Feature

Against Crafting

Some videogames exist solely to allow us to make things: Minecraft (2009), LittleBigPlanet (2008), Super Mario Maker (2015). Many more games—too many more games—ask us to make things for no good reason. Crafting systems were once grafted-on additions to games already engorged with an excess of “features.” They have evolved; they have expanded; they have become sentient. They need to be stopped. This is a manifesto against them. I. Crafting is boring, because it’s never more than a form of waiting Crafting is spreadsheet management, data entry, Dilbert on a Monday as he looks for ways to use a stapler…

God of War
News

Welcome to the age of videogame beards

Let’s face it: the renaissance of the full beard has been a thing for a while now. It came from fashion and now it has arrived in our videogames. It’s nothing to scoff at, either. The power of the beard has worked to change a 20-year history of smooth-faced Street Fighter characters: Ryu now has as much facial hair as Zangief. The same thing happened to Geralt in The Witcher 3 last year, and now the bald protagonist of God of War too: Kratos’s minimalist goatee has grown to a full beard for his next game, putting him in a list that I,…

Feature

Hey, videogames, enough with the bad sex

It was obvious The Witcher 3 (2015) wasn’t going to be a sexy game the moment I met Keira Metz. Curvy and blonde, Keira first appeared submerged in a tub of artfully positioned bathwater, then in a dress hung open so wide it would need heroic amounts of magic or starch to keep its contents confined. Keira wouldn’t look out of place waltzing onto the set of a third-rate porn flick, looking for a rough, manly, monster-hunting plumber to fix her pipes. She came across as just another videogame Barbie doll, and from that early point in the game, The…

News

All your real-life Gwent fantasies are coming true

Among the countless hours I spent playing CD Projekt RED’s sprawling open-world adventure The Witcher 3 (2015), too many of those were spent playing Gwent. Whether it was battling against random merchants or innkeepers, or challenging the best players of Novigrad in an effort to win a coveted card of my surrogate daughter, the seemingly simple card game of Gwent wasn’t just another side quest. Gwent transcended the tedious minigame trope and became something wholly enjoyable itself. I can see myself roaming the pubs of San Francisco to battle friends, as I once did in The Witcher 3’s Velen During Microsoft’s…

Feature

Sympathy for the Spoon-Collector in The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine

“I like rusty spoons” whispers Salad Fingers, in his bizarre quavering voice, those ovular eyes pointed in precisely the opposite direction from each other. “I must find the perfect spoon.” Pleasingly creepy and unhinged, David Firth’s crudely-made web series appears, at this distance of a decade, as a fairly distinctive generational marker. That’s why it seems an unlikely coincidence when, in The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine, we find a creature with exactly the same desire. Holed away in a overgrown house is the Spoon Collector, a skeletal horror wracked by a supernatural curse that has it searching for the “perfect…

Feature

Umberto Eco and his legacy in open-world games

At the very end of his playful Postscript to The Name of the Rose (1980), Umberto Eco made a casually sibylline gesture toward the future of interactive fiction. “It seems,” Eco wrote, “that the Parisian Oulipo group has recently constructed a matrix of all possible murder-story situations and has found that there is still to be written a book in which the murderer is the reader.” And a few lines later, with a wink: “Any true detection should reveal that we are the guilty party.” The text either ends or begins here, depending on your interpretation. OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature…

Feature

Are You Well-Played?

It all started with that one spreadsheet: a trifle to amuse myself between bouts of frenzied editing and marathon writing sessions. It was called “the Database”—an inside joke shared by me and no one else—and it was my attempt at listing every videogame I had ever played in my life. At first, I thought it insurmountable; the kind of self-ordained project that I would sink a few careless hours into before cosigning to the same dustbin shared by my teenage projects. After all, I had spent most of my life playing videogames, or at least what felt like it. How…

Article

High Scores: The Best Videogames of 2015

Header image and artwork by Caty McCarthy 25. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base) Neon cuteness belying hardened spacefaring carnage. A manic platformer disguised as a cheerful shoot-em-up. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a lot of things, and all of those things are descending on you at the exact same time. With the evil forces of anti-love surrounding you as you save imprisoned space bunnies, Lovers works best with two players sitting side-by-side, working together against near-impossible odds. An AI-controlled dog or cat can accompany you on your suicide mission, but facing down increasing waves of enemies next to…