This is an open comment thread if anyone wishes to discuss the subject of the June newsletter.
Here’s a one-word review of Her Story (Sam Barlow, 2015): BUY.
But if you’ve already played it then hang around as I have a few more thoughts to share with you. While I love Her Story it does get away with a few things that a less accomplished game wouldn't be allowed to.
Total spoilers ahead. Get your Spoiler Hazmat Suit on and proceed with caution.
I’m not sure what we should learn from the closing of Tale of Tales, a studio that divided opinion like few others. It’s just one data point in the sea of indie but... an extremely atypical data point. That’s the reason a lot of people are upset on Twitter about this, because no one else was quite as Tale of Tales as Tale of Tales were.
Their fearlessness in speaking their mind about the state of videogames was both a boon and hindrance to their reach. Some found in them a kindred spirit, others saw a stream of pretentious artsbabble. The latter found them elitist and snobbish and, if there's one thing social media has taught me, no one buys into “hate the sinner, love the sin” when it comes to games; players find it difficult to approve your work as it seems to validate everything that comes out of your blasted mouth. But of course it's more than that, the work itself was just as divisive. Players could find their games frustrating or too inscrutable for their own good as the linked Let's Play demonstrates.
For my part, I think the ideas of “notgames” that ToT championed were prescient and eventually absorbed into a larger movement that believed “anything can be a game”. But could ToT turn their prescience into something that could pay the bills? With Belgian arts funding drying up and noting “several games with similarities to our own [had] been greatly successful”, they looked to their peers to see what they could do to become more accessible. I was sad at this admission, that they were now following others along the path instead of making The Path.
ToT were definitely an inspiration to studios like Frictional (Penumbra, Amnesia), The Astronauts (The Vanishing of Ethan Carter) and many more. Certainly, developers will mourn their passing if, indeed, it is permanent, but not just because of the loss of talent you respect - it's yet another reminder of indie mortality.
Already, opinions are everywhere about what ToT should have done, shouldn’t have done, what this means about the industry. Maybe you think good riddance. Maybe you think this is terrible, the end is nigh. But I’m not sure if this story has a moral. Aside from making money in videogames is hard, The End.
In his regular “Wishful Thinking” column, blogger Durandal muses about games that have been lingering on his list of wants. This time: Walkerman, Abyss Odyssey, StarCrawlers, Serena, The Fifth Day and Avernum: Escape from the Pit.
When I saw Minecraft briefly appear in that Microsoft HoloLens demonstration video a few months ago, I muttered the word hype. I muttered the word hype so many times during that video it sounded like I was hyperventilating (hype-ventilating?). As with every new technology, it's only once HoloLens gets into the wild that'll we'll discover what it will be used for in practice.
However, now that Minecraft has been shown off on the HoloLens for real, I have to step up to the plate and draft an actual response instead of assuming it was just some CGI vaporware thing.
So you can now explore Minecraft on your coffee table, provided you wear a gizmo on your head. I admit that there may be some cool aspects to this alternate vision of the game, "Minecraft God Sim" - but it'll be nothing like the Minecraft we know and love. In Minecraft, you can inhabit another world in which you can build pretty much anything you want. You can make a stone cathedral or a lava cave or a zombie prison and wander about your own creation. Minecraft VR would really be something but HoloLens offers not virtual but augmented reality.
When I remove my rose-tinted HoloLens, all I see is uber-expensive hardware downgrading Minecraft into a virtual set of building blocks that can sit on your coffee table or living room floor.
Save your money and go buy some Lego instead. It does pretty much the same thing and is already in the shops.
For those who have still not sampled the digital fruits of the Side by Side series, here's a ONE MINUTE montage of clips from the first series. There were 17 episodes; to check out everything on offer, have a look at our video page or plunge straight into the first season playlist.
Here’s a little post that I’m not even going to bother sharing on social media. It’s just for you happy Luddites who don’t do Twitter. These are the big stories in my Twitter feed that, try as I might, I couldn’t ignore. A lot seemed to happen in a few days. I think also some games were released but no one was interested in those.
MONDAY 1 JUNE
Never mind whether Hatred is any good, your review of Hatred is not good enough.
TUESDAY 2 JUNE
Public shaming of the week award: That Polygon Rock Band 4 preview is the worst game journalism EVER. It’s like the Hatred of video game journalism.
Oh my god there’s a Fallout website oh my god oh my god it’s got to be just got to be--
WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE
---yessss Fallout 4 is real! Squeee! Hold up, those graphics taste like horse manure smeared on toast.
Steam refunds are proof that Valve is out to destroy all games less than 120 minutes in length.
THURSDAY 4 JUNE
If you think The Witcher is racist then maybe you are the racist.
It's the start of another sabbatical month. I'm taking a month off writing to try to reboot my brain, drain away the anxiety and tinker with other projects that have become stuck.
But what if I walk away from the site for two months? Or three? What happens if Electron Dance goes dark for six months?
Because that is what I'm thinking about.