Good Game Reads 14 - April 14th 2017

These past two weeks I've been bouncing around between a bunch of games. I'm becoming more of a game sampler as the frequency of releases and length seem to both increase. In an effort to beat some of my back catalog before making anymore purchases, I've been playing:

Portal 2 - If, like me, you didn't have a co-op buddy when this game came out and you own an Xbox One, consider coming back to it. The campaign was a blast but the co-op levels are a whole different kind of fun. Hearing GladOS taunt you and a friend while you "accidentally" push each other to your deaths is still unlike any kind of couch co-op experience you can have today.

Ryse: Son of Rome - This game is free on Xbox Live Games with Gold but, I wouldn't bother. It is an impressive graphic showcase for the Xbox One but little else. The executions are cool but you can see them all in the first 20 minutes and after that it's quick time events all the way down.

Sleeping Dogs - Another entry from Games with Gold that I snagged a few months ago but only just started getting into. I'm really enjoying the combat and story and I like how quickly it throws you into missions. At the same time, it doesn't overwhelm you with a hundred side quests strewn across the map.

Super Mario Galaxy - I can't say anything about this game that hasn't been said before. In 2017, if a Wii happens to fall into your lap, you need to play this. My one and only complaint so far is that depth is a little tricky to determine with the spherical and cylindrical planets you're traversing but also...playing this game just makes me happy.

Dishonored 2 - You can now play the first 3 levels of Dishonored 2 for free as a demo. I'm well into the third level and enjoying it but there are some frustrations that I think will prevent me from buying the game. Having to take "the heart" out every few seconds to find collectibles to buy the abilities that are so key to the game is almost a deal breaker on its own. Just removing that currency and giving me all the powers up front would be a huge improvement. I also found using the teleportation ability Far Reach to be clunky. It was often hard to tell if I was going to land on top of a surface or pop up right next to it with 3 stories of empty air under me. However, the setting and environment are still really intriguing and it's fun wandering through the detailed spaces.

"If you walk in someone else's shoes, then you've taken their shoes": empathy machines as appropriation machines
I admit that before reading this article I was 100% on board with using VR to foster empathy. I thought that it must be an unqualified positive to use technology to see through someone else's eyes. But from Yang's experienced perspective, the VR industry is attempting to capitalize on suffering by disguising it as a powerful new way to empathize.
Robert Yang

How Japan learned to love PC gaming again
Pieces like this are my favorite. I had at least a half dozen "Really? I never knew that!" or "Of course! That makes so much sense!" moments while reading it. If you've ever wondered why Japanese games took so long to start showing up on PC, or why they have started to recently, this is worth your time.
Wes Fenlon

Making Videogames the Old-Fashioned Way—On a 52-Hour Train Ride
When you think about perfect workspaces for game development, you picture metal tubes crammed full of people with spotty Wi-Fi rolling slowly across the American Midwest. Right?
Julie Muncy

The RPG Scrollbars: Saving World Quests
What makes a good side quest? Should it make sense in the fiction of the world? Should it affect the larger game in some way? Cobbett lays out what makes a side quest worth playing and what makes them decidedly not fun.
Richard Cobbett

Arkane's living prisons
While I have doubts about Arkane's approach to immersive sims (see above) I'm looking forward to Prey and I'll definitely be checking out that demo as well. If nothing else I can appreciate the massive undertaking of giving players powers to solve puzzles in multiple ways, and making that work without breaking anything in a complex world.
Edwin Evans-Thirlwell