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 writers discuss a valuable effort to preserve unsung online games and the power of VR to elevate even the most cliche of games. Plus, a breakdown of EVO 2020 and a trip through the origins and depths of horror fandom.
2020 marks the official end of Flash, the old Adobe software platform that helped the web deliver games, video, animation, and so much other multimedia to browsers for more than a decade. And while the transition to HTML5 as the net’s new multimedia standard might have been a technological necessity, the decision by Adobe and all the other tech giants to ditch Flash support for good has left plenty of people worrying about what will become of the vast trove of Flash-based art that was created over the years. On Geek.com, Jordan Minor pointed us toward one project, Ben Latimore’s Flashpoint, that’s already put in a ton of work toward preserving Flash games of yore. Needless to say, these efforts to hold onto a vital part of gaming history are necessary and greatly appreciated.
The stage was set for one of the most exciting esports events of the year this week, when the organizers of the Evo fighting game tournament announced the main-stage lineup for Evo 2020 event. Mike Andronico walked us through the news, running down all the newcomers, the shocking lack of Mortal Kombat 11, and the surprise reveal of a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 20th anniversary invitational featuring the game and players that laid so much of the groundwork for what the fighting-game community would become today.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners lays our a scenario that’s pretty overplayed at this point: You’re stuck in a world full of the flesh-eating undead, and you’ve got to scavenge, scrap, and kill to survive. Luckily for this particular zombie game, according to Christopher Byrd, the intensity of its VR presentation really props it up and makes it more than just another humdrum survival game—if only slightly more. “In VR, visual cliches are reinvigorated,” he wrote. “Though I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a variation of the scene in which someone stands around a corner clutching a weapon waiting for their mortal enemy to pass to catch them unaware, I’d never, until recently, acted out such a scenario with all of its accompanying physical fanfare.”
And while we’re on the horror beat, Stu Horvath, writing for Unwinnable’s January issue, spent some time with the developer of Dead Static Drive, a top-down Americana- and horror-themed roadtrip through a tentacle-infested wasteland. Their conversation about the game and its inspirations spun out into a larger discussion about the origins of their respective horror fandom and the psychological mechanics of horror media in its many different forms.
From Beyond The Circle
Back at The Wasington Post, Aron Garst published a fascinating look into the game-development community that has formed in Iran. Garst’s reporting shows the country has formed a strong little scene, through the efforts and organization of both the creators themselves and the Iranian government. But due to politics, sanctions, and technological instability, those creators face unfathomable hurdles to making and distributing their work, as the tools and platforms most often used by developers of all sizes are inaccessible to creators living in Iran.
In September 2018, Nexon, the massive South Korean publisher, became the country’s first game company to unionize. One year later, approximately 600 members held the union’s first demonstration, rallying in protest of the company’s closure of two US studios, dissolution of multiple projects, and the founder’s failed attempt to sell off a controlling stake. And the union appears to be continuing to make a difference, as The Korea Herald reports union leadership has come to a tentative agreement with Nexon management to raise the average wage at the company by 6.8 percent. According to the Herald, this is the first time a South Korean game company has publicized such a wage hike, with Nexon hoping that the transparency would lead to a “constructive future” for its relationship with the union.
Finally, because there can never be enough wonderful writing about Kentucky Route Zero, a writer going by Cera Sophia published a great essay on its Consolidated Power Company, the exploitative energy corporation whose greed ruined the lives of so many of the good people you encounter throughout the game. Having grown up in Sonoma County, Sophia sees powerful parallels between the destructive actions of the CPC and California’s Pacific Gas and Electric, whose negligence and mismanagement resulted in the horrible wildfires that took so many homes over the last few years. “We know the companies that fail us by their acronyms on the top of their letterheads serving us bills we cannot afford, on trucks and billboards in our streets, illuminated above us on buildings in neon, always keeping tabs,” she writes. “They will not forget who is owed what unless it is convenient for themselves.”
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