The Roundup: Shaking Up The Crossword, Growing Up Sora, And A Touching World Of Warcraft Tale

 

By Matt Gerardi

Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s weekly look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. In this installment, our writers look at the evolving landscapes of two genres that couldn’t possibly be more different: battle royale shooters and newspaper word games. Plus, Kingdom Hearts III gives us a perfect chance to get caught up with the Sixth Sense wunderkind who’s spent the last 30 years as Sora. Let’s get to it.

Apex Legends, a brand new entrant in the booming battle royale genre, dropped from the sky and onto gaming services this week. The surprise launch drummed up plenty of buzz, but for a game this complex, it also runs the risk of leaving new players completely out of their depths. (At least, that was the experience of this Roundup author.) Thankfully, Mike Andronico over at Tom’s Guide took the time to explain what the heck this hot new game is and how it works. And once you’ve got those basics down, you might want to consult Heather Alexandra’s excellent collection of tips and tricks for actually playing the game—and surviving its cutthroat competition—at Kotaku.

Letter Boxed

The New York Times’ latest word game, Letter Boxed. (Screengrab: The New York Times.)

At PolygonSamit Sarkar brought us a look inside The New York Times Crossword section, which is slowly becoming about a lot more than its famous crosswords. Since 2018, the section has added two original games that are only accessible to Crossword subscribers, Spelling Bee (many are obsessed with getting to Genius level daily) and Letter Boxed. While they’re still word games, Samit smartly points out that these new additions separate themselves from traditional crosswords with their flexibility and accessibility, particularly the extremely open-ended Letter Boxed. You can read more of his thoughts and his conversation with Times game designer Sam Von Ehren here.

Sure, its a melodramatic melding of Disney and Square history, but one ingredient in Kingdom Hearts’ bizarre pop-culture stew people tend to forget is its celebrity-filled, extremely of-the-moment voice cast. The likes of Mandy Moore, Hayden Panettiere and David Boreanaz lent their voices to various characters. But leading them all as the bushy-headed anime hero was Haley Joel Osment, just a few years removed from his iconic childhood role in The Sixth Sense. Osment, now 30, is one of the few actors who’s returned to Kingdom Hearts III after all these years, and Joshua Rivera spoke with him about what it’s been like to grow up with Sora right over here.

From Beyond The Circle

New York City’s Institute Of Play is a non-profit that’s worked for the last 12 years to transform education by integrating game design and technology. Last fall, it started a new STEM-focused program built around Nintendo Labo, and Emily Tate, writing at the technology and education site EdSurge, recently broke down the cardboard curriculum’s success and took us behind the scenes. Since debuting to rave reviews last September, Tate reports, the Institute, with help from Nintendo, rolled the Labo program out to 100 schools across the country. It sounds like it’s a big hit with teachers, administrators, and, of course, the kids.

Super Bowl ads come in a handful of flavors, but heartwarming and tear-jerking usually isn’t one. That’s exactly the effect Microsoft had with its ad for the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which starred a number of kids using the new accessibility device to more easily play games and talking about the impact it’s had on them. Microsoft consulted with outside organizations while creating the controller, including the AbleGamers Charity, which has been providing custom gaming hardware to people with disabilities for over a decade. The organization took to Twitter to describe what a proud, emotional moment this has been and noted it’s seen an uptick in grant applications for accessible controllers as a result of the commercial. You can donate to AbleGamers here to support its cause and help it continue to fulfill those grants.

While we’re on the topic of games transforming the lives of people with disabilities, the BBC recently published an English translation of a gut-wrenching story from the Norwegian broadcaster NRK about a young man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who used World Of Warcraft to extend his universe well beyond his family’s home. Mats played the game for many years, making friends all across Europe. His parents knew very little about that digital life, and when he passed away in 2014, his father used Mats’ blog to share the news with his friends and guildmates. The emotional condolences poured in, and several of Mats’ closest online friends traveled to Oslo for his funeral. It’s a beautiful story about the power games have to bring people together and help us transcend our physical realities. But definitely consider having a tissue or two around before you start reading it.

That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading, and see you next week!


Matt Gerardi is a writer from New York, the former games editor at The A.V. Club, and a member of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.

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