By Ronald Gordon
Hello and welcome back to the Roundup! It’s the Critics Circle’s way of gathering up the recent articles put out by our interns and members, and bringing them further into the spotlight. This week we’ve got plenty of stories regarding new games, technologies, and even a video game from Mexico and how it imagines a different world.
Speaking of articles, there’s actually an essay written by yours truly about how amazing Elden Ring can be. After spending 100 hours in FromSoftware’s fascinating Action-Adventure game, I had nothing but praises to sing and I haven’t even finished it yet. From the bosses to the armor designs and lore, Elden Ring can offer anyone who’s interested many days’ worth of content, so I’d suggest it to those who wants a beautiful and challenging experience. You can read my essay to get a vague sense of how Elden Ring astonished me.
Before the reviews and such, we have some news from the Circle regarding the 12-week program that took place in the Mott Hall III school. It’s always a wonderful feeling to have a whole group of people be enthused and intrigued about something you’re interested in, especially when it comes to students. The fascinating class of Middle Schoolers at Mott Hall III, taught by Member Whitney Meers, Senior Intern Isaac Espinosa, and Founder Harold Goldberg himself, was more than just excited to learn. As Harold would say in this article, “The kids were well prepped going in, though. They already knew about industry issues like harassment and lack of diversity.” The program was going super well and the students were enthralled, so much so that they even earned a reward for their diligent work- a live video call with Reggie Fils-Aimé himself. “Prior to Reggie’s talk yesterday, the students had prepared questions. Everyone, even the quiet ones, were asked to pose at least one. Some had crafted a list of seven or more. The cache of queries was certainly enough to fill the hour,” wrote Harold, surprised yet proud that the Middle Schoolers were enthusiatic about meeting Reggie. Reaching students like the bright minds in the Mott Hall III school is something that Harold wishes to continue in the near future, so much so that he’s already begun, “talking with (educator) Ryan O’Callaghan about our next class in the fall. We can’t wait for that to happen,” So here’s hoping that another class of young minds is ready to discuss gaming with passion and diligence!
Contributor Imani Brown brings us a Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga review. His short and sweet analysis of the new hit Lego game tells us all we need to know: “Even if you’re the rare person who doesn’t like Star Wars, any Sci Fi gamer would love the atmosphere, the humor and upgrades to weapons and easy movement.” Lego Star Wars capitalizes on a lot of what made the original games fun, and the humorous twists added to a heartfelt retelling of the story. However, Imani also notices how much better the graphics are, writing, “I have to say the graphics in this game are excellent overall, really eye-popping. Everything has a lot of detail from the beginning scene when you first load the game to the end. Also, the blue lightsaber you get with your character in the first part of the game looks so close to the one in the movie!” His excitement for the game is justified since he’s a long-time fan of Star Wars in general. “I loved the movies, too. In the game, they use everything from the movies instead of just making random things up to create their own lore,” says Imani.
Next up we have news of a new game hailing all the way from Mexico. In his article for Axios, Circle Member Stephen Totilo talks about Aztech: Forbidden Gods, which explores a different idea of how history would have progressed to where it is now. “We aspire to be the voice of our people,” Edgar Serrano, cofounder of Chihuahua-based studio Lienzo, told Axios earlier this spring, shortly after the game’s release.” writes Stephen. “Aztech began as an attempt to make something more fantastical while indulging the fantasy of an Aztec empire that spread across the Americas.” With not a lot of games explore the interesting ethnic histories of certain groups, Aztech is a refreshing experience to sink into – especially coming from a small but passionate team. To finish, Stephen mentions how plans for Aztech don’t just end at a game, “Serrano has partnered with a production company to shop Aztech to Hollywood.”
Alyssa Mercante gives us the rundown on everything we need to know about the upcoming Wonder Woman game. First revealed during the Game Awards of 2021, the Wonder Woman game seems to be in development by the same team who made Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Shadow of Mordor, with a heavy focus on solo gameplay. “Monolith’s upcoming Wonder Woman game will be a “single-player open-world action game,” Alyssa writes as she sums up the basic structure of what the game is meant to be and how it might play in the near future. “The studio has only teased details of the story out so far, although we do know that this will be an original story set in the DC Universe – rather than one which actively draws from the best Wonder Woman stories from the comics, or a piece of the broader Arkham-Verse which many of Warner Bros. games are set in.” While it may or may not be coming out soon, there’s still plenty of time for more trailers and teasers to whet people’s appetite for a Wonder Woman game.
Samit Sarkar, writer for Polygon and core member of the Circle, took to the platform to announce a new comment feature present on the site. User interactivity is a large part of what makes a site good. Being able to comment on something and know that your opinions are valid and viewed is what drives a lot of people to certain webpages. It’s of course natural for any site, informational or otherwise, to want to reach for a more streamlined and user-friendly commenting system, which Polygon appears to have begun to reach for. “The new commenting platform is called Coral…” writes Samit as he comments on the new and improved system. “The primary mission for the team behind Coral is to produce better conversations by encouraging productive dialogue and discouraging abuse. In other words, it’s a perfect fit for our mission at Polygon.” Not only will Coral allow for more open discussion relating to the various topics explored on Polygon, but it will also help with moderating and keeping the discussions that happen friendly for all who want to express an opinion. It’s a worthy addition that will likely be appreciated as it continues its implementation.
Beyond the Circle
In recent news, Raven Software held a vote to unionize against their parent company Activision-Blizzard. This article on The Spokesman-Review, written by Riordan Zentler, details all the information known about the current situation and how the unionization effort began. It seems to have started with a protest following the unexpected lay-offs of several employees at Raven Software. “Sixty Raven Software developers staged a walkout in protest. According to a statement from the organizers, the personnel were cut after five weeks of overtime and “before an anticipated end-of-year crunch,” which then led into more problems seeing as how several members of Raven had to relocate to Wisconsin after anticipating in-person work being reintegrated into their schedules. These upsetting circumstances lead many to begin the unionization due to unfair treatment, an action supported by Activision-Blizzard which ensured that they would take no steps to prevent unionization. “Of the 28 eligible voters, 19 voted in favor of forming the union while three voted against it,” says Zentler. Yesterday, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer said he would support the unionization agreement as well.
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.