The video game flood has begun
[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!]
How are y’all holding up with the election on the horizon?
More than usual, I’ve been cooking to mitigate stress. My latest recipe recommendation is stir-fried sticky rice cakes. They’re gooey and warm and perfect for fall weather. Have any favorite meals or drinks of your own? I’d love to hear them!
Three games to play
Developer: Frictional Games / Publisher: Frictional Games
“Plane crash survivor Tasi Trianon wakes up alone and addled after a plane crash. Rebirth initially teaches Tasi to fear the light, and take refuge in the dark. After finding refuge from the blistering desert sun, Rebirth quickly reverts to The Dark Descent’s mechanics of terrifying darkness, which can lead to insanity and death. There’s variety in the game’s environments, which span vast desert canyons, creepy caves, an abandoned fort, and otherworldly spaces.” (Michael McWhertor, Polygon)
“Amnesia: Rebirth, the sequel to horror classic Amnesia: The Dark Descent by Frictional Games [conjures] a ghoulish survival horror that gnaws at your psyche. Rebirth accomplishes this through an achingly gradual build-up to an unnerving cerebral horror, a clever ploy that renders every jump scare—which is, admittedly, not as frequent as you may expect—extremely potent, like a brief discharge of the pent-up jitters.” (Khee Hoon Chan, US Gamer)
“The Amnesia games aren't for everyone. That lack of agency, along with the bleak, hopeless stories the studio crafts, can't be described as "fun." I know a lot of people who attempted to play The Dark Descent and shut it back down after a few minutes. Soma sought to rectify this by introducing a Safe Mode that allows players to experience the game without worrying about monsters, but, unfortunately for many, Amnesia: Rebirth goes back to The Dark Descent's roots by creating something meant to haunt your nightmares.” (Carli Velocci, WindowsCentral)
“The 12-ish-hour playtime could've been trimmed down a little, too, with the final act, in particular, feeling unnecessarily drawn out. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it because I did - beyond the times where I was scratching around in the dark, anyway, I had an absolute blast - but it did seem unduly long towards the end.” (Vikki Blake, Eurogamer)
Developer: Nolla Games / Publisher: Nolla Games
“Noita’s main brag is that “every pixel is simulated”. What this means is that the world around you isn’t constructed from immovable chunks, but individual pixels, and those pixels collapse and react as individual entities. This places a robust and logical simulation at the game’s core. Dirt tumbles, liquids slosh about. Oil floats to the top of water. Oil catches fire, releasing heat and smoke. Heat evaporates water, producing steam. Steam and smoke rise to the ceiling of caves, the steam condenses into water droplets, and drips back down to extinguish fires.” (Graham Smith, RockPaperShotgun)
“Noita leaves everything - all possibilities - on the table. By not telling me what to do, it tells me I can do anything. By not telling me where to go, it tells me I can go anywhere. There might be a few more areas to see, there might be many. I don't know. I have no idea what Noita's limits might be. And I find that tremendously exciting. I don't have to force myself to play anymore, I'm pulled back.” (Robert Purchese, Eurogamer)
The Red Lantern
Developer: Timberline Studio
“[I]t's The Oregon Trail but in Alaska. Players take up the role of the unnamed Musher, who sets off to start her new life in the picturesque wilderness of America's 49th state after failing to find her purpose in San Francisco. Joining her on this discovery quest is her dog Chomper and four other dogs you'll choose to guide her to her new home.” (CJ Andriessen, Destructoid)
“What really spoke to me about The Red Lantern is that it feels I’m able to sit down and play a daydream in the shape of a game. There’s something wonderful about starting anew, and not just by yourself either – with five working dogs that are the only source of your companionship. No other people. Just you, your dogs, and nature. In a year where staying inside is the safest thing you can do, The Red Lantern has created a longing for adventure the moment the ‘world returns to normal.’ It’s what has made this game so appealing to me, and something that I think will speak to others, too.” (Aimee Hart, Gayming Mag)
Three stories to read
On Undertale’s fifth year anniversary, Ana Diaz talks with creator Toby Fox. "I think entertainment can be like mental medicine." (Ana Diaz, NPR)
Ash Parrish searched for the woman who sang “Snake Eater,” the title song from Metal Gear Solid 3: “It took a week or so of stops and starts, buried under work and life, but I finally managed to speak to her. And y’all…Cynthia Harrell is awesome.” (Ash Parrish, Kotaku)
Here’s one of those great pieces that fundamentally changes the way I look at video game worlds. “‘Realistic’ game environments don’t acknowledge disabled people.” (Errol Kerr, Uppercut)
Five videos to watch
Good Morning America produced a commendable story about racial harassment in the video game community:
Should a mod always improve a game to make it “better?”
Here’s a year-old video that’s new to me. What a pleasure to see people simply chatting in the same room:
Another smart deep dive into the architecture of video games and what it communicates to the player:
I’ve been waiting for somebody to provide SportsCenter-style updates on the weekly Blaseball lore dumps. This is the best example I’ve seen so far:
The best of the rest
My friend Andrew Liptak has a newsletter and you should subscribe. Andrew is my go-to expert for fantasy and sci-fiction. The summary: “This newsletter is a regular look at the latest news within the science fiction community, featuring analysis and commentary and updates about fiction, writing, and the future of reading.”
What are the challenges facing deaf and hard of hearing players and what can developers do to improve the players’ experience? (Melanie Jayne Ashford, I Need Diverse Games)
I included Amnesia: Rebirth in my video game recommendations above, but if you’re comfortable with a spoiler-heavy critique then give this essay a read. (Reid McCarter, Bullet Points Monthly)
The immediate benefits of Hades difficulty-bending God Mode and settings that keep the player engaged rather than pushing them away: “God Mode has freed me from my mortal constraints of not being an elite player, and has let me see impressive narrative work and ability combinations I would’ve just missed if I quit (which I have been known to do if a game is beating my ass).” (Funké Joseph, Paste)
Our games team at Polygon put together a fantastic package on the state of cloud gaming, providing some answers and context to an unnecessarily confusing corner of video games. The authors provide the history of the format, along with how to set up cloud gaming in your home. And they explain why cloud gaming could be a big problem for the climate, and what might happens if cloud gaming doesn’t catch on. (Polygon)
The importance of voting. (ContraPoints, Youtube)
A profile of master animator Glen Keane on the eve of his new Netflix film. (Petrana Radulovic, Polygon)
Help fund an archive of 2020 pandemic media. (Timothy Burke, Twitter)
And take a moment to vote in TheGameHers Awards. Yes, the name is silly, but the intentions are good.
Man tackles himself. (Graham MacAree, Secret Base)
Russ Frushtick, Justin and Griffin McElroy, and I shared our favorite Halloween-time games on The Besties at Spotify. (Spotify)
But what do you think?
Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and Gremlins 2 original scripts to @plante.
That’s a wrap. See y’all next time. Wear a mask!