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 give us the scoop on the latest Xbox Series X news, 2K’s return to the world of pro golf, and the return of actual human characters to Fallout 76. Plus, one member says goodbye to their outlet with a tremendous essay about what it means to be a game critic.
Microsoft’s drip feed of information about its upcoming console continued this week with a much vaunted first reveal of Xbox Series X gameplay. Today’s lengthy showcase was devoted entirely to third-party Series X reveals and in-engine trailers. Mike Andronico liveblogged the stream, leaving behind a great beat-by-beat breakdown for those who may have missed it live. The publisher highlighted an eclectic mix of games, from the latest Assassin’s Creed mega-blockbuster to ambitious double-A projects like Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 and even the single-developer genre mash-up Bright Memory Infinite. Be sure to check out Mike’s story for his impressions and tons of trailers.
2K Games announced that it’s bringing back big-time golf sims with the launch of PGA Tour 2K21 sometime this year. Samit Sarkar covered the announcement for Polygon, providing some insightful context into why this surprise-reveal isn’t all that surprising for those paying attention to the golf game space. It’s in development at HB Studios, who snagged the PGA license and a 2K publishing deal for its The Golf Club series back in 2018. 2K is set to release more info about HB’s next golf game on May 14.
At Cnet, Dan Ackerman took a trip back to Fallout 76’s post-apocalyptic West Virginia to get a load of the game’s new “Wastelanders” update. 76 had an infamously rocky launch, plagued with bugs and a disappointing lack of Fallout staples, like conversations with human characters. (Crazy idea, right?) While the bugs might still be intact, “Wastelanders” is Bethesda’s attempt to rejuvenate the game with a bit more Fallout flavor and role-playing, and Dan is definitely enthused by what he’s seen so far. “It’s taken about a year and a half, but Fallout 76 is my go-to quarantine game now,” he wrote, “and feels like an entirely different experience than the one that launched back when we could all go outside, take the subway, see a movie, etc.”
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share, with a bit of sadness and plenty of excitement for what’s next, this wonderful essay from Heather Alexandra that, alongside her goodbye post from today, marks the end of her time at Kotaku. Titled “Games Criticism is a Kindness,” it’s all about exactly that: the nature of cultural criticism, at large, and writing about games, in particular. Here’s an especially poignant excerpt, but please do go give the whole piece a read and get excited for what Heather’s getting up to next:
“Criticism understands that most of the games we play and movies we watch are not world-shaking. They are not toppling regimes, redefining our understanding of art, or creating spiritual movements. It cares if a thing is “good” or “bad” or “important” only insofar as it can understand what it is doing to earn those qualities. It treats games seriously irrespective of these qualities. It does so knowing the inherent fragility of the medium and the limited impact of most works. It highlights the beautiful, rejects the banal and does so explicitly from a position of kindness. The dumpster diver returns from the cultural heap and finds that one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure. Sometimes, it becomes their treasure. It becomes a thing that changes them forever.”Heather Alexandra—”Games Criticism is a Kindness”
And then, Heather penned this as a goodbye piece on Kotaku, which includes the wonderful commands “Always be audacious” and “Always challenge he who is stronger than you.” Farewell, Heather.
From Beyond The Circle
Last week, the folks at Jackbox Games announced a unique series of charity livestreams featuring famous guests stopping by to play the studio’s wacky party games and raise some money for organizations involved with COVID relief. The pandemic has been an interesting time for the developer, as social distancing rules and the rise of video conferencing have made its unique style of controllerless, over-the-internet party games a go to for friends looking to connect and have some fun. Gamasutra’s Bryant Francis recently caught up with Jackbox CEO Mike Bilder, who noted that traffic to the website that facilitates all the games in the Jackbox Party Pack series has “been at holiday levels every day since about March 13th” before going on to discuss the impact of remote work and how the company is approaching the ramshackle online play that fans have constructed.
Speaking of going virtual, two more major annual gaming festivals have taken big steps toward online events. First up is the USC Games Expo, hosted by the University of Southern California’s vaunted game design program. Back in April, the university announced that this annual showcase for its designers and esports players would be going virtual with a livestream hosted by Geoff Keighley and a selection of more than 50 games that will be available to download for free, during and after the event, to virtual attendees who RSVP for the event here. It’s all going down on May 12 at http://www.uscgamesexpo.com/ and the usual livestreaming platforms.
And this week, Games For Change opened registration for the virtual version of its annual festival. Taking place July 14 to July 16, the New York-based organization has made registration free and lined up an impressive array of speakers, including critic Anita Sarkeesian, Take This Executive Director Eve Crevoshay, neurological researcher Adam Gazzaley, and developers like Siobahn Reddy of Media Molecule and Jenova Chen of ThatGameCompany. This year’s three-day online festival will also include the usual array of panels, workshops, and demos, as well as its awards. You can register for the online event right here.
That’ll do it for this week’s Roundup. Thank you for reading. Stay safe. Stay healthy. 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.