There have been so many good video games in 2016, so it's not a surprise there's been a plethora of good writing, too. Worth Reading, our weekly guide to the best pieces around, will point you in the right direction.
Hey, You Should Read These
OK, technically, this is an essay about the changing nature of television — in fact, it tries to wrestle with the very definition of TV in the internet age — but Film Crit Hulk uses Polygon's Monster Factory series as a launching pad. (Yes, Film Crit Hulk is a real writer. Yes, he writes in all caps. Yes, they're excellent.) The conventional wisdom was that competitive games might be the medium's path to mainstream exposure, but what if a longer game is playing out? What if YouTube, which many young people consider the new form of TV, is where playing games (often in a non-competitive fashion) is elevated? I didn't see it playing out that way.
IT'S BEEN TALKED ABOUT AD NAUSEAM, BUT THE ENTIRE REASON PODCASTS EXPLODED EIGHT YEARS AGO WAS BECAUSE IT'S JUST HIGHLY-TARGETED METHOD TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL DEEPLY INCLUDED IN A CONVERSATION. WHICH IS TECHNICALLY WHAT THE BEST RADIO DOES TOO, BUT PODCASTS DON'T HAVE TO CATER TO THE POPULIST / LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR ECONOMICS THAT PLAGUES THAT PARTICULAR INDUSTRY. IF ANYTHING, PODCASTS ACHIEVE POPULARITY THROUGH SPECIFICITY. MEANING YOU DON'T HAVE TO APPEAL TO EVERYONE IN THE SANTA FE AREA IN ORDER TO SELL LOCAL CAR DEALERSHIP ADS, INSTEAD YOU CAN APPEAL TO ALL THE DARK SOULS FANS ACROSS THE GLOBE AND JUST SELL THEM HIGH-QUALITY UNDERWEAR (THERE'S BOTH A MEUNDIES *AND* A POOPING YOUR PANTS AT IUDEX GUNDYR JOKE SOMEWHERE IN HERE).
Even as games take strides towards diversity, whether it's through the characters featured in games or the people making them, there's a long way to go. There always is, unfortunately. In particular, Alexandra Marie's provocative essay wonders what happened to games explicitly about black culture. Hopefully, games like Mafia 3 can be a step in that direction.
There have been Black games before. The PS2 era had a ton of them, coinciding with a mass commercialization of black culture and hip hop. Your Def Jams and NFL/NBA Streets weren't bad games, but they weren't great black representation either. These were still games about black superhumans that were considered normal people. There was nothing that made you able to do a front flip dunk, or scale buildings in a few jumps, besides being black. There's a problem when the normalized view of black people is that of super humans, when our stories are not only muddled, but exclusively given the role of tall tales. Video games have always been about power fantasy, but in order to appeal to black people, black video games indulge both stereotypes and Black culture. Def Jam is a game about underground fighting circuits, but with a hip hop (a common way to make things more edgy or alternative in the early aughts) swing. Under the assumption that the development teams for these games were mainly white dudes who listened to hip hop because their mum didn't like "that kind of music", there are three kinds of black men (because they were always men): rappers, sports stars and super humans. Inevitably it was a combination of the superhuman and the other two.
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Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Keith Stuart explored how Doom was the gaming equivalent of punk rock when it was released in the '90s.
- Shaun McCabe & Chad Dezern performed a postmortem on their latest game, a remake of the original Ratchet & Clank. (Now, a proper sequel!)
- Bruno Dias analysed the ways Dark Souls 3 grapples with being a sequel.
- Simon Parkin spoke who developers who are learning how horror works in VR, and how it's possible for something to be too scary.
- John Walker pushed back on the notion that a person needs to be good at playing a video game in order to have something to say about it.