Playing Watch Dogs: Legion the week of the election is a little too much
[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 usually edited by Stephie Grob Plante, but she’s on a road trip so I’m all alone this week! Want to support Postgame? Please share it with a friend! Or even better, visit my work-home at Polygon.com!]
Three games to play
Watch Dogs: Legion
“Watch Dogs: Legion takes the foundations and ideas of its predecessors and expands upon them exponentially. The core conceit of Legion lies in the old adage of "strength in numbers," which manifests in the game letting you recruit and play as nearly any character you come across, amassing a ragtag crew of freedom fighters. This open-ended stance to fighting the system is a significant change for the franchise, and it's bolstered by improved hacking and social-engineering gameplay.” (Alessandro Fillari, Gamespot)
“I am impressed at how Ubisoft Toronto got me to care about people more than skills, even in a game set up to prioritize the latter. Like a card trick, I’m left with the sense that the developers coaxed me to pick the person the game needed to complete this particular chapter of the story, while making it seem like it was my call all the way.” (Owen Good, Polygon)
“It’s worth saying outright that after years of Ubisoft dodging the question about whether their games are “political” or not, Legion is unapologetic as it frames things like anti-immigration ideology, austerity economics, and imperialist nativism as cultural evils. And I’m sure that it is poised to get a lot of hate from the “SJW”-hating crowd. But when the game shifts from diagnosing these ills to showing what a cure looks like, it stumbles hard.” (Austin Walker, Vice)
“It’s unclear how the tumult around Ubisoft’s MeToo moment impacted the creation of Legion. In an interview with the Washington Post this week, the game’s lead creators expressed horror at what happened. The situation has left anyone interested in Ubisoft or its games to wonder whether company leaders were ignorant, incompetent, or enablers of patterns of misconduct that shortened careers, ruined lives, and sent many women out of the company. In that context, it becomes harder to view the work created under Ubisoft’s watch as something separate from company’s worst practices, even if rank and file developers are not to blame. It also makes more awkward this particular Ubisoft game about the ruinous impact that powerful corporations can have on people’s lives.” (Stephen Totilo, Kotaku)
I’ve played a fair amount of Legion and been impressed by the ambition. That said, I have zero desire to spend any more time in its setting, a not-so-distant future which reminds me of Twitter political feuds made flesh. Lots of yelling, little action. As other critics note in their reviews above, the game demands to be taken seriously, only to offer largely “video game” solutions to real-world problems. The result is an often uncomfortable experience that neither excels as sensational escapism or challenging art, landing awkwardly somewhere in-between. I admire it! I just hope to appreciate the game more years from now when we’re (ideally) not in a moment quite like this one.
“The only main weapon in Ghostrunner is a sword, though your speed and mobility options are weapons unto themselves. The Ghostrunner can run along walls, slide down slopes with great speed, and also utilize a quick dash that can be held down to slow down time and alter the direction of his momentum in mid-air. Chaining all of these abilities together created a wonderful flow of movement that allowed me to nearly effortlessly close the distance between me and the more basic enemies before satisfyingly slicing them in half.” (Mitchell Saltzman, IGN)
“Everything is a one-hit kill, whether I’m cutting a guard in half or dying to a single stray bullet. This means that every enemy encounter is really a platforming puzzle where I have to figure out how to clear a room as safely as possible.” (Austen Goslin, Polygon)
Pikmin 3: Deluxe
“If you need to feel a sense of control in the year of our lord 2020, then taking charge of around a hundred adorable Pikmin should do it. Pikmin 3 Deluxe is a practically perfect port of the Wii U game - faithful enough for the diehard fans, with some gentle adjustments for the next-generation Nintendo Switch.” (Rachel Weber, GamesRadar)
Three stories to read
Opting to stay at home on Halloween due to the pandemic, some families are turning to Animal Crossing as a safe alternative. (Elise Favis, The Washington Post)
“A $375,000 (£287,000) cash transaction ended in disaster on Tuesday, when the buyer opened a sealed box that was supposed to be full of rare first-edition Pokémon cards live on YouTube – and found that the contents had been faked.” (Archie Bland, The Guardian)
Four videos to watch
How to make all players feel “awesome.” (Game Maker’s Toolkit, YouTube)
The Assassin’s Creed Valhalla ad campaign starring Brett Gelman is so much better than it needs to be.
A deep dive into petting dogs in video games. (Jenna Stoeber, Polygon)
If you see “Christopher Plant” in Watch Dogs Legion, please let me know. (Giant Bomb)
The best of the rest
There’s never been a better time to play video games. (The Verge)
Makes you think. (BulbaGanda, Twitter)
One of those classic retro news reports about the video game menace. (AlecStapp, Twitter)
“The story behind Paradise Killer.” (A.k.a. One of the best games of the year that not nearly enough folks are playing.) (Patrick Klepek, Vice)
“Lifting the barriers for Black professionals in the games industry.” (Marie Dealessandri, GamesIndustry.biz)
“Examining the self-centered point-of-view that games too often use, and interrogating the player’s impact on the world, can only make game worlds more evocative.” (Jeremy Signor, Into The Spine)
Why the most important next-gen consoles will be the cheapest. (Alysia Judge, IGN)
“This FPS finally does WWI combat right.” (Morgan Park, PCGamer)
Don Hertzfeldt, my favorite animator, promoted his new film with a diary entry on Vulture: “There’s something else I can’t stop thinking about. There are over a million people dead from the virus so far, billions of lives are turned upside-down, and the world’s economies, trillions of dollars in value, have been sent crashing to the ground. And all of this — this giant shock to human history — all of it has stemmed from the actions of one person. One person! One person doing something in China. It blows my mind. It’s the most perverse testament to the power of the individual I’ve ever heard of. It’s a stunning reminder of how every single person on the planet is hopelessly connected — inextricably dependent on each other — in invisible ways we’ll never understand, or most would want to admit. We’re all stuck together in the same boat and it is a fragile fucking boat.” (Don Hertzfeldt, Vulture)
“Conspiracy theories and collective delusions are often thought to be the purview of baby boomers on Facebook, but it’s clear that their children are picking it up too — and it’s their teachers who have to deal with it.” (Scaachi Koul, Buzzfeed)
“What was fun?” (Rachel Sugar, Vox)
With reports of crunch at Polish developer CD Projekt Red, I’ve noticed an unhealthy amount of armchair commentary about Poland’s progressive work culture and national politics across social media. So, I want to share two stories from Poland that made international news just this week, not to provide commentary on the developer, but to contextualize what’s happening in the studio’s home country.
“Poland’s ‘LGBT-free zones’ energize some activists, prompt others to leave.” (Loveday Morris, The Washington Post)
“Polish women lead strike over abortion ruling amid threats of crackdown.” (Marc Santora, Monika Pronczuk and Anatol Magdziarz, The New York Times)
The lead PR manager at CD Projekt Red tweeted an image in support of the protests against the abortion ban. (Radek Grabowski, Twitter)
“Everyone is gay on TikTok.” (Alex Hawgood, The New York Times)
This week a virtual tour of a mysterious, hedge maze of a home briefly consumed the video game zeitgeist. The story behind the house (and its owner) is just as fascinating as the building itself. (Andy Baio, Waxy.org)
Some folks across the USA are trying to revive the magic of horror movies hosted by “costumed goofballs” on local TV. (Erik Piepenburg, The New York Times)
But what do you think?
Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and favorite Christmas songs to @plante.
That’s a wrap. See y’all next time. Wear a mask!