Hey pals. It’s been a really long time since I’ve done one of these. Because of that I want to show you a mix of more recent pieces, and some stuff that I really loved that came out over my break. Let’s go.
Let’s start with a game that came out over my hiatus: Mass Effect Andromeda. I have never played a Mass Effect game before, so I saw this newest title as a chance to jump into a series that is much loved by many of my friends. However I was left disappointed. And not just because of the terrible animations – I’ve played Dragon Age before, and that is by no means perfect. Mostly what got me was how joyless and boring the game was. I’m not sure exactly why, but I just didn’t find my time with the game enjoyable. Polygon’s Rowan Kaiser argues effectively that it is Bioware’s insistence on making open world games that really hinders them. I can agree with them – I was very frustrated moving around large maps full of nothing to get from one objective marker to the next – and it became even worse when I had to spend time, meaninglessly navigating across space to move the narrative onwards.
Moving on to another newer release, albeit a much better one: Persona 5. Like Mass Effect, Persona is a series I’m new to, but unlike Mass Effect, it offers a great gaming experience. I’ve moved house recently, so with all the packing and unpacking I haven’t been able to play as much Persona 5 as I would like. But my time with it has been really enjoyable – it’s the kind of game you think about when you’re not playing, itching to get back to it and planning what you’ll do next when you do. Hamish Black from Writing on Games has this great video where he dissects how the stats mechanic in Persona 5 works to create the sense of time running out, and gives the ‘real’ world a lot of punch. I definitely recommend it- even if you’re not hooked into the Metaverse yet. And don’t worry – if you’re a new player or a member of Atlus staff – there’s no spoilers in the video.
Are you wondering what dumb, game-related internet drama you missed when I was here to tell you about it? Well, good thing I’m back. It was dumb, and meaningless, but this article from Ben Kuchera came out of it. In short, Kuchera’s article can be read in the context of how consumption and critiquing of games is divorced from an understanding of how games are made. I want to know a lot about the games I play and talk about, but the furthest I’ve got into game dev is making pong in Lua. Finding out about how games are made, in a clear way is fascinating to me. And ultimately, this whole twitter storm is a lesson we can do well to keep in mind: don’t mock people for being interested in something they don’t know about. No one’s born an expert.
Tabletop RPGs are fun. They can also be great creative exercises and can provide people with a safe place to work through some things, or push their boundaries. I encounter a lot of people at the table who have anxiety, and play can be a scary but rewarding thing for them. This article from Kotaku writer Cecilia D’Anastasio looks at how Dungeons & Dragons is being used to help teenagers open up and learn to communicate. Games are fun, and they don’t need to justify their existence beyond that, but it is incredible to hear about all the ways games can positively impact our lives beyond ‘fun’.
And while games and gaming can have transformative effects on our life for the better, sometimes there can be some nasty fallout too. Covered again by D’Anastasio, this time they look at Twitch streamers and privacy invasions. What I loved about this piece is that while of course it comes down on the side of the streamer who has a stranger turn up at their house unannounced, there is also input from the fans who perhaps went too far. And it’s interesting, if frightening, to hear the rational for their actions. For me, this article stayed in my head for a good while after I finished reading it.
I feel bad flogging a Patreon, but Consolvenia is an imperfect, hilarious show about video games and I want everyone to watch it. With purposeful bad editing, jokes that aren’t afraid to run on, and an unexplained insistence on Gerry being Rab and Ryan’s son, this show is my favourite thing on video games. Anyway, I’m not sure if you can watch the episodes outside Patreon right now, but this show is a gift during dark times and it is 100% worth a swatch.
And to finish here’s something gorefest Outlast 2. Wondering if you should play it? What you are outlasting? Or even what the ratio of guts to butts? Then SEO Play has you covered.