"Don't be a dick." That simple notion is the first of Victor Lucas' 3D rules. The others? Don't dick around and don't hang out with dicks. Some would lead you to believe the games press is filled with dicks. It's not. With this in mind, I seek out the best games writing - from news to interviews to reviews and beyond - and highlight it here.
2012 was a great year for games writing, as this site testifies to. But, for one reason or another, we missed out on posting some pieces of games writing that fit what we’re after—be it smart, funny, pointed, or just plain good. This is a post about some of that writing.
Long reads. Loooooooooooooooooong reads. Reads that take a while.
First up is Dan Amrich’s Critical Path, which is a book about how to write game reviews and sundry. This is a cover quote, free of charge: Amrich’s years of experience writing about videogames are an invaluable resource for aspiring writers. This is the official website for the book.
Several great gaming mags came to an end this year, but Nintendo Power is by far the mag that had the biggest impact on me was Nintendo Power. Here’s the final message from that magazine.
My favourite hard-copy magazine, replacing Nintendo Power, has to be Scroll. Ray Barnholt is a rad dude. The art in this mag is gorgeous.
An interesting and promising mag—with one issue only, to date—is Five out of Ten. Pick it up for a fiver or a tenner.
Oh, and someone please convince Justin Amirkhani to turn his journey across North America into a book. It’d make a really, really good book.
Go read. It’s a good resolution.
Horror and humour are two very subjective…feelings? Responses? Experiences? I’m really not sure. So, grapple along with me awhile as we delve into the subject in as awkward a way possible.
Waldron, Chris. “How Lone Survivor gets Horror Right" (Nightmare Mode: July 17, 2012) <http://nightmaremode.net/2012/07/how-lone-survivor-gets-horror-right-21313/>.
A big part of Lone Survivor is the rapidly deteriorating mental state of your player character. Subtle hints appear that offer nods to your protagonist’s level of sanity. You have the option to merrily chat away with a stuffed cat and shoot the breeze with a potted plant, with various other choices that can help or hinder your descent into madness.
It’s the psychology of the character, as well as ties to the real world, that make Lone Survivor work.
Hall, Charlie. “Paging Dr. Wasteland: One man’s crusade to heal DayZ’s zombie victims" (Ars Technica: July 18, 2012) <http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/07/the-healing-touch-dr-wasteland-brings-hope-to-day-zs-grim-world/>.
DayZ is great survival horror because it puts the emphasis on survival while showcasing traditional horror elements (read: zombies). Its broad world allows players to tell their own stories.
Indeed, these stories are often predicated on destroying one’s fellow man. It’s a dog eat dog world. But there are good guys. This is the tale of Dr. Wasteland:
Dr. Wasteland takes the harder path. He is one of the very few people playing the game who is actually here to save his fellow players.
He’s become a folk hero or sorts.
Sterling, Jim. “Lollipop Chainsaw’s James Gunn talks sexiness and sexism" (Destructoid: July 18, 2012) <http://www.destructoid.com/lollipop-chainsaw-s-james-gunn-talks-sexiness-and-sexism-231523.phtml>.
Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t horror, per se, but it has zombies and constant horror references; it relates to cinematic horror in a way comparable to No More Heroes and videogames. Cinematic horror has been traditionally sexist, and some consider Lollipop Chainsaw to be more of the same…so here’s some interesting commentary:
"Nick is objectified by Juliet — he’s literally turned into an accessory, a commodity, and his humanity is denied. Nick is not only emasculated, he is SUPER emasculated…But within this emasculation, Nick has to find some worth other than being the strong one. He needs to find strength through trust. And Juliet needs to learn how to let go of control. So, yes, that is definitely gender role reversal.
Campbell, Brian. “Trail of Fears" (The Escapist: Aprill 30, 2012) <http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9576-Trail-of-Fears>.
Many think Resident Evil when they think about “survival horror”. For Brian Campbell, it’s an old educational game that comes to mind. The Oregon Trail is horror done right because it focuses on two components—not one, like many horror games do—according to Campbell:
[B]ut really the game just skips the more convenient and obvious “bad guys” in favor of two of mankind’s oldest and deadliest foes: Scarcity and Entropy.
These two forces drive all of our most basic impulses. Eventually, everything runs out and everything breaks - including us. Scarcity and Entropy are the world’s timekeepers, and survival is our (ultimately losing) battle to cram just a bit more sand in the hourglass.
Alas, time runs out. Perhaps it’s time to go out with the old and in with the new…
Krupa, Daniel. “Why Horror Games Aren’t Dead And Buried" (IGN: July 18, 2012) <http://ca.ign.com/articles/2012/07/18/why-horror-games-arent-dead-and-buried>.
Slender shares a lot with Halloween. It has the same disturbing elegance. Every playthrough starts off in the same way. You switch on a torch in the middle of a forest in the dead of night, and you’re instructed to collect 8 pages of a scattered manuscript…Once you collect your first page, a sinister thumping begins that never stops. It throbs ominously. Something out in the darkness has been alerted to your presence. You’re being watched. And followed.
The Slender Man, like Myers, can’t be reasoned with. And the game’s controls are so limited you can’t plead or even attack. You can only run, terrified, through the darkness.
A collection of horror stories for your amusement. I feel like the Cryptkeeper.