The Roundup: Debating Game Difficulty, PAX East Highlights, The Future Of PlayStation VR And Our Spring Fundraiser

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. This week, our critics weigh in on the great difficulty debate, share some gorgeous in-game interior designs and give us a sneak peek at some anticipated releases. And, our Spring Fundraiser is gearing up. Please help us mentor in underserved communities via Facebook or Paypal’s Giving Fund. Thanks so much!

The release of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, FromSoftware’s challenging ninja odyssey, has reignited a strangely heated online conversation about videogame difficulty and accessibility. Newly minted Kotaku staff writer Joshua Rivera jumped straight into the debate with an op-ed exploring why there’s such a venomous opposition to the idea of adding an easy mode or accessibility options to a game like Sekiro. Going further, Joshua assembled responses from accessibility advocates—and his own anecdotes about playing with chronic pain—to help show why withholding those features puts up a barrier that can make these games physically insurmountable for some players. Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Chris Byrd defines Sekiro properly when he ends his review with this: “Perfectionisn is a cruel master.”

During her time at Kotaku, Gita Jackson has carved out a beat as one of the gaming press’ preeminent writers on all things The Sims. Her latest article about EA’s super-popular people simulator dives into a new trend sweeping Sims fandom: constructing small, diorama-like dollhouse rooms. Gita shared a bunch of the community’s beautiful little creations—so carefully conceived, all the way down to the color palettes—and even gave us a look at some of her own.

The ninth annual PAX East convention was held in Boston this past weekend, and Jorge Jiminez was there taking in as many games as he could get his hands on. Over at Tom’s Guide, he gave us the skinny on his 10 favorite things he played at the show. It’s a nicely eclectic list, with everything from retro revivals and explosive racing to a harrowing World War II RPG and a retail worker VR simulation.

Ronald Gordon also had a chance to preview a bunch of unreleased games this week. He attended a PlaySation VR showcase at Chelsea Piers and was thoroughly transported by the many different immersive experiences on offer. There was the horror of Five Nights At Freddy’s VR, the crude humor of Justin Roiland’s Trover Saves The Universe, the gentle creative journey of Concrete Genie, and of course the high-flying heroics of Iron Man VR.

And finally this week, we check in with Isaac Espinosa, who shared his thoughts on the violent, colorful joys of Ape Out. Isaac came away impressed with the game’s ability to make you feel empowered and emboldened from its very first second. And that feeling, he said, only escalated as the action intensifies and the chaotic soundtrack builds to a frenzy right alongside it.

From Beyond The Circle

Whether or not you think Sekiro should have an easy mode, we can all agree the game is pretty darn hard. Getting to the end of this tense ninja story likely means dying hundreds of times, something you could say about any of FromSoftware’s Souls games that preceded Sekiro. In each of these works, the studio has toyed Buddhist concepts and themes of death and rebirth. Set in Sengoku-era Japan and saturated with Buddhist imagery, Sekiro makes these ideas more explicit than ever, and a few critics have published great pieces analyzing those connections. At Bullet Points, Reid McCarter argues that the game’s plot, trappings, and demands on the player all work in harmony to achieve a single confident, cohesive vision. And at Eurogamer, Nick Reuben digs into how Sekiro’s musings on wrath and war mirror our own violent, revenge-fueled engagement with the game.

Several weeks ago, we talked about Death By Audio Arcade’s Kickstarter campaign to help fund the opening of Wonderville, the organization’s new indie barcade and event space in Brooklyn. The campaign has come to an end, and we’re happy to report that not only was Wonderville fully funded, DBAA even raised enough money to meet a few of its stretch goals. In addition to the amazing, experimental arcade games, DBAA will now be renovating the outdoor space of Wonderville’s future home and adding a hand-made PICO-8 cabinet to its collection. We can’t wait to see the place up-and-running!

Wonderville hopes to become a new, supportive home to the indie game community here in New York. One city institution that has been a hub of gaming activity over the years has been the Museum Of The Moving Image. This weekend, the museum will host Games For Change’s last student game jam of this school year. The free session for middle-and high-school students is themed around making games about endangered species and the dangers facing them. G4C has teamed up with National Geographic, representatives from which will be on hand to teach about the topic, along with professional game designers to teach the students. Students looking to attend can sign up for free right here.

That’s all for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading, and we’ll 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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