By Matt Gerardi
Welcome back to The Roundup, the New York Videogame Critics Circle’s look at our members’ writing and news from around the world of videogames. In this installment, our writers dig into streaming culture, recount the latest troubling news from Cyberpunk’s ongoing PR nightmare, and take us into Hitman’s world of assassination and a spooky new addition to The Sims. Plus, our newest writing intern debuts with a profile of a flat, but faithful, phone game
Lots of us still find ourselves stuck at home with a little more free time than we’re used to having. Mike Andronico, writing for his new gig writing at CNN Underscored, pointed to a new hobby that those of us with a sudden excess of leisure time might consider picking up: Twitch. Whether it’s getting acquainted with the ever-broadening entertainment options on the platform or taking a stab at our own livestreams, Mike’s article serves as a perfect introduction for total Twitch novices, complete with expert interviews and even recommendations for entry-tier gear.
And once you’re done kicking off your new streaming gig, you should probably check in with Imad Khan and The New York Times for a little sartorial inspo. Working with the paper’s photographers and Style section, Imad put together a deep dive into streamer style, talking to popular personalities like Pokimane about their fashion, for on-and-off camera, and the odd challenge of looking good and staying comfortable while dressing for a day of gaming for your audience.
At Tom’s Hardware, Michelle Ehrhardt wrote about the latest wrinkle in the ongoing Cyberpunk 2077 kerfuffle. The game’s modding scene has started to come together over the last few weeks, but now, the mod community and developer CD Projekt Red are warning players to stay away from mods and custom saves because of a security vulnerability that may allow them to execute unwanted code on users’ PCs. In other words, until this security hole is fixed, bad actors out there might be able to push out Cyberpunk mods or custom files that give them full access to someone’s computer. That sounds like a problem.
Lisa Marie Segarra, in one of her first posts as the new Staff Editor at Kotaku, dug into the latest add-on for The Sims 4, the Paranormal stuff pack. As one might expect from the name, this DLC adds a bunch of supernatural new elements to the game, like haunted houses and the chance to have your Sims talk to the dead. Lisa Marie’s article takes readers on a tour of the rest of the pack as well, giving an idea of what players can expect from its New Orleans-inspired décor and Bohemian fashion.
Over on the Circle site, Senior Intern Ronald Gordon brought us into the world of assassination in Hitman 3. Whether he’s sneaking through levels and pulling off clean kills or going in loud, Ronald’s been loving the game, particularly the design and liveliness of its intricate levels. “Each place you go—from Berlin to Chongqing—feels like it has life breathed into it; each one is so big you can get lost three times over before realizing how lost you are,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing.”
Also this week, our newest intern, Bronx high schooler Makeda Byfield, shared her first Circle review. Makeda reported back from the wacky racetracks of Beach Buggy Racing, a mobile kart-racing game. What she really wanted was to play Mario Kart Tour on her train rides home from school, but download issues sent her back to Beach Buggy, an old standby that, while maybe not quite as polished as its Nintendo cousin, at least “served the purpose that I gave to it: keeping me occupied when I couldn’t do anything else.”
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the broadcast of our 2021 New York Game Awards! Circle members and partners worked their tails off for months to put together a virtual version of our show, and we’re incredibly happy with how the final version came out, despite the intimidating new challenges. You can find the full list of award winners on our site. Plus, archives of the whole show, our interviews with Legend award winners like Brenda and John Romero and Hideo Kojima, and clips like the show’s awesome musical performances all on the Circle’s YouTube page.
From Beyond The Circle
The past week brought two big stories about the videogame failings of two of the world’s tech giants. First up was a report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier (winner of the Circle’s 2021 Knickerbocker Award for videogame journalism) and Priya Anand regarding Amazon’s trouble breaking into game development. Despite the company’s unfathomable success elsewhere, its game-development efforts have been stunningly messy, with high-profile studio acquisitions and game announcements leading mostly to cancellations, flops, and finished games being pulled from sale. The Bloomberg story goes inside the company to get an idea of what led to these surprising failures. (Spoiler: It’s bad management and a toxic workplace. Try not to be shocked!)
Later, Kotaku reported that Google was making a big pivot in how it approached its Stadia game-streaming service. When its cloud platform was announced, Google touted its formation of internal game studios, led by industry heavy hitters, to develop new titles that would take full advantage of Stadia’s unique features and computing environment. Now, with Stadia still struggling to gain traction, the company has announced the shuttering of its internal development efforts. “That closure will impact around 150 developers,” according to Kotaku. The Stadia service will continue to operate, with a focus on third-party games and its subscription model, however.
The Video Game History Foundation, a stalwart game-preservation non-profit, recently unveiled material it has collected archiving the development of a canceled Major League Baseball game that would have been Midway’s NBA Jam-style take on America’s favorite pastime. The game, production on which was shut down before it ever hit arcades, was a collaboration between Midway and Incredible Technologies, the developers of Golden Tee Golf, and its cabinet would have taken advantage of the latter’s signature trackball controls. The VGHF is preserving what was left of both the game’s source code and its physical development materials. It’s also working with engineers to build a trackball cabinet that’s as close as we can get to what the real Power Up Baseball would have been like to play.
Moon Studios, the developers of the beloved Ori series, and its publishers, iam8bit and Skybound Games, announced that their recent charity drive for the Rainforest Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting tropical forests and indigenous lands, had brought in $58,000 for the group. According to iam8bit, that money will go toward conserving 29,000 acres of rain forest. Well done!
That’ll do it for this Roundup. Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you again soon.
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.