Sundays are for wondering why many of the best showcases from the Geoff Awards were in the pre-show. Let’s read some of the week’s best writing about games and game-related things.
For Polygon, Matt Leone wrote about when the makers of Pokémon Go and Sleep No More tried to reinvent theater. Reading this, you can’t help but feel it was a bit doomed from the start, but props to them for giving it a crack. Not only was safety an issue, but their inability to control the real world which is… unpredictable. A great anecdote later in the piece does a good job of illustrating this.
“I remember testing a part of the game in Los Angeles,” wrote Barrett in an email interview with Polygon. “I had to hand over a covert package to a stranger — a kind of classic spy story trope. It was happening in the real world with a soundtrack playing in my ears. I was driven to this stranger by the app and the game engine. I had never met the person — and suddenly, I arrived at a location and made the handover while the soundtrack got ever more dramatic. The euphoria I felt was incredible.”
I’m partial to a battle royale game, so here I am sharing a piece by Simon Parkin for The New Yorker on battle royale’s takeover of video games. Sure it doesn’t exactly present anything new or revelatory, but there’s some interesting tidbits from devs on shoving BR modes into their games and their worries doing so.
The team also played with the established template. “We felt that battle royale was a bit too punishing,” Kelly said. “The fact you can randomly get shot in the head encourages players to hide until the herd is culled. That brutality promotes conservatism over action.” Inspired by a popular in-house mode, Kelly suggested that they introduce a kind of purgatory: eliminated players would be sent to a “gulag,” where they would take part in a one-on-one match against another loser, with the victor returning to action. This, too, was contentious. “We heard, ‘This is not battle royale—this is terrible,’ ” Kelly said.
Now to point towards games that aren’t about sniping someone in the head, Kyle Labriola wrote about cozy games and the discourse surrounding them. The piece has definitely made me consider ‘cozy’ in a different way, and as a genre that’s allowed to evolve like shooters or action games.
While the recent avalanche of “cozy games” that have flooded the market between 2016 and now probably seems overwhelming and eyeroll-worthy if you’re knee-deep in the games industry, to the average person they are still greatly outnumbered by the action-oriented and combat-oriented games that make up a majority of big releases.
For Aftermatch, Gita Jackson wrote about cyclical discourses in games. Jackson contemplates the latest anthology of video game essays by Machado and Lennon, and is infuriated.
A lot of my favorite games writing is just gone — disappeared from an internet that both “never forgets” and is as transient as a passing breeze.
And finally, for RPS, Ollie (and the wider Hive who stayed up really late to cover it all) put together a round-up of all the trailers and announcements from The Game Awards 2023. Standouts for me: Pony Island 2 and Metaphor Refantazio, what are yours?
Music this week is “screen turns blue” by dialE. Here’s the YouTube link and Spotify link. I discovered dialE on – try not to shudder – TikTok, but I’m so glad I did. His album “dear dialE” is a blend of hip-hop, lo-fi, RnB, and jazz, while also being lovely and compact. I think “screen turns blue” does a nice job of showcasing his talent.
In a bit.