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Spiffing Reads: Geralt in Real Life, Trump vs Final Fantasy VII and Bye Bye Wii U

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start with a look at who Geralt is in real life…

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The voice behind The Witcher (Eurogamer)

Even though I’ve never played any of the Witcher games (except the board game), I found this a fascinating read. Partly because it turns out that Geralt lives in Bournemouth. It was also fascinating to read about the divorce between Geralt as perceived by the game-playing public and the actual nature of the voiceover job – just a few days in a sound studio that was quickly forgotten about as the actor moved on to other projects.

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Punching Nazis (Eurogamer)

Last week I featured a well-written article from Mr Biffo about his uncomfortable feelings surrounding the internet celebration of the smack in the face received by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer live on TV. This article by Alexis Kennedy covers the same topic with some excellent, well backed-up points. It turns out that Nazis really WANT to be punched – because it means you’ve given up arguing against their skewed world view.

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Love, Loss and the Human Threads of The Banner Saga (Kotaku UK)

This article passed me by last week, but I’m glad I discovered it – it’s another very well written piece by Sam Greer, who wrote an excellent article on Shadow of the Colossus a while back. This time she muses on what makes The Banner Saga so damn good – and after reading it, I’m itching to sample the game for myself.

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20 years after its release, Final Fantasy VII’s Trumpian dystopia has arrived (A.V. Club)

At first glance, this article seems like a very stupid idea – a comparison of the Donald Trump administration with the imaginary world of Final Fantasy VII. But if you ignore that and read on, the author makes some really interesting points and covers some political ramifications of Trump’s presidency that I hadn’t even considered. Splendid stuff.

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Video games don’t love or hate you – they’re just built that way (Eurogamer)

RIP Wii U: Nintendo’s glorious, quirky failure (The Guardian)

And finally, we have a couple of great articles by Keith Stuart. The first pulls back the veil on video games and reveals the simple programming tricks that can fool us into thinking computer opponents in games have some kind of personality. The bit about how AI racers are programmed in Micro Machines is fascinating – it turns out there’s no AI at all.

The second is a bittersweet look back at the Wii U, a machine that no one seemed to understand, yet still had some of the best games released in the past five years. Bye bye Wii U, I for one will miss you.

Sob.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: Nintendo Switch, Invisible Warcraft Bunnies and the Worst Game Ever

This week on Spiffing Reads, we kick off with a couple of interesting opinion pieces on the Nintendo Switch…

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Don’t Judge Switch by the Stagnant Competition (Kotaku UK)

This article struck a chord with me, particularly in how it accuses many in the games industry of not being able to look past technical specs. “There are a few problems with how we look at it, the first being the hardware bores who talk tech in terms of upper limits rather than capabilities. The deathly-dull teardowns of components, the red-meat comparisons for the troll brigade, none of it’s illuminating. It’s not that specs or framerates or resolutions are unimportant, just that they’re much less important than the overall experience they’re being used to create, which gets lost beneath meaningless technical gotchas.” Personally, I stopped caring about tech specs once they stopped counting ‘bits’.

Switch’s challenge is unique software, not PS4 competition (GamesIndustry.biz)

Another fascinating article from Rob Fahey, with some really interesting points about the timing of the Switch’s launch in the console cycle in comparison with its predecessor, the Wii U.

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The six worst US presidents in video game history (The Guardian)

I have to thank this article for reminding me that in a gaming world somewhere out there, J. K. Simmons is the US President.

The Invisible Bunnies That Power World of Warcraft (Kotaku UK)

I love this story. It turns out that some of the spells in Warcraft are powered by invisible rabbits – and they’re just one of the bizarre animal-based shortcuts that programmers have used to save time.

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How a Tetris clone on the front of a tape-player led to spiritual enlightenment (Eurogamer)

This is something a bit different – an article from a self-confessed ‘non-gamer’ about how gaming changed her perception of the world. I’ve experienced a bit of ‘Tetrishead’ myself, but nothing like she describes. A great read.

THE PUNCH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD – by Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)

Nothing to do with video games, this one, but a very well written and interesting article about the internet reaction to neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched on live TV. Mr Biffo echoes my own feelings – as much as I loathe neo-Nazis, beating them up is nothing to be celebrated. And if anything, it’s only going to strengthen their resolve.

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The story behind the worst game ever made (Eurogamer)

It’s always interesting to hear tales from the eighties gaming scene, which was basically a kind of pixellated Wild West where anyone could do pretty much anything and get away with it. But even then, it’s hard to believe that a publisher could release a game that literally doesn’t work at all and still get away with it. Sort of puts modern day-one patches into perspective.

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The Sin City game that never was (Eurogamer)

My first thought on reading this headline was that Sin City would make a brilliant video game, particularly with it’s stark black and white (and red) stylings, a la the under-rated MadWorld. But then I read how the publisher and writer kept demanding horrible, horrible changes to the characters and script, to the point where it was a mercy that the game was eventually killed.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: Twitch IRL, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Easter Eggs

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start off with a worrying look at what madness Twitch hath wrought.

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How Twitch is turning ‘always be streaming’ into a career with zero balance (Polygon)

Once I got past the slightly baffling headline, this turned out to be a fascinating and slightly scary article about how much time people spend streaming on Twitch in the hopes of making it big. In a way, Twitch is the modern equivalent of scratching out a living as an amateur rock band hoping to sign a multi-million dollar record deal. Some do make the big time, but the majority will struggle to get by – and the price is high. This writer says he spent 6 days a week streaming for 12 hours a day, which is apparently what viewers ‘expect’. It sounds like utter madness to me. And now Twitch has launched ‘In Real Life’ (IRL), a way for streamers to keep streaming on their phones when they would normally be, well, just living their life. We really are living in The Truman Show.

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The big Zelda: Breath of the Wild interview (Eurogamer)

A chunky interview with Zelda director Eiji Aonuma. Probably the most interesting part is that they considered making Link a woman for a while, and they still haven’t ruled out the possibility for the next installment. Sounds like a good idea to me – would be interesting to see how it changes the dynamic of the game.

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The costs of developing Easter eggs (Polygon)

A really fascinating article on something I’ve always wondered – how to developers justify the time it takes to implement Easter eggs when they are usually up against it in terms of simply delivering the game on deadline? Well worth a read.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: Amstrad Action, Super Mario Run and a Racist Video Game

I was going to post this on Friday, but then the whole Nintendo Switch reveal got me all hot under the collar and I had to write a lengthy diatribe about it. I’m sure further thoughts will be forthcoming… Anyway, we’ve had some cracking gaming articles over the past couple of weeks, now that the December end-of-year list-a-thon is behind us. Here are a few of my favourite Spiffing Reads.

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Seven reasons why grown ups should play more video games (The Guardian)

An impassioned and well-written argument by The Guardian’s Keith Stuart on why video games should be regarded as more than a ‘guilty pleasure’. It certainly made me think a bit more about why we play games, something I wrote about myself a while back. One day, perhaps there won’t even be a need for defences like this – you don’t see articles on seven reasons why grown-ups should watch football, after all.

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How Amstrad Action changed my life (Eurogamer)

Another brilliant article from the wonderful Ellie Gibson. I could probably write a similar feature about how Amiga Power changed my life.  I haven’t, yet, but I did do a podcast on it.

Gaming’s big trends to keep an eye on in 2017 (GamesIndustry.biz)

An intriguing look at what’s in store for the year ahead – the points about mobile gaming and VR are interesting, but the section on harassment at the end really made me think.

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LAB RATS: WHY VIDEO GAMES CAN BE ADDICTIVE – by Mr Biffo (Digitiser 2000)

A thoughtful look at how, in extreme cases, games can become a substitute for socialisation. Well worth a read. I’ve certainly used video games to comfort myself when feeling lonely before, and I’m sure most of us have done it at some point.

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Super Mario Run is hardcore as shit if you give it a chance (Tired Old Hack)

An excellent review of what makes Super Mario Run so gosh darned good. Toad Rally really is where the Baby Marios get sorted from the Bowsers.

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Developer Says Publisher Sabotaged His Game (Kotaku UK)

There’s been an ugly/cringeworthy online spat going on between Poncho developer Danny Hayes and publisher Rising Star Games. Hayes complains that he hasn’t made any money from the game thanks to the publisher, and Rising Star Games claims that he didn’t hit any of his development milestones. Watching the two air their dirty linen in public is fascinating, if a little lurid and voyeuristic.

How We Accidentally Made a Racist Videogame (Kotaku UK)

A great read about the dangers of ignoring diversity, however innocently it’s done. I had to read the last part between parted fingers of embarrassment on behalf of the protagonist.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: Shadow of the Colossus and a Lament for Strategy Games

Not a huge amount has caught my Spiffing Reads eye over the past couple of weeks, hence the thin selection below. We’re well into the season of end-of-year lists, gift guides and reviews of AAA games, none of which makes for particularly thrilling reading – unless a hugely anticipated game gets a critical mauling, of course. But so far, this year’s Christmas games seem to be a pretty good crop, with the only real news being relatively poor sales of some long-awaited titles.

Anyhoo, we’ll be farting out some end-of year lists of our own in due course, but in the meantime, cast your peepers over these beauties.

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Where did all the strategy go? (Eurogamer)

I have fond memories of playing through Hidden & Dangerous on the Dreamcast, a game where every move was fraught with danger, and the tension was stretched so tight you could cut it with a blunt spoon. The one fly in its camouflage ointment was that your team mates’ AI was terrible – they couldn’t be trusted with grenades, for example, as they blew themselves up with alarming regularity. Still, I miss strategic war games like this one, especially as bombastic FPSs like Call of Duty hold little appeal now my reactions are withering with age.

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The Colossus That Casts No Shadow (Kotaku UK)

This is a superbly written article by @SamMGreer (check out her work at http://sammgreer.tumblr.com, she’s definitely one to watch). It manages to sum up everything that makes Shadow of the Colossus work so well, and laments how few games have managed – or attempted – to copy the formula. A spiffing read, indeed.


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: Overwatch Fashion, Majora’s Mask and Games Versus Politics

I didn’t have time to post Spiffing Reads last week, so this week we have a bumper double issue of the spiffingist reads from the past two weeks, starting off with an insight into how a game idea can end up going nowhere.

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The Ant Man: my year in development hell (Eurogamer)

It must be heart-breaking to pour your heart into creating and developing a game idea, only for it to go nowhere. Often we never hear about the failed projects that never even get to the official announcement stage, so this is an interesting look behind the curtain.

Fail Forward: How Television Fails At Discussing Games (Rock Paper Shotgun)

Games get short shrift in mainstream media, that’s pretty much a given. But it was depressing to see how partisan the BBC was in its depiction of games in the recent ‘Make it Digital’ season.

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The Best Way To Play New Steam Hit Icey Is To Ignore The Instructions (Kotaku UK)

Clever. Very clever. This narrator of this game tells you where to go, but you’re free to ignore him and choose your own path – at which point he becomes exasperated and the plot of the game changes significantly.

Excellent Fan Film Captures the Horror of Majora’s Mask (Kotaku UK)

The production values of this fan film based on the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask are simply astonishing. And it made me think again about the mask itself, as well as the characters of Skull Kid and the Happy Mask Salesman. Is the latter basically Gollum?

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Should games and politics ever mix? (Eurogamer)

Another cracking article from Ellie Gibson, echoing some of my thoughts about Trump, Brexit and the craziness that is 2016 – I just want to bury my head in games and forget about it all.

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Weak AAA launches are a precursor to industry transition (GamesIndustry.biz)

Why I think big console game sales are down (Eurogamer)

A pair of thoughtful articles on why sales of AAA games like Watch Dogs 2, Titanfall 2 and Dishonored 2 are so low. For my two cents, I think there’s a sense of lethargy in the industry at the moment, a growing discontent with FPS after FPS, interspersed with the odd GTA clone. The success of Farming Simulator 17 shows there’s scope for trying something different – and older gamers are a viable, rich target market. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Nintendo Switch can attract both older gamers and millenials…

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Overwatch Outfits, As Reviewed By People Who Know Fashion (Kotaku UK)

This is an excellent follow-up to an article on video game fashion by Kotaku Australia. It made me chuckle, and it’s interesting to hear an expert take on some of the OTT outfits that are commonplace in games.

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What Gamergate should have taught us about the ‘alt-right’ (The Guardian)

Finally, a fascinating article by Shut Up & Sit Down‘s Matt Lees that links Gamergate with Trump and the rise of the alt-right. The signs were there all along…


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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Spiffing Reads: VR Arcades, Zero Wing and Capcom vs Square Enix

This week on Spiffing Reads, we start start off with how the games industry has finally woken up and listened to some of my amazing ideas.

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Why VR arcades could be virtual reality’s salvation (Polygon)

Back in 2012, I visited an arcade for the first time in years, and found it to be a thoroughly dispiriting experience. The endless driving and shooting games showed a desperate lack of imagination, and I put out a call for developers to make the arcade into an more of an ‘experience’: “What about a game where you go over Niagara Falls in a force-feedback barrel? A space shoot-em up where you fly on the back of an animatronic octopus? An augmented reality game where you shoot down invisible attacking monsters that only you can see?” Well, four years later, someone finally listened. The latest VR arcades in the Far East sound phenomenal – here’s hoping we see them in the UK soon.

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Zero Wing had 32 weird secret endings in Japan (Legends of Localization)

The line “All your base are belong to us” has long been held up as a legendarily terrible example of Japanese to English translation, and is emblematic of the often quite shoddy translation work (and poor game scripts) in the 1980s and 90s. The line came from the shoot ’em up Zero Wing, but only now has it been revealed that the Japanese version of the game had 35 different endings (the English version had 3) – and they were all utterly bonkers. Example: “After I beat you, I’m gonna clean-clean the world. And then I want to build even more bases!”

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Square Enix and Capcom march towards contrasting futures (GamesIndustry.biz)

Another great feature from Rob Fahey, who wrote a scathing report on Electronic Arts last week. This time, he’s looking at the business strategies of Square Enix and Capcom, and it makes for fascinating reading. I was surprised at just how much money Square Enix is making from mobile: “Last year, its mobile revenues overtook its revenue from console games. This year so far, it’s made more money from mobile games than from console games and MMOs (its third largest business segment) combined.”


Spiffing Reads is a regular feature where we pick out the best gaming articles of the week. If you’ve read anything interesting, please let us know in the comments.

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