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 members go out interviewing and come back with insightful looks into the black holes of No Man’s Sky, the making of Ape Out, and the art of localization. Plus, we get a look at The Elder Scrolls‘ move to mobile and an important take on the eternal game accessibility debate.
Astronomy changed forever last week when a team of researchers revealed humanity’s first ever photo of a black hole. But while we celebrated the mere observation of one measly cosmic phenomenon, the cosmonauts of No Man’s Sky are in the midst of exploring and charting the thousands of black holes that comprise the game’s interstellar highway. Gita Jackson reported on the fascinating black-hole exploration movement within the No Man’s Sky community. Since the discovery that these wormholes weren’t spitting players out at random locations, a group calling themselves the Black Hole Suns have documented the destinations of more than 3,000 black holes. But as Gita reports, there’s some fear that incoming updates might change the nature of the game’s black holes and render all their scientific progress meaningless.
Localization is a hugely underrated aspect of game development, so it’s always refreshing to see articles that highlight this often misunderstood art. Anthony John Agnello did just that, sitting down for a wide ranging interview with localization legend Alexander O. Smith, best known for the English scripts of multiple Final Fantasy and Ace Attorney games. Smith spoke in great detail about how the localization process has changed—for better and worse—throughout his career, how localization is as much about creative transformation as it is translation, and how he’d love to get back to Vagrant Story one of these days.
After nearly a year since its surprising announcement at E3 2018, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, Bethesda’s mobile take on its epic series, has arrived—in an “early access” state, at least. Felicia Miranda spent some time with the game and reported back with impressions on its current state. She was impressed with the look of the game and the way its combat grows in depth and challenge over time. But for Felicia, it was impossible to overlook just how manipulative and intrusive the hooks for Blades’ in-game purchases are shaping up to be.
And for one last interview Elizabeth Ballou spoke with Gabe Cuzzillo, the lead developer of Ape Out, about the game’s design and its evolution from an oddity in the NYU Game Center incubator to one of the most acclaimed games of 2019. Cuzillo also shared some interesting thoughts on difficulty, a huge topic in the gaming sphere of late, and the nature of violence in media.
From Beyond The Circle
Speaking of videogame difficulty, Steven Spohn, one of the most visible game accessibility advocates and COO of AbleGamers, wrote a lengthy and impassioned response to the latest flare up regarding easy modes and accessibility options. Spohn systematically broke down several common arguments against altering games with additional accessibility options, showing why each one is either misguided or, in the worst cases, disgustingly lacking in empathy. The headline of the piece ultimately says it best: “Forget easy mode. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice needs an equal mode.”
On April 5, LIU Brooklyn hosted its first ever Game Educators Conference, where professors from gaming academia came together to share knowledge about teaching design and development. The NYU Game Center’s Clara Fernandez-Vara was one of the speakers, and this week, she treated the rest of us to a part of her talk: a very fun, informative interactive presentation that categorizes, explains and demonstrates the most common types of narrative choices in video games. Combining the lesson with the actual mechanics it’s discussing is a fantastic way to teach about games.
The good folks at Deorbital, a quarterly online gaming magazine, recently published their spring collection. As usual, all the pieces are worth reading. One that sticks out is Eli Dobromylskyj’s treatise on queerness and Gothic horror in the Dishonored series, particularly Death Of The Outsider. It’s an illuminating reading of a woefully underrated and under-examined entry in this cult series, giving the story of Billie Lurk—a queer, black assassin scraping up against the supernatural and oppressive forces of her world—the kind of attention it deserves.
We’re ending on a fun little teaser this week. Last year, the Strong Museum Of Play in Rochester announced its intentions to hugely expand its facility. Jon-Paul Dyson, the museum’s vice president of exhibits, tweeted out a quick video preview of one high-tech concept for the Strong’s World Video Game Hall of Fame. Looking good!
That’s it for this week. 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.