[Video Game Deep Cuts is a weekly newsletter from video game industry 'watcher' Simon Carless (GDC, Gamasutra co-runner), rounding up the best longread & standout articles & videos about games, every weekend.
This week's highlights include a detailed look at what 2019 may bring in terms of business trends & games - as well as a whole host of other leftover 2018 highlights, daily 'meditations' on games, a Chinese indie megahit, and lots more.
Phew, so we're in that 'just before it all kicks off' New Year period, and I hope you're returning to work with a happy attitude and a relaxed demeanor. Actually, we're just getting really amped up for Game Developers Conference 2019, as all the latest news shows - hope a bunch of you can make it!
Until next time...
- Simon, curator.]
Opinion: Here's what 2019 will be like for the game biz (Joost van Dreunen / Gamasutra - ARTICLE)
"2019 promises to be a great year in games. Innovation and competition will elevate the industry’s offerings and drive more inclusivity among a broader range of audiences. [SIMON'S NOTE: we yoinked this onto Gamasutra from Joost's excellent newsletter, which I would recommend subscribing to.]
The history of dance emotes in 15 gifs (Luke Winkie / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"It's a little funny how much we've come to expect dance emotes in modern games. Obviously /dance doesn't top our lists of demands like 4K support or unlocked framerates, but it's honestly hard to imagine an MMO without a diligently programmed jig."
My Favorite Game Animation of 2018 (Dan Floyd / New Frame Plus / YouTube - VIDEO)
"Here's a list of 2018 games with amazing animation! [SIMON'S NOTE: Floyd, ex-Extra Credits, is a really smart video game x animation type, so this is a nice roundup.]"
The 40 Games We Can't Wait To Play In 2019 (Andrew Webster / The Verge - ARTICLE)
"The year is almost over, which means it’s time to start dreaming about all of the great games you’ll be playing in 2019 — and it sure looks like there will be a lot. Next year is shaping up to be packed with notable releases, from the charming world of Animal Crossing to the violent action of Gears of War."
DUSK and the Design of 90s FPS Games (Chris Franklin / Errant Signal / YouTube - VIDEO)
"DUSK is a game that hearkens back to FPS games from 20 years ago. Is it just a warmed over collection of old hat tropes, or does the game make a case for something like this being made today?"
*Press A* 2018 ~ The Year’s Best Videogame Soundtracks (Chris Redfearn-Murray / A Closer Listen - ARTICLE)
"This year the proliferation of unique styles and new approaches to old genres brought videogame soundtracks to what is perhaps a new high in quality and thought. From niche to popular composers, classical traditions to synthwave, everything we celebrate from 2018 bears the mark of being distinct – whether a modern spin on old, or just modern."
Ducking up the game design of Mutant: Year Zero (Bryant Francis / Gamasutra - ARTICLE/VIDEO)
"Thanks in no part to a foul-mouthed talking duck, Mutant: Year Zero has managed to find an audience and a strong niche in the strategy game space, showing how even a stripped-back version of XCOM can do well with the right tone and sense of polish."
The “Bandersnatch” Episode of “Black Mirror” and the Pitfalls of Interactive Fiction (Simon Parkin / New Yorker - ARTICLE)
"Interactive fiction, or I.F., is an old and treasured mode of video-game design. Per the veteran designer Sid Meier, a video game is a series of interesting choices; in many ways, the multi-branched story is the purest expression of that idea. “Bandersnatch” is a Netflix episode, so it’s by necessity simpler than many I.F. games, but it also demonstrates both the enduring allure of the format and its exasperating limitations."
A Breakout Story (Ethan Johnson / The History Of How We Play - ARTICLE)
"The early years of Silicon Valley are jam-packed with legends and so many crossing events happening simultaneously. Jobs’ intersection with Atari is very much conjecture with a backdrop of absence that very much complicates the story. Sussing out the facts of the creation of this Breakout prototype is difficult, so let’s go through the process which led to the current conclusion."
Birding Like It’s 1899: Inside a Blockbuster American West Video Game (Nicholas Lund / Audubon - ARTICLE)
"The first time I see ravens, I flush them out of an alpine meadow carpeted with wildflowers. I pause to watch the flock fly off towards the distant, snow-capped peaks, trailed by their echoing croaks, when a man riding by on horseback bumps into me. Irritated, I shoot the man dead, and take his hat. So it goes in "Red Dead Redemption 2.""
Deorbital Presents: Amr Al-Aaser’s 2018 Games Of the Year (Amr Al-Aaser / Deorbital - ARTICLE)
"I constantly struggled to both get my hands on everything I wanted to check out. At one point I had over 60 tabs on my phone full of promising titles that I’ve still not got around to. Even as I write this I’m covering new games that threaten to shuffle this list around. [SIMON'S NOTE: I know, enough 'best games' already - this one's fun because it's distinctly alternative!]"
The best writing in games in 2018 (Wes Fenlon / PC Gamer - ARTICLE)
"To celebrate the best words in videogames this year, I decided to turn to the people who write them. I asked a whole bunch of videogame writers to tell me about their favorite story this year, and to also pick out a particular bit of writing to highlight: a singular story moment, or dialogue, or bit of flavor text that suck with them long after the game was over."
Telling Stories About A Decaying Small Town With Cities: Skylines (Cameron Kunzelman / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"YouTuber TazerHere has created a sleepy Texas town called Berrysville in immaculate detail, but what really makes it unique is that it is chock full of stories created by community members... It is an astounding piece of work that clearly required a lot of mods and particular model choices, and the final product is a place that looks (uncannily, I might add) a lot like many small town locations in the American Southwest."
The Roots of Compile – 1998 Developer Interview (Shmuplations / All About Compile - ARTICLE)
"This compilation of interviews from 1998’s All About Compile book sheds light on the early days of the prolific, now-defunct software house Compile and the origins of several of their most memorable titles, including the comical RPG series Madou Monogatari and its falling-block puzzle game spin-off, the wildly successful Puyo Puyo."
TouchArcade 2018 Game of the Year: ‘Oddmar’ (Eli Hodapp / TouchArcade - ARTICLE)
"2018 is almost behind us, and we’ve already listed our our 100 favorite games of the year (which is quite a task, given the amount of great games that had to get cut to get us down to 100), which leaves us two things left to do to fully pack 2018 in and move on to 2019: Reveal our Game of the Year picks, and publish our personal favorites. [SIMON'S NOTE: there's SO much good stuff on iOS that it's almost impossible to keep up with - kudos to TouchArcade for trying!]"
Best mobile game genres of 2018 – Top Free Games Charts (Tom Kinniburgh / Mobile Free To Play - ARTICLE)
"2018 has been a year of change in mobile. There’s been an entirely new genre emerge in the form of Battle Royale, Hypercasual continued to dominate the free charts, and a large number of prominent publishers had titles slip out of the top 50 grossing (Supercell, King, Playrix)."
I think I like Below the most when I'm not actually playing it (Christian Donlan / Eurogamer - ARTICLE)
"Below blooms in the mind when you aren't playing it. It does for me, at least. The art seems wilder, darker, more filled with promising shadows, the narrative seems more teasing, more richly stuffed with the potential for strange interpretations."
Press ‘A’ to Study Harder (Rui Zhong / Foreign Policy - ARTICLE)
"My son is hunched over a table stacked high with books, practice guides, and homework. Dramatic music blares as he studies for the intensely competitive gaokao; if he aces it, he’ll earn a place in one of China’s most prestigious colleges. If he doesn’t, he’ll be doomed to mediocrity. Fortunately, I’ve boosted his intelligence score while managing his stress levels and my parental satisfaction—and all of that is tracked by two bars at the top of the screen."
Tales of an aging gamer: Why don’t I pick up a controller as often as I used to?(Theo Karasavvas / Ars Technica - ARTICLE)
"Despite a wider variety than ever before, video games don’t have the same effect on me as they used to. That might not sound like a problem to some of you, but it is to me. I have played video games from the early days of my childhood, starting somewhere around the late ’80s. I became heavily addicted to my Game Boy as a kid, and I can still remember the thrill I felt the day I bought my first PlayStation 22 years ago."
The Gamers Of The Year, 2018 (Ethan Gach / Kotaku - ARTICLE)
"At the close of every year, Kotaku highlights not just video games but gamers—people who did noteworthy or influential things in the world of video games. This year, we’ve decided to honor an entire community, one that did its best to group together and recover after a senseless, unthinkable tragedy. [SIMON'S NOTE: this is a great, sad piece.]"
The PC Pulse: What are the biggest trends facing the market in 2019? (Alex Calvin / PC Games Insider - ARTICLE)
"We at PCGamesInsider.biz boast many talents but we cannot predict the future. Shocking, truly shocking, we know. But while we don't have a crystal ball, we do have a group of incredibly smart industry folks at hand who have the knowledge and insight to predict what the trends that will shape the market in 2019 will be."
Part Live-Performance Art, Part Video Game, ‘Meditations’ Takes 365 Days to Experience (Brian Crecente / Variety - ARTICLE)
"“Games and game developers can be anything.” That, Rami Ismail says, is the message he hopes everyone takes away from the experience come Dec. 31, 2019. “That’s the hope. For 365 days you have seen 365 completely different things made by 365 different people. The thing they have in common is that they are all game developers and made a game.” [SIMON'S NOTE: some initial confusion over crediting, but ongoing credits are made clear via this handy Twitter account.]"
[REMINDER: you can sign up to receive this newsletter every weekend at tinyletter.com/vgdeepcuts - we crosspost to Gamasutra later on Sunday, but get it first via newsletter! Story tips and comments can be emailed to [email protected]. MINI-DISCLOSURE: Simon is one of the organizers of GDC and Gamasutra & an advisor to indie publisher No More Robots, so you may sometimes see links from those entities in his picks. Or not!]