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 share perspectives on violence in games, exciting game-design trends, and the perfect summer games to help you close out the season. Plus, an in-depth look back at our first games journalism summer course and so much more!
Last week, we covered a tiny fraction of the gaming world’s response to politicians once again casting blame on the industry in the wake of horrific, hate-fueled mass shootings, with thoughts from our critics and from outside the circle. This week, we start with another Circle member, Patrick Lucas Austin, providing some insight from a different perspective: the world of esports. This sliver of gaming culture became oddly intertwined with the violent videogames discussion when ESPN decided to delay the broadcast of an Apex Legends tournament that was set to air on the channel, citing the event’s proximity to the mass shootings. Patrick reached out to several major esports figures to see how they felt about the situation.
At Waypoint, Austin Walker used Dicey Dungeons, the new game from Superhexagon developer Terry Cavanaugh, to sing the praises of an emerging design style that combines the randomized, run-based bursts of roguelikes with the card-deck construction of games like Magic: The Gathering. As Austin points out, the concept at the heart of this trend, which has already bore several high-profile indie games such as Slay the Spire, can be an intimidating one when taken at surface value, but a warm, approachable game like Dicey Dungeons is the perfect entry point.
For Fanbyte, Elizabeth Ballou put together a perfect list of “7 Great Games for Chilling Out on Vacation.” And no, these aren’t hundred-hour RPGs to passively suck away your stay-cation time; these are breezy, relaxing games that pair excellently with travel, summer vibes, and—gasp—the great outdoors.
Meanwhile, Mike Andronico was looking ahead to one of the last big games of the summer, Platinum’s Switch exclusive Astral Chain. In his preview, Mike was enthusiastic about the futuristic brawler, which he says captures all the stylish, frenetic fun we’re used to from PlatinumGames, like Bayonetta, and marries it with simple police-investigation portions that bring “to mind the best bits of the detective sections in the Batman: Arkham games.”
On the Critics Circle site, we got another great preview podcast featuring senior intern Kimari Rennis and Harold Goldberg. This time, the two spoke with Danny Homan, a senior writer on the upcoming Borderlands 3, going deep on the game’s writing process, its multi-faceted tone, and the intersection of gaming and theater.
And finally, we end this week with a recap of the Circle’s games journalism summer course written by Harold Goldberg. The course recently wrapped up its inaugural six-week run, and while there will always be room to keep tweaking and growing, this first summer program was a hugely successful first shot, and we can’t wait to do it all again.
From Beyond The Circle
This week, The New York Times published a package of stories revisiting the horrible harassment campaign that erupted in the wake of GamerGate and the way it’s fed into the rise of the alt-right, hate-fueled harassment campaigns, and misinformation warfare tactics practiced by Russia during the 2016 election and beyond. It’s a correlation many people in the games and culture press, especially the women who have been mostly harshly targeted, have been screaming for years as social media warped into a weapon of hate and disinformation, but nonetheless, it’s good to see it laid out in a mainstream publication with such in-depth stories. Two of the four pieces are written by survivors of cyber violence, Brianna Wu and Sara Jeong, and they recount the awful, frequently terrifying actions taken against them and the lengths targets of these hate campaign’s have to go to just to preserve their own safety.
The 2K Foundation partnered up with the Lebron James-funded I PROMISE School in Akron, Ohio this week to provide a new, rainbow-colored outdoor basketball court for this underserved community. Beyond the court, new additions inside the school include the Kaulig Media Lab for journalism and content creation, the Family Training Center, which “help(s) facilitate positive learning opportunities in the case of disruptive behaviors,” and Believers’ Bend, “A reflective area featuring some of history’s most iconic males and females intended to inspire and engage students and faculty.” Has LeBron’s school had a positive effect on learners? Last year, students began at the 25th percentile ranking, but at the end of the year, 90 percent of them “met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math,” according to Cleveland.com. —Harold Goldberg
Writing for the newly relaunched EGM, Michael Goroff put together a great primer and overview of the efforts to preserve the history of videogames. He speaks with the usual suspects, like the Video Game History Foundation’s Frank Cifaldi, but also figures from the Strong Museum of Play and the National Videogame Museum about the difficulties of acquiring the code and materials preservationists really need to keep this culture safe and accessible for future generations.
Considering how dire the topics in this week’s Roundup have been, let’s close this week with something a little more heartwarming (albeit with a very sad backstory), shall we? For Eurogamer, Emma Kent reported on a Skyrim mod called, simply “Murphy.” The add-on, which first made it online in May of 2018 but hasn’t been publicly available until recently, gives your Dragon Born a canine companion, but this isn’t just any old dog mod: This good boy is a recreation of the mod-maker’s real-life dog, who passed away in April 2018. Emma spoke with the mod’s author about why it was so important for him to build this and immortalize his friend, as well as some of the more unique aspects of the mod, like Murphy’s passive nature and strictly non-combat role, and how they’re based on the temperament of his real-world counterpart.
That’ll do it 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.