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 unspool the secrets of Death Stranding, bust some ghosts with Luigi, and take a look back at Call of Duty’s uncomfortable history of associating itself with war crimes. Plus, a major New York Game Awards announcement and a heartbreaking story from inside the media world.
After years of speculation, confusion, and grandiose trailers, Hidoe Kojima’s Death Stranding is just a week away, and reviews are starting to pour in. Heather Alexandra weighed in on the game at Kotaku, bringing us a review that’s as sprawling and insightful as the game itself seems to be—or, well, as insightful as the game is attempting to be. From the sounds of it, this is, as one might expect, Kojima unleashed, a game that’s dozens of hours long and teeming with metaphor and bold, if not always successful, experimentation. It is subverting the comforting, routine-like nature of modern games, toying with the frightening state of politics and our environment, and drawing what might be its most clever and meaningful power from the internet, fully embracing its society-changing ability to both isolate and unify. Heather wrings all this from her dozens of hours with Death Stranding and illustrates it beautifully in her review of what’s sure to be the year’s most divisive high-profile release.
Nintendo got in on the Halloween spirit this year with the release of Luigi’s Mansion 3, its latest venture into the youngest Mario bro’s ghostbusting side-gig. Scott Stein reviewed the game at Cnet, confirming the series hasn’t lost any of its charms on its way to the Switch. If anything, it’s actually gained a whole new dimension of fun with the addition of a simple, always-accessible cooperative mode where a second player can take control Luigi’s bizarre gloopy doppleganger. Just be sure to play it on a TV-capable Switch. “The rich environments beg for a larger screen to see details, making this a great living-room game,” Scott wrote. “Kick back, take it in like a Disney movie.”
The Last of Us Part 2 might be taking a bit longer to deliver than its creators originally thought, but that didn’t stop Sony and Naughty Dog from showing it off just a few weeks ago. Felicia Miranda took some time to marshal her thoughts on that early demo and this week published an in-depth preview of what she’d seen. From the sounds of her impressions, it’s a whole lot more of what people loved about the first game: dense environments, tense survival situations, and well written, impeccably acted characters.
Jordan Minor marked the release of the latest Call of Duty, a somewhat controversial return to a near-modern battlefield, by running down the strange and uncomfortable ways this series just keeps on flirting with war crimes—both real and fictional. Jordan narrowed it down to four (and one that’s “less a war crime and more a funny/sad example of how our war criminal of a president is so dumb and easily poisoned by this country’s own propaganda”) war crimes that were either interactive or taken from the real world and repurposed in Call of Duty’s military fantasy.
And finally, the Critics Circle made a major announcement on the road to the 2020 New York Game Awards this week when it revealed that former President and COO of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aimé will receive this year’s Andrew Yoon Legend award. The award, which recognizes individuals and organizations who’ve had a sustained history of innovation and achievement in the industry, has previously been bestowed upon the likes of Todd Howard, Jade Raymond, and Richard Garriott. Fils-Aimé, who grew up in the Bronx, will be in Manhattan to accept the award when the show goes down at the SVA Theater on January 21. Tickets for the event are on sale now.
From Beyond The Circle
Speaking of Reggie, the Legend Award winner-in-waiting also spoke with IGN about the honor and his involvement in the Critics Circle’s mentorship work. “A lot of the work the NYVGCC does is fundraising for grants and growing the courses they’ve created, and I’m excited to be a part of keeping this good work going,” he told the site. A feature published alongside the announcement revisited Reggie’s legacy with Nintendo, from his unforgettable E3 debut, through his appointment to the head of NOA, and his laundry list of achievements.
Looping back to our first highlighted article this week, making Heather’s review of Death Stranding even more meaningful is the utter, shameful chaos that has consumed every site under the purview of G/O Media’s management team, which has been constantly criticized from both inside and outside the company since its appointment by the private-equity firm who purchased the network from Univision. [Transparency note: The A.V. Club, the former home of your Roundup writer, is one of those sites.] That includes Kotaku, whose staff, many of whom are New Yorkers and either current or former members of the Circle, were at the forefront of a clash with executives over autoplaying ads. This event dovetailed with an increasingly distressing conflict between management and the writers at Deadspin, which culminated this week in the firing of a longtime Deadspin editor and the subsequent resignation of a significant portion of the site’s staff. The New York Times has since published a detailed inside look at how it all played out.
Deadspin’s disintegration, which followed a sustained parade of dismissals and resignations of veteran G/O Media talent and the shuttering of the vital politics site Splinter, is just the latest and loudest instance of a private-equity firm descending upon a media outlet and attempting to drain it of everything its worth before inevitably gutting it and putting journalists out of jobs. Make no mistake: This keeps on happening, and it’s a massive, unnecessary, and wholly greed-driven threat to the media landscape. I can only speak for myself, but I’m sure the rest of our members would agree when I say we here at the Circle send our unwavering support to the admirably passionate, principled Deadspin writers (freelance and staff) who spoke truth to power and walked away with their heads held high. We send our support to our talented colleagues at Kotaku who, as Heather demonstrated, are still publishing vital work day in and day out under these miserable conditions. And we send our unwavering support to the rest of the workers at G/O Media and every other outlet suffering under the dangling knife of corporate greed and mismanagement.
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.