After a drought of games, we're practically drowning! That means we're full of material for Worth Reading, our weekly roundup of the best games writing.
Hey, You Should Read These
I know that people love the Persona series, but god damn, Catherine is one of my favourite games from the last five years. It was weird, personal, erotic and altogether different from anything else I'd played then or since. What struck me about Persona is how honest it felt, despite the surreal surroundings. This struck Matthew Kim, as well, prompting him to reflect on how his choices in Catherine managed to eerily mirror real-life feelings about complicated relationships.
Here's an excerpt from the piece:
The last thing I want to do is equate the very real emotional consequences of my last relationship to the plot of a video game. I didn't suddenly find myself thinking about the ending I earned as Vincent; it never crossed my mind that I'd chosen freedom, just like I had in a video game a few years ago. I wasn't torn between two women/metaphorical stand-ins for lust and commitment. I was torn between genuine human affection and a self-preservation instinct that's been a part of me since I was a child. I didn't want to believe that a game, one I believe is actually rather shallow, would predict my own nature.
I don't want to give the game credit where none is due. It wasn't that Catherine had, and has, any real authority over its player's romantic nature — it just asked the right questions. "Who would be responsible if you cheated?" "What's your take on praying mantis mating habits?" "Have you changed your personal style for someone else?" These are clever questions that sorted the player into one of two categories, "law" or "chaos." Choosing too many answers that were designated either lawful or chaotic would net you a corresponding ending, with Katherine the lawful partner and Catherine the chaotic alternative. If your answers effectively split the difference, you would wind up with an ending like mine: Vincent heading off to the other side of the credits as a lonely space cowboy. Just like me.
Keiji Inafune gets the public credit for Mega Man, but most forget about Akira Kitamura, who seems to be the person we should be thanking for what defined the action series. The always-wonderful Schmuplations has translated a lengthy (and I mean lengthy) interview with Kitamura, with deep reflections on the process of creating the first two games. The amount of insight into the tiniest details about Mega Man — why he's blue, the order of the robots and so on — is not only interesting as a Mega Man fan, but fascinating as a case study in design.
Here's an excerpt from the interview:
Kitamura: Also, two of my personal goals for Mega Man were to create a game where all the stages could be cleared in an hour, and to make something that players would want to come back to again and again. To that end, I actually calculated the total number of stages by measuring Mega Man's walking speed and seeing how long it would take to get through each stage. I then split that up so that the first half of the game would be the robot master stages, and the second would be the Wily stages.
Ariga: Whoa! You really did that?
Kitamura: I also created some rules for myself about enemy placement and design.
#1: Single, weak little enemies would appear in "waves" of 3 or 4 individuals (and to the extent possible, I'd avoid mixing up multiple enemies);
#2: they would all use the same attacks;
#3: I would use differences in terrain and enemy placement to adjust the difficulty of a given section;
#4: The difficulty of each enemy in the wave would gradually rise, but the last enemy to appear would be easier.
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Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Michelle Ehrhardt argued The Division can try to avoid 9/11 all it wants, but that doesn't mean it's not impacted by the political imagery of it.
- Alysaa Kai wrote about the experience of losing her sister and how she's processed grief through Super Monkey Ball 2.
- Ed Smith criticised GTA: San Andreas for brushing away racial history.
- Laura Michet hilariously ranked the 10 best statues in The Witness.