Sundays are for buying a footstool and experiencing unrivalled comfort. Before you rest your tootsies, let’s read this week’s best writing about games (and game related things).
Over on Polygon, Bianca Ryckert wrote about The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind and how it changed everything. A whimsical reminisce on a game-changing RPG. I find a lot of nostalgic pieces make mention of games that let you mess up and learn from your mistakes, or at least, lack shortcuts like fast travel. I feel the same about classic WoW.
Curiosity, not waypoints, fueled exploration on the island of Vvardenfell. Morrowind came before we were all indoctrinated into the cult of Quality of Life. Convenience can temper frustration, yes, but it can also reduce an otherwise rich experience into something mindless. Morrowind preserved the magic by stubbornly refusing to spoon-feed its players. Navigation was aided by the physical map, the often ambiguous (and sometimes straight-up incorrect) directions shared by quest givers, and the player’s own questionable instinct. Fast-travel options were available but limited to specific locations. And you were on your feet most of the time, so the island felt huge — despite the game’s god-awful draw distance.
For The Guardian, Lewis Gordon wrote about the Grannies, a documentary exploring the forbidden reaches of Red Dead Redemption 2. A look at the beauty of out-of-bounds spaces in games and how they can also reveal secrets of the devs’ creative process. Here’s a YouTube link to the very short teaser trailer.
For the Grannies, all of whom are independent game-makers, this was a rare opportunity to “peek behind the curtain” of the secretive world of corporate game production. Quigley thinks this is why they found the space so engaging beyond its aesthetic peculiarities. “Part of the benefit of understanding how games are made is that we didn’t instantly reject it,” she says. “Often you see players commenting, ‘Oh, it’s a glitch, it’s broken, they [the game-makers] didn’t do a good job.’ But because of our experience, we were able to see that, no this isn’t broken, this is perhaps the foundation of how the full game was made.”
For The New Yorker, Kyle Chayka wrote about the life and death of the original micro-apartments. A history lesson on Metabolism with a tinge of sadness, although the Metabolist’s vision has still come to pass.
In some ways, Kurokawa’s vision of a domestic architecture that prioritized mobility and flexibility proved prophetic. The capsules were the original micro-apartments, an ancestor to today’s capsule hotels, and a forebear of the shared, temporary spaces of Airbnb. “In the future the space and tools for free movement will be the status symbols,” Kurokawa wrote. “High mobility has become a pattern of life.” Kurokawa used the capsules as a modular unit of many of his architectural projects, integrating them into designs for private residences, office buildings, and complexes of summer houses on a hillside. He imagined a future in which people would live in traditional apartments in the city during the week, then “ride in a mobile capsule” to the sea or countryside on the weekends.
Over on Paste, Dia Lacina explains why she left Elden Ring’s Lands Between for Bloodborne’s Yharnam. I think Elden Ring is an all-timer, but man, Bloodborne feels like a byproduct of FromSoftware’s nightmarish concept art. A near perfect Souls game born from feverish nights in the office.
Yharnam collapses in on itself despite the verticality. Even at its most expansive and cavernous, meandering and stretched—its forests are small English gardens of ruin, not the broad medieval woodland of Elden Ring. Its mistakes are clustered, layered, abutting. And nowhere is this more present in the Root Chalice Dungeons. There are 2300 potential combinations of Root Chalice Dungeon, and while each combination has been mapped, you’ll likely never hold them all in your head. You can’t know them the way I know Tombsward Catacombs or Stormveil or even Crumbling Farum Azula. And a lot of the combinations are terrible dungeon designs. The kind of dungeon layouts that would have your players in revolt and see you jeered out of the back corner of the game store where you run Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay on Saturday nights.
Over on Vice, Shayla Love looks at how pupil sive can reveal what is – or isn’t – happening in your mind. I bet my pupils dilate like crazy when I’m playing Vampire Survivors, or like, watching a Ginster’s Cornish pasty heat up in the microwave.
Further probing the connection between pupil size and mental imagery could also provide a tool to better understand how we all visualize in our minds. “It is called the window to the soul,” said Joel Pearson, senior author on the new paper, and a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of New South Wales. “But the retina is literally part of your brain, like a little bit of your brain is pulled out. It’s part of your brain that is exposed to the world.”
Also, anyone else ecstatic that David Attenborough’s narrating a new dino-doc on Apple TV? I loved Walking With Dinosaurs back in the day, so I’m hoping Prehistoric Planet is a spiritual successor of the same calibre.
Music this week is orange by Hiroaki Tsutsumi. Here’s the YouTube link and Spotify link. From the anime adaptation of the manga Orange, a brilliant romantic tale with a mysterious time twist. This YouTube mix demonstrates how flipping good the OST is, too.
That’s me, catch you next week folks!