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 find themselves in the middle of a buggy mess and comparing co-op to romance. Plus, a look at a game-related TV show that’s maybe actually good?
Nick Capozzoli stumbled into one of a game critic’s worst nightmares when he took on the assignment to review the Commandos 2 HD remaster: a wildly buggy game. No one wants to be stuck reviewing something so unpredictably messy (especially when, as Nick points out, patches could easily clean up any issues you call out by the time the rest of the public is playing it), but he made the best of it, turning the glitchiness into an opportunity to explore the difficult balancing act of “remastering” flawed works and how bugs and the unusual hurdles they present can fit neatly into the constant problem-solving of playing a game like Commandos 2.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Respawn is bringing back its well received duos mode for Apex Legends, giving couples (whether real or slapped together by the magic of matchmaking) a chance to go for the win. At The Gamer, Whitney Meers wrote a totally funny, totally accurate post pointing out that it might actually be harder to find a good duos partner — for this or any other game — than to find a date on the big day. “Your random Tinder date may eventually block you,” she writes, “but it’s unlikely they’ll ever scream at you to save them and then, once you’ve revived them, let you die and teabag your death box and send you a message telling you they hope you die in a fire.”
From the sounds of early reviews, the cast and crew behind Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, a new TV show exclusive to Apple’s recently launched streaming service, did the unthinkable and actually made a pretty compelling, thoughtful workplace comedy about making games. Scott Stein was similarly impressed, and not only did he give his heartily complimentary thoughts on the show over at Cnet, but he also spoke with a few of the actors and writers behind it. The quotes Scott got definitely paint the picture of a creative team that didn’t want to just make the same tired, uninformed jokes about games and gaming culture, but instead really tried to understand the medium’s place in the broader cultural landscape and wanted to tackle some of the real issues facing the industry.
Begun, the videogame streaming wars have. That much is obvious from a story Samit Sarkar reported at Polygon, covering the sudden disappearance of Activision Blizzard games from Nvidia’s well received GeForce Now streaming service. The platform just launched in full last week after eight years of development and testing. And despite all sorts of Call of Duty titles and Blizzard favorites filling out its roster during that beta period, they’re now no longer available for GeForce Now users to stream. As Nvidia itself said, and anyone who’s ever subscribed to Netfilx knows, running a streaming service adding new stuff all the time but also removing titles when deals fall through. The timing of this particular publisher leaving Now is a bit convenient, though, considering, as Samit points out, Activision just signed a high-profile deal with Google for esports streaming rights and cloud infrastructure. Perhaps Activision will be sticking with Stadia.
From Beyond The Circle
Gita Jackson has a new home at Vice, but she’s still turning out fascinating stories from one of her signature beats: the No Man’s Sky community. This week, she reported on a spat between The Galactic Hub—an in-game civilization of players sharing resources, culture, and discoveries—and a player named Chris May, who wants to build a highway of blackholes that would lead directly to the Hub and make traveling there far less tedious. Leaders of the Hub and the United Federation of Travelers, a sort of UN-like governing body for diplomacy between the game’s largest in-universe settlements, decided to deny support for May’s Warpway initiative and ban him from the Hub. The reasons for the decision spin out into accusations about May’s true intentions, some of which, his dissenters claim, involve enriching himself with actual Earth dollars. As Gita notes, it’s all so incredibly reflective of real-world history and industrial development. “What the Warpway is bringing to The Galactic Hub are the politics of the railroad,” she writes, “with May as a railroad baron bringing change to a community that doesn’t necessarily want it.”
Hart Fowler of The Washington Post also published a story this week about players using online worlds for surprising social purposes. In this case, it’s Grand Theft Auto Online and the ways players have been using this shared sandbox as a canvas to create (and recreate) art. Fowler profiled the works of several GTAO artists and groups, whose works vary from in-game expressions of the Hong Kong protests to Brent Watanabe’s Deer Cam, which follows an autonomous deer as it eternally bumbles around San Andreas.
And finally, we’ll leave you with a bizarre and, admittedly, slightly deflating story coming out of the videogame history, collecting, and preservation world this week. In 2015, a man rummaging through his father’s junk discovered a mythical piece of videogame history: the only known prototype of the “Nintendo Play Station,” a console developed, but never released, as part of a partnership between Sony and Nintendo that dissolved in the early ’90s and, arguably, led to the creation of the PlayStation we know today. After years of touring with the machine and handing it off to electronics wizards, who got it running again and put in the work to digitally preserve its hardware and software, the prototype’s owner decided to put it up for auction. The bidding began this week, and in just a few short days, the price has already reached $360,000, shattering the previous auction record for a single videogame-related item: a sealed first-run copy of Super Mario Bros. that sold for $100,150 last February.
It seems the wealthy person driving up that price is Palmer Luckey, the very slimy and now-ousted founder of Oculus. Tweeting about the auction, Luckey said he wants to add the console to his collection as part of “a quest to digitize and preserve the history of physical videogames.” That’s a nice sentiment, but unless he actually gets more public-serving archivists involved, it’s difficult to feel anything but disappointed by seeing this piece go to the private collection of someone who thinks “Perfect VR will ensure the original experience lives on forever.”
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