Sundays are for strutting around the place in your bathrobe. Let’s waltz as we read the week’s best writing about games and game-related things.
For Eurogamer, Chris Tapsell wrote about Palworld’s derivative nature. Some nice observations that sort of summed up what I couldn’t put my finger on, that it makes you feel like a “mark”. I also found this Xwitter thread by Arkane Lyon’s studio director Dinga Bakaba an interesting counter argument.
If you’re yet to hop on board and wondering about what you’re missing, you can relax. Palworld is big and controversial; it is also absolute rubbish. It’s primitive and derivative, a game that appears at first glance almost to be completely fake – the type of thing quickly mocked up for a three-second appearance on a teen’s PC monitor in the background of a mid-budget TV drama. A game to be played one-handed with an N64 controller by Tony Soprano – although honestly I think even he’d deserve better.
Over on his own site, Matthew Ball wrote about the troubled state of gaming in 2024. It’s a pretty enormous read with a business slant, just so you’re aware. But plenty readable for those of us who want some perspective on all the layoffs of late.
Unfortunately, however, there has not been nearly enough growth in the number of AAA console/PC games, nor the average playtime or purchases from each user, to support these cost increases on an average basis. In many cases, even the top performing titles are struggling to make the math work. The first Spider-Man title sold over 22 million units, while Miles Morales sold 10-15MM. Early sales declines suggest Spider-Man 2 may fall short of both of its predecessors. And according to some reports, Insomniac has considered splitting up Spider-Man 3 into two $50 parts in order to address its $385MM budget. There are twice as many active Xboxes today as there were at the peak of the first Halo, but that’s a ways away from offsetting the 33x cost increase.
Merritt K’s article for The Guardian chronicles the sweaty, sociable early days of gaming. The closest I ever got to LAN parties were some pals and I gathered around a table playing Runescape/League Of Legends on our laptops.
I didn’t care. Or maybe I associated the constant motion of fragging, running, grabbing a weapon, getting fragged, with the smell of socks and dude sweat. I’d discovered a different, kinetic side to gaming, luring me away from the sly plot twists of first-person adventure games and fragmentary computer records. I dreamed of blocky pixels rushing past in a swirl, as I turned and turned.
For Bullet Points, Yussef Cole wrote about RoboCop: Rogue City triggering nostalgia for plastic toys. An interesting piece on how childhood memories can shape your perception of video game revivals.
Playing games like Rogue City means smashing action figures against each other, means reliving those lost years of innocent, heedless play. We want to believe, of course, that we’re doing something entirely different; more grown-up, more mature. That’s why Rogue City goes to such lengths to wrap itself in the mantle of gravitas, by paying lip service to social concerns through anemic cutscenes and occasional UI pop-ups that remind you that “Your actions will have political impact.”
Admittedly, I’ve not watched People Make Games’ latest video yet, but I know it’s going to be a great watch. This time they uncover Jubensha, an in-person murder mystery game that’s taken China by storm. Seems like it has some similarities to LARPs and tabletop roleplaying games.
Music this week is “Feedback” by Amtrac. Here’s the YouTube link and Spotify link. Amtrac back with another song laser-targeted at anyone driving at night, or sipping a cocktail on a sun lounger. He somehow caters to both times of day in equal measure.
Have a lovely weekend all!