[Hi, I’m Chris Plante, and you’re reading Postgame, a weekly newsletter collecting the best games, stories, and videos in the video game community into a fun, digestible package on Sunday mornings. Learn more on the Postgame About page. Postgame is edited by Stephie Grob Plante. Want to support Postgame? Please share it with a friend! Or even better, visit my work-home at Polygon.com!]
Every day this month, I’ll be recommending a favorite TV show or film in honor of the best holiday: Halloween. Here’s my plan in detail:
Heavens, I miss Halloween. As a kid in the Midwest, the holiday pulverized my senses: the potpourri of rotting leaves and Sunday barbecues, the whispers about the mysterious neighbor who never opened their door, and my friends with prosthetic gashes across their faces and plastic aliens bursting from their chests — what a sight.
Where did it go? I suppose there’s no clearer sign that I’d grown up than when Halloween became just another excuse to drink and eat candy I’d never ever eat any other day. (Have you ever actually read the ingredients of a Butterfinger?) After I moved to Texas in my thirties and went full boring adult, my favorite holiday became little more than a reminder to get serious about saving money for Christmas gifts.
So a few years ago, out of disappointment and boredom, I sparked a new tradition by creating a Google Calendar for October, assigning myself one Halloween-friendly film or TV show per evening. I finally made time for monster-movie classics, and recaptured a fraction of that Ray Bradbury brand of October energy. Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with making and respecting the calendar. And with COVID-19 keeping me indoors this Halloween, it’s become a fixation.
This year, I’ve decided to share the calendar with y’all. Hell, I’m already doing the work, so why not? Every day in October, I’ll reveal a new film, TV episode, or online video for you to stream. Since you have a trillion choices, I’m arranging the entries in themes, each film complementing one another. I’m also providing some context to illuminate the experience. For example, I’m starting the calendar with “unconventional ghost stories.” The ghost story is surprisingly popular among film auteurs who otherwise overlook the horror genre. The appeal of spirits connects directors from the Australian New Wave to Southern Gothic to, well, David Fincher.
If you’re following along with the viewing choices on this calendar, I strongly encourage you to share them with a friend, even if you can’t watch the picks in the same room or at the same time. One of the pleasures of great horror is its ambiguity, the empty space it leaves for us to insert ourselves and our own anxieties. It can spark epiphanies and conversation we might otherwise avoid. And what better time for us to communally process fear and trauma than right now?
Be sure to share your favorite Halloween-time favorites in the comments, too. Happy Halloween month!
Three games to play
Star Wars: Squadrons
“Simply put, Star Wars: Squadrons is the total package. If all you have at your disposal is a console, a decent TV, and a working controller, you’re going to have a wonderful time. If you have a throttle, stick, and rudder pedals, you’re really in for a treat. And, if you happen to be able to afford VR, you may never want to take that headset off again.” (Charlie Hall, Polygon)
“Squadrons is probably not the Star Wars game for everyone. The steep difficulty curve combined with the relatively limited campaign makes it more of a niche kind of game than other, more accessible Star Wars space combat titles. But for players willing to put in the time (and invest in the hardware), the end result is a game that brings you closer to flying around an X-Wing than ever before.” (Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge)
“I have a lot of concerns about how Squadrons will wear over the long haul, but I'd be kidding you if I said I'm in a mood to be discriminating about a space combat sim. I'm not sure it's going to hold up the way some of the all-time greats like Freespace 2 or TIE Fighter do, but that's a loaded comparison. Those were entries in an established and flourishing genre, built for a PC audience for whom those games were mainstream. By some measures, it's been about 20 years since we had anything remotely like Squadrons, and if you felt their lack over all those years, I suspect you'll forgive Squadrons an awful lot.” (Rob Zacny, Vice)
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Positive: “Crash 4 is beautifully detailed, it features every gimmick and system and mechanic you can think of from the originals, and it's fun. Goofy, breezy, ebullient fun. There are little nods and cheeky easter eggs, a wealth of secrets, and apparently countless ways to play what is already, at least with three of its four new abilities, a very competent platformer.” (Chris Tapsell, Eurogamer)
Negative: “Getting through Crash 4’s most ‘difficult’ segments always felt more like a relief than an accomplishment. Rather than leaving a section thinking back on how fun or rewarding it was, or how much I liked the design, most areas just left me thankful that I’d never have to return.” (Austen Goslin, Polygon)
Three stories to read
Hundreds of thousands of people watched the presidential debate on Twitch: “As Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden spoke over each other, the webcammers chimed in with sometimes rude commentary. Their fans responded by tapping out messages in a live-chat scroll. Mizkif, who is Matthew Rinaudo and has 640,000 Twitch followers, professed to not know ‘anything about politics — I’m an idiot.’ His main analysis of Mr. Biden went like this: ‘Ugh, he’s so boring when he talks, though. He needs to talk like a YouTuber. Trump knows how to talk like a YouTuber.’” (Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times)
A short but potent essay on how battle royale and shooter games reflect the modern young person’s anxiety of helplessness. (Waverly, Paste)
Three videos to watch
A chance to see how big YouTubers approach games criticism
A deep-dive into a handful of Xbox Series X features
It looks like the Tony Hawk devs snuck their kids’ drawings into the game
Yes, Hades really is as good as Twitter says
Patrick Klepeck is one of the biggest Spelunky fans in the games press, but he hasn’t played Spelunky 2 in weeks. Instead, Hades is owning the conversation in the ever-popular roguelike genre, and Klepeck has a couple of theories why. (Patrick Klepeck, Vice)
Hell, maybe Hades is the game of 2020. (Jay Castello, Rock Paper Shotgun)
The best of the rest
35 thoughts on Super Mario Bros. on its 35th anniversary. (Stephen Totilo, The New York Times)
I love Peepo, the gentler Pepe. (Gita Jackson, Vice)
This TikTok phenomenon injected my soul with happiness. (Kate Lindsay, Influence.co)
Speaking of TikTok: the fall of a TikTok house. (Rebecca Jennings, Vox)
The perfect amount of research was performed to discover which Hollywood sex symbols actually have sex on screen. (Carrie Wittmer, The Ringer)
“A very specific thing I miss [during the pandemic] is also one of my favorite pastimes: going to the movies alone. Something about public solitude in a cavernous, underlit room puts my mind and social inhibitions at ease in a way I find difficult to describe.” (Lindsay Zoladz, The Cut)
The American Latino Experience: 20 Essential Films Since 2000 (Carlos Aquilar, The New York Times)
Sports are still good:“So can you just throw this up on social today? Make it go viral like that 1 video! No strategy, just do it.”
But what do you think?
Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and Halloween entertainment recommendations to @plante.
That’s a wrap. See y’all next time. Wear a mask!