By Ronald Gordon
Hello again and welcome back to another Roundup, the New York Videogame Critic Circle’s look into what’s been going on in the world of Video Games and what our writers have been up to as of recently. Plenty of good things have happened both inside and outside of the Circle, including a three-hour Zoom call between Reggie and fans, great news for our Interns, and lots more.
Breaking gaming news? Activision has announced the firing of a number of key male Blizzard employees due to the ongoing harassment allegations and California lawsuit. IGN had one of the first looks at those who were let go, but no photos of them.
And generally, this is sad: PlayStation has announced that their annual State of Play conference will be delayed until September, so fans will have to wait a little bit longer to see how the new offerings are going to look. Patience is key in games during these pandemic days.
Reggie Fils-Aimé, Circle Board Member and Former President of Nintendo America, recently sat down for an AMA with several fans, and he got to talk about his recent projects and even his choice to write a book. Thanks to a Circle fundraiser selling tickets for the exclusive event, many people got to spend time with Reggie, where they were brought in and allowed to ask him questions about life, his career in comparison to theirs, or anything they wanted (except for Mother 3). The Zoom AMA went on for 3 hours, double the amount of time it was initially set to run thanks to Reggie’s stamina, and had all of its tickets sold out before the show. The Circle even opened up more seats for people to donate, but those were soon sold out as well. However, people could still donate to get a free game and even had a chance to win a signed Switch Lite from Reggie himself. All in all, questions were answered, thousands were raised for our nonprofit, and people got to chat with an icon through their screens.
Christopher Byrd, Circle Member and writer for the Washington Post, recently reviewed Death’s Door, which he enjoyed for its unique story. The Action-Adventure game, developed by Acid Nerve and published by Devolver Digital, features a crow who reaps souls as its main character. Playing through the game gave Chris a clear sight of the game’s beautiful art style and gave Chris the thought that Death’s Door “is very much a love letter to the old Zelda games.” Great sounding game to check out!
Circle Member Tony Polanco recently wrote about Weird West. Although it was only a demo to try out, Tony had plenty of things to say about the Action-RPG developed by WolfEye Studios. Aside from his Pros and Cons list that details wonderfully open-ended, sandbox gameplay and its lack of performance testability, Tony talked clearly about the game’s mechanics and how explorative it was in its demo. “While there is an overarching narrative, Weird West’s world changes and reacts to your actions. You’re also free to use the environment as you see fit.” Mentioning the variability of the game and its functions, he wrote, “For example, it’s possible to climb an explosive barrel to hop over a tall fence. Conversely, you can shoot that same barrel to tear the fence apart. Most items have multiple functions, so you’re encouraged to experiment.”
With the recent release of Microsoft Flight Simulator for console, there’s of course going to be some sort of deal to commemorate the occasion. Michelle Ehrhardt, a Circle Member who writes for Tom’s Hardware, covered the newest celebration for this occasion, a chance to win Microsoft’s newest way of making gaming portable. Although the prize is much bigger than a console, in fact it’s actually a suitcase built to house the Xbox Series S and a monitor, truly combining the ideals of Business & Pleasure. “Similar to specialized console carrying cases that are already on the market, the idea is that you can set play portably from directly inside the suitcase. Although, we’re not sure how it’ll handle I/O,” Michelle writes, explaining the suitcase’s main function in making it easier to play your Series S anywhere on the go.
Videodame is a site like many others, used to share opinions on games and tell the stories of those that play them. Although, what makes Videodame different from other review websites is that Sara Clemens, another member of the Critics Circle, is actually its editor and helps to revise most of the stories on the site. Some of the recent stories include:
A story about Diversity and the long-running series Story of Seasons comes from Writer Natalie Schriefer. Story of Seasons is a collection of Simulation RPG games, like Stardew Valley, first released in 1997 under the name Harvest Moon and had a title drop last year. It was “the first installment in which North American players could marry any of the available candidates, male or female, regardless of the player’s chosen gender.” which is a big step for diversity in games that didn’t seem to have any beforehand.
In another entry of the Story of Seasons series is a game called Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, a game that Writer Rachel Tanner had played and even wrote a poem detailing the nostalgic feeling she got from the game and its town. Video game poetry can be a powerful thing when it comes to understanding the weight some games can carry, definitely worth the read.
Writer Billie Gagné-Lebel had recently finished playing through Resident Evil: Village, the recent title in the Resident Evil franchise, and was left fairly disappointed by its lack of character variety when it comes to women. In their story on the game, they write “I felt that Village let their villains down in a big way by defining them mainly by their “womanhood:” they were all mothers of some sort, and their actions could all be motivated by their motherly instincts.” Which is a completely valid argument when it comes to antagonistic motivations in games.
Not too long ago, the Critics Circle partnered with Rockstar Games, the infamous minds behind Red Dead and GTA, to create an Internship. First tested by Your Truly, the Internship allowed me to see what the happenings with Rockstar Games was like. The Critics Circle is proud to announce that, in a continued partnership between the Circle and Rockstar, Senior Intern Kimari Rennis will be taking up the internship for its second run. We wish her nothing but good times while she works with Rockstar, and know that she will use the rare opportunity to boost her future career goals.
In terms of another collaboration between the Circle and another company, Senior Intern Isaac Espinosa recently did a piece for The Verge on the benefits of Parsec and its interactivity during these trying times of quarantine. Parsec is an application that allows multiple people to sync onto one computer and play a game together as if they were all in the same room, and this has helped keep Isaac engaged in gaming with his friends in fun and nostalgic ways. “Parsec became a way to relive the aesthetic of an earlier generation of games….So many rivalries were born, and so many friendships were tested.” Parsac play reminded him of the earlier generation of console play, sparking memories of sitting inside a friend’s house and playing together side by side. The Verge piece even received recognition from the Parsec Twitter account, thanking him for the overwhelmingly positive review of their software.
Our newest Intern, Jeison Liranzo, recently got to review The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD release. First released back in 2011 on the Wii, Skyward Sword quickly became a staple in the Zelda franchise for its varied story and control scheme. Now with a new and improved HD remake, old and new fans like Jeison can enjoy the game in all its glory: “My favorite part of the Zelda game was how every dungeon had a different aesthetic. One was forest theme, another was desert theme, and another was like a volcano theme. All dungeons had their different play styles and puzzles, some of which were difficult to figure out.” He says in his review, commenting on how exciting it was to delve into Skyward Sword’s various dungeons.
Beyond the Circle
Cameo, a site where you can pay for semi-famous Voice Actors or Artists to say something special for an event, recently saw a strange turn. In a recent study of their Top Ten Most Expensive Content Creators, conducted by Yen Deng over at MrQ.com, it was found that in Cameo’s Top Ten Most Expensive Cameo Gamers, a Youtuber by the name of VuxVux, also known as @VuxxVuxx on Twitter was at the top of the list. Holding the #1 Spot with a whopping $1,048 price tag on his Cameos, VuxVux is by far one of the most expensive Cameos one can buy, resting just under other celebrities like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and matching other famous names like Chris Tucker. All of this coming from a Youtuber with 2.97 Million Subscribers and over 500 Million total views on the platform, it seems VuxVux doesn’t just play Roblox to make ends meet, he also does expensive Cameos for his fans. Talk about a side hustle!
In other news, a recent story on Polygon, done by Nicole Carpenter, detailed some bad blood and dirty dealings within a well-known indie game company. Fullbright, the studio responsible for Gone Home (2013) and Tacoma (2017), had a number of its former employees leave the Studio in 2019 when its newest game, Open Roads, had been in development. Out of the 15 that left, 12 had come forward and said that their reason for leaving was due to Steve Gaynor, Co-Founder of Fullbright and Creative Lead of Open Roads, and his behavior, which Gaynor acknowledged his involvement being problematic for development. He announced that he will be stepping down from Creative Lead.
Another bit of sad news comes from Circle member Stephen Totilo, Co-author of Axios Gaming newsletter. Kiichiro Urata who is the Head of Capcom USA will be resigning by the end of this month. This is thanks to a recent Announcement of Personnel changes on Capcom’s website, detailing Urata’s resignation and the shifting of his position to Yoshinori Ishida, Head of Capcom Japan & Asia, who will now be granted a Global role. It is sad to see a Company Veteran, who had worked with Capcom since 2011, but we wish him the best from the Critics Circle.
That’s all we’ve got for this Roundup. See you next time when there’ll be more game news to report on!