The Best Of The Rest #5


It’s been a week of headlines dominated by Star Wars: Battlefront 2, microtransactions, and other such stuff. I’d love to say we won’t touch on it in this week’s list of super good words but that would be a lie. Thankfully, some people out there did write about other things as well, so it won’t all be EA and Disney. Quite frankly I wrote a lot this week, so I listened more than I read. The end result is two videos at the bottom of this list rather than one, and a slightly shorter collection of writing than usual.

It seems that war does, in fact, change.

A Bit Walter, A Bit Mitty

To get it out of the way, Jason Schreier wrote about one of the strangest aspects of the whole Battlefront 2 saga, the fake dev and the fake death threats. This is a fascinating tale of a guy who very successfully lived a lie, then decided to fly a bit too close to the sun and bring too much attention to himself. As the wax melted and the feathers fell off his wings his Twitter went dark, but we will always have the memories of a suitably strange incident.

BiggSean66 created his Twitter account in early 2015, and almost immediately, he began claiming that he worked for EA, cultivating relationships with fans and even some employees of the company, like Battlefield community manager Jeff Braddock. Some EA employees have also followed him on Twitter, especially in the wake of his Monday tweets about death threats. But out of 100,000 tweets, BiggSean66 didn’t appear to offer many specifics about his identity or role, except in one tweet, where he posted a photograph of what he said was him and his wife (which we won’t share here).

Way Back When

At Waypoint, Austin Walker has a nice piece about the thing he misses most from gaming, which is weirdness. It’s easy to sit and think games are not all that different to how they used to be, but culture and society and technology combine with business practices and market forces to change the things we love. There is nothing wrong with a misty eyed look backwards from time to time.

When I was growing up, I struggled with a lot of racing games. Partly, this was about brashness—the young Austin didn’t really understand why you’d use brakes in games that were about going fast. But it was also because there was such a broad understanding of what a “racing game” should look and feel like. Isometric and top-down games like Super Off Road and Super Sprint didn’t just “feel” different than behind-the-car racers like OutRun or side-scrollers like Excitebike; they presented fundamentally different versions of racing, where pressing “left” on the controller might not actually mean “going left.”

Eldritch Error

Julian Gollop is my hero when it comes to games designers. The mind behind X-COM, he writes a column for PC Gamer. His most recent is about why Lovecraftian horror, while loved by many, is mined so shallowly for games. I especially like this piece because it works well with one of the videos I will be dropping on you down below.

One problem for Lovecraftian games is that the essence of Lovecraft’s horror was the idea that humankind is incredibly insignificant and powerless in the face of ancient alien races. Man is lucky to be ignorant—if he knew the truth he would go crazy. It’s not that the creatures in his stories were evil, they just displayed ‘cosmic indifference’ to the fate of humanity.

Way Towards Then

Patrick Stafford has a nice piece for Polygon about what the games industry will look like in five years. Rather than just sit and imagine, he talks to people who would be in a position to know and care about such things.

The overall trepidation regarding VR isn’t to say these developers think the industry will play it safe: far from it. In fact, Hodent says she expects to see new platforms that we can’t even imagine:

“It’s interesting to see that Oculus is already going standalone. The intriguing part for me is what will be our main interface to access games by 2022, besides computer gaming: TV via cloud or via entertainment networks? Or via physical consoles still? Standalone headsets or goggles?”

For videos this week, first we have this one from Tarmack about what might happen if powerful people decide that lootboxes are, in fact, gambling. It’s well thought out and expertly argued. Watch it.

The second video is from Raycevick and it’s a great one. I sometimes see people burn out on games and not know why. I think this might be a reason they have never considered.