My favourite finds for last week can best be described as, exquisitely-painted-with-words portraits, of specific games. Games are after all what the electronic playground revolves around. The time we’ve spent with these games have enriched our lives, thrilled us and challenged us. Join me for a window into the soul of Habitat, Journey, the Secret World, MineZ and Orc’s Must Die 2.
Up first is Habitat from LucasArt, I know, you’ve never heard about this game. It was released over 25 years ago, and it was the forerunner for the entire massively multiplayer online genre (MMO). It pioneered game mechanics like; player versus player (PvP), player versus environment (PvE), avatar-to-avatar marriage, player tracking and online trading, to name but a few. I encourage you to read the full version of this fascinating article.
Retrospective: Habitat, tales from inside the first MMO, by Joe Martin on EUROGAMER.net
Habitat, one of the most influential, yet overlooked games in the history of the video games industry.
“In his 1991 post-mortem of the game, designer Chip Morningstar warns that cyberspace architects would do well not to focus too much on graphical advances, however. Instead, he says it's the sharedness of the environment that is most crucial, not the display technologies that support it. He points to Habitat as proof that lush graphics aren't a requirement and says anecdotes are cyberspace's most valuable commodity, because these stories have the potential to change the world.”
The next article tugs at the corners of your heart. It inspired me so much that after reading it, I told my husband we are selling the Xbox and buying a Playstation so I can play Journey. This article describes the fascinating experience of a fifteen-year-old girl with her player guide (called a White Scarf), inside Journey.
One Stranger Made a World of Difference to a Fifteen-Year-Old’s Journey, by Kate Cox on Kotaku
Journey gave her room to explore. And the silent, cooperative multiplayer let her accept help on her own terms. Kate Cox
“While we hung back, wanting to let E discover her own path, White Scarf carefully and patiently guided her through a number of levels. With no hands to gesture and no language to speak, White Scarf shepherded her through danger, let her explore, and was there to help her find the treasures of knowledge. Like a parent, White Scarf helped E through the hard parts, and yet stood back when she was figuring it out on her own. He guided her to shelter when she couldn't yet do it for herself, and taught her how to manage independently. He helped her fly, and then let her take wing.”
My third pick is a review of The Secret World. I mostly find reviews to be extremely generic and bland. Kate Cox discovers her affinity for all things Dragon, and this causes the article to read more like a player’s tribute to a game that they’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing as opposed to just another review ticked of from a long list of to-do’s.
The Secret World: The Kotaku Review, by Kate Cox on Kotaku
As it turns out, I was born to be a Dragon. Kate Cox
“In the old adage about a butterfly flapping its wings in China to cause a hurricane in Texas, the Dragon are the ones who put the butterfly into position and tell it when to flap. They are agents of chaos, slipping into and moving through the warp and weft of reality, artfully choosing not so much which strings to pull, as which strings to make others pull for them. They see the pattern. They manipulate the pattern. They are the ones who know that there is a pattern. So I have nobody but myself to blame for finding the Templars rather dull, in the end. That was my own fault. I should have been a Dragon.”
Up next is an article exploring yet another aspect of the phenomenon that is Minecraft. Craig Pearson takes a look at Dayz, a zombie survival mod for Minecraft that puts players in a shared world without rules.
No End Of The World: MineZ Is Zombie Survival Minecraft, by Craig Pearson on Rock, Paper, Shotgun
MineZ sharpens Minecraft’s fangs in the same way that DayZ turned Arma II feral. Craig Pearson
“It’s a hand-made world of desert, forest, snowy mountains, dotted with abandoned buildings, towns and villages; a place still in flux as the developers play God with the landscape. (On grouping) I was a member of a thing and that thing had weapons, equipment, and armour. It wasn’t until we’d agreed to move on that my game started hitching: I thought I was being attacked and flailed a little before noticing the 0 hydration level. I died of thirst with a water bottle in my hand, face down in a fountain. It was because I’d made friends that I died. I was reading their messages and missing the warnings. Friended to death by thirst is probably a first for anyone, ever. But grouping made me thirsty – in the gaming sense – for more. There’s a wider world out there, and I’ve only seen perhaps a tenth of it. “
My final pick is a review of Orcs Must Die 2. This seemingly silly title promises hours of challenge, entertainment and fun. This article converted me from a sceptic of this series to a fan.
Orcs Must Die 2. A sequel to die for, by Adam Biessener on gameinformer
This is what last fall’s Orcs Must Die would have been in a perfect world. Adam Biessener
“Robot Entertainment’s crowning achievement is in how the game makes players feel smart for smashing up the orcish hordes. Key to that sense of achievement is the excellent balance Orcs Must Die 2 strikes between maintaining tension without being unduly difficult. Orcs Must Die 2 is a strategy game at heart – you’ll have a hard time even completing normal mode without at least some thought put into trap placement – but the constant action and adrenaline-surging thrills of tearing orc hordes apart with your personal weapons and spells captures much of the appeal of third-person brawlers as well. The near-flawless execution on every level makes the brilliant concepts at the game’s core shine through with perfect clarity. Even if you’ve never played or so much as heard of the original game, Orcs Must Die 2 is worth a place of honor in your collection.”
An enormous thank you and ‘good game’ to the journalists who faithfully report on the gazillions of games that make it to our screens. Your articles showcase the thrill and magic of playing a video game.
Han’s Twitter | Blog