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Worth Reading: 07/14/2014

As this feature shuffles over to Monday morning, let's reflect on last week's news experiments before a bunch of really thoughtful pieces take over.

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You might have noticed a couple of experiments in the news section of Giant Bomb this week. There wasn't a particular reason to shake things up--there's no strict mandate from above, in other words--but I wanted to try a few things out, and see how people (including me) responded to them.

Some things worked, a bunch of things didn't. Before we move onto the rest of Worth Reading, I wanted to pull up each of the articles and point out what we can take away for the future of news.

The inspiration for this one was simple: Vox. The formatting isn't new, but Vox has become one of my go-to spots for politics, and this format's used to explain complicated topics. So while I think there's something here, a news story about Cliff Bleszinski starting a new studio, in which we know barely anything about the studio or game, probably wasn't the best way to start. This would have been far more appropriate for breaking down ZeniMax's lawsuit against Oculus when documents showed up in court. Some people liked it, some people didn't. Given the right context, the right story, I would probably bring this one back. But it won't be common.

There's an alternate universe where this becomes a tweet instead of a news post, and while I'm not suggesting all my tweets will become news, this seemed worth sharing. It's not "news" in the traditional sense, as no press release was issued, but given my continued interest in understanding games that don't appeal to me, I thought people would get something out of it. Don't expect this every day, but I'll probably share more of this.

This one did tremendous traffic for Giant Bomb. I won't share numbers, but it was exponentially more than your average popular news feature. Some people worried the headline suggested Giant Bomb was going to the realm of clickbait-y Upworthy-style headlines, but that wasn't the intent at all. I thought the headline teased what was happening in the story just fine, though a more straightforward "Skullgirls Developer Catches Pirate in the Act, Hugs It Out" could have worked, too. In any case, don't worry about some new, crappy headline trend. We don't have to worry about pandering to Google traffic, so I'm allowed to be straightforward and get to the point.

If I could take back a single story this week, it's this one. We tend to avoid journalistic navel gazing, and this one qualifies as a "slap yourself on the back, Patrick" kind of story. There was no reason to post this, and I felt bad after it went up. It was tempting to take it down and say "this was stupid," but one should live with mistakes.

Not much to say, except that the bit about "console exclusive" was flippant. That happens when one starts writing a bunch of stories quickly. You become less thoughtful, and often fall back on whatever comes first. It's my theory on why there's so much snark on the Internet. It's easier to be sarcastic than it is to be insightful.

One of my favorite blogs is Daring Fireball. Though writer John Guber mostly writes about Apple, he often files sharp commentary about other Internet going ons. This was my attempt at something similar, passing along a piece of information--pre-order DLC for Alien: Isolation--and roping in the larger conversation about pre-order DLC. Sharing what other people were saying on Twitter might have been unnecessary, but I enjoyed having a venue to share observations in a way that's larger than 140 characters, yet doesn't justify its own post.

With that out of the way, let me know what you think. I'll continue to play around in the news department, and I'm always looking for your feedback. Plenty of people have already sent it my way, and it's much appreciated!

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

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I never took the relationships in Mass Effect seriously, it always struck me as goofy, and unlocking an achievement for having sex struck me as a crass and unnecessary. But Yannick LeJacq's personal essay about how Mass Effect and Dragon Age allow players to experience a world where gay relationships aren't given a second glance floored me. LeJacq criticizes BioWare's approach here, arguing it's not reflective of real-life, but he makes a passionate defense for the very thing he's criticizing, arguing that's, perhaps, a worthy fantasy.

"For those people, the gay switch delivers a fantasy of near-perfect equality. Everything is so normalized you almost don't even know it's there. Unfortunately, that's not how things work out in real life for many people. In terms of its storytelling, then, I think the sexuality in Mass Effect isn't particularly sophisticated. It says less about the experiences of real gay people than something like the It Gets Better project. And that's a public outreach campaign put on by a prominent gay rights activist, not something to be viewed at our leisure.

So it's troubling to think that a game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age gives young players the idea that nobody will ever treat them differently once they find out they're anything other than straight, rather than give them the tools with which they can start to understand and accept the discrimination they may end up facing in their lives."

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If you aren't continuing to follow Cara Ellison's "Embed With" series on Tumblr, change that! Her latest profile follows two weeks with Quadrilateral Cowboy developer Brendon Chung. Ellison's pieces are wholly unique is how much flavor she captures about the first-person reporting experience. I cannot capture these observations with my own reporting, which largely happens over Skype. In a piece ostensibly about Chung, Ellison paints a vivid picture of making games in Los Angeles, capturing a largely overlooked development culture. While we learn very little about what Chung is working on by the end of the story, Quadrilateral Cowboy will eventually speak for itself. Chung (and LA) is enough.

"For Brendon, making things seems like something necessary for him, but it doesn’t really matter what medium they are in as long as he can keep making connections with people.

'There is something about having people play your stuff, enjoy your stuff,' he says to me. 'Knowing that you’re making some sort of connection out there. For me, I love with when someone makes something just for me. there are some movies out there that I think, ‘You made this just for me. You made this movie to appeal straight to my senses.’ I like to try to make stuff for people who don’t have stuff made for them.'"

If You Click It, It Will Play

These Crowdfunding Projects Look Pretty Cool

  • Pyrella's spin on a Metroid-inspired action game is making darkness a key component.
  • Epanalepsis is a point-and-click with three narratives (1990s, 2010s, 2030s) about life and technology.
  • The Deer God, a game about reincarnation, has players exploring as, well, a deer. I'm in.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

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