By Ronald Gordon
Hello and Welcome Back to the Roundup, the Critics Circle’s way of recapping the various news and reviews that happened both inside and outside the Circle during the week. This time around we’ve got plenty of Beyond the Circle news relating to current events, as well as some well-written reviews from our members. But first, we’ve got to focus on our interns.
Senior Intern and Assistant Mentor Isaac Espinosa posted a review of Triangle Strategy. As a veteran when it comes to Strategy games, (having been addicted to Fire Emblem Heroes for as long as I can remember), Isaac was drawn into the combat system and thought-provoking challenge that Triangle Strategy brought to the table. “One of my favorite aspects of battling is how much positioning matters. Aside from just moving your party members around, positioning can allow for benefits that will make battling even more exciting….Having characters on opposite sides of a foe will allow both units to attack from one action, inflicting immense damage especially if you can get a critical hit from behind. But the best part about this positioning is that enemies can do it too!” Alongside the combat comes a gripping story that kept Isaac engaged as he continued along.
Next up we have Jordan Minor, Circle Member and writer for PC Mag, who posted a review of the new Mario Strikers: Battle League which launches today for the Nintendo Switch. Unlike its siblings in the Mario Sports games franchise, Mario Strikers: Battle League seems to take itself a lot more seriously in terms of how it handles its gameplay and mechanics. As Jordan states, “Moves are easy to perform, but the game requires you to execute fast tactics in the heat of battle. With the right timing, you can give the ball a boost as you pass it to your teammate or charge it slightly to increase your shot accuracy,” showing that Battle League requires focus and speedy reactions in order to execute tricks and strategies that leave your opponents tripped up. While there isn’t much single player content to partake in, Battle League has plenty of fun aspects that make games against friends and family all the more enjoyable. “You can play a quick match, but dedicated players will want to join or form Strikers Clubs. These clubs serve as online teams where like-minded people find each other. You can join a club that genuinely wants to improve or just wants to have fun. You can also name your club, choose your main character’s jersey number, and customize your home turf,” says Jordan.
Writer for PC Gamer Jorge Jimenez shines a spotlight on a gaming laptop with a surprising amount of power despite its nonchalant look. Currently on sale for a whopping $450 off its original price, the Gigabyte A5 X1 laptop has plenty of powerful specs to back up its sales price. “This 15-inch laptop is powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and an RTX 3070 8GB, with 16GB DDR4 RAM and a 512GB SSD for memory and storage,” details Jorge in his article. It doesn’t have to look fancy, he writes. “Perhaps you’re a PC gamer who prefers to hide their power level from the rest of the world: no flashy design, just some RGB on the keys. Subtle,” As an avid user of a gaming laptop, hearing about machines being released and improving upon the overall experience of gaming laptops is music to my ears.
Alyssa Mercante, writer for GamesRadar, recently published an article highlighting one of the goofier parts of the new Call of Duty game. Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward’s upcoming installment in the franchise, seems to have taken inspiration from Hideo Kojima’s hit game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. “The biggest stand-out was an inflatable decoy that is a human-sized Kevlar dummy, not unlike the Active Decoy from Metal Gear Solid 5,” Alyssa remarks. “ We don’t have images for it, but I can best describe it as a giant, feature-less humanoid attached in multiple places to a small circular base,” Yes it’s true; you will be able to fool your enemies on the battlefield with an inflatable dummy in the next COD game, and it will most likely be used for hilarious shenanigans in Multiplayer Matches. While the idea may be a little silly, a Kevlar-vested dummy does have its uses, “And even though it looks sort of like a potato version of a soldier, Infinity Ward swears it fools players during testing all the time – even when it was just a deployable gray box that had yet to be rendered,” Alyssa writes. The Dummy will definitely draw a player’s attention one way or another.
In his newsletter published via Axios, Circle Member Stephen Totilo discussed the rising efforts regarding cracking down on, and hopefully further mitigating, the controversial gaming items that are Loot Boxes. “A coalition of child advocacy groups wants the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate Electronic Arts, warning the agency in a complaint Thursday that EA’s popular FIFA video game exploits children and teens, Axios’ Margaret Harding McGill reports,” Stephen writes. He also chronicles how concerned parents and family members are worried about the younger members of their community being exploited by said loot boxes. With the rate at which Loot Boxes are purchased, their promise of gracious returns and the constant marketing, it’s quite easy to understand how Teens and Children are inclined to buy them. Stephen says. There’s this compelling nugget as well: “By relentlessly marketing pay-to-win loot boxes, EA is exploiting children’s desire to compete with their friends, despite the fact that most adults, let alone kids, could not determine their odds of receiving a highly coveted card or what cards cost in real money.”
Beyond the Circle
Former member Tina Amini, who’s done amazing work as IGN’s editor in chief, has announced that this week would be her last working for the popular site. In a Twitter thread on her account, Tina reveals her heavy heart and recalls how much of a positive impact working for the company had been to her life. “I’ve heard from so many both externally and internally how much they’ve enjoyed the changes & new types of content we’ve made, & it’s filled my heart with a lot of joy to know that I’ve helped make an impact on one of the biggest & most important voices in gaming & entertainment,” she writes. While it is unfortunate to leave behind a place that one has grown accustomed to, sometimes these moves are necessary steps taken in order to pursue greater heights, which is exactly what Tina is aiming for. “I’ve been given the opportunity to explore a career outside of media/journalism, and I’m unbelievably excited for the future.”
Scandals in gaming aren’t as uncommon as one might think. In fact, there is one major scandal that has surfaced in the gaming community revolving around PC games and forgery. Much like old gen consoles such as the SNES, classic PC games have become harder to procure in recent years. Those who were lucky enough to keep their initial copies of well-loved PC realize they are now a rare commodity. Some are exploiting this interest. In this article on Ars Technica written by Kyle Orland, a PC Games Collector by the name of Enrico Ricciardi has become the subject of a shocking forgery scandal. As Kyle details in his article, “At least seven PC game collectors have publicly or privately identified dozens of suspected forgeries they say Ricciardi traded or sold as far back as 2015 and as recently as last month.” This, of course, has created a rift in the PC Games Collecting Community, causing many to worry about the sanctity of the trades that happen between friends. Is there still an abiding, collegial trust? Using words from an interview with the Big Box PC Games Collectors (BBPCGC) Facebook group, Kyle details that, “Collectors told Ars that this is an assumption they will no longer make. On May 30, the BBPCGC published an extensive set of documents outlining evidence of forgeries within three members’ collections, all tied to trades and sales made by Ricciardi,” with evidence of further investigations taking place. It’s a long and well-reported article that I’d suggest everyone check out, even if you’re not a Games Collector of any kind.
Ending this article on a more optimistic note, it seems that the homeless in New York will finally have a chance to sleep in warm beds, thanks to the new HONDA law being put into place. In this Tweet published by Housing Justice for All, details of how the Legislature will aid the Homeless are displayed. “HONDA will allow our State and Non-Profit housing providers to work together and turn distressed hotels and office buildings into permanent, subsidized, homes,” the Tweet details. As a non-profit organization hosting programs and aiming to help those within shelters, this is progressive news to us in the Critics Circle. In a quote retweet to this, Founder of the Circle Harold Goldberg, had this to say “Spearheading this was @NYVGCC Board chair Ted Houghton. The Circle mentors in shelters, and we know more help is needed. This is an essential step,” showing that it’s positive news for all of us in NY, even beyond the Circle.
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.