Phil Hartup on videogames


A screenshot of the main character of Grant Theft Auto V hiding behind a police car during a shootout. Image: Rockstar
Cops and robbers: how the police became our new favourite video game villains
By Phil Hartup - 21 July 17:34

The breakdown of trust between the public and the police has been reflected by how comfortable we are killing them in games.

A still from Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas.
Why can’t women compete against men at video games? Sexism, that’s why
By Phil Hartup - 11 July 16:16

The International e-Sports Federation has reversed their men-only policy in favour of one competition for women, and one for everyone else including women. What kind of message does that send?

Still from video game Half Life. Photo: Flickr/Adam Messinger
The problem of the modern first-person shooter in video games
By Phil Hartup - 07 July 15:20

As the first-person shooter has evolved to be bloated in terms of costs and production requirements, its game play mechanics have atrophied over the years.

The England football team in Brazil. Photo: Getty
Who's to blame for England's failure at the World Cup? There's only one answer
By Phil Hartup - 24 June 18:27

... and it's not foreign players in the Premier League.

Spintires is less about how thinks look, and more about how they respond to the player.
Spintires: a deceptively simple game that turns mud, logs and trucks into an addictive narrative
By Phil Hartup - 19 June 15:42

In this game, driving between two points on the map in order to transport some logs becomes a gruelling, fascinating expedition.

Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Image Square Enix
By taking on mental health issues, the likes of Tomb Raider show that video games are maturing
By Phil Hartup - 13 June 13:02

Tackling ideas of sanity, darkness and fear is a welcome effort to move away from the violent and emotionally withdrawn stereotype of a video game hero.

A still from Spec Ops: The Line.
Why is it so appealing to play as a terrorist in video games?
By Phil Hartup - 06 June 16:10

In real life, we abhor terrorism and everything associated with it. So why do so many games manage to convince us that playing at it is fun?

A screenshot from Watch_Dogs, with the protagonist hacking a control panel to electrocute an enemy. Image: Ubisoft
Hack-’em-up Watch_Dogs isn’t as clever as it thinks it is
By Phil Hartup - 29 May 16:00

Ubisoft's much-hyped Watch_Dogs isn't about shooting people - instead, it's all about hacking the world around you to control the city and trip up enemies. Yet this ambitous premise falls flat.

A screenshot from Wolfenstein: The New Order. Image: Machine Games
Wolfenstein: The New Order squanders a decent idea for a first-person shooter
By Phil Hartup - 23 May 16:43

It shouldn’t need to be said, but you cannot seriously address a topic like genocide via the medium of a game where you unlock a skill for stabbing cyborg dogs.

A screenshot of a typical game of Prison Architect. Image: Introversion Software
Prison Architect and the subversion of the god game
By Phil Hartup - 09 May 15:37

The innovative Prison Architect tasks you with building and controlling a prison - and the definition of success requires choosing to harm those you're tasked to help.

Shop shelves of Grand Theft Auto video game. Photo: Getty
How do you make the perfect sequel to a successful game?
By Phil Hartup - 01 May 14:15

Much like that difficult second album, the sequels to video games are easy to get wrong, so what's the best formula for a successful remake or sequel?

David Moyes during a League Cup match with Sunderland. Photo: Getty
David Moyes, Manchester United, and the nightmare dream job
By Phil Hartup - 22 April 16:40

Of all the managers who have been sacked this season in the premier league, David Moyes can have perhaps the fewest complaints.

A still from World of Darkness.
Why it sucks that there are so few vampire videogames
By Phil Hartup - 17 April 14:22

With the cancellation of World of Darkness, the chances of a second good vampire game seem small.

A screenshot from Luftrausers. Image: Vlambeer
Why do gamers get squeamish when they might play as Nazis?
By Phil Hartup - 09 April 10:47

Plane shooter Lufthausers has players fighting on the side of a team that looks suspiciously like the Third Reich - a design choice that's left some players feeling uncomfortable.

Goat Simulator is (possibly) the best game that simulates being a goat ever made
By Phil Hartup - 02 April 17:54

It's buggy and ridiculous, but also hilarious - Goat Simulator is the best gimmick game of the year.

A blow hole.
I'd rather stick my head in a whale's blowhole than play Facebook's Oculus Rift
By Phil Hartup - 26 March 17:26

Facebook don't want to make great games. They want more users, more metadata and more adverts. Whatever the Oculus Rift could have been is now dead.

A player fleeing from zombies in Day Z. (Image: Screenshot)
A rape in Day Z: what drives gamers to go Lord of the Flies on each other?
By Phil Hartup - 24 March 13:22

In a game where players can act out any kind of sadistic fantasy on each other - from taking hostage to force-feeding poison to breaking kneecaps - what incentive is there for humans to express their humanity?

A screenshot from Alien: Isolation. (Image: Sega)
The Aliens horde: the inconsistent movie franchise with the consistently decent spin-off games
By Phil Hartup - 14 March 12:28

While there hasn't been a good Alien movie for almost 30 years, the games of the franchise have been steadily churned out for decades.

Doom, always brilliant, rarely improved-upon. (Image: Id Software)
All these years later, there’s still nothing better than Doom
By Phil Hartup - 06 March 13:44

Development is an evolutionary process, and newer games end up objectively better than the older ones they replace – yet 1993’s iconic game Doom remains as fun and unique today as ever.

Space ninjas in action. Sometimes the old ways are the best. (Image: Digital Extremes)
Warframe: or how I learned to stop worrying and love weird Canadian space ninjas
By Phil Hartup - 24 February 15:09

It's not the most original title, but Warframe's sneaky space ninjas make duck-and-cover shooting fun.

Bioshock: Infinite was one of the biggest games of 2013.
The irrational end of Irrational Games
By Phil Hartup - 19 February 10:47

I come here today not to bury Ken Levine but to praise Irrational Games. When they were good they were very, very good, and when they were bad they made <em>Bioshock: Infinite</em>.

Flappy Bird: what is its secret, and why should we care?
By Phil Hartup - 07 February 17:17

The latest “viral” game is a decent take on a tried and tested formula. But is it really that good, or has it just piggy-backed on our love for <em>Super Mario</em>?

Digital destitution: what happens when you lose real-world money inside a game?
By Phil Hartup - 07 February 10:34

Games like <em>EVE</em> can result in players suffering big financial losses in real-world money. As in-game purchases become more common the problems of balancing what can be bought against what can be worked for will only become more complicated.

Justified: What happens when you take a cop show out of the city?
By Phil Hartup - 27 January 14:54

In stepping away from established urban locales to the slightly shop-soiled countryside of Kentucky, Justified manages to change not just is aesthetic but also its characters and stories.

A screenshot from Skyrim.
Why games developers should welcome people tinkering with their products
By Phil Hartup - 20 January 17:16

The modding community around Skyrim shows that fans can be just as creative as developers - and that a thriving set of mods for your game can benefit everybody.

Clarke Peters as Albert Lambreaux in Treme.
Forget The Wire – is Treme doomed to be a forgotten masterpiece?
By Phil Hartup - 13 January 17:01

David Simon's New Orleans-based drama <em>Treme</em> has a brilliant sense of narrative, isn't showy, and defies easy definition. So why isn't it as famous as <em>The Wire</em>?

A still from the Kickstarter video for Star Citizen.
Would you spend $275 on a spaceship in a game that doesn't even exist yet?
By Phil Hartup - 06 January 16:51

<em>Star Citizen</em> has raised well over $35m already, and you can't even play it yet. Is this crowd funding gone mad?

"An affront to the Brodudes": Games of the Year 2013
By Phil Hartup - 18 December 11:21

It's not been a great year for gaming (the PS4 and XBox One launches have taken up a lot of developers' time), but there have been some good releases worth celebrating.

The magic of the mundane: more games should reflect real-life's everyday tasks
By Phil Hartup - 16 December 11:19

"There is more challenge and player investment in the simple act of checking a person’s travel documents in Papers, Please than there is in taking a life in a typical first-person shooter."

New Statesman
What next for the all-powerful PC?
By Phil Hartup - 09 December 18:05

2013 has been a mixed year for the PC, but it is still on the creative cutting edge of gaming.