By Matt Gerardi
It’s a big week here at the New York Videogame Critics Circle. First, we held the eighth annual New York Videogame Awards, and it was the biggest and best show in the event’s history. And now, we bring you the return of The Roundup, our weekly look at recent work from our Circle members and happenings from around the world of video games. I’m Matt Gerardi, former games editor at The A.V. Club and current guy spending way too much time staring at Twitter, and I’ll be your Roundup guide for this installment.
Before we dive into the stories our members have been publishing, we of course have to take a look back at highlights from Tuesday night’s New York Videogame Awards. Emanating from Manhattan’s SVA Theatre and hosted by writers from The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, the show celebrates our critics’ choice for the best games 2018 had to offer. More importantly, it’s the Circle’s biggest moment to spread its message about giving back and to support its non-profit work, like mentoring students at the DreamYard Prep School and educating older adults through games and technology.
As for the winners, Sony Santa Monica’s God Of War took home the Big Apple Award for Best Game, with director Cory Barlog accepting. Tetris Effect and Red Dead Redemption 2 both captured two trophies apiece. The most inspiring moment of the night came courtesy of former Ubisoft and EA producer Jade Raymond, who was honored with the The Andrew Yoon Legend Award. She used her acceptance speech to recognize the many talented women she’s worked with throughout her career, most of whom never receive the kind of spotlight she herself attracted. It was an empowering speech and a beautiful way to highlight the work of women in the game industry.
On that same theme, this year’s Knickerbocker Award for Games Journalism went to Kotaku’s Cecilia D’Anastasio for her impactful investigation into the pervading sexism and harassment at Riot Games, maker of League Of Legends. D’Anastasio dedicated her acceptance speech to the current and former Riot employees who found the courage to step forward and speak up about the company’s shameful atmosphere.
It was an incredible night, and we look forward to doing it all again next year, even bigger and even better. But for now, let’s take a look at some of the writing that’s come from our Circle members so far in 2019:
Heather Alexandra continued her retrospective look at the Metal Gear series with an in-depth reading of one of its most obscure entries: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Released in Japan in 1990 and not making it to the rest of the world until 2005, this was the “true” Hideo Kojima-directed sequel to the original Metal Gear, and, as Heather argues, it builds upon its predecessor’s simple foundation and themes in some impressive ways, taking a huge leap toward the dense, political science-fiction the series is known for today. “[Metal Gear 2’s] lasting effect,” Heather writes, “will be the shadowy echoes players will replay throughout the series.” You can read the whole article right here.
One of this week’s marquee releases is Capcom’s modern reimagining of Resident Evil 2. The 1998 original isn’t just a horror classic; it also led CNET’s Dan Ackerman to writing about video games for the first time and beginning his long career in the tech and gaming press. With this bloody new take ready to hit shelves, Dan looked back at his connection with the old Resident Evil 2 and what it was like to play a reconstructed version of the game that changed his life. Take a look at that over here.
Suing the makers of the world’s biggest video games is all the rage these days. While Epic Games is busy battling the creators of several dances it stuffed into Fortnite, Rockstar is now fending off a much more intimidating foe: the Pinkertons. Yes, the Pinkerton detective agency still exists today, and, as Jordan Minor tells us, it isn’t happy about its villainous depiction in Red Dead Redemption 2. Citing the game’s use of its trademarked name, the organization reportedly sent a cease-and-desist to Rockstar and is sticking up the developer for royalties. You can get the rest of the story here.
From Beyond The Circle
This past weekend, Harry “Hbomberguy” Brewis, best known for his YouTube video essays, held a charity livestream where attempted to (and ultimately succeeded at) hitting 100 percent completion in Donkey Kong 64. It took him 58 frequently infuriating hours to hit that mark, but the struggle helped him raise approximately $340,000 for Mermaids, a U.K.-based charity that supports transgender young people and their families. Such a wild endeavor with such a noble cause was sure to get the internet buzzing, especially as famous names from around the industry and beyond called in to chat with Brewis. The story really started making headlines when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman from New York’s 14th district, gave Brewis a ring to discuss trans rights, her proposed 70 percent marginal tax rate, and playing Nintendo 64 games at her cousin’s house. Variety wrote a rundown of the stream and AOC’s guest appearance.
The romance in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey wasn’t very deep, but it was praised for eschewing rigid heteronormative standards. Given that openness, many LGBTQ players were disappointed to see their characters forced into heterosexual relationships as part of the game’s latest story expansion, Shadow Heritage. Chelsea Steiner explained the backlash, and the development team’s subsequent apology, at The Mary Sue.
Remakes of classic (and even not-so-classic) games are a dime a dozen now, but over at GamesBeat, Jeff Grubb reported on an interesting new process that’s allowing developers and fans alike to “remaster” games using artificial intelligence. Jeff used the Final Fantasy VII HD Field Mod, a fan project looking to clean up Final Fantasy VII, to explain the process. We can debate the faithfulness of such alterations and whether the game loses any atmosphere once you start to smooth out its smudgy backgrounds, but the results don’t lie and it’s exciting to think about what other games might benefit from this technology.
That does it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading and see you next week!
Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.