As the new year rolls on, so does Worth Reading, our weekly collection of the best games writing around the web. Here's what I've found.
Hey, You Should Read These
A remake of Final Fantasy VII, despite Square Enix's public reservations about the project over the years, always seemed inevitable. But it's a bit like a dog catching the squirrel it's been chasing around the yard: what now? Christian Nutt has been replaying Final Fantasy VII, and crystallised the daunting task in front of Tetsuya Nomura and everyone else. It's not merely about revamping the visuals of a game from 1997, it's about retaining the heart and soul of a design philosophy Square Enix has largely distanced itself from in the years since.
Here's an excerpt from the piece:
The Final Fantasy of the 1990s was steeped in humour, both gentle and overt; of late, the games have gotten more bombastic and pompous. The majority of the humour in the largely nonsensical 2005 Final Fantasy VII film, Advent Children, was inadvertent. If anything, things have gotten worse since then. What little comic relief there is, is generally cringe-worthy, even perplexing.
I'm talking about humour here, but what I really mean is broader than that. What I'm talking about could be called "humanity," maybe — spirit and verve. Final Fantasy VII has a lot of all of that, and it comes across in a lot of different ways. With its tale of a world divided, the original Final Fantasy XIII tried to recapture the tragedy of Midgar, but it got lost amidst a tremendously artificial setting that did a great job of painting hallways of frozen crystal and glowing trees but completely failed to portray any cohesive (or comprehensible) world at all.
Sure, Cloud is as cool as frost, and he's definitely got fabulous hair, but without photorealistic rendering, the focus in 1997 didn't zero in on the protagonist and his party. An eclectic spirit underpins the creativity of Final Fantasy VII; Final Fantasy XIII director Motomu Toriyama told me how the studio finds the democratic, collaborative development style of the older games nearly impossible to execute in its modern, huge-scale productions, but it's going to have to figure out a way to do so, or a remade Final Fantasy VII will end up as simply another fashion show. Without humans, there is no human element.
It's easy to forget how widespread games have become, even though we commonly think about them being made in only a few places — US, Japan, Europe and so on. And while we're more accustomed to hearing about places like Pakistan for geopolitical reasons, Rizwan Syed shows how games are flourishing in unexpected places. W R Play is interesting, as 43 per cent of its workforce is women. The story touches on why this leads to some, uh, unique problems:
Sadia Zia has been with We R Play since shortly after it launched. A senior manager for internal projects, Zia was the sixth person hired and has led the company's diversity strategy from the front to build a female-friendly environment. She pushed for separate women's bathrooms at the company and off-campus retreats for the female employees to bond.
Zia manages both men and women, which she said can be challenging. A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in July 2015 found that male subordinates often feel threatened by female managers. Zia said her male employees sometimes react in similar ways.
"Some of the guys do have ego issues, I would say. Like taking orders from women is not good for them, maybe. So you know, especially when it comes to conveying some work-related issues [and I say] 'You did not do this correctly', that would be really hard for me. Because instead of accepting their mistakes they would become defensive," Zia said.
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Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Fraser Brown claimed adventure games are suffering from an identity crisis, as games like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange become common.
- Joe Bernardi reflected on David Bowie's chief contribution to video games, the utterly bizarre Omikron: The Nomad Souls.
- Adi Roberston lamented the lack of consideration VR tech has for the size and shape of women, reflecting how her gender is often an afterthought.
- Rami Ismail outlined what it's like to be someone with a name that constantly finds themselves flagged by various government watch lists.
- Will Partin chronicled what happened during the final moments of various MMOs. It's surprisingly tragic.
- DJ Pangburn spoke with someone who spent 48 hours in VR.
- Radiolab went behind-the-scenes with the developers of the emotionally charged That Dragon, Cancer to learn why they made the game.