Worth ReadingWorth Reading

You can’t accuse the video game industry of being a boring place right now. It may be turbulent, its future uncertain, and market forces are stretching in new, untold, slightly scary directions, but there’s plenty to talk about. We’re only a few weeks from the biggest E3 in years, and the 2013 edition is the one we’ve promised ourselves will show us brand-new video games. It’s a new cycle! More money! Yeah! Increasingly, I’ve found myself shrugging at the prospect that a transitional E3 is the solution. More accurately, it’s not where I expect to find the solutions that fit my tastes.

I’ll most certainly be playing plenty of AAA games in the years to come, but if my top ten list from last year was any indication, it’s not where games are resonating for me anymore, so why should I worry so much about it changing?So…I won’t! Worst case scenario? It’s business as usual, and at some point I end up tweeting about the amount of guns and violence for the upteenth time. (I’ll try not to.) Best case scenario? I’m surprised at the interesting risks video games are taking on a large scale, and we’ve all come out ahead.

Hey, You Should Play This

Anyone that tuned into Spookin’ With Scoops experienced what this is all about. I’m not going to say anything. Download this game, and come to learn who Mr. White Face is. I do not like him.

If you told me Mr. Rescue was a long-lost game from the 16-bit era, I’d believe you. Mr. Rescue has players running around an excellently pixelated series of burning buildings, putting out fires, and tossing people through windows–you know, rescuing them! The controls are tight (I couldn’t seem to climb up ladders on a gamepad, though), and the multiple game systems–water control, heat management, crowd panic–play off each other to create a deeper game than it first seems.

And You Should Read These, Too

Brendan Keogh, author of Killing is Harmless, does an excellent job introducing the queer games scene. Papers, Please and Cart Life have taken the most credit for evoking empathy from players, but it’s been happening in the queer games scene for years. Playing Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia was particularly powerful for me. Growing up, I watched a close friend’s sibling have similar experiences with gender, and Dys4ia helped answer the questions I was too afraid to ask.

“I’m really good at luring gamer nerds in, then surprising them with a discussion about gender,” she says with a sly smile. “I think making things that look like video games and play like video games and are very ‘video gamey’ video games is a really good way to trick people into becoming more enlightened, educated human beings.”

When news about a Shadow Warrior reboot broke, it sorta broke my brain. Who wants another Shadow Warrior game? I might’ve enjoyed its blatantly over-the-top nature when I was a teen, but it didn’t take many years to realize how sexist and racist the game’s “humor” was, and none of that would fly in 2013. It’s interesting the producers of the game decided this would not be part of the new Shadow Warrior game from day one, and are focusing on the game’s other elements. Are those enough to support a brand-new game?

“We said look, there is some baggage with the original game, but we thought the elements that I described were worth it. It did some neat things, and had a very rich setting, and we were going to discard [the racial and sexist humor] elements of the original game. If some fans don’t like it, that’s unfortunate, and we think we can win them over with the other parts of the game,” he continued. “In fact, those things were, in our minds, detrimental to the original. We’re reinventing it how we think it needs to be done. If they miss that, we’re not going to be sorry, or anything like that.”

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Chicago to San FranciscoChicago to San Francisco

“We have to go back.”Six years ago, I moved from Chicago to San Francisco. Six years later, I’m headed back.One of the last conversations I had with my father before he passed was telling him we were coming home. This was more than a year ago. At the time, we figured it would happen in a few years. My wife and I had started talking about the future, and we were concerned about the logistics of raising a family in the Bay Area. It’s expensive, and our families are in the midwest. When my father passed, the gut reaction was to panic, and sprint towards what’s comforting.During my extended stay in the midwest last summer, I considered not coming back.

But life cannot be defined by crisis, and I’d have regretted pulling the trigger so quickly. I loved the life I’d built in San Francisco, and I loved my job. Around the time of our wedding, we committed. The plan was to move back for the first anniversary of my father’s passing, and that date is rapidly approaching. A year moves fast. You might have gotten a sense that change was coming when I started experimenting with streaming from my apartment using a MacBook Air. Man, that was dumb! It was around then I was mulling the logistics of no longer being in the office, and how that impacts the work I’ve come to value while being part of Giant Bomb.

I came to this place as a wordsmith, but have since spent most of my time in front of a camera. When I move, the extra time means I’ll naturally gravitate back towards more writing and reporting, but I don’t want to lose the connection I’ve built up with Giant Bomb’s incredible audience. I’m actually excited about what’s possible being disconnected from the office. Alex and I have been talking about doing a live morning show, since we’ll both be in earlier time zones. Perhaps most importantly, I haven’t had time to break any big stories.

Now, I will. It’s very frustrating to sit around and watch other reporters file stories that I’ve sat on for weeks or months, knowing I could have easily done that. Now, I can. Besides more frequent Encylopedia Bombastica entries and Spookin’ With Scoops episodes, you can look forward to much more thoughtful, in-depth reporting from me. I’ve really missed it.June 21 will be the last day I’m in the office, but I’ll continue to be your news editor at Giant Bomb.We’ll leave the teary goodbye for another day.

Hey, You Should Play This

Besides Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, there’s not another horror game I’m looking forward to as much as Among The Sleep. It’s comforting to have my enthusiasm justified. On paper, Among The Sleep is a winner. You’re a two-year-old trying to find your parents in a house where things are going very, very wrong. I’d play that game, even if it turned out awful. As part of its Kickstarter funding, the developers released a playable version of the game. They are very much on the right path with this one.

And You Should Read This, Too

Speaking of horror games, Frictional Games co-founder Thomas Grip sat down with Slender: The Arrival and wrote a thoughtful analysis of what does and doesn’t work. Scaring people seems like one of the most difficult task for a creator, whether we’re talking about games, books, movies–whatever. Horror is incredibly subjective, and requires participation by the player/viewer/reader in a way other genres do not. Grip’s methodically breaks down and articulates why Slender: The Arrival can get under your skin.

“Most of the creepiness comes from the game featuring perfectly normal situations and locations. It is easy to draw parallels between the game’s scenery and your own life experience. There is no need to figure out the world and your place in it, all that comes automatically. This makes it possible to become immersed in the atmosphere almost instantly. It also makes the game leave a certain amount of dread behind after you have finished playing.”

Apparently we’re keeping it morbid on Worth Reading this week. Former THQ president Jason Rubin has penned a stunning editorial about the unfortunate working conditions at Metro: Last Light developer 4A Games. It’ll have you reaching for the buy button on Steam by the end, and only makes what 4A Games has pulled off with both the Metro games all the more impressive. It makes you wonder what 4A Games would be capable of with better support. You know, like proper chairs.

“When 4A needed another dev kit, or high-end PC, or whatever, someone from 4A had to fly to the States and sneak it back to the Ukraine in a backpack lest it be “seized” at the border by thieving customs officials. After visiting the team I wanted to buy them Aeron office chairs, considered a fundamental human right in the west. There were no outlets in the Ukraine, and our only option was to pack a truck in Poland and try to find an “expediter” to help bribe its way down to Kiev. We gave up not because this tripled the cost, but because we realized that the wider Aeron chairs would require spreading out people and computers, which would lead to extra desks, and that ultimately would have required bigger offices. Yes, really.”

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