The Sunday Papers | Rock Paper Shotgun

By admin May12,2024

Sundays are for celebrating the fact that my washing machine now drains correctly. Before I deliberately spill beans down all my white tees just so I have an excuse to spin from dawn to dusk, popping caps off non-bio liquid like F1 champagne, let’s read this week’s best writing about games (and game related things!)

For Video Games.si, Kirk McKeand shared a free chapter of his book – The History Of The Stealth Game – with a foreword from Harvey Smith, in tribute to Arkane Austin. Smith writes:

“Hit points are so useful, so easy to understand, and quick to apply, that the concept closes off pathways to other concepts; real-world experiences that could be noise-reduced and abstracted down for gameplay modeling. Asymmetrical awareness, for instance. Lighting, shadow, and sound. Enemy facing. The fade-off of peripheral vision. But the concept of hit points also enables very-low-hit-point games, in which one or two shots are fatal, creating hyper-tense, high stakes situations, where thoughtful observation becomes all-important. Sneaking is a subset of that type of play.”

For Unwinnable, Maddi Chilton wrote about how grimdark Pokémon RPG The Thaumaturge explores empathy and community through its protagonist’s occult abilities. It’s a lovely piece, and I’m also glad to see people writing about the game – a really creative venture that I get the sense didn’t find too much of an audience.

“What both the traces and the flaws encourage is a sense within the game that people influence each other, that a community is a flexible, organic thing and that environment and physical space is affected by the people who live within it. Wiktor’s entire mode of interaction with the world is one of applied empathy, concentrated and made into magic through the indefinite occultisms of thaumaturgy. His power is entirely focused on other people, on his ability to understand them and influence him, and on his attunement to their ordinary modes of living within the world. It’s no coincidence that when Wiktor is at his weakest, at the beginning of the game, he’s alone; when he returns to Warsaw, his family and his community, his power is able to grow.”

Over at cheery RPS fanzine PC Gamer, Rich Stanton wrote about how Helldivers 2’s community management echoes its satirical themes. Even as a fairly recent convert to our glorious Super Earth, the ongoing everything around this great game feels somewhat historical – in the sense that it’s a videogame thing that’s remained relevant and interesting for more than three days anyway.

“Arrowhead has succeeded in engaging a playerbase at huge scale, and making them feel like they have a degree of control in how this game is unfolding. Helldivers 2 players are seriously invested in this universe already and, when they’re not playing the game itself, are using a myriad of out-of-game tools to track it, offer feedback, and collectively organise themselves. The fact this maps so well onto Helldivers 2’s satirical themes of managed democracy and collectivism is just the icing on the cake.”

I will read further afield than Gamer Network next week, promise, but I couldn’t ignore this one from Eurogamer, speaking to Lawrence Schick – the man who coined the term ‘XP’.

“It’s a wonderfully mundane story. “Oh it was just like 20 minutes on a Thursday afternoon.” But therein lies the charm. It’s precisely the ordinariness of the discovery that speaks to the extraordinariness of what people like Schick were doing at the time. They didn’t have to make great discoveries in order to stand out and create a legacy because everything they did had that effect.

It’s as Schick says: “We were inventing a whole art form at the time. Everything we did was new, and so it was routine to come up with stuff that nobody had ever done before. And a lot of it was temporarily useful and is now lost to history and didn’t turn out to be important, but we were also making up stuff that did stick and that did go on to become part of the creative lexicon, and not just of games.” Levelling-up was another term that stuck. Even the base concept of character progression was something that didn’t really exist before D&D. So many of these fundamental RPG things – of these fundamental gaming things – were, as Shick says, “rooted in a few years in the ’70s when they were all worked out for the first time.’”

I frequently go down rabbit holes watching footage of the old Games Workshop crew – the original distributors of D&D in the UK, if I’ve got my history (dicestory?) correct – so it’s always a treat reading about the formative years of tabletop. Related is this interview with Warhammer artist Ian Miller, by the always great Jordan Sorcery, in which Miller chats about working with Ralph Bakshi of animated Lord Of The Rings fame. “You’re a genius Ian!” – “Well pay me a genius wage then!

Talking of tabletop, Quinns Quest hosted a Citizen Sleeper oneshot with developer Gareth Damian Martin and friends. Did you know that I also write TTRPGs? They don’t really work as games, but they were fun to write and you might have fun reading them too who knows?

Tim Cain spoke about how MUD pioneer Richard Bartle’s ideas on player archetypes (Killer/Explorer/Achiever/Socialiser) have influenced Cain’s own game design. I do think the list probably needs updating now. ‘Petter’, ‘Shipper’, ‘Loot Goblin’, ‘Guy who spends 2 hours a week gaming and 17 hours a week complaining online about shrinking boobs b/c woke’ etc.

Luke Plunkett wrote about Famicase – in which artists submit Famicon cartridge mock-ups – for Aftermath.

Music this week (or rather, music video) is “The Battle of Hoth” by Galactic Empire. Partly for the blast beats, but mainly for the Star Wars Lego stop motion:

Watch on YouTube

A good vid, but one I’d enjoy substantially less if I didn’t now have a handsome supply of fresh socks. Thanks, washing machine repair people, and thank you, reader. Have a great weekend!

By admin

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