As the world turns
When you first got into video games, whenever it was that you got into video games, did you ever think you'd be sitting here, reading about how people destroyed their fortunes organizing teams of professional players? Did you ever think you'd find out how a Nintendo system was in part the product of soured business relationships, or how many of today's most interesting games are more interested in evoking empathy than excitement?
I sure didn't. I thought I'd be playing Doom 6 in a virtual reality headset and gainfully employed as a professional hoverboarder. But the sadly hoverboard-less way the world worked does still have a few points of interest outside the hallowed halls of GamesRadar, some of which I've picked out over the next few pages.
The bitter end to a desperate eSports gamble
"HyuN, Quantic's leading StarCraft 2 player, says he is owed $23,000, including prize money he won for the team. Team COO Bernie Catalan, who agreed to put the LoL players in his own home for three months leading up to the contest, is owed $4,000. John Clark, who spent much of last year working as marketing director for Quantic, never received a full paycheck and is owed $5,700. The list goes on. They all say the same thing. Boudreault was hard to reach even when the team was still in existence. Now he's just gone. All attempts to reach him are thwarted."
eSports still has that neon glow of a booming industry. "I want to say one word to you, just one," Mr. McGuire might say to Benjamin if The Graduate was filmed in 2014. "League." Simon Boudreault seemed to have had just that one word in mind when he took over flagging eSports team Quantic Gaming.
This Polygon feature by Colin Campbell explores the brief rise and fall of Boudreault, a well-to-do twenty-something who used his inheritance to buy an eSports team. It's easy to lose sight of the cold figures that drive the competitions but - just like any other professional sport - it's all about money. When Boudreault's money ran out, and his prized League of Legends team (scooped up from Korea to live in his COO's house) couldn't make it through qualifiers to win some much needed cash, it all came to a sad, deflated end.
A Dolphin's Tale: The Story of GameCube
"Miyamoto also added, 'GameCubes design is pretty peculiar, different from what we are in the habit to see in a gaming console. First thing we had in mind was the evolution of videogaming itself: the reduced size of the GameCube allows you to carry it from room to room quite easily. Every family has at least two TV-sets at home, and it is very easy to bring the GameCube from the living-room to the sleeping-room, if you want, not to consider a friends place. We looked for simplicity and practicalness: GameCube wants to be a console that fits all the family, from the youngsters to the elders.'
Be careful about when you start reading Emily Rogers' exhaustive history of the GameCube for Dromble - you might find yourself emerging from an enlightened fugue several hours later. The collection of accounts about Nintendo's black sheep system stretches from before the Nintendo 64 to the days of the Wii, detailing the corporate deals and design philosophies that shaped the little indigo box. And yes, they do talk about why they decided to stick a plastic handle on the back.
Wii U's sorry sales situation has many comparing it to GameCube, and I can see a few similarities after reading Rogers' history: the drive to appeal to developers with more powerful, easier to handle hardware with little success is particularly familiar. Still, it seems the GameCube ended up at least a little profitable, all things considered, so it may be premature to once more pronounce Nintendo's time of death. History's handy like that.
In Gaming, A Shift From Enemies To Emotions
"Pope says today's developers have a broad definition of what a video game can be. 'The people who make games now, they grew up with games their whole life--probably the first generation that did that,' he says. 'So it's really natural to consider that you can have a game about anything.'"
It's nice to check in with the normals every now and then to hear what they're thinking about video games recently. "Normal" might be a misnomer for NPR personalities, but this Morning Edition feature by Travis Larchuk depicts games in a positively healthy light. You can just read it, of course, but listen to the program if you want to hear the voices of the creators themselves.
Games evoking empathy instead of exhilaration is hardly a new idea for people immersed in the community. But it's always good to know that the projects we get so excited about in our little circles are being noticed elsewhere. And, to be perfectly honest, it's just refreshing to see mainstream reporting on games that doesn't mention sales figures or school shootings.
Pac-Woman and Mr. Pac-Woman ROM hacks
"In her 'Ms. Male Character' video, Anita Sarkeesian examines this tendency as it applies to video games. She points out that while Pac-Man is assumed to be male without any special indicia, Ms. Pac-Man is marked as female with stereotypically feminine features."
Video games that make a succinct point are just the best. This rom hack by Jonathan M. Guberman of Ms. Pac-Man does just that for the harmful "Ms. Male Character" trope Anita Sarkeesian observed back in November. No discussion or further examples necessary: just look at how bizarre it is to see gender conveyed so heavy handedly, with such strange and dated accoutrements then realize that's what has been happening with Ms. Pac-Man (and so many other female game characters) all along.
Aside from that joyous clarity, this blog post reminded me of a better time for video game modding. Sure, some developers still do a great job of making their games open for tweaking, but there was a time when all you needed to do to mess with a game was open up its files and start prodding around. When I was but a wee tween I made custom characters for RPG Maker 2000 with MS-freakin'-Paint and nothing more, and my brother made glitchy clown-car APCs for Command & Conquer: Red Alert by editing a file with Notepad!
Eight brilliant games for the price of none! Dikaffe's a two-person team that makes all kinds of single-player and multiplayer stuff, often at various game jams, and now they've collected their miscellaneous output from over the years in one place. Scaling the Sky and The End of Us are my two favorites, though for very different reasons.
Just when you thought the whole jumping square gambit was played out, Walkers comes along. Your little cubic charge has a black half and a white half, and the one color can never touch the other in the environment. That means launching off of ramps and slamming into overhangs to avoid shade-touching annihilation.
That's all for this week's selection of thoughts from beyond. Thanks for reading, and as always, be sure to drop any interesting articles or games you find/create in the comments below. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to work on my hoverboard prototype--I've already got the "board" part down, so now I just have to figure out the hovering.