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 keep working E3 out of their systems with a handful of stories about Nintendo’s upcoming lineup. Plus, Bernie Sanders speaks out on game-industry unionization, scenes from the Games For Change Festival, and more!
It’s a Nintendo-heavy edition of The Roundup this week, as our members pump out the last of their E3 stories. And what better way to begin than with the man whose appointment to the office of Nintendo of America President took the internet by storm? Circle founder Harold Goldberg had the chance to interview Doug Bowser during E3. While Bowser mostly stuck to numbers and talking points, it was a wide-ranging chat about the future of Nintendo in an industry that’s undergoing some massive changes. It wasn’t all business, though. Harold sneaked in a question about those pesky jokes regarding Nintendo’s other Bowser, “We had fun with it,” (Doug) Bowser told Harold.
Doug Bowser also said, if he were forced to choose, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was his favorite game out of Nintendo’s E3 lineup. That’s a love he shares with Mike Andronico, who came away from the game’s E3 demo desperate for more of this charming ghost-busting adventure. The spirit-battling is better than ever, with a surprising amount of strategy that really shines during boss battles, Mike said. But the real highlight just might be Gooigi, the cowardly plumber’s gelatin-based doppelganger who can be summoned to squeeze into areas Luigi can’t normally reach. “On top of the added layer of strategy that Gooigi brings,” Mike wrote, “there’s something both unsettling and hilarious about being able to play as a gooey, disembodied version of gaming’s second-most-famous plumber.”
Also over at Nintendo’s E3 booth, seeing the latest wave of Pokémon games, Sword and Shield, and speaking with their directors got Gita Jackson looking inward and thinking about her life spent with this series. The games, the developers said, are all about growth and change, for the metamorphosing Pokémon themselves, of course, but also for the trainer and the player they represent. That’s true of Sword and Shield as well, and the message clearly resonated with Gita. “It turns out I was always supposed to grow old with my Pokémon, to see the world and myself change in the same way that a Caterpie evolves into a Butterfree,” she concluded.
And sticking with Nintendo for one more minute, Circle intern Isaac Espinosa shared some of his thoughts on BoxBoy! + BoxGirl!, the latest release in Nintendo’s under-the-radar series of minimalist puzzle games. Isaac pointed to the game’s variety and constantly evolving array of boxy puzzles as the key to making its charmingly simple geometric world one worth visiting.
In non-E3 news, the fight for games-industry unionization got another shot in the arm this week when Bernie Sanders’ Twitter account relayed a message of support for the developers and groups leading the organization fight. Jordan Minor reported on the tweet for Geek.com, noting Sanders, who has of course made the struggle against income inequality one of his strongest causes, has been speaking out more frequently about worker rights in the entertainment industry. “Bernie Sanders may be very old, but his message of income equality is proving to be quite timeless in our current dystopian cyberpunk future,” Jordan said. “Why else are so many young people proudly calling themselves socialists these days?”
From Beyond The Circle
Waypoint (or Vice Games, as it was recently and disappointingly rebranded by its corporate overlords) has been covering a strange story about EA selling Nazi characters as “elite” skins for multiplayer avatars in Battlefield V. This uncomfortable decision was made even worse when the publisher, whether intentionally or not, gave one of these purchasable Nazis the same name as a noted member of Dresden’s anti-fascist resistance. EA eventually changed the name, but as part of that announcement, the company also stated that the character, along with every other Nazi in the game, is not actually a Nazi, but rather “just a German soldier.” That unsettling sentiment, which is of course was relayed as fascism and neo-Nazism are dangerously rising around the world, led Waypoint’s Rob Zacny to pen an excellent op-ed about videogames’ continued struggle to depict German forces during World War II and how the industry’s approach of whitewashing those soldiers and their connection to the Nazi party “isn’t just naive, but it’s one that was aggressively promulgated by German war criminals themselves.” Give it a read.
Also this week, we got another reminder about the fragility of our digital gaming reality and just how easy it is for a work to disappear in that landscape. This time, as reported by Eurogamer, it was Alpha Protocol, Obsidian Entertainment’s cult-classic spy RPG, which mysteriously became unavailable for purchase on Steam and other online marketplaces. The game’s Steam page now carries the note: “At the request of the publisher, Alpha Protocol is no longer available for sale on Steam.” That publisher, Sega, eventually clarified that the game was pulled as a result of an expiration of music rights. We’ve seen this exact scenario happen before with Alan Wake, which was eventually put back on sale after Microsoft helped developer Remedy broker a new licensing deal. With Obsidian now being owned by Microsoft, it’s possible that Alpha Protocol could go through a similar cycle. However, Sega also stated it still owns the rights to the game, so fixing this mess largely falls at its feet.
The 16th Annual Games For Change Festival just wrapped up here in New York, putting an end to three days of panels, workshops, and exhibitions highlighting the ways games can make positive social impacts. Circle founder Harold Goldberg took part in an important panel about gaming’s place in education, but of course, there were dozens more interesting and moving talks. We’ve gone through Twitter to collect just a few compelling photos, notes, and reactions to the event.
That’s all for this week. Thanks 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.