The temperature’s starting to drop, so grab a cup of coffee, cozy up to the monitor, and check out Worth Reading, our roundup of the best games writing.

Hey, You Should Read These

When you lose someone close, it’s natural to search for ways to hang onto their memories. Photos, songs...games? You never know what, when, or how it’s going to hit you. (Prior to my father passing, I couldn’t have imagined a reason to suddenly cry at commercials.) In this case, Kirstin Kelley grew up watching her grandfather play Civilization, and while it was horribly boring at the time, everything changed when she started playing Civilization herself. Suddenly, the grief comes rushing back, and...well, you should read it in Kirstin’s own words.

Here’s an excerpt:

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“I’d almost forgotten about the game altogether in the five years since his death, but I needed a way to unwind in grad school. My boyfriend was a pretty serious gamer, and he’d heard me occasionally talk about my grandpa and his game, so he got me a downloadable copy of the newest version, Civilization V, for my birthday. Visually the new version was much better to look at than my grandpa’s game, but otherwise it was pretty much exactly the same.

I was shocked to find myself playing for ten hours straight the first night, ignoring my homework and bawling my eyes out because I couldn’t share the moment with my grandpa. For the next several months I played almost nonstop—taking just enough time to make sure I went to class, finished my homework, and had something resembling a social life. I hadn’t felt this close to him in years, and clearly I needed more time to grieve.”

Though I’m no PewDiePie, some of my biggest video successes have been playing horror games, whether on YouTube or my old home, Giant Bomb. I’ve always loved horror media, games or otherwise, and so it made sense to play them and see what happened. A big reason people turned in was, as this piece points out, because they enjoyed watching, not playing. Emanuel Maiberg’s article digs into this ongoing phenomenon by talking with the developers whose games fueled the initial popularity of PewDiePie, Markplier, and others.

Here’s an excerpt:

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Amnesia was released in 2010, before Slender: The Eight Pages, Outlast, Alien: Isolation and other popular horror games released in recent years. In fact, those games owe a lot to Amnesia. The game, which is set in a gothic mansion, gives you only a lantern when facing horrific monsters, and is the king of making players cower pathetically. It too found financial success without a marketing budget thanks to YouTube “Let’s Play” Videos.

“I think Amnesia got a lot of free PR because of “Let’s Play” videos, but I also think that Amnesia opened people to a new style of ‘Let’s Play,’” Frictional Games creative director Thomas Grip told me. “Normally, games are very skill-based. You need to be concentrated and play a certain way to play ‘properly.’ But with horror games, the aim is not to win, but rather to get immersed. That gives a lot more space for ‘Let’s Players’ to put on a show, either by being very scared or just fooling about. On top of that it is really fun to see someone scared for some reason.”

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Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Teddie broke down the problems with various character creators when it comes to including our broadening understanding of gender.
  • Simon Parkin spoke with the developers of Rocket League to find out what it’s like to release a unexpected hit after so many years.
  • Chloi Rad chronicled the visual history of pizza in games. Mmm.
  • Peter Suderman argued Halo 5’s plot falls flat because it’s trying so hard to ape the world of Hollywood and it doesn’t work.
  • Bob Mackey conducted a lengthy interview with Monkey Island designer Ron Gilbert about the past, present, and future of being Ron Gilbert.
  • Dara opened up about their experience with video game addiction, and what it feels like to let go of a game you “love.”
  • Derrick Sanskrit pointed out how Life Is Strange can’t stop contradicting itself, even though it doesn’t really matter.

You can reach the author of this post at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.