Hello! It’s Wednesday, and I, Melissa, your humble editor, have the news.
I haven’t been playing anything new; I’m plodding along in L.A. Noire, finding new and creative ways to cuss at everything that isn’t investigation. I remember finding the combat, driving, and chase sections tedious back when it came out in 2011, but, between the lack of time I have for gaming and the fact that standards have changed in the last seven years, much of this game feels like a relic—and not in the Old Hollywood way.
Politics! You Can’t Escape ‘Em
In the light of the video games summit at the White House, the industry is revisiting thoughts on violence, aggression, and their place in play.
In response to an 88-second collection of ultraviolent clips played at the summit, Games for Change, an organization dedicated to furthering the impact of games for education and social change, created their own 88-second video celebrating the beauty of video games. Response has been mixed; on the one hand, yes, it would be great if people looked beyond Call of Duty and other military shooters to understand what games are capable of, but, on the other, is taking things out of context in response to a video taking things out of context really advancing the cause?
There’s a deeper conversation to be had here; we don’t need to play badminton with people whose goal is to shift focus away from meaningful gun control, but nor do we need to ignore the industry’s fixation on violence. As Katherine Cross points out in a piece for GamaSutra, it’s clear that the meeting wasn’t really about video games anyway; it was just another means of avoiding engaging with America’s obsession with guns.
Cross also expanded on her thoughts on violence, aggression, and video games in another GamaSutra piece, exploring the scientific nuances of the conversation. This is a debate that’s been raging on for decades, and it’s important that we, as consumers, engage not just with that which infuriates us (“video games make you violent”) but also that which gives us pause (“video games celebrate violence and may encourage aggression”).
In other news, game designer Elizabeth LaPensée, creator of Thunderbird Strike, is under fire from a Minnesota state representative. The representative, Steve Green, claims that LaPensée’s game “holds absolutely no benefit to the taxpayers of Minnesota who paid for it.” The game was made with funding from Minnesota State Legislature’s general and arts and cultural heritage funds. Green has proposed a bill that would require all money from such programs to be used only on projects created in the state of Minnesota, something LaPensée says she’s already proven she did.
Wait, so. I proved I completed #ThunderbirdStrike while a resident of Minnesota and now a new bill has been proposed which hinges on lies and accusations of domestic terrorism by a senator who never even played the game. #gamedev #indiedev https://t.co/Or4ClMITUA
— Beth LaPensée (@odaminowin) March 20, 2018
Green claims the game promotes “domestic terrorism” for its depiction of a thunderbird striking back at equipment used for oil drilling. In fact, Thunderbird Strike is a thought-provoking piece of art discussing the exploitation of Native lands by oil companies, which encourages political action by learning about the situation through the various resources provided on the game’s website. If you live in Minnesota, give your state representative a call and let them know how you feel about the issue—claiming the game promotes domestic terrorism is a clear misreading, as Thunderbird Strike is in fact an invaluable #ownvoices work encouraging political engagement, education, and respect for Native lands, not domestic terrorism.
Gaming Industry Unionization
If you need a reminder that the video game industry should unionize, here’s one for you: 21 developers at France’s Eugen Systems have been on strike for a month. Like many countries, France’s video game industry is not unionized, so even though there are some protections in place for employees, their concerns are not necessarily being heard or addressed by those in power.
Accessibility Makes Games Viable For All
Fortnite, recently ported to iOS, has an additional feature its PC and console version does not—visual cues for in-game audio. While this may have been intended to allow mobile players to enjoy the game without headphones, as sound plays a big role in telling the player where enemies are, it’s also a great tool for D/deaf and hard of hearing players. Multiplayer shooters, in particular, tend to struggle with accessibility for D/deaf folks, as many have pointed out in response to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Though it may have been unintentional, Fortnite’s visual cues for its mobile version are a step in the right direction.
In other accessibility news, Super Slime Arena developers Jelly Team have gone out of their way to allow any controller to function with their game. Not only does this mean people can pick up and play their game with whatever controllers they already have available, but it also means that players who need unique controllers for accessibility reasons won’t have to struggle to get those controllers to work. It’s smart business; not only is the ability to use anything with a USB plug a neat feature, but it also means that everybody has the opportunity to play.
Game Recommendations That Aren’t By Us
As it turns out, people who don’t write here at Sidequest also cover games? And sometimes they have recommendations? Wild. You learn something new every day.
Ashley Oh’s review of Detention is the perfect blend of personal anecdotes and informed critique. If you like psychological horror with a realistic historical flair, this one might be for you.
The folks at BoardGameGeek have rounded up their favorite games of 2017 for your perusal. The big board game winner is Gloomhaven, a co-op dungeon crawler with a Choose Your Own Adventure twist. Tales from the Loop takes the RPG prize, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild wins for video games. If you’re in the market for some new tabletop games to try, give the thread a visit; the winners themselves are great, but there are tons of other recommendations in the comments, too.
Oh, and there’s a new Tomb Raider on the way, if that’s your jam.
Experience Lara Croft’s defining moment as she becomes the Tomb Raider. Shadow of the Tomb Raider will be revealed April 27th. Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on September 14th, 2018. pic.twitter.com/jujMf47kJH
— Tomb Raider (@tombraider) March 15, 2018
Over in The Netherlands, four people were arrested for using fake game cartridges to smuggle LSD, cocaine, and MDMA.
Did you catch Drake (yes, that Drake) streaming some Fortnite with Twitch streamer Ninja? The stream broke the record for the most non-tournament views (previously held by Dr. DisRespect) and earned Ninja 90,000 more subscribers. Most importantly, the stream revealed that Drake has good pizza opinions:
Pardon me. Excuse me everyone, important update. https://t.co/RpmbxyJIOD
— austin walker (@austin_walker) March 15, 2018
And now, with our controversial pizza opinions out here in the open air, I turn you over to our resident games oracle.
Welcome to Games Bleat! This is the part of the week where you can take a rest from the pains of your mortal form and let your soul revel in the sublime ecstasy that is video games. I’m Joesph, your coach in the lost art of transcendental gaming, and I’m here to keep you up to date on all of the games, deals, and new releases you should be visualizing on your dream board.
Let’s start off with the deals!
- The Talos Principle: $10.00
- Hound: $0.99
- Owlboy: $19.99
- Mini Metro: $4.99
- Surgeon Simulator: $1.49
- Super Hexagon: $0.98
- Transistor: $4.99
- VVVVVV: $0.99
- Child of Light: $5.09
- Tomb Raider: $4.99
- Lucius Demake: $1.69
- Reprisal Universe: $1.59
- A Mortician’s Tale: $9.74
- Sea of Thieves free with purchase of Xbox One: Starting at $299
- Heart and Slash: $13.49
And now I’m going to need you to inhale and hold it, so that I may transmit this week’s new releases directly into your fourth-dimensional consciousness via your vision orbs.
First up is Paratropic, a low-res atmospheric horror game filled with a good deal of weirdness. Next is another creepy game, but with a bit of an Oddworld feel: The Juice of God’s Future. Finally coming out this week is the long-awaited sequel to Ni No Kuni, Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. While the first game drew some ire for putting too much focus on stunning visuals and not enough of writing, the follow up has already been generating some positive buzz from critics.
And that’s it for this week’s bleat! I hope you found something to hold back that aching hunger for a better life. If not, I’ll catch you next week!
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.