene from a video game that isn’t out yet, and so surmising what is or isn’t “representative” is literally impossible. Its first trailer showed the first game’s protagonists idly playing guitar in a verdant, overgrown ruin, illustrating that the series’ capacity for tenderness remained intact; the Paris scene depicted a hellish display of cruelty between cult-like survivors, showing that the series’ capacity for bleak encounters at the end of the world also remained intact. If you were a fan of the first game’s startling and literary vision of life in an environmentally ravaged future, well, that’s two boxes checked.
Video this week is The Making Of The Secret of Mana by Stafefox. A wonderful video that covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time.