Is that an air raid siren signalling the arrival of terrible monsters? Naw, it's announcing Worth Reading, our weekly roundup of the best games writing.
Hey, You Should Read These
Duncan Fyfe digs into the complicated fandom of Silent Hill, which intersects with the tragic history of a real-life American town, Centralia. You might know Centralia as the town that's been on fire for decades, thanks to a coal fire gone awry. The film adaptation of Silent Hill used Centralia, Pennsylvania as inspiration, though it has nothing to do with the games. Nonetheless, fans have flocked to the dead town of Centralia to bring fandom to life. The association has not been pleasant for Centralia's residents, and hey, who can blame them?
Here's an excerpt:
"All official efforts to extinguish the Centralia mine fire ceased in 1984. Centralia was surrendered to the path of the fire, and a congressional appropriation of $US42 million provided for the relocation costs of Centralia residents. Relocation was voluntary then, and became compulsory in 1992 when Pennsylvania seized and condemned all property in Centralia under eminent domain. A few residents defied the state by refusing to leave their homes, and endured lengthy eviction battles. In 2013, the state gave up, and agreed that those people still intent on living in Centralia, all elderly by that point and technically squatters, might as well legally remain there until their death.
The five or six people still living in Centralia "are the diehards of the diehards," David DeKok tells me. "They resent tourists of any stripe, and they are too old to know about Silent Hill. But if you told them it brings tourists to Centralia, they would hate it."
The mind is tricky. We may think we're totally in control of our thoughts and emotions, but studies like this one suggest otherwise. Two sets of players were asked to play survival game Don't Starve, with one set told the game was being played normally, and the other set told an "adaptive AI" was adjusting the game's difficulty, based on their skill. No one involved could tell the difference!
Here's an excerpt:
The work was presented earlier this month at the CHI PLAY conference in London. The team say video game creators need to keep the placebo effect in mind when developing and testing new games.
The experiments show convincing evidence that expectations influence people's gaming experiences, says Walter Boot, a psychologist at Florida State University who studies video games. The effect doesn't have to involve fancy features like AI — it could just work if people think the game they're playing is the latest version on the market, he says.
"The expectation is that something new must be better than the thing before," says Boot. "Maybe that's why people go with a new iPhone every few years."
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Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Sidney Fussell argued how black game characters need to evolve past stereotypes of the inhuman. A good companion piece to Evan's essay!
- John Anderson spoke with a former mentor of Satoru Iwata, who met the future leader of Nintendo early in his career. RIP, Mr. Iwata.
- Mattie Brice penned the most personal response to The Beginner's Guide yet. Can't remember the last time a "review" made me this uncomfortable.
- Christian Nutt asked how Nintendo works with external developers to make games, which is becoming more and more common at the company.
- Sarah Needleman explored how video game music is having an unexpected — and positive — impact on live orchestra concerts.
- Derrick Sanskrit managed to get the designer of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to reconsider his upcoming game as a Broadway musical.
- Nico W. described how Borderlands helped her understand her sexuality.