Interesting Games of 2019: The Year So Far


The scope of new releases I have been playing has narrowed, as of late. I’ve been focusing in on a few choice genres and subject matters, as I round up my final list of case studies for my book project (as well as any upcoming video essay series connected with it). Practically, this means I’m spending a lot more mediocre games I hope I’ll have something interesting to say about, and a lot fewer games I’ve genuinely heard good things about, had fun with, and would in turn recommend. (It’s downright incomprehensible to me now that the first time I did one of these round-ups, in July 2017, I had actually played both Breath of the Wild and Persona 5 already, and was ready to write some words about them.)

So this post will be a bit more slight than some past mid-year wrap-ups have been. Below the fold, I offer thoughts on six little highlights released since January.

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Let’s Study Virginia … some more!

Ian here—

It’s done! The second part of my “Let’s Study Virginia” video is now live on YouTube.

If you just want to watch the second part, click the embedded video above. If you want to watch the whole thing from the beginning, click here. (I have also updated my original post so that the embedded video there autoplays the second part.)

Time will tell if I make more of these “Let’s Study” videos. Building up an archive of them could have real pedagogical benefits. The best option when teaching games is, of course, always to have students play things themselves. But one must consider the realities of constraints on access to specific platforms. If students playing a game is a logistical impossibility, it is undoubtedly a better to be able to say, “here, watch this video I uploaded onto YouTube that precisely demonstrates exactly the relevant points of this game,” than it is to say, “go find some footage of it on YouTube recorded by some random let’s play-er.” A strong case can be made that this sort of video essay work is the next best thing to having students play things on their own.

As before, full script below the fold, if for whatever reason that interests you.

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Let’s Study Virginia

Ian here—

So, awhile back I promised further thoughts on Virginia. After mulling it over, I decided to put them in video form. The end result is a sort of let’s play/video essay hybrid, which I’m calling a “let’s study.” (This sounded less presumptuous than “let’s analyze,” which I didn’t want to use because this video isn’t particularly academic. At the same time, though, it sounded more sturdy than “let’s think about,” or some other wishy-washy formation.)

This video is slightly under an hour, and it’s only the first half of what I’m planning on making into a two-video sequence. I’ll update the embedded video above so that it plays the whole playlist rather than just the first video once I’ve finished the second one. [UPDATE 2017-02-28: I’ve updated the embedded video! If it doesn’t auto-play the entire sequence, it should at the very least recommend the second after you finish the first.]

Full transcript of the script below the fold, for those of you who prefer reading things.

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Stream Pools: Space and Narrative Pacing in Games


Ian here—

I spent the first week of 2017 catching up on things I hadn’t played from 2016. But all play and no work makes Ian a dull boy, so it’s time to get back to writing, even if it’s of the casual sort.

Fair warning: In this post I’m going to dip into some unapologetic formalism as a way of best expressing some otherwise entirely subjective reactions. Obviously, there are pitfalls to this. Formalism puts off some. Unabashedly subjective attempts at criticism puts off others. But, whatever—this is my blog, and sometimes I like to post things that aren’t lesson plans. (Also, a note: I’m going to have fewer of those posted in the foreseeable future. I’ve posted most of my best lessons from past courses at this point, and I’m only teaching one class this term, one I’ve taught before.)

Below the fold, I play with some vocabulary, and offer thoughts on three more interesting games of 2016. These are short takes, and it is quite likely that I will be writing more on some of these in the near future.

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