"Don't be a dick." That simple notion is the first of Victor Lucas' 3D rules. The others? Don't dick around and don't hang out with dicks. Some would lead you to believe the games press is filled with dicks. It's not. With this in mind, I seek out the best games writing - from news to interviews to reviews and beyond - and highlight it here.

Theme by Andy Taylor, modified by Aaron Hudspeth.

 

How Ubi Toronto Nailed its AAA Debut - IGN

Given the unusual circumstances this interview took place in — you’ll find out right off the bat—it’s amazing how much is covered. Mostly, though, the article is about the culture at Ubisoft Toronto:

We don’t top-down things that much,” Mallat says. “This makes room for the self-culture of the people who join to emerge and build the identity of the studio.”

…and a bit of reverence to others doesn’t hurt either:

“You can make good games with bad tech, you can make bad games with good tech, you can have a lot of time, no time,” says Béland. “Special teams make special games. Look at Naughty Dog…the only thing that guarantees a good game is having a good team that is unified and trusts each other.”

Dyer, Mitch. “The Rise of Ubisoft Toronto: How a New Team Nailed its AAA Debut” (IGN: September 4, 2013) <http://ca.ign.com/articles/2013/09/04/the-rise-of-ubisoft-toronto-how-a-new-team-nailed-its-aaa-debut>.

What We Missed 2012: Long Reads

2012 was a great year for games writing, as this site testifies to. But, for one reason or another, we missed out on posting some pieces of games writing that fit what we’re after—be it smart, funny, pointed, or just plain good. This is a post about some of that writing.

Long reads. Loooooooooooooooooong reads. Reads that take a while. 

First up is Dan Amrich’s Critical Path, which is a book about how to write game reviews and sundry. This is a cover quote, free of charge: Amrich’s years of experience writing about videogames are an invaluable resource for aspiring writers. This is the official website for the book.

Several great gaming mags came to an end this year, but Nintendo Power is by far the mag that had the biggest impact on me was Nintendo Power. Here’s the final message from that magazine.

My favourite hard-copy magazine, replacing Nintendo Power, has to be Scroll. Ray Barnholt is a rad dude. The art in this mag is gorgeous.

An interesting and promising mag—with one issue only, to date—is Five out of Ten. Pick it up for a fiver or a tenner

Here’s a book review that’s worth reading. Here’s another one. The books themselves are probably good too.

Oh, and someone please convince Justin Amirkhani to turn his journey across North America into a book. It’d make a really, really good book.

Go read. It’s a good resolution.

What We Missed 2012: How to Create an Entire Religion

2012 was a great year for games writing, as this site testifies to. But, for one reason or another, we missed out on posting some pieces of games writing that fit what we’re after—be it smart, funny, pointed, or just plain good. This is one such piece of writing.

I feel compelled to bust Dyer’s chops a bit here and say I’m personally not in favour of the Q+A style presentation of the interview (I rarely showcase such interviews here) on display—in which Dead Space Story Producer Chuck Beaver talks about crafting a religion—and that a more compelling, long-form feature could have been crafted. Silly Mitch!

Mr Beaver has a lot of insights, mind:

When it came time to create [a religion], we just took all those conversations and put them in the design for Unitology. It felt like a natural response to what might happen if a Marker appeared. You know, people get all crazy about Jesus on toast, so imagine if an actual alien artifact appeared. Of course there would be a religion about it, religious impulse is very strong for that sort of stuff. It started with that basic, organic assumption that this is what would happen, and then we started growing fun and interesting ideas after that.

Another interesting bit:

Human nature takes the religious impulse, and certainly unscrupulous impulse and uses it to great effect to localize benefit. A few people can manipulate a lot of people if they get a religious idea people really believe in, and then use it without believing in it.

And maybe a comment that won’t be popular:

Why is religion more routinely portrayed in a negative light than not? Adherence to dogma at the rejection of logic and reason. This is the root of all evil that comes from religions. Plus adding “infallible” and “unquestioning” to the system, which locks any mistakes behind an inscrutable, impenetrable veil. Is there any better villain in history than belief systems that are un-provable, word-of-mouth stories that will kill you if you don’t accept them?

Read: How to Create an Entire Religion on IGN.

IGN Profiles Insomniac Games With Great Detail

If you’re a fan of all things (or anything) Insomniac—be it Ted Price, Spyro, Resistance, or even Disruptor—this is the article for you. Fair warning though…the article is quite long.

Spoiled It!: 5 Games That Would Have Been Better With Spoilers Up Front

Spoilers: Those games are Red Dead Redemption, Braid, Spec Ops: The Line, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Heavy Rain. Whoops!

Look at that, two list features in a row here on GGW. Thomsen takes aim at some critical darlings, suggesting that their major plot twists could have been better utilized at the outset of the game rather than the denouement. It’s sure to rile some people up, but Thomsen’s arguments are concise. He even offers up some ways to integrate the plot twist earlier in the game.

So, good article. But there are seriously spoilers, so if you still haven’t bested any of the aforementioned games, you may want to hold out reading.

Here be horror

Horror and humour are two very subjective…feelings? Responses? Experiences? I’m really not sure. So, grapple along with me awhile as we delve into the subject in as awkward a way possible.

Waldron, Chris. “How Lone Survivor gets Horror Right" (Nightmare Mode: July 17, 2012) <http://nightmaremode.net/2012/07/how-lone-survivor-gets-horror-right-21313/>.

A big part of Lone Survivor is the rapidly deteriorating mental state of your player character. Subtle hints appear that offer nods to your protagonist’s level of sanity. You have the option to merrily chat away with a stuffed cat and shoot the breeze with a potted plant, with various other choices that can help or hinder your descent into madness.

It’s the psychology of the character, as well as ties to the real world, that make Lone Survivor work.

Hall, Charlie. “Paging Dr. Wasteland: One man’s crusade to heal DayZ’s zombie victims" (Ars Technica: July 18, 2012) <http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/07/the-healing-touch-dr-wasteland-brings-hope-to-day-zs-grim-world/>.

DayZ is great survival horror because it puts the emphasis on survival while showcasing traditional horror elements (read: zombies). Its broad world allows players to tell their own stories.

Indeed, these stories are often predicated on destroying one’s fellow man. It’s a dog eat dog world. But there are good guys. This is the tale of Dr. Wasteland:

Dr. Wasteland takes the harder path. He is one of the very few people playing the game who is actually here to save his fellow players.

He’s become a folk hero or sorts.

Sterling, Jim. “Lollipop Chainsaw’s James Gunn talks sexiness and sexism" (Destructoid: July 18, 2012) <http://www.destructoid.com/lollipop-chainsaw-s-james-gunn-talks-sexiness-and-sexism-231523.phtml>.

Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t horror, per se, but it has zombies and constant horror references; it relates to cinematic horror in a way comparable to No More Heroes and videogames. Cinematic horror has been traditionally sexist, and some consider Lollipop Chainsaw to be more of the same…so here’s some interesting commentary:

"Nick is objectified by Juliet — he’s literally turned into an accessory, a commodity, and his humanity is denied. Nick is not only emasculated, he is SUPER emasculated…But within this emasculation, Nick has to find some worth other than being the strong one. He needs to find strength through trust. And Juliet needs to learn how to let go of control. So, yes, that is definitely gender role reversal.

Campbell, Brian. “Trail of Fears" (The Escapist: Aprill 30, 2012) <http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9576-Trail-of-Fears>.

Many think Resident Evil when they think about “survival horror”. For Brian Campbell, it’s an old educational game that comes to mind. The Oregon Trail is horror done right because it focuses on two components—not one, like many horror games do—according to Campbell:

[B]ut really the game just skips the more convenient and obvious “bad guys” in favor of two of mankind’s oldest and deadliest foes: Scarcity and Entropy.

These two forces drive all of our most basic impulses. Eventually, everything runs out and everything breaks - including us. Scarcity and Entropy are the world’s timekeepers, and survival is our (ultimately losing) battle to cram just a bit more sand in the hourglass.

Alas, time runs out. Perhaps it’s time to go out with the old and in with the new…

Krupa, Daniel. “Why Horror Games Aren’t Dead And Buried" (IGN: July 18, 2012) <http://ca.ign.com/articles/2012/07/18/why-horror-games-arent-dead-and-buried>.

Slender shares a lot with Halloween. It has the same disturbing elegance. Every playthrough starts off in the same way. You switch on a torch in the middle of a forest in the dead of night, and you’re instructed to collect 8 pages of a scattered manuscript…Once you collect your first page, a sinister thumping begins that never stops. It throbs ominously. Something out in the darkness has been alerted to your presence. You’re being watched. And followed.

The Slender Man, like Myers, can’t be reasoned with. And the game’s controls are so limited you can’t plead or even attack. You can only run, terrified, through the darkness.

A collection of horror stories for your amusement. I feel like the Cryptkeeper.

Should We Keep Religion Out of Games?

Colin Campbell’s treatment of what could be a hot button topic is presented well and offers a variety of perspectives. As something of an outsider to Hinduism, he admits this before moving on. The insights offered are balanced, and the treatment is fair. Kudos, sir.

The Near-Death, Rebirth, and Future of Oddworld - IGN

IGN’s Mitch Dyer explores the trials and tribulations of porting games—with Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath at the centre of it—in this insightful look at the process with Just Add Water CEO Stewart Gilray.

Just Add Water found out the hard way that PC gamers are a demanding lot. When wonky controls and problematic visuals don’t have corrective settings, they get upset. The violent backlash was the exact opposite reaction he expected, naturally. “Rightfully so, we had our arses ripped a new one,” Gilray says. It got under his skin. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. 

"I was terrified I’d killed Oddworld." 

Dyer, Mitch. “The Near-Death, Rebirth, and Future of Oddworld” (IGN: April 27, 2012) <http://games.ign.com/articles/122/1222894p1.html>.


Apple is Set to Change Gaming - IGN

IGN’s Colin Campbell writes this opinion piece with the utmost confidence. Apple will enter the gaming world, and it will dominate it. It’s a bold notion, but is it that far off?

Apple is the most important company in the games business, and yet it’s the biggest player without a hand in what we should probably still refer to as the ‘console’ market. Is Apple happy to leave TV-screen gaming to entrenched competitors? Is Apple going to sit back while the fastest growing entertainment sector in the world continues to mushroom? Hardly. 

Campbell, Colin. “Apple is Set to Change Gaming” (IGN: April 19, 2012) <http://games.ign.com/articles/122/1223367p1.html>.

Clear Vision: The Biggest Game You've Never Played - IGN

We’re not sure if this look at Clear Vision is parody of itself or just plain fun, but we thoroughly enjoyed it because of bits like this:

Although examples of stick figure violence date back thousands of years to the first days of stick figure art itself, a 2001 short animated clip most likely kicked off the modern online obsession with stick figure combat. Entitled Xiao Xiao, the crude animation depicts two stick-men engaged in a gradually escalating fight, parodying the look and style of Hong Kong martial arts films. 

That tangent goes on for a while, winding up somewhere around here:

To anyone unfamiliar with the stick game scene, Clear Vision’s combination of high-fi cutscenes and animation with its low-fi stick figure characters will come off as strange and a little laughable. A stick figure femme fatale, complete with tight red dress and prominent stick figure bustline, tries to pick up our hero at one point. Later, the detail-less “face” of our stick figure hero reads a ransom note in disbelief. It is often a jarring juxtaposition. 

Davis, Justin. “Clear Vision: The Biggest Game You’ve Never Played” (IGN: April 13, 2012) <http://wireless.ign.com/articles/122/1222917p1.html>.