Look, it’s Friday. The day is starting to wind down. That means it’s time for Worth Reading, our weekly collection of the best games writing from the past week.
Boy, do I share this sentiment. With most open world games, I find myself breathing a heavy sigh when opening the map. It’s become easier to build gigantic, sprawling worlds, but developers are struggling with ways to populate them. Both Fraser Brown and myself had the same reaction to The Witcher 3, however: it didn’t waste my time. There are few games with more content than The Witcher 3, but so much of it felt meaningful. Besides the question marks, side content in CD Projekt RED’s latest is worth exploring. Hopefully, it’s the start of a trend.
I’m playing Far Cry 4 and I’m in a cave. I’ve never been here before, but it’s like many caves I have been in. It’s dark and dirty and roots hang from the ceiling. There are dead bodies on the ground. I have killed some men. At the end of the cave, which is very small, there is a crate. Inside it is junk. A photograph. A lighter. Useless. They are immediately transformed into cold, hard cash.
This cave exists solely to contain men, who are now dead, and a crate, which is full of crap. Below, there are elephants that I can spook, sending them stampeding into a group of enemies. Some ways down the road there’s a fortress, an enemy base that will pose a tricky challenge. There is fun to be found, but here I am, in this fucking cave, looting pointless tat.
There is no meaningful reason. The cave and the gem icon serve to draw me away from the main path, extend the amount of time I play for. It’s more bang for my buck! Except that it isn’t. It’s like saying that I am a better man now because years of abusing my body has made me overweight. I’m bigger, so I must be better!
Dragon Age: Inquisition had plenty of standout characters, and though Iron Bull kept me laughing throughout the adventure, Dorian has stuck with me months later. BioWare games have embraced sexual choice, but as mentioned in Luke Karmali’s piece, it’s by making them bisexual. Dorian is into men—period. While seemingly a small change, it defines the character in a different light. It certainly gave me some frustration, since my female character was ready to spend some quality time with him! Hearing how BioWare brought Dorian to life is a treat.
“There’s a tendency for every character’s ‘default’ to be straight, white, and male in our industry – and nobody questions that default”, explains series creator and writer David Gaider. “No character ever has to justify why they’re straight, white, and male. The moment you make them anything else, you suddenly need reasons why that’s okay…or do you? A certain amount of deliberateness is required to challenge the idea of a default, and while it feels a bit unnatural to do so, it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a way to create without unthinkingly doing things the same way simply because that’s how you’ve always done them.”
With this in mind, it may be assumed making such a character would be an incredibly pressure-filled experience, but Gaider explains it actually wasn’t. Dorian’s sexuality evolved naturally as the character of a genuinely good mage took shape, and after that it was about rounding out the other facets of his character. Once he’d taken form, however, BioWare was keen to include him in the game. Dorian says, “Selfish, I suppose, not to want to spend my entire life screaming on the inside,” and Gaider ended his original blogpost by suggesting the inclusion of such a character is “not that much to include, and really it’s very little in comparison to the entire rest of the game and thus, considering what it means to those fans who receive that validation almost nowhere else, it’s not too much to demand a bit of tolerance and compassion from the portion of the audience for whom this content is not even intended.”
- Yves Guillemot claimed Ubisoft has learned from previous “downgrade” controversies.
- Zach Handlen argued the Arkham games have gotten too big for their own good.
- Alex Layne rounded up some of the most memorable pets in video games.
- Miellyn Fitzwater Barrows looked at how romance in games is evolving.
- Noah Bradley outlined his incredible journey from amateur artist to talented professional.
- Reid McCarter believed Arkham Knight is hurt by superhero baggage. (Warning: It’s published on Playboy.)
- Laura Hudson wrote a scathing takedown of Ernest Cline’s new novel, Armada.
- Jeffrey Lin declared we need to do more about abuse in games. (He works at Riot Games.)
- Rock Paper Shotgun examined all of the hype surrounding No Man’s Sky.
You can reach the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.